Archive for September, 2009


This summer I bought a bonsai tree.  It all started when a friend was doing a Reiki session for me. For some reason the idea of a bonsai tree came up.  That got me thinking about bonsai trees as a metaphor for one’s spiritual practice.  Looking at a bonsai tree, some people might think that what we do to it is unnatural: we take wire and force the tree to grow around it in a certain way, instead of letting it take whatever direction it chooses.  Instead of allowing the leaves to grow and unfurl wherever and however they want, we allow some to grow, while clipping others back.  And we don’t do so at random.  We’ve studied the tree’s natural growth patterns, its habits and inclinations. We take up our clippers with a vision of how we’d like our tree to look as it grows, and because we’ve spent time learning about the tree, we know both the ways it’s likely to grow left to its own devices and the way it can grow if we tend carefully to each sprouting leaf and branch.  We know exactly where to clip it, where to nudge it with a wire support so that as it grows and develops, it will grow the way we intend. 

It may seem to some that this practice hampers the tree’s individuality, or self-expression, but the result is a beautiful tree, the union of natural energy and conscious training. Our spiritual practice is the same.  If we just live our lives haphazardly, without understanding and taking into account what kind of sprouts and fruits our actions will bear, we will not be able to influence what kind of tree we’ll end up like.  What our practice teaches us is to treat each of our acts of body, speech and mind like the tiny leaves on the bonsai tree.  By studying the dharma, the law of cause and effect, we begin to have a sense of how a little restraint here and there will play out as our life progresses.  But putting our studies into action, we can make our life in to the equivalent of the bonsai tree – beautiful, vibrant, grown carefully, with attention to detail and full awareness of cause and effect. 

Thinking along these lines, I decided that cultivating my own bonsai tree would be a good metaphor for tending to my spiritual practice. You can see a picture of the one I chose here.  It’s a Fujian tea tree.  The shape of its trunk really appealed to me; its twists and turns reminded me of the various twists and turns my life has taken.  My life’s path has been a lot less deliberate than the way this bonsai was trained before it came to me, but now when I water it and keep a close eye out for the tiny white flowers that pop out every once in a while, it is an affirmation of the care I put into my spiritual practice.  I put the tree in the meditation room at my Center.  Here’s a picture of it.  I hope you’ll stop by and see it in person sometime.

my bonsai tree!

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So, you think distant healing is a load of…

Gosh, I guess last week’s debut post set off a lot of “woo-woo” meters!  A friend of mine who’d read it came up to me last week at a meeting and shook her head.  “What’s with that Houdini stuff?”  And she waved her hands in the air the way people often do when they think something’s really “woo-woo”.  Another friend said the idea was just too way out there for him to believe.  So this week, I’ll tell you a little more about experiences folks have had with distant Reiki.    And I’ve posted a free offer at the end, so keep reading.  (No fair skipping to the end!) Those of you who already know distant Reiki works can come along for the ride here, but this post is aimed not at the choir, but at the agnostics on the street!

As you may recall, my Reiki II students practiced distant Reiki on each other during class last week.  Okay, I’ll grant that maybe you weren’t so convinced that distant healing was real after reading that.  After all, they were in the same building, just separated by walls.  And they all knew the other students were sending them Reiki.  A blatant example of placebo effect, you think?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  No way to tell.  But here’s what happened next: those same students had homework. I told them to each send Reiki to a partner at least once before our next class (this past Wednesday.)  And then we’d talk about results in class.  Some of the students agreed on a time to send and receive Reiki, while others decided to work in stealth mode – they’d send Reiki whenever they felt like it, without any advance warning!

You might not be so surprised to learn that the students who knew when their partners were sending Reiki all experienced relaxation and reduced bodily pain.  But that’s not going to convince the skeptics amont you, is it?  What you really want to know is, what happened with the students who got the surprise Reiki treaments?  Keep reading…

So, during our discussion in class on Wednesday, student A began by apologizing to her partner, student B.  She said, ” I just couldn’t concentrate.  I kept getting distracted.  I sat down to send you Reiki several times but had trouble feeling that it was working.  I’m sorry.”  Student B asked when these attempts had been made.  She paused, thinking, and then said, “Well, you may have been more successful than you think.” She went on to say that she’d been at work at that time, that work was very stressful, and that she often finds it hard to remain balanced there.   But that day, she said, “I felt surrounded by goodness, this indescribable feeling.  I was working incredible hours and maintaining a sense of calm.”  She was amazed by that  and attributed it to the Reiki.

Student B then admitted that she, too, had had trouble feeling very adept at sending distant healing to Student A.  It had been  hard to concentrate to sit and do a long session.  So, she’d chosen to send lots of what she called “microbursts” of Reiki.   Student A asked about time frame, and upon hearing that one of these microbursts had been sent her way Sunday evening, she got very excited.  She explained that Sunday evening, she’d been at home and had suddenly felt a big moment of elation, of good will.  She’d experienced an epiphany, a moment of ebullient optimism that convinced her that people can live an utterly happy and joyous life.  She was ecstatic.  And all of that from just a microburst!

And in fact, almost everyone who had received the distant Reiki noted that they’d felt a strong sense of well-being and happiness.  One described herself as feeling “ridiculously optimistic”.  I liked that.  As if optimism is somehow not to be trusted.  She said that sense was so at odds with the way she usually feels, that she found it both surprising and wonderful.  And this, to me, is one of the most common features of distant Reiki – you get a sense of great well-being and happiness that often catches you by surprise.  You’re going along, minding your own business, doing whatever you’re doing – walking, driving, reading, talking – and all of a sudden, a wave of love and joy comes out of nowhere, and you think, What’s that all about?  And then you find out that a friend was sending you Reiki at that time.

But that’s not all distant Reiki does.  It really, truly does reduce pain, and it’s great at relieving stress, just the way hands-on Reiki is.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent Reiki to friends and clients who had aching bodies or were just stressed out of their wits, and they saw immediate improvement.

But these are all just testimonials and self-reporting.  Very subjective self-reporting.  Totally unscientific and unreproduceable.   So easy to dismiss as hocus pocus.  Sigh. It’s impossible to say for sure how distant Reiki works in a way that will be convincing to folks who are scientific die-hards. So, instead of going the scientific route, I like to compare it to prayer.  Sending distant Reiki is like non-religious prayer.  (I say non-religious because Reiki has no ties to any religious system and is used by people of all faiths and even by agnostics and atheists!) When I sit down to send someone Reiki, my intention is to send them, with love, energy that will help them achieve the healing they want to achieve, whether it’s physical or emotional or spiritual.  And that’s not so very different from sending a prayer for someone’s well-being.   So, if you accept the idea that prayer can have positive benefits for those receiving the prayers, then accepting distant Reiki might not be such a stretch.

Well, I can imagine that some of you might still be sitting there shaking your heads and thinking, “No way.  Impossible. Give me a break.”  Many people have said that.  But in my experience, most of them stop saying that once they receive distant Reiki. Then they start saying things like, “It’s the damndest thing!” and “I don’t know how the hell it works, but I feel better.” And so on.   And to you, gentle skeptical readers, I make the following offer:  I will do a free 15-minute distant healing session (at a pre-arranged time, not a “stealth” session!) for the first 5 of you skeptics who contact me (by e-mail or phone), so that you can experience it for yourself.  Who know what your reaction will be?  But I think it will be a fun experiment.  And I promise to report on the results! Are you game?

P.S.  If you’ve ever had a distant Reiki session, feel free to post a comment about your experiences!


Reiki II has begun!

I began teaching my latest Reiki Level II class the other night.  What a joy!  I love teaching all the Reiki levels – it’s so wonderful to be able to teach people to use Reiki to help themselves and others -  but Reiki II is particularly fun.  Maybe it’s because I spent so many years teaching Russian, and in a way, teaching Reiki II is like teaching a language class.  The students have to learn three symbols to use in their healing work.  This involves learning the Japanese names of the symbols as well as how to draw the symbols, which are reminiscent of Japanese characters.  So I do a lot of,  “Repeat after me” to help them learn the names.  And teaching them to write the symbols is kind of like teaching my Russian students the Cyrillic alphabet – back then I’d use the same pads we all used to practice our printing, you know – the ones with the two solid lines at the top and bottom, and the dashes for a middle line.  But for Reiki class I give the students individual dry erase pads to practice on.  And there will be a quiz next week…

The other reason I love Reiki II is that I teach the students to do distant healing.  Yes, distant healing, as opposed to hands on healing.  It is possible.  I think this is one of the coolest things to do with Reiki.  In class the way we practiced it was this: each student paired up with another student.  The three people who were going to send Reiki first stayed in the meditation room, while the other three went into my healing room to wait and see what they did or didn’t feel.  And I got to sit and watch!  Well, the first three who went to sit and receive Reiki started out sitting in the room chatting amongst themselves.  The other three were very focused, visualizing the receipients’ in front of them, or, in one case, pretending that a stuffed monkey was the recipient.  As I watched the senders and listened to the recipients chatting, I thought, “Hmm, should I go in and suggest that they just sit quietly and receive?”  But then, all of a sudden, they just fell silent.  When I went in a few minutes later to tell them the session was over, they were all lying there, two on the floor, one on the table, totally relaxed.  They told us that they hadn’t decided to stop talking;  they’d just gotten so relaxed that it just happened.

I’ll write more next time about distant Reiki and what both the senders and receivers can feel – by that time my students will have reported on their own distant healing “homework” sessions, too!  But for now, let me just say  – everyone in class was pretty blown away by what they felt – on both ends.  Plus, we had one very relaxed stuffed monkey!

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