Archive for February, 2012

Reiki With a Chance of Insight

Reiki With a Chance of Insight

by Susan Downing

In recent posts I’ve been writing about how to use Reiki to survive turmoil in your life, and about how learning to practice in this way will help reduce the intensity of the storms that swirl around you.  But that’s not the full extent of what Reiki can do for you: by carving out a quiet space and time and going more deeply into your practice, you also make it possible for profound insights to bubble up, insights you can use as the basis for making positive changes in your life.

Every time we do Reiki for ourselves or receive a Reiki session or attunement from someone else, we experience the release of tensions in our body and mind.  Knotted-up muscles can relax, and disturbing thoughts and emotions can also relax their grip on us.  We can describe this process as a letting go – if only for a short while – of patterns of thought and behavior that have caused us discomfort.  One way experiencing this helps us is obvious – we simply feel better! But it can also help us in another way.  During each Reiki sessions, our thought and behavior patterns’ negative effects on our body and mind are temporarily relieved.  We can see this as temporary liberation from habits which do not serve us well, which serve not to increase our health and well-being, but to impair it.

But when we sit up after a Reiki session feeling marvelously relaxed and happy, the last thing we’re inclined to reflect on is what habits may have led to the discomfort we’ve just released while we were lying on the table.  We’re so happy to be free for now of that pain or tension, which at that moment is good enough. And really, we don’t have to consciously go down that road.  Rather, all we need to do is be open to gaining insights, because it’s precisely in the hours or days after a Reiki session that we are likely to gain new awareness of habits that cause us pain.  Reflecting or meditating on insights can help us get even more out of Reiki than temporary respite, whether we’re practicing on ourselves or receiving Reiki from someone else, because they can lead us to make changes that will free us from the habits themselves and not just their unpleasant effects.

This process of recognizing habits and then seeking insight into them is not something you can begin by force of will.  You will gain the moment of insight only when you’re ready to address a given habit.   Here’s an example from my own experience.  All my life I have had an incredible sweet tooth.  I have long known that I was probably consuming more sugar than was good for my body and mind, but I never took any steps to change that habit.  I never saw any need to.  Or rather, I pushed aside any concerns that would occasionally surface.  But one day about a year ago, I suddenly came to the conclusion that it was time to do something about the sugar. A day or two later, I happened to read an article by a nutritional therapist acquaintance about the ways sugar negatively affects the body and mind, and, much to my own surprise, I decided to take the plunge and give up sugar.  I worked with my acquaintance to develop a plan, and within a few days I had cut sugar out of my diet, although it had been an overwhelming food addiction for me my entire life.

It just so happened that this thought popped into my head at a time when I was both giving a receiving a great deal of Reiki.  I have noticed in the past that during such periods I will often gain insight into some long-standing area of tension or conflict in my life, or that it will occur to me that there might be a new way of looking at a situation, if only I would take the time to reflect on it. This is what happened with the sugar – for decades I was not at all convinced that it could be harming my body and saw no reason whatsoever to even consider that possibility, but one day my mind simply opened up and I had a Hmm…. moment: maybe it made sense to look at this issue after all?   I accepted that challenge and was able to make a change in my life that has brought me tremendous benefit.

That is exactly the kind of opening up or shift in perspective that Reiki can facilitate within us.  Sometimes it happens after one session, sometimes after many, or after more intensive Reiki work.  I can’t explain how this works, but I know that it happens, and not just to me! Here’s one way I’ve thought of to describe it: the more frequently and fully the body and mind relax, the more often and deeply we temporarily release our harmful patterns. There eventually comes a tipping point at which we gain both clear conscious awareness of one of these patterns and also a subtle openness to the possibility of changing things.  And in my experience, that is the time at which we have the opportunity to take action in our lives to change those habits for good.  In my case, there was actually once a four-day period after I did a number of Reiki attunements three years ago, when I totally lost my taste for sweets.  But even then I did not take action to cut down on sugar permanently, not for another two years.  I was not ready.  But the opportunity presented itself again, and when it did, then I took the necessary steps to change my pattern.

It’s important to note here that while the Reiki treatments and practice help our body and mind release the effects of our habits for short periods of time, Reiki alone generally does not remove the habit itself.  But when we have reached that tipping point, Reiki can help us gain awareness of the habit so that we can take the steps that are necessary to change it, if only we pay attention to that tiny willingness within us to do so.

That’s what I was able to do with my sugar addiction: the thought occurred to me that maybe I really should look at this situation and delve deeply into trying to understand it.  In other words, I gained the awareness that my craving of sweets really was harmful.  That was the insight, the shift, the new way of seeing things – a willingness to look at the problem of eating so much sugar, instead of resisting looking at it and telling myself there was no reason to stop. And after I had the insight, it was up to me to do the conscious inquiry and take the steps to adjust my behavior.

What this means is that instead of using Reiki only to relieve the effects of my harmful patterns on a temporary basis, I was able to use it to gain insight into how to change the habit and relieve those effects long-term.

Facilitating this type of transformation is one of the most powerful ways continued Reiki practice – or receiving Reiki on an ongoing basis – can help us, and being consistent and diligent with our practice is key. The more frequently we use Reiki to get our energy moving, the more quickly we will reach the tipping points that help us release the patterns that are disturbing our body and mind.  And what I really love about this is that you never know what insights will bubble up.  Out of the blue, one day, you will find yourself taking a new look at a long-standing habit or belief or way of thinking.  When you do experience this, that’s the time to do some reflection, because that’s the time when you are finally ready to make some profound changes in your life.  By receiving (or even giving) Reiki, you can feel a question arise: you can experience a Hmm…  moment.  And then you can take that Hmm… moment and with some reflection,  turn it into an Aha! moment, one that can motivate you to work to shift the way you live in this world and take one more step on the path of healing your body and mind.

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Extra Credit

Extra Credit

by Jeffrey Brooks

If you practice sincerely your life will change. Your mind will become more stable and clear. Your relationships with others will become more pleasant and wholesome. Your understanding of what is good to do and what is good to avoid will become more natural and more profound.

These changes occur when we follow the advice of the Buddha as described in the Dharma teachings and as modeled by the enlightened Sangha. Sometimes doing this is easy. Sometime it is difficult. It is difficult when it conflicts with our long standing habits of behavior or of mind; or when it is obstructed by the culture or environment in which we find ourselves. Then we need to use our intelligence and character to find a way to keep our practice on track – with a good, peaceful meditation schedule and good, positive ethical conduct. It is not always easy but it is always possible.

In Mahayana practice the measure of our success and the material of our practice is the well being of other people. If we begin to develop spiritual pride we diverge from Mahayana; we need to note this tendency and dismiss it, because otherwise it will obstruct our practice.

In English the word pride has several meanings. The two relevant ones (other than a bunch of lions) are arrogance and dignity. These are different and in spiritual jargon are sometimes confused. We do want self confidence and we do want dignity. We want to be proud of ourselves and of our purpose. These are consistent with the Bodhisattva action of “Joyful Effort,” the fourth of the six Paramitas or actions of the Bodhisattva.

But we want to avoid arrogance, avoid separating ourselves from others, avoid seeing our interests as divergent from theirs.

When we develop spiritual pride in this negative meaning of the word we begin to seek distinction as a spiritually accomplished person. We seek recognition by other people of our special goodness or abilities. We seek admiration, approval, ranks, titles, diplomas and so on. This is distracting and harmful if it infects our motives.

In the dojo it is evident when people preen and pose and signal their rank or status or ability.  We can see self regard continually mixed with their interactions with others. This is a sign of small achievement and a lack of self confidence.

We should note this tendency in ourselves and delete it so that we can practice without the distraction and waste of energy this habit of mind produces. We do not need extra credit for being a spiritual practitioner, and we do not need to seek it.

Then we are free to live each moment of our practice for its own sake, for the sake of the wonderful results we experience in this life, and for the good effects we can have on the lives of the people around us, and in the entire universe.

Shantideva in the Bodhicharyavatara verse 109 says:

The work of bringing benefit to beings

Will not make me proud and self admiring

The happiness of others is itself my satisfaction

I will not expect some ripening reward

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Reiki-Induced Climate Change

Reiki-Induced Climate Change

by Susan Downing

In my last two posts I’ve written about how our practice – whether we’re talking about Reiki, meditation, yoga or prayer – can help us ride out life’s storms.  But that isn’t all it can do for us.  As we keep up with our practice, we’ll find that not only is it easier for us to get through storms, there will be fewer storms to get through.

When we begin practicing, it can seem as if we’re just doing damage control.  Sometimes it’s all we can do to manage to take cover from all the storms that swirl around us, whether they arise outside us or within us.  But as we keep practicing, we begin to notice that the storms don’t throw us for such a loop as they used to do. Instead of feeling that we’re permanently in the path of a series of F-5 tornados, it gradually begins to seem that the storms that bear down on us are less and less powerful.  The first time we notice this, we might be surprised and think, wow, this isn’t quite so bad as the last one that blew through.  It seems that way because we’re getting better at spotting the storm from far off and taking refuge in our practice.  All the same, we may have the impression that storms are somehow unavoidable, a simple fact of life that we have to deal with.  But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Once we’ve settled into our practice with a regular routine and are beginning to see some benefits from it – in other words, when the time comes that we no longer feel that we’re mostly in crisis mode – then we can begin putting more time and effort into another key part of our practice, which is taking more care in all our interactions with those in the world around us.

Usui Sensei, the founder of the healing system that has come down to us as Reiki, referred to Reiki as “the secret to inviting happiness.” In addition to teaching his students to practice hands-on Reiki, Usui Sensei also gave them five precepts to live by:

Just for today, do not be angry.

Just for today, do not worry.

Just for today, express gratitude.

Just for today, devote yourself diligently to your work.

Just for today, be kind to people.

It’s precisely this combination of hands-on practice and living by the precepts which brings about transformation in our body and mind, a transformation that is both subtle and profound: without even realizing it, the way we see the world begins to change, and it begins to seem to us that the world around us is changing, for the better.  Here’s one way to describe this process: as our minds become less saturated with anger, we sense less anger in those around us.  As our worries fade, less that is worrisome comes our way.  Feeling grateful for even small things in our lives, we find ourselves among others who also take care to cultivate and show gratitude.   Our hard work bears fruit, and those around us begin to seem more serious about their endeavors, too.  Meeting the world with kindness, we find more and more kindness around us.

In this way, as we not only engage in our daily Reiki practice – or other practices, such as yoga or meditation or prayer or other healing arts – but begin to take more care with how we approach those around us, by living with the precepts in mind, we are able to bring about changes in the weather patterns in our lives.

When you begin to notice these changes in your own life, and when you recognize them as the fruits of your diligent practice, you will feel even more motivated to practice and to observe the precepts.  Realizing that you are able to directly affect the conditions in your own little neighborhood is liberating, and once you realize that you have the ability to transform your world and invite happiness into your life, practicing becomes a no-brainer.  Why wouldn’t you practice?

And really, it’s good to be aware of the precepts and do your best to observe them right from day one of your practice, even if that’s a challenge, because it’s the combination of the two that brings about climate change the fastest.  If you’re new to the idea of practicing the precepts, you can check out my previous posts.  Perhaps they’ll give you some thoughts about how you can begin to make them a regular part of your practice and your life, so that F-5 tornados – and even all tornados  – can be a thing of the past.

Just for Today, Do Not Be Angry

Just For Today, Do Not Worry

Just for Today, Express Gratitude

Prairie Precept (Just for Today, Devote Yourself Diligently To Your Work)

Just for Today, Devote Yourself Diligently To Your Work)

A Pail of Sand (Just for Today, Be Kind to People)

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Hunting Trip

The Hunting Trip

by Jeffrey Brooks

The early collection of the teachings of the Buddha is known as the Pali Canon. In it are a set of stories known as Jatakas. These are parables about the things the Buddha did during his past lives. Many of these stories describe acts of self sacrifice motivated by compassion.

These are the acts which put an end to suffering, and they are the causes of enlightenment.

In some later sutras the explanation for the way in which these acts function are treated philosophically, and demand a high degree of technical training and study.

In the Jatakas this sophisticated doctrine is presented in the form of folk tales. They are accessible to anyone who has a warm heart and a curious mind.

One of the Jataka stories begins as three princes ride out from their palace into the countryside to hunt. Soon they come upon a lush valley, thick with woods, fields of flowers and a river meandering through it. As the three brothers were admiring the view they noticed some tiger cubs playing in the grass near their mother.

The mother tiger was very thin. The brothers could see that she was starving and her milk had dried up. The mother tiger just stared at her cubs as they tried to drink milk from her.

The oldest brother felt sorry for the tigers, but he did not know what to do to help them. The middle brother had an idea. They would ride back to the palace and bring back some fresh meat for the mother tiger to eat. Then, if they could save her, her milk would flow again and the cubs would live too.

The three princes turned their horses back toward the palace. As they started to ride the youngest of the brothers, who was named Mahasattva, reconsidered. He thought: to get back to the palace will take half a day, and to return to this spot with the meat would take another half day. By that time this tiger will starve to death.

He decided that the only way to save the tigers was to give his own life to them so that they could live.

He told his brothers “I am not feeling well. I’ll stay here and rest until you come back.”

His brothers rode off.

Once they had disappeared Mahasattva took off his clothes and lay down in front of the tiger. The starving tiger licked him. But she would not bite him because he was alive, and she was only able to eat meat that was already dead. The tiger just put her head down on the ground and sighed, and lay there motionless.

Mahasattva realized his mistake and walked up to a cliff just above where the tigers were laying. There he made a spear of bamboo and stabbed himself in the throat. As his blood drained away he fell from the cliff and landed in front of the tiger, right where he had been laying a few moments before.

The starving tiger seized his body and devoured it, lapping up his spilled blood and gnawing on his bones. Her breasts filled with milk and the cubs drank and drank as much as they could hold.

Revived, the tiger and her cubs left the valley.

The next morning, when the two brothers returned to the valley with their load of fresh meat, they were surprised to see that the tiger and her cubs were gone. They saw nothing in that spot but some bones and a neat pile of clothing.

They recognized their brother’s clothes immediately and knew then that the bones were his too. They realized the real reason why their brother had not returned with them to the palace. They knew he stayed behind to sacrifice his life so the tigers would live.

His parents, the king and queen, were heartbroken when they heard the news about the death of their youngest son. They traveled to the spot where his bones and clothes were left. They decreed that a stupa, a memorial structure, be built in the spot where their son made his sacrifice.

There is a stupa that stands today, about 35 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan, built two thousand years ago, which memorializes this incident.

Of course this incident was not during the life of the historical Buddha, 2,500 years ago, but during one of his past lives. So it might have been many thousands or millions of years ago. But still, people remember this incident.

In later Buddhist scriptures it is mentioned that the original group of disciples taught by the historical Buddha 2,500 years ago in India, were these same tiger cubs, reborn as wandering monks. They had the extraordinary karmic ripening to once again meet an extraordinary person who could save them from suffering and death. This time this person, now a fully enlightened Buddha, could save them not just temporarily but forever, this time by feeding them on his teaching.

It is understood that the Buddha, because of the depth of his compassion and the completeness of his skill, can do this for all of us.

Some of us, as modern people, may be horrified by this story. Others may be inspired. But we need to understand the parable in perspective if we are to make use of it.

The Dalai Lama in a commentary on the 8th century Buddhist teacher Shantideva says this:

“…as long as our compassion is not completely pure and our realization of emptiness is not perfect, it is not proper to give away our wealth and merits. We need to protect our bodies while we purify any selfish motives we may have and increase our altruistic attitude. If we do this we will be able to accomplish the wishes of all beings. Meanwhile we should not give our lives too hastily. Instead, we should cultivate the aspiration to be able to sacrifice ourselves, until such time as doing so is truly beneficial.”

This is a warning against spiritual pride which would cause us to exceed our capacity and waste what we have. It is at the same time a warning against spiritual complacency that just goes with the flow.

No matter what our capacity is, no matter what our level of development, we are encouraged to gauge our ability honestly, acknowledge our faults, cultivate our good qualities, and follow the path of the Bodhisattva.

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