Archive for Center goings-on

So Simple. So Difficult.

So Simple. So Difficult.

by Susan Downing

People often ask me whether I get tired when I do Reiki for other people, and they sometimes seem surprised when I tell them that I don’t, and that, rather than feeling depleted by my work, I receive tremendous joy and benefit from giving Reiki to others.  Maybe they ask because people talk a lot these days about how doctors, nurses and caregivers in general suffer from physical and emotional exhaustion, from compassion burnout.  So, how is it that I (and, I imagine, other Reiki providers) avoid this burnout?  At the heart of the answer lies… well, … the heart.  

In today’s blog post, I explain my understanding of how Mikao Usui understood the healing system he founded, and what his work with his students entailed.  Although we Reiki practitioners have been taught that what facilitates healing in a Reiki session is universal energy,  I have come to believe that Usui Sensei recognized that the key to facilitating healing with Reiki was in fact love, the love that we practitioners carry within our very own hearts, not a force which exists somewhere outside us.  

We know now (thanks to Bronwen and Frans Stiene, who wrote about this in The Reiki Sourcebook), that Usui Sensei (who was a Tendai Buddhist lay priest), taught Reiki as a spiritual practice, an enlightenment practice, and that  the healing which recipients experienced was a side benefit, not the primary goal.  Based on what I have learned through my own Reiki and Buddhist practices, and through my own research into what the elements of  Usui Sensei’s Buddhist training would have been,  I believe that the core of his teaching lay in helping his students cultivate and nurture love and compassion, so that they could both progress spiritually and bring greater joy and healing to themselves and others.

Cultivating love and compassion within our own hearts is a simple idea, but a difficult practice.  It requires patience, perseverance, effective techniques, and guidance and support.  But the payoff is giant, in terms of our happiness and others’. Through such a practice we really can get to a state where love and compassion guide our interactions, where we feel energized and joyful, rather than drained.   I am convinced that Usui Sensei recognized this and taught his students accordingly, and I have decided to work the same way.  Beginning in September, I will be offering an ongoing, monthly practicum, “Reiki as Spiritual Practice: Cultivating Love and Compassion.” My goal is to support Reiki practitioners by helping them develop and sustain an ongoing practice devoted to developing love, compassion. This practicum is the way I have decided I can best honor and carry on the tradition of Mikao Usui’s healing work as I understand it.

This week’s post tells you all about how I came to this conclusion, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it, below.  If you are interested in finding out more about the practicum, which begins on Saturday, September 18th and is suitable for Reiki practitioners of all levels and spiritual traditions, I invite you to contact me.  


So Simple. So Difficult.

When I was receiving my Reiki Level I training, my teacher taught that universal or divine healing energy facilitates any healing that occurs during a Reiki session.  Reiki practitioners are simply conduits for this energy. That is the standard explanation of how Reiki works, and that is what I myself have always told my students and those for whom I have done Reiki. But as I have gone deeper into my Reiki practice, I have become convinced that what does the healing is not some universal or divine healing energy, but our own love and compassion. I believe that it is the force of whatever love we have managed to cultivate within our own hearts – through taking care with others, through our spiritual practice, or both – which makes healing possible when we direct it to others and ourselves.

We have all experienced the healing power of love – whether in the form of a kind word, a loving glance, or the warmth of a compassionate embrace – and we have all given this to others, whether we have simply treated others with love and kindness or formally placed our hands on them and called it Reikii.  We have also felt the joy and healing which occur within us when we act lovingly toward those around us. So really, why say that in Reiki we promote healing by using a force outside ourselves, when each one of us can easily attest to the healing power of love? It is simpler to say that when we do Reiki, we are harnessing the energy of the love and compassion we feel for the recipients and sending that energy from our heart to theirs. 

It has been traditional to say that Reiki practitioners bring healing energy through themselves and into the recipient. But Mikao Usui, the founder of this healing system, said in an interview (published by Frank Arjava Petter in Reiki: The Legacy of Dr. Usui) that he was unable to precisely explain the healing mechanism.  He described his system as a spiritual healing “method of healing the body and mind”  in which “energy and light radiate from all the body parts of the person who is giving the treatment.”  But Usui Sensei does not say that practitioners are serving as conduits for any external energy.  What he does stress is that anyone who “lives according to the moral principles can certainly learn within a short time to heal themselves, as well as others.”  And the core of Usui’s work with his students, in addition to using his energy healing method with them, were the five principles by which he urged them to live: “Just for today, do not anger, do not worry, be humble, be honest in your work, be compassionate toward yourself and others.”  In other words, what I believe Usui meant by calling his method a spiritual healing method, was that it enabled people to heal themselves and others by developing their own spiritual potential, not by summoning some outside force.  As we become better people, Usui Sensei was saying, we become able to heal ourselves and others.  This is not surprising, since we know that Mikao Usui was a lay priest within the Tendai Buddhism sect. And at the core of the five principles he taught his students, and which reflect the spirit of the Buddhist precepts he would have followed as a Tendai lay priest, is the commitment to treat others with love and compassion.

Certainly, there are various ways to cultivate that love – for some, it may be their connection to what they see as divine presence, or Spirit, while for others, like me, it is an understanding of the Buddha’s teachings combined with acting according to vows and using specific meditation techniques. Usui Sensei’s teaching method, I believe, was to cultivate love through a combination of hands on Reiki healing and devotion to the precepts he taught.  Had Usui Sensei’s method hinged on serving as a conduit for an external healing energy, the focus on the precepts and on ongoing energy work would not have been key.  He would have known that consistent withBuddhist teachings, no self-existent external healing energy can exist.  But the practices he used can cultivate love within us - no matter what our spiritual tradition – and sharing that love enables us to facilitate healing in others by helping them feel our love and compassion.

I came to believe that love is what does the healing through the intersection of my own Reiki and Buddhist practices, and through my research into the teachings of Usui Sensei.  Buddhism came first for me – I began studying Tibetan Buddhism with Jeff Brooks and soon decided that I wanted to take Bodhisattva vows. You become a true bodhisattva only when you develop bodhicitta, a boundless love and compassion for all beings which prompts you to devote all your energies to relieving their suffering – in this and all future lives.  Until you develop bodhicitta, you are an aspiring bodhisattva, striving to cultivate bodhicitta in your heart through a variety of practices and meditation techniques. When I received my Reiki Level I training, I was in the midst of my study for taking the vows, and my practice included meditations designed to cultivate bodhicitta. I was also volunteering in hospice.  So, given this intersection of my spiritual and volunteer work, it is not surprising that Reiki and bodhicitta seemed inseparably intertwined to me from the start.  Perhaps that is why, as I continued my Reiki training and began practicing Reiki more deeply, I became convinced that the practitioner’s own love and compassion are, in fact, the key component in any Reiki session. That what does the healing is love. Compassion.  Bodhicitta. 

I came to this realization through my own experience: as I focused my spiritual practice on cultivating bodhicitta, I found that I was able to come to my Reiki work with great compassion for those I worked with.  When the compassion would well up within me as I gave Reiki, it felt as if this very love was pouring out of my heart, through my hands, and into the recipient.   And those to whom I was giving Reiki would feel that love, they would grow calm and relaxed, and healing would become possible. For both of us.  

That made sense to me within the Buddhist framework.  Mahayana Buddhism stresses that bodhicitta arises as we gain insight into the fact that beings have no fixed identity, no self-nature.  As our attachment to an intellectual feeling of boundaries between ourself and others fades, our love and compassion for them naturally arises.  Within my Buddhist study, I had seen the transformation that my own bodhicitta-focused practice had brought about in me and in my life.  My own growing insight into lack of self-nature and the resulting compassion and love I was feeling for those around me were helping me free myself of anger and resentment toward others. The compassion was bringing about healing in me.  It seemed only logical to me that when we pass love onto others, that transmission of love can also facilitate healing.

I believe that it was precisely this bodhicitta, this energy from his loving heart which Usui Sensei used in his healing work and sought to develop in his students.  This is my conjecture about how Usui came to use and teach Reiki the way he did:

While doing a 21-day retreat on Mount Kuramayama, Usui Sensei had some kind of profound spiritual experience, perhaps a direct perception of the true nature of reality, which caused bodhicitta to arise in him.  When he came down from the mountain, he felt drawn to share the overwhelming love and compassion he was experiencing.  Having at this point become a true bodhisattva, he probably felt drawn to those who were suffering, and when he interacted with them – whether he actually put his hands on them or not – they sensed his love and experienced healing as a result.  I surmise that he realized that the mechanism for achieveing this healing was very simple – to simply connect with the recipient with great feelings of love.  

I suspect that he also realized that the more he interacted with people in this way and the more he was able to help them, the stronger his own bodhicitta grew.  In other words, he saw that as he sent his own love out to others during healing sessions, not only were they healed, but his love actually grew as a result.  Having understood this, I bet Usui Sensei thought that if he could help others cultivate this feeling of love, they could also facilitate healing through interacting with others.  And so he set about figuring out how to help people develop bodhicitta and share it with others through the hands-on healing method.  So, I believe that the core of his teaching was the cultivation of bodhicitta through the use of reciprocal energy exchange, mantras, the use of precepts, and meditation. 


Once I came to the conclusion that Usui Sensei must have recognized love as the key component in a healing session and taught his students accordingly, I decided to work in the same way.  Honestly, saying that the love we bring makes healing possible challenges us to approach our Reiki practice differently. It gives us the opportunity to examine the state of our own hearts and gauge our own capacity to direct love to others.  We realize that if we want to deepen our Reiki practice – for our own benefit and others’ – we will need a reliable, consistent way to cultivate and nurture love within our hearts.    And so, I have decided to offer an ongoing practicum, “Reiki as Spiritual Practice: Cultivating Love and Compassion”. 

My purpose for offering the practicum – in which I will offer attunements and hands-on Reiki practice, and work with the Reiki precepts, symbols and mantras, as Usui did in his teaching – is to support Reiki practitioners by helping them develop and sustain an ongoing practice devoted to developing love, compassion, bodhicitta.  This practice will help us all develop our ability to bring love and compassion to ourselves, all those around us and our healing work. This is precisely what I believe Mikao Usui was doing with his students: giving them the opportunity to experience the benefits of this exchange of healing love, and to cultivate their love and compassion so that they could gradually bring more and more of it to all of their interactions. 

What I am suggesting is so simple, yet so difficult: let’s not focus on giving our Reiki clients universal energy which is somehow separate from us and perfect.  Instead, let’s recognize that the love in our own hearts is what makes healing possible. Let’s cultivate that boundless love and compassion within our own hearts and pass that on, not only to our clients, but to all beings around us.  That is what I sincerely believe Usui Sensei was striving to help his students do.  And that is what I will do my best to help my students do, too. Offering this practicum is the way I have decided I can best honor and carry on the tradition of Mikao Usui’s healing work as I understand it.

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Filling the Gap

Filling the Gap

by Susan Downing

I make a weekly Reiki housecall to Neil, my friend Heather’s husband -we have been friends for a long time, and now Neil is bedridden, suffering from a host of neurological conditions which render him unable to speak or control his physical movements.  In the past couple of months he seems to have gradually been getting close and closer to finally letting go of being here in his physical body.  Both Heather and I have sensed that, and the Reiki seems to be helping the process along.

Two weeks ago, as I finished Neil’s session, Heather came in with a folded piece of fabric, a batik. She said that she and Neil had gotten it for me in May at the Cummington fair, and she had been waiting for the right time to give it to me, without knowing when that would be.  I unfolded it and immediately recognized that it was a batik of Tara, an important Tibetan Buddhist deity.  (One story tells us that Tara was born from a tear that fell from the eye of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.)  There is White Tara and Green Tara and there are also the 21 Taras – 21 different forms that Green Tara can take to help us conquer various dangers and mental afflictions.  White and Green Tara are pretty easy to tell apart, for obvious reasons, but the 21 Taras are hard to tell apart.  And that is why I was amazed when as soon as I laid eyes on this Tara, I had the feeling she was Tara, Destroyer of Grasping.

I don’t know what the artist’s intention had been – Heather said there had been a whole stack of different Tara batiks, and she had taken a long time in choosing the one that felt right to give to me.  What a coincidence: you see, a print of Tara, Destroyer of Grasping, hangs on my wall at home.  I got it at the end of April from Joan Bredin-Price, the artist, who painted a series of all the 21 Taras (you can go to Joan’s website to see all 21 of these beautiful, non-traditional thangkas – Tibetan devotional paintings of deities.)  This Tara is my favorite of all the 21, because reducing grasping is a big focus of my own practice.  You can imagine how surprised I was to unfold that batik and see my favorite Tara there!

Heather remarked that she had no idea why she had held onto it for two months before actually giving it to me.  But then it struck us that Neil probably needed to have Tara around for a while.  Heather and I thought back and realized that Neil had begun his letting go just about the time she’d come into the house.  And during this day’s session, I had felt him release what seemed like some very old pain.  Evidently he was feeling free enough to let Tara move to me.

I held the batik in my hands, folded up, and as I stood there thinking about how best to display it, I felt a sudden rush of energy from it.  I am someone who is sometimes skeptical of this kind of thing, but there was no doubt – the energy was coming from the folded Tara, not my hands.  A powerful, sacred image.  And I decided I wanted make a thangka out of it to hang up in my Center.

Four traditional thangkas – images of Buddhas and bodhisattvas painted on thick paper and then surrounded by sewn brocade frames – hang in the Center’s zendo, and I knew Tara would be the perfect addition, even though the batik is a non-traditional representation. And Heather, when she came by the Center the next day, pointed to the empty wall across the zendo from the altar, and said, “That would be a perfect place for her.”  And she was right. It is a twelve-foot wall, and a traditional thangka would be dwarfed there. But the batik itself was the size of the other thangkas, so the finished piece would be very large, of a size proportionate to the wall.

Even so, I was a little nervous.   Would it be in any way disrespectful or inappropriate for me to sew a thangka? I consulted Jeff Brooks.  This is his view: “Authentic dharma practice does not depend how well we Westerners imitate Asian cultural forms. An American holding a horse hair fly whisk while speaking in a zendo may signal authenticity to some people; it may signal pretending to be Japanese to someone else. Having a practice space that is austere may support a kind of dharma practice. A space that has aesthetic reminders of dharma teaching and experience may support another kind. The environments we create for practice can help us be better human beings, better dharma practitioners and better bodhisattvas. What matters in them is not how well we imitate our imaginary ’pure’ Asian traditions but whether or not we know what we’re doing — and how deep our knowledge, understanding and practice is.”

And so, I felt that what was most important was approaching this task with the proper motivation and care.  For starters, it seemed that I should be very careful with the actual batik – not to let it touch the ground, or let my cats lie on it!!  But aside from that, I’d have to carefully choose the fabric to make the frame around it.  Without a doubt, the place to go for that was  Osgood’s in West Springfield, so I took my folded Tara and headed down there.  Osgood’s is textile heaven – or hell, depending on your perspective.  You walk in and see literally thousands and thousands of rolls of fabric, many just lying piled up much higher than you can reach, or standing upright in bin after bin.  Finding fabric there can be an overwhelming experience if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. And even if you do!

On this day, with Tara in my hand, I knew only that I was looking for medium weight brocade.  And so, having found out where I could find the brocades, I paused, asked Tara to help guide me.  Then I started walking.  Silk brocades  embroidered with flowers were lovely, but didn’t go well with the batik.  Others were too thick.  Still others I found appealing, but somehow lackluster.  Then I came around a corner and saw before me a row of bins with fabric bolts sticking upright. All, that is, except for a roll of blue brocade which bent over and out into the aisle.  I wondered whether it was meant for the thangka – it was certainly putting itself right in front of me – but it didn’t really grab me.  A quiet, but sophisticated bolt of gold did.  And as I unrolled it and lay Tara atop it, I knew the gold was right.  But I needed a contrasting color.  Still the blue bolt waited patiently, leaning silently toward me as I stood with my back to it and held Tara up next to every other fabric in the adjoining bin.  But finally I listened.  Pulled that big, thick bolt out, laid it next to the gold, with Tara on top.  Yes. A perfect combination.  What really appealed to me was that while the regularly-patterned gold was elegant and deity-appropriate, the blue had an almost homespun look to it – the raised contrasting shiny pattern looked hand-sewn and very alive, as if in motion.  The two together seem to me now to express both the calm gleaming beauty of the quiet mind that Tara helps one attain and the more chaotic impulses we hope to tame during practice.

My fabric choices made, I headed to the cutting table, where one woman was cutting fabric for the line of us who were waiting.  Then suddenly a second young woman (whose name is Brandy, I later learned) appeared. She cut some samples for the woman ahead of me, and then asked what she could cut for me.  I gave her the blue and gold bolts, plus the buttery yellow fabric I’d chosen for the shade to go on top, and told her how much I’d need of each.  Silently, she took each bolt, rolled it out on the table, slowly smoothed it and then, with what seemed to me unimaginable  care and attention, cut each length of fabric.  As she finished, she glanced at Tara, who was lying folded up in front of me.  ”Are you making a flag?” she asked. “Of sorts,” I answered.  I explained what I was planning.  She smiled in what seemed to me a kind and thoughtful way as she passed my fabric across the table.  I left Osgood’s so happy – not only had I easily found the right fabric for the thangka, but the young woman who had cut it could not have been more respectful or mindful.  It felt auspicious.

It was only over the weekend that I was able to get down to cutting the fabric and actually sewing the thangka.  I knew that I should sew it all by hand, using the shiny rayon thread I’d gotten at Osgood’s – a color named Temple Gold, believe it or not!  So I cut out the pieces for the frame, using my traditional thangkas as a rough template, only lots bigger!  When I actually sat down to sew, in my room at home, it felt so peaceful, the motion of the thread going through the fabric and the accompanying sound so soothing.  And right away it occurred to me that it would be good to chant the Tara mantra as I worked: “Om tare tuttare ture svaha.”  (It is meant to help liberate one from worldly dangers, from the three poisons of greed, aversion and ignorance, and to spur one to compassionate deeds.) Don’t know why I thought of it, but I did, so that’s how I worked:  over the four days I was sewing, I sang that mantra as I stitched, and thought about what a blessing it would be to be able to bring Tara’s presence into the zendo to join the Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and the Medicine Buddha who already hang there.

I found it very moving to work that way.  On two of the afternoons, as  I sat and sewed,  singing that mantra, my daughter Emily was there with me, too, sitting at the computer, playing The Sims. We joked about the seeming incongruity of the two activities, but I appreciated having her there – and she provided valuable consultation, too, helping me choose the right fabric alignment for the bottom of the thangka.

Finally, on Wednesday night, I finished the thangka.  And when I went to Heather and Neil’s yesterday for my regular housecall, I took it along.  I hung it up  on Neil’s IV stand, so Tara could look down on him as I gave him Reiki.  It seemed the right thing to do, bringing her back for a visit before hanging her in the zendo, to share her with him again. Especially since our experiences with this beautiful Tara had a common thread:  she had helped him let go of some of his anxiety about moving toward death.  She helped me loosen my grip, too – during the process of designing and sewing and chanting, I gained a liberating new perspective on a situation I’d been struggling with. It was like pulling loose the threads of an old, constrictive seam and restitching the pieces together in a new, beautiful way.

Tara is now hanging in the zendo on the big wall. (See the photo below.)  Thank you, Heather, Neil and Brandy, for making that possible.  The room feels somehow complete now.  My friend Karen and I meditated there last night, and we felt fully surrounded by the presence of the deities.  All gaps filled.

Tara thangka

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Kickin’ It Old School Some More


Kickin’ It Old School Some More
by Susan Downing
Those of you who read my post from a couple of months ago, “Kickin’ It Old School”, will recall that I’ve made a conscious decision to practice Reiki in a way that’s as close as possible to how Mikao Usui, who developed this healing modality, practiced it.  Just how did Usui practice Reiki? That’s been a tricky thing to determine, but thanks to one of my students, Lydia, I came in contact with a fabulous book that really unlocked Usui’s approach for me.  (It’s The Reiki Sourcebook by Bronwen and Frans Stiene.)
It turns out that the way of practicing Reiki that came to America through Hawayo Takata from Dr. Hayashi was quite different from what Mikao Usui had developed, and not just in one way. But in one big way:  Usui was using the energy connection between himself and his students, and between his students and each other as the core of a spiritual practice.  The Stienes write that the point of Usui’s work with his students “was to provide a method for students to achieve enlightenment.” (p. 58, for  those of you who like citations!)    And the healing that took place in the course of these interactions was a marvelous kind of side effect, rather than the purpose of practice.  But once Dr. Hayashi began practicing and teaching Reiki, he broke off from the traditional Usui practice, following Usui’s death, and he secularized the practice, placing the emphasis squarely on the healing rather than the spiritual.  And it is this non-spiritual version of Reiki which Mme. Takata spread here in America.
Well, when I read that Usui’s aim was to use Reiki as part of a spiritual path, I got really excited, because it wasn’t just any spiritual path he was on, it was a Buddhist path: Usui was a lay priest within the Tendai Buddhist tradition, which meant that I felt an even stronger connection between my Reiki practice and my Buddhist practice.  It suddenly seemed natural that the two feel so connected to me, and dt first I didn’t really think so much about how the Reiki practice could be an enlightenment practice.  But last weekend, something happened that gave me insight into what I think Usui must have been doing…
I’ve been writing a lot in this blog about the 3-day-in-a-row Reiki sessions, and I’ve done them and received them with a number of clients and friends.  And three of my Reiki friends in particular were intrigued by the possibility of doing a series as a share.  So we decided to do it: last weekend, for three days in a row, the four of us took turns giving each other Reiki.  The first person would like down on the table, and the three others would give her Reiki (only a 20-minute session, since there were three of us giving.)  We’d sit for 10 or 15 minutes, and then we would rotate, so that the second person would lie down and the other three would give her Reiki. And so on.  So, on each of these three days we spent about 2 hours giving and receiving Reiki.
And under these intensive and intense practice conditions, we experienced exactly what I now believe Mikao Usui was hoping his students would experience.  And what was that?
Anyone who does Reiki enough and with sufficient focus and intention will at some point feel what I described in my October blog “Reiki Heaven”: “Sometimes we lose awareness of any distinction between our hands and the body of the person we’re working on: because we move our hands and then let them settle and rest in one spot for a minute or two, and because the action is so meditative, the opportunity arises for this distinction to fall away as if we were in deep meditation.  Rather than having a sense that I am giving Reiki to someone, there is simply the calm, happy presence of energy flowing, just flowing, not from or to anyone. Receiving Reiki during the share, we can experience the same thing: it begins to feel that the hands resting on us are part of us, that they are us and we them, without boundary.”
This is precisely what happened over the weekend.  Almost immediately, someone on the table or one of the practitioners would talk about feeling so connected in this boundary-less way, feeling that either we couldn’t feel a body beneath our hands, or hands on our body.  And then, after each session, one of us would inevitably turn to one of the others of us and remark, “I was working at her head and was just thinking I really needed to move to her hip, and then you went there.”  It was as if we were all so focused on the recipient and so in tune with her energy and with each other that we all just knew what to do and just did it.  Silent dance after silent dance. And at some points we practitioners were intertwined above the person on whom we were working. But how does this explain Reiki as a spiritual practice?  Keep reading…
At one point, during our Saturday sessions, one of us wanted to lie on her side for her session. I was at her front, one of us was at her feet, and the other was at her back.  The two of us at front and back had our arms draped across our friend’s side, each of us reaching over her, forming what she later said felt like a comforting cocoon.  And as we stood there, silently, I happened to glance down at her face, and was overcome with sweetness and tenderness. She looked just like an angel to me, and I felt so grateful at that moment, felt it was an honor to be able to bring her this healing energy together with our other friends.  I glanced at the one who was at her feet, and she smiled, and then at our other friend, and realized that she and I were feeling the same thing – there were tears in her eyes, too.
And that is when I understood what Usui must have been getting at: that is where Reiki becomes a spiritual practice. You see, Usui’s Buddhist practice would have focused not only on individual enlightenment, but on bringing benefit to all beings, with the bodhisattva ideal of leading others to liberation, too. And the Buddhist traditions with this ideal (the Dalai Lama’s Mahayana tradition falls into this category) focus intensely on both achieving wisdom (insight into the nature of reality – see Jeff’s last post, “Buddhism and the Three Trainings” on this) and compassion.  Tibetan Buddhism offers a whole set of meditations to develop compassion, but I am now convinced that what Usui did was use the body-based practice of Reiki as a powerful tool for both erasing our ignorant sense that we possess a fixed, separate self-nature and helping us develop compassion.  I think he was brilliant, and this is how it works:
When we give or receive Reiki, if we are very open and still and focused, we can experience that sense of lack of separation between practitioner and recipient that I refer to above.   When the recipient’s and practitioner’s (or, in this case, practitioners’) energies are connected and they both have that sense of loss of separateness, that produces a feeling that combines both strong compassion and tenderness for the other person and intense well-being and happiness in oneself.  Of course, the Reiki recipient often feels this, too, and this is the reason we all feel great after Reiki, whether we’re giving or receiving it. To put it another way, experiencing the loss of separateness elicits strong joy and compassion, which is precisely the goal of many of the Mahayana or Vajrayana Buddhist meditations or ritual practices.
But how does this help us, aside from helping us feel great?  Let’s say you receive this wonderful sense of well-being and tenderness toward the recpient or practitioner during a Reiki session.  Ideally, when you walk out of that room, you will carry that sense of tenderness and well-being with you. But that’s not all.  In addition, back out in the world, you will be able to remind yourself that it is possible to feel that connected to another human being.  Toward all beings, human or otherwise.  And ideally, reminding ourself of this enables us to be as loving and kind to every being we encounter as we feel toward the person with whom we experienced Reiki.
So, what I am pretty sure now is that Usui was using the practice of Reiki to enable his students to consistently and repeatedly experience this state of non-separateness (while receiving or giving Reiki) as well as to continually share the happiness and love (through giving Reiki to others), because within the Buddhist tradition, it is crucial to take the loving feelings generated by the practice and pass them on to others, rather than focusing solely on one’s own happiness.  And so, Reiki turns out to be a perfect combination of receiving and giving.
That is exactly how it worked for all of us this weekend. What I saw was that my friends, who are already very sensitive to each others’ needs, became more finely attuned to each others’ needs as the hours passed, steadily more concerned with each others’ comfort and happiness, fussing with pillows, paying close attention to every toe, smoothing out locks of hair and wrinkles in the sheets, so that each one’s experience would be optimally enjoyable.  And as we talked about how the sessions were affecting us, it became clear that we were all leaving each day and feeling much more tender and solicitous about those around us, even strangers.

That is how Reiki practice becomes a spiritual practice – and you don’t have to be Buddhist in order to do it.  Repeatedly and consistently practicing – or receiving! – Reiki makes it possible for this great happiness to arise, and if you can then have the conscious intent to carry that happiness with you and shower every being around you with it, then you are establishing a habit of viewing others more compassionately,  of treating them with tenderness.  If you’re working within a Buddhist framework, and you combine this practice with pursuing insight into wisdom, and you are on the path to enlightenment.  If you are not Buddhist, you can still use Reiki experiences in this way to bring infinite happiness to both yourself and others.  This is exactly what I strive to do: to carry on Mikao Usui’s work of teaching people to create that happiness through Reiki.




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What Business Plan?!

What Business Plan?!

     by Susan Downing

When I opened up Mountain Zendo and Healing Center a year ago, after having decided to expand my private practice, my small business owner friends and colleagues said that I should really have a business plan and set goals for the Center. How much income did I want to bring in? What was my target number of clients? What did I see as my income streams and what would I do to develop them so that they would produce the income I’d set as my goal?  Don’t worry, gentle readers – today’s post will not be an outline of a traditional business plan for Mountain Zendo.  For the simple reason that I never did that kind of business plan, and I probably never will, because I approach my work at the Center in a different way.

When people began talking to me about business plans, I always immediately stopped listening.  Back then, I didn’t quite understand why.  But now I do.  It’s because business plans force you to be all goal-oriented, to lay out a specific vision of what you want to achieve with your business.  And although I do have goals for my work at the Center, they’re not the kind that would make a Community Development grant-granting department feel comfortable  about parting with funds.  

First of all, I don’t consider what I do all day a business. I consider it a life’s work. I don’t want to say the culmination of a life’s work, because that sounds too finished, too much like a goal that has been met, like a completed project.  But I do feel that pretty much everything I have done in my life before I began doing healing work has contributed to what I am doing now and helped me get here, to our Center.  And I see my work here an an ongoing, ever-flowing, ever-deepening stream of activity motivated by clear intention and flowing out of a clear source, but a stream that just flows without flowing toward a particular point.  So, you may ask, just what do I think I am doing here?

Believe it or not, until a few months ago, I could not have fully and clearly articulated why I went into healing work and why I opened the Center last year.  You may find this ironic, given how un-business-planny I am, but I figured out the “why do I do this” question while attending a 5-part business seminar through BNI, a business networking group I belong to.  Our trainer for the seminar challenged us all to explain exactly why we do what we do.  I am a cooperative student, so when I went home that night, I sat down to do my thinking homework.  

It was easy to say that I do the work I do because I want to help people.  But I knew that answer was too superficial.  So I asked myself why I wanted to help people by doing healing work and teaching them meditation and other stress-relief techniques.  The answer that arose both surprised me and didn’t.  

I grew up surrounded by people who certainly meant well, and who, I believe,  did love each other.  But the weight of their individual personal unhappiness produced such stress and sadness and anger that they did not have the strength or reserves of love  to take as much care in their interactions with each other as I know they wanted to be able to take.  

And I see this same unhappiness, stress and near-depleted reservoirs of love in my clients.  To varying degrees, of course.  They all care deeply about the people around them and want to take care of them and show them love.  But they don’t have the strength to do it as effectively or consistently as they’d like.  They come to me feeling that their emotional, physical or spiritual reserves are running very low.  When they’re feeling that way, they’re not only unhappy and unable to live the way they want to live, but they also can’t be as kind and loving as they want to be to others.  They can’t take the kind of care with or of others that they’d like to.

And that is why I do the work I do: to help them be able to help themselves and take good care of others, too.  When people come to me, I feel like I am filling up their reservoirs of love with healing energy, so that they can not only feel wonderful themselves, but share that well-being and happiness with those around them.  And I see that process play out all the time with my clients: they come in feeling discouraged that they are not able to meet their responsibilities to themselves or others – whether personally or professionally – and when they leave, they are calm and relaxed, which means they are also feeling kinder toward everyone around them.  Which means they are going back out into the world in a frame of mind that is conducive to giving kind attention and love to those around them.

That is my business plan: I offer people loving energy, whether by giving them a Reiki session, or by offering them a calm, quiet space that they can use for meditation, or simply as a refuge from the depleting demands of their day.  

Last week in his blog post Jeff Brooks urged us to treasure what we have. And I sure do: it is an indescribable joy for me to work with every person who walks through the Center’s door.  If being in our space, or doing healing work, or talking with others who are there makes it possible for you to feel happier and, as a result, more loving to those you encounter, then I am happy.  Blissfully happy to have the opportunity to spend that time with you.  With no goal besides giving you some ways to feel that positive energy in and around you, and to take it with you and use it however you can.    

So, not a traditional business plan, perhaps. No quotas or numbers to reach.  Just the joy of doing what I do every day and seeing how it plays out for all of us who are involved.  So far, so good.


Mountain Moonlight – Preserving the Treasure

Although I am always happy to send out a new blog post, I’m particularly happy this week, for a couple of reasons.  First, this week’s post comes just as Mountain Zendo and Healing Center is about to mark its one-year anniversary: it was June 1st last year that I officially opened the Center.  And second, we have a surprise for you!

During the Center’s first year, I have focused more on developing my healing work than on the dharma and meditation side of the Center’s activities.  But I am happy to announce that from now on, you will have more access to the dharma.  As some of you know, I began studying Mahayana Buddhism with Jeff Brooks a number of years ago when he was leading Mountain Zendo in his dojo, Northampton Karate.  When Jeff relocated to North Carolina last summer, Mountain Zendo became a part of my Center.  And now, Jeff will be the Center’s Sangha Director.  He and I will alternate writing blog posts (you’ll be able to identify his, since they’ll be under the new “Mountain Moonlight” heading), so that you will get doses of both healing news and Buddhism! And when Jeff is in town, you will be able to join us for his in-person dharma talks.

A bit about Jeff: he began meditating in 1974, studying in the Soto and Rinzai Zen tradition in both Okinawa and the US, and receiving his priest’s ordination as the Rev. Jeffrey Tesshin Brooks in 1998. He also spent seven years in daily study of classical Indian Buddhism in the Dalai Lama’s Gelug tradition.

Jeff’s involvement in the Center seems like a particular blessing to me because it was studying the dharma with Jeff and taking my Bodhisattva vows from him in 2007 which helped my own compassion grow and motivated me first to make healing as my life’s work and then, to open Mountain Zendo and Healing Center. Precisely because dharma study and meditation practice inspire my healing work and lie at its core, I have always wanted them to play a prominent role in the Center’s activities.  And now, thanks to Jeff’s involvement, they will.  I hope you’ll enjoy his first post, “Preserving the Treasure.” 

Mountain Moonlight  

                    Mountain Zendo and Healing Center biweekly dharma blog            

by Jeff Brooks

“Preserving the Treasure”

Every moment of our lives is precious. Our human lives arise as a result of enormous good karma, accumulated by us over eons of practice and kindness and insight and suffering. Now we have the result of all that effort – a body healthy enough to practice, a mind clear and stable enough to practice, the good fortune to encounter dharma teaching, people with whom we can share our lives and who value practice.

We expend our lives quickly. All the good karma we have accumulated is easy to exhaust. Life runs down.  Our time gets short. Our mind becomes cloudy. Our body does not remain ours. If we lose this chance to practice we cannot hope to find another one very soon.

If we treasure what we have, if we study well, practice sincerely and behave with dignity and kindness, we will create conditions in our lives and in the lives of the people we touch which will produce future good results. If we dissipate the good fortune we have – pursuing things which, sought for their own sake, will not support us, things such as wealth, leisure, status, sexual activity, food – we become disturbed and dissatisfied, losing the chance to free ourselves from suffering, losing the chance to help the people who depend on us.

As human beings who have encountered the dharma – whether in Buddhist form, Christian form or some other form – we have a choice: to accumulate the causes and conditions for our future enlightenment  or to dissipate the good results of our own past actions we now enjoy, and so cast our selves down into suffering.

By practicing with a calm clear mind, studying and contemplating with deep clarity, behaving in a kind and dignified manner – even if it is inconvenient, unconventional, difficult or lonesome – we can have the life we want: free from suffering, with the skill and energy to take care of whoever needs us.

As modern people we are taught to frame most questions of behavior as matters of personal freedom.  As if yielding to every impulse, desire, attraction and fear were freedom. In fact such an impulse-driven life, devoid of purpose, is slavery.

If we are thirsty, in the desert, and have a last cup of water, we could chose to liberate the water into the sand, freeing it from the arbitrarily imposed boundaries of the cup. Or we could contain it, protect it, and use it in a way that will benefit ourselves and others.

Oil can be used, if handled with care and skill by many well-trained people, to power the Dalai Lama’s jet and the dharma center’s heating system, or to help you get your kids to school and yourself to work.  Or it can be liberated from its undersea prison, killing many fish and polluting the oceans.  All “freedom” is not created equal.

Our life energy can be squandered on pleasure seeking, intoxication, manipulation, accumulation, lying and destroying. This way of living is advocated, vigorously, as true and good, around the world.  Or our life energy can be conserved, used carefully, to sustain ourselves and others. Through disciplined practice and wise action, we can use our precious lives well, and put an end to suffering, for ourselves and others, forever.

How to do that is the subject of this blog.

Have a fun week!

Jeff Brooks taught karate in Northampton, MA, daily from 1988 to 2009, and led Mountain Zendo from 1994 to 2009. He now lives in a vast ocean of mist covered mountains rising to the sky, working in law enforcement. He can be reached through Mountain Zendo or at His articles and book are collected at

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Cough, Cry, Heal

When people who haven’t experienced Reiki ask me what Reiki can do for them, I always say that what Reiki does best is bring deep relaxation and freedom from anxiety.  And that is definitely true.   But at the same time it often serves as a catalyst for shifts and releases. Sometimes these occur during a session, while other times the work begins a shift or release which occurs fully only after the session ends. This can happen hours or even days later.

When I talk about shifts and releases, that can mean any of a number of things.  It can mean that you have a release of tension that takes a physical form- and often that kind of release takes the form of a cough, or a yawn, or a stomach gurgling, or muscles twitching during the session. I see at least one of these kinds of release nearly every time a do a session for someone, and they are generally easy for the recipient to handle, because they go hand in hand with deep relaxation.

Other releases are emotional.  Often people will be surprised to find themselves laughing or crying during a session.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are happy or sad.  This is just the way their body has chosen to release some emotional tension at that moment. This is the “have a good cry” version of a release, and although people are sometimes a little embarrassed if they start to cry, I always reassure them that it is perfectly natural.  And I tell them that if put me and 9 other people in a room and gave us all Reiki, it would be a good bet that I would be the one who’d start crying. It’s one of the ways my body releases emotional tension.  So, it’s no biggie.  Happens all the time. And again, people usually feel only relief after the release of tears or laughter.

But sometimes the releasing process is accompanied by what I call antsiness, and I’ve learned that it signals a larger release, one that generally begins during the session but is completed afterwards, later.

Take the example of one of my regular clients.  He comes for a session every other week and usually he is pretty much out like a light for most of the the session and gets up deeply relaxed.  But two weeks ago, I finished the session and stepped out of the room to get him a cup of water.  When I walked back in, he was already sitting up on the edge of the table.  ”I had to fight to stay lying down,” he said.  ”A couple of times I thought, I just have to get up!  But I didn’t.”  ”Are you feeling antsy?” I asked.  He nodded.  Almost a little sheepish, as if, in not feeling like a puddle on the floor after his session, he was somehow letting us both down.

I told him that the antsiness is not unusual, and that in fact, it’s a positive sign that a release has begun, that a shift is in process. I have experienced this myself during and after sessions, with varying intensity.  Sometimes when  I’m receiving Reiki, this is what happens: I’m lying there, relaxed, and then I start to feel like I’ve had enough.  I’m done. Okay. Time to stop.  Get me outta here!  But I find that as I continue to lie there, in less than a minute, that sensation fades and I once again slip into the deep relaxation. I’ve concluded that these little waves of antsiness are no different than other types of release, aside from the fact that they may feel a little odd and make me irritated briefly.

The first time I felt this antsiness and irritation so strongly and intensely that it really persisted after the session was late last summer when I was feeling all out of balance and upset by some incidents in my life, and my good friend did a couple of Reiki sessions for me.  After one of them I sat up, feeling like I was going to just scream.  Incredibly irritable, and I am rarely irritated or irritable.  It was like no Reiki session I’ve ever had before (or since!) She felt it, too. We looked at each other.  Finally, I think she said something like, “What was that all about?” and I replied, “I don’t know, but man, I feel like crap!”

But within about a day I had a big, BIG shift.  I gained great insight into something that had been bothering me, and all my discomfort faded.  I understood then that the way I felt coming out of that session signaled a shift in progress. And so, when I experience that antsiness in myself or sense it in my clients, or if they mentioned it, I now know what it’s all about.

For those of you who haven’t experienced this, I can give you a sense of what it feels like.  Think about how it feels when you begin to sense that you might be getting ready to sneeze.  And you’re getting ready to sneeze, but you don’t, or at least not for a while.  Another way I like to explain it is this:  Imagine that you are closing a door really, really slowly.  There’s the part of the door latch that slips into the indentation in the door jamb and keeps it closed until you turn the handle to release it.  If you close the door really, really slowly, that little metal part first pushes inward, and as you move it slowly to the place where it can finally slip into position, you will feel the tension before the latch finally does slip into position.  That tension is, I think, something like what it feels when one of these shifts has begun. And you will feel that tension until whatever thought, or emotion or behavior pattern which wants to be released or understood or rise to awareness does what it is trying to do.

I have gotten better at recognizing when a client is feeling this particular kind of “pre-release”, which means I’m able to let them know that although they may feel irritated and irritable and antsy, this is actually a very positive development, because it means that their mind and body are working to shift something big so that they can look at it or release it by just letting it pass on through.  When this does happen, I encourage the recipient to take it easy and focus on being open to the shift, instead of wishing the discomfort away. Usually, just hearing that this is a natural process helps the client relax and let the healing take it course without feeling that something went terribly wrong during the session!

In the case of my regular client, I learned that he is in the middle of a cleanse program, which means that he is poised for lots of big transformations, both physically and emotionally or psychologically.  I suggested that this might be a good time to try an intensive series of treatments – one session three days in a row – to really speed the releasing process along.  And that is what he decided to do.

So, those are some of the ways that our bodies and minds can release feelings or physical or emotional patterns which are not in the best interest of our health.  Sometimes the shifts are so quick and easy that we barely notice them during a session. Other times they are powerful and take place over a period of hours or days.  I feel it’s part of my responsibility to those for whom I do Reiki to talk to them about these various forms that release can take, so that they can both feel maximally comfortable with the releasing, free from anxiety over the process, so that their body and mind can carry out that healing work unhindered by unnecessary anxiety.

A final word: if, during a Reiki session, you feel any discomfort or anxiety about how the session is gone, please make sure to talk to your Reiki provider about it.  Most likely, he or she will be able to put your mind at ease by putting your experience into context of the various forms the healing process can take.  You’ll feel better, and so will we!

This is one of the ways a shift feels.  Sometimes it feels different, pleasant, like a pleasant release.    But since this unsettledness is usually a bit disturbing to people, i wanted to address it here.

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Day One, Day Two, Day Three

Since I last wrote about the intensive Reiki sessions (1 session each day for 3 or 4 days), I have experienced a series again and have done them myself for three more people.  It has been exciting to see that all of us have experienced results that are similar in theme, although not necessarily in the details.  And what’s more, all four of us who have given these sessions to others have experienced profound effects as practitioners, too.

I’ll start first with the effects shared by those on the receiving end of these intensive healing series:

In all of us, the first day of the series seemed to elicit a physical reaction, a physical cleanse, even.  For some it was fairly dramatic – abdominal cramps and intestinal disturbances – while others experienced perhaps a few aches and pains or headache or simply fatigue and the sense that they needed to rest so their body could have the time to do whatever healing was in process.

I’d say the second sessions brought the most dramatic effects for all of us, in the form of emotional and/of mental shifts or cleanses. What does that mean, exactly?  I’ll tell you about my experience first: during this session (from Karen, who trained me as a Reiki Master) I clearly felt that a longstanding layer of mental disturbance, of emotions that have been causing me trouble for quite a long time, suddenly lifted. I had a visual image of layers of disturbing emotions peeling off my body and floating away.  And with them gone, what remained was a calm and stillness that I have never felt, ever in my life.  That night I was still marveling at this release, searching my mind for some trace of this old pattern of disturbance, but finding none.  Gone.  Just gone.

I am not the only one who experienced this kind of shift.  Last week’s recipient reported that she felt that she had gained mental clarity, as if a “logjam” that had been present for a long time had finally begun to shift.  And a third told me after this second session, that she had spent a lot of time during the session mentally visiting a long string of people who had hurt and betrayed her in the past, and that she was able to take her leave of them forever and feel a freedom that had previously eluded her. The fourth person reported that following the second session, she was able to not give in to unhealthy food cravings.

This pivotal second session also seems to give people access to a frame of mind in which they feel free from the need to define, analyze, concretize or criticize various areas of their lives.  One recipient found that while conversing with someone with whom she would often speak very negatively about a certain third person, on this day, she felt that there was absolutely no need to do so.  Even though she had suffered a great deal in her relationship with this person, she was able to say, “No.  I don’t need to talk about that.  It’s okay.  I don’t need to go there.”  Which amazed both her and her interlocutor!

Similarly, another recipient, who was preparing for a job interview the next day, said that while in the past she would have prepared very precise answers to expected questions, this time she didn’t feel the need to engage in a lot of concrete thinking and preparation.  She felt comfortable trusting that her intuitive sense would serve her well in the interview and allow her to answer both sincerely and effectively.

I, too, after my second session, experienced such calm that it seemed unnecessary to engage in analytical thought about anything. There was simply no need. The mind could just rest and be still.  And this stillness is yet another common feature of the second session.  I can’t explain why, but all of us have settled in so thoroughly during the second session that our respiration has slowed to the point that either we feel as if we have actually stopped breathing or come very close.  That’s how still it is. Both I and one friend felt as if this would be how it would feel – in a very good way – at the moment of death. Such a sense of liberation and freedom and lightness.  But even those who have not expressed the experience in those terms have noted being in a state of extreme quiet and stillness.

So, if the first session brings about physical cleansing of some sort, and the second session equals profound letting go, release of emotional or mental turmoil and a sense of deep calm, what happens in the third session? In listening to what everyone has told me and in considering my own experiences, I’d have to say that the final treatment in a series of three provides the opportunity to synthesize the insights gained in the other two, on a higher, spiritual, if you will, plane.  What I mean by that is that you can gain a new sense of your purpose in life, and of whether and how you might want to alter your life in order to have the best shot at fulfilling that purpose.

I’ll give you an example: one recipient told me that after her second and third sessions, she felt that she really could not go back out and interact with her world the way she had before.  Her life is fast-paced, somewhat chaotic and requires a lot of physical moving around between destinations with accompanying shifts in mental focus.  But all she wanted to do after these sessions was to go home and give herself time to absorb the energy and let her body, mind and spirit maximize its use of the healing energy.  (And I appreciated that she was able to see her post-session fatigue in a positive, rather than negative, light.)

To my mind, this was an ideal use of the three sessions: rather than coming for three sessions and then throwing herself headlong back into her usual routine, this person found the shifts so profound that they shook her out of her familiar approach to life. They brought her to a mental, physical and emotional state that she could tell was beneficial to her and one she wanted to learn how to maintain in her life.  Bingo.  And now she has begun thinking about how she can reorganize her professional and personal life so that she can begin to protect this precious state of calm and stillness that she was able to achieve through the intensive healing sessions.

Something else that really struck me about the intensive series’ effect on everyone was that we all experienced deep shifts of various sorts, shifts which I believe it would have been hard to achieve with only occasional sessions.  When my three Reiki friends and I – who have done these series for each other in the past few weeks – compared notes, we all felt that these shifts were possible precisely because the healing energy was almost continually present over the course of three days, and because both the recipients and practitioners had in mind that they were doing this intensive healing process.  Never underestimate the power of intention in healing work – when you get up after your first healing in this series, instead of thinking, “Oh, that was a nice Reiki session. I’ll have to get another one, soon,” you think, “Oh, this is just the beginning.  I’ll be back tomorrow.” And so, in your mind, the healing session is not really ending at that moment.

And indeed, when you’re giving someone these three sessions in a row, it does not feel like you are doing three separate sessions.  It feels much more like one, extended session; each day it feels that you are able to pick up where you’ve left off the day before.  But that -the practitioners’ experience – is another story.  Another fascinating story. I may tackle that one next week.  But I will close for today.

One final note, though: no matter what a recipient experiences during any of the three sessions, the main benefit, to my mind, is not simply that healing energy is brought in in greater quantities than usual.  It’s that because the energy is flowing over an extended time period, recipients have the opportunity to experience profound shifts and insights which they can choose to use to adjust their lives to their healing plan rather than adjusting their healing plan to their lives.

That’s what it’ all about.  I hope this has given you a better idea of what an intensive healing series can do for the recipient. And perhaps even inspired you to consider trying one yourself!

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Does a Poodle Mean Anything to You?

I was talking with one of my Reiki friends today and we got to chatting about the kind of information we receive about people for whom we’re doing Reiki.  Just to set the record straight for those of you who have never had Reiki, or who are not Reiki practitioners, Reiki sessions are by no means synonymous with psychic readings.  Some practitioners are more intuitive than others, and some share more of what they intuit than others.  Some Reiki folks really combine Reiki and psychic readings, but as I understand it, although working was part of Reiki from its beginnings, the purpose of using intuition was to get a sense of where clients needed healing, not to regale them with interesting tidbits.  This topic of what to do with information we receive intuitively is one that comes up frequently in my discussions with my Reiki students and friends – as it did this afternoon!

I’ll give you an idea of what I’m talking about.  Let’s say that someone comes in for a session and tells me they’re interested in whatever intuitive information I pick up.  Well, in any given session, I might see visual images (behind my closed eyes) that I interpret as representing emotional states or visual representations of energy flow or blockage.  For example, I might see a bottle with a blocked neck when I have my hands over a certain part of the body, the neck, say.  Or A box with a padlock on it when someone seems to be holding their emotions in.  Or, one of my favorite examples: once, when working with a regular client I saw an image of her wearing a wool coat with an old, kind of ratty looking fur collar.

In cases such as these, if the clients have told me they are interested in intuitive information – perhaps to help them make a decision or understand the source of anxiety – then after the session I will tell them what I experienced , and we take it from there.  So, in the case of the shoe, I asked my client,  ”How do you feel about fur coats?”  She said she wasn’t a big fan of having something dead around her neck.  She had come in looking for insight into her relationship with a certain person.  Talking about how the image of the coat might figure into that helped her gain clarity about that situation and get a handle on some things that had been bothering her.

That is, in my opinion, the best case scenario for using intuitive information that comes up during a session.  But does that mean all information should always be shared? I don’t think so, because I don’t think all info is necessary useful to them.  The heart of the question is this:  as  practitioners it can be exciting when we receive intuitive information about our clients.  Maybe we think this information help them gain insight into their problems.  Maybe we see some event which seems like a past traumatic event that could hold a key of understanding and emotional freedom for them.  Maybe we feel we have gotten a message for them from a deceased loved one, or sensed that person’s presence.  Or maybe we saw a rose when we were working at their heart, or smelled vanilla when we were holding their hand.   How do we decide what to share with them?  

My first rule of thumb is never to share anything with someone who doesn’t tell me they want to hear what I notice. But even if they ask me to do that, there are often details I leave out.  And mostly that is because it is a fine line, I think, between giving a client information that can be helpful and giving them information that is a kind of laundry list of probably useless information.  I mean, when someone does Reiki for me, I avidly listen to absolutely everything they have seen or sensed.  I think it’s really fun, and in cases when I’m looking for insights into a situation, that input really can help me.  However, my friend and I, when we were talking about this today, were wondering how helpful it really is to tell someone that you saw a lot of the color red over their solar plexus, or heard a bell when you were at their feet.

I don’t want to diss this approach to providing Reiki. I’ll say it again – I do give my clients a lot of this kind of information myself, when they want it.  I give it to them and let them interpret or use it as they see fit.  But I also think that just pouring out every bit of info we notice takes the focus away from the healing and makes the session a tiny bit like a circus sideshow. And that’s when, I think, it would be good for us to examine our own motives. Why are we sharing this info?  Is it because we sincerely believe it will help our clients, or is it because we want them to believe that we are powerful or seeing or have some special access to a world that they don’t?  

As my friend and I brainstormed about this this afternoon, it struck me that sometimes sharing what we see would be the equivalent of saying to someone, “I noticed that you have blond hair.”   Or, “I notice that your hands are clean.”  These are things we might see when we actually look at a person, but how does taking note of it help them?  Similarly, much of what we see or hear or sense during a Reiki session is that kind of information.   It’s a fact. It’s there, but it doesn’t necessarily help them in a way we can see. Would this kind of exchange help a client: ”Do you have a poodle?”  ”Yes.” “I got the sense that you love it a lot.”  ”Yes, I do.”   If this were the case, sharing this info would show that you are tapping into something true about the client. And that is fun. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve shared that kind of info hundreds of times, and my clients and I have always enjoyed it.  But I really don’t think there’s so much point to it.

In fact, perhaps it’s actually detrimental to what we are hoping to do with Reiki. Could it be that sharing this kind of non-crucial information in some way takes the focus of the session away from the real work being done, the profound healing that is taking place below the surface of whatever we do or do not notice on the intuitive level?  I can’t say for sure.  Certainly it’s also possible that sharing these little bits of information can help build trust between practitioner and client, which is definitely a good thing.  All I’m saying, and this is the conclusion my friend and I reached, is that it makes sense to consider, before we share every little thing we notice during a session, what purpose it might serve. Might it possibly help the client?  Then, go for it!  If not, I recommend consider keeping it to yourself.  But you might have other thoughts on the matter.  I hope you’ll write in and share them!


In a Nutshell

Last week, in “Kickin’ It Old School!” I wrote about my epiphany regarding my Reiki practice, how the experience of giving and receiving a series of Reiki sessions over three or four days in a row utterly transformed my understanding of how I want to offer Reiki to my clients.  And I promised you that this week I would give you some more details about what went on during those sessions for both my two friends and myself.  And since I don’t want to break any promises, here you go:

Although our experiences were not identical, there were certain surprising similarities that we noticed. Session One for all three of us brought physical shifts and awareness and releasing of some sort, different for each of us, but still on the physical plane.  Aches and pains, physical symptoms that related to past injuries, or imagery that gave explanation to the latter.  

Interestingly enough, that first session for all of us included  a bit of resistance.  Sometimes the practitioner sensed it, sometimes the recipient, sometimes both of us.  That surprised me. Surprised me when I felt it in my friend as I gave her Reiki, because I’d never felt it before from her – a clear physical resistance to letting the energy in. And I surprised that this elicited some resistance in me to doing the session, too.  Definitely something I had never felt with her, and we have done Reiki for each other dozens of times.  She noticed it, too, and we talked about it afterwards. We were both mystified by it at first, although as we talked, she said that she felt the resistance was perhaps to understanding what was holding her back in life, because if she identified it, then she would have to choose to either work with it and overcome it, or choose to just stay where she was – stuck.  

The other fascinating part of this was that we had both picked up on the resistance. Certainly we are well in tune with each other and I knew that what I felt was hers, but at the same time it was mine.  This is a subject for yet another blog, because I have some ideas about this to share, but what I thought was important was that she and I were very much in sync in terms of our own mental states during these three sessions.

The resistance I felt on the table was a little different. Mine was an awareness of my own defenses, an awareness that I could choose to let those defenses down to receive the healing energy that would move me forward – in what way I had no idea! And during the session, as I concentrated on allowing those defenses to lift, it felt like a very physical process.

On the second day, when I began my friend’s second session, I wondered what I would find. Would the resistance still be there?  It wasn’t. That held true for all of us- whatever resistance had been present during the first session had run out by the time the second session began.  In fact, it was clear as I began, that I was able to pick up right where I had left off the day before, or perhaps even a bit further on in the healing process, as if healing had continued between the sessions on its own.

I see this as the greatest benefit of doing a number of sessions over consecutive days.  I explain it this way:  Think of stretching out a rubber band.  Let’s say you have a 1- inch rubber band that you’d like to stretch out to 4 inches.  And you have to do it in three phase. If you stretch it a little, then let it retract fully before stretching it a little further in the second phase, it will take you longer to get to the desired length, because each time you will have to start from the original position.  This is, I think, what happens when we try to treat an illness or chronic stress with bi-weekly or even weekly Reiki sessions: we make progress at each individual session, but in between, the recipient moves back pretty quickly into the original state.  When you repeat the Reiki, the recipient again receives healing, but probably not more than the first time.  And so on at each appointment.

Now imagine that you take the same rubber band, and you are still going to stretch it out to 4 inches, in 3 stages. But instead of letting it retract between stages, you will hold it where it is and just pause briefly before stretching it more.  No ground is lost between stages and you move to the goal much more quickly because you don’t have to back track and start from scratch each time.

That is exactly how it felt doing the 3 or 4 Reiki sessions in as many days.  It was clear to all of us – practitioner and recipient alike – that each session built upon the previous one with absolutely no ground lost. It felt like picking up where we’d left off the day before.  That meant that we were able to achieve a much more profound healing in 3 or 4 straight days of healing than we would had we spread the same number of sessions out over 3 or 4 weeks.  

That is what prompted me to decide to change the way I work with my clients.  I am convinced that doing 3 or more consecutive sessions on as many days allows deeper, quicker healing. And it is not just the fact that the 3 or 4 sessions themselves promote quicker, deeper healing.  I do believe that somehow the healing energy keeps working between sessions, providing a continuity from one session to the next, even though the practitioner and recipient are physically separated.  My explanation for this is that both parties set an intention at the outset for the healing to continue over that 3 or 4 days, and it does, whether you’re in the actual session or not.  This makes for a very profound experience, indeed.   So, if a client truly wants deep healing, this is absolutely the way to go. No doubt about it whatsoever.

What is not fixed is the necessary number of sessions. I feel 3 in a row is a minimum – because it promotes release on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels – but more may be necessary. That will depend on the recipient, how serious his or her condition and how open he or she is to receiving the energy and allowing it to work.  But the number of sessions will become clear as we work: we will be able to tell when a release on one of those levels occurs, and we can go from there.  

So, this approach requires flexibility from both the practitioner and recipient, but it also holds the promise of such amazing transformation – for both people involved. 

In any case,  I am a real believer in this approach to offering Reiki and look forward to employing it with more clients.  How to state the benefits? My friend who first experienced the series of sessions put it very nicely, I think, and simply: “I  think that the consecutive treatments are a very powerful way to heal.”  In a nutshell.

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Kickin’ It Old School!

This week’s story begins a few weeks ago when I was working with one of my Master Level Reiki students.  As part of her training, we read and discussed an excerpt from a thought-provoking book by Reiki Master David Jarrell, which had been passed on to me by my own teacher, Karen. The part that’s relevant to our story today was Jarrell’s assertion that for optimal results, it is necessary to treat clients with Reiki sessions three days in a row, in order to “quickly establish the balance, while eliminating the pain, aches and toxins from the body.”  My student and I were both intrigued by this and wondered what it would be like.  Once last summer I had three sessions within a four day period and found it very powerful, but I’ve never consciously worked or been worked on in this way.   My student suddenly said, “I want to try it!” and so we picked three days in a row the next week and started off, having no idea what we might happen…

The short answer is this: the experience was so powerful for both of us – both practitioner and recipient – that I began telling my other Reiki friends about it.  I felt like I’d discovered something magical, right in my own back yard!  And so, the next week, I did another series of daily treatments – 4 this time! – for a different Reiki friend.  And this past week, she did four in a row for me.  I have had very profound Reiki sessions before, but this series brought about transformations unlike any I had ever before experienced with Reiki. But what I found equally intriguing is the fact that all three of us went through transformations that were similar in certain ways. In next week’s blog I’ll talk in more detail about that, but this week I want to tell you about how the insights I gained after my own four sessions have prompted me to adopt a new approach to my Reiki practice.

Just so you have a general idea of what happened during my four sessions, I’ll tell you that the first three sessions brought profound shifts. I gained insight into and was able to work to transcend patterns of behavior and thought that have rested in my body and mind for who knows how long! After each day’s session I was aware that something powerful had been set in motion, and during the rest of that day and night, by both actively reflecting on the sessions and also just going with the flow of the inner shifts, I was able to allow the changes in my worldview to proceed. The fourth session allowed me to stabilize and solidify the calm and peace that came with my third session.  But only on Thursday evening, as I began writing this post, did I realized that the sessions had been more transformative for me than I’d realized at first.  And the key to that was what happened in the third session:

During that session I felt as if I was watching myself go through what you could call a  death, or a spiritual shift, a joyful, effortless release and passage from one state of mind to another.  That experience was very sweet for me because it reflected and affirmed what has been going on in my spiritual practice of late.  But yesterday I understood that as I was making that spiritual passage, I had also effortlessly passed into a new state of awareness about my Reiki practice.  And I became keenly aware of exactly where I need to move with my Reiki work in order to be able to better serve people with it.

Ironically, perhaps, I understood that I need to move not forward, but backward – backward in time, that is, to when Dr. Usui and then Dr. Hayashi, his student, formulated Reiki as a healing practice in the late 1920s.  This week I went searching for information about how they treated people – I was wondering whether this idea of doing three sessions in a row had come from these Reiki founding fathers.  And what I learned is that there seems to be no specific recommended number of sessions.  For when Madame Takata- the woman who brought Reiki to America in the 1940s – went to Dr. Hayashi’s Reiki  clinic for treatment of a combination of several life-threatening physical complaints, she received treatment after treatment after treatment, day after day, until she recovered from her ailments.  In Hawayo Takata’s Story, Helen Haberly writes, of Mme Takata’s experience, “After three weeks of daily treatments, she was much better.”   And Dr. Hayashi compared treatment with Reiki to “slowly peeling off sheets of the finest paper”, saying that one needs to continue until the patient fully recovers.

This seems to have been the guiding principle: there is no way to predict how many treatments a given person will need, so you treat daily and keep treating until the patient experiences shifts that lead to improvement.  And I think that these shifts would probably be on all levels – physical, emotional/psychological and spiritual, and that you wouldn’t want to stop until the whole sequence of shifts had been achieved.

Given the results I have seen in myself and others from these 3 or 4-in-a-row treatments, I am convinced that this is definitely the way to go.  And yet, this way of treating is nothing I see advocated in my more current sources of info about Reiki- certainly I may have missed something, but the general thinking these days seems to be to offer sessions once a week or every other week, with the idea that this will give people what they need. But I don’t think this is necessarily the case. It will certainly relieve stress and help people feel better. No doubt about that!  I have seen that result in myself and my clients.  These occasional or even semi-regular treatments bring improvement, but I’m guessing they rarely bring about profound transformation.

I don’t know when the “treat ’til there’s a shift” approach faded in this country,  (if it ever existed at all, since we know that Mme Takata put her own twist on how to practice Reiki.) I’d guess it has a lot  to do with our American impatience and desire for quick results.  And our tendency to cling stubbornly to the chaotic way we live our lives even if it is steadily destroying our peace of mind and our health.  But as my student put it very beautifully the other day,  ”Reiki is so very gentle and competes with the difficult and intense energy of our modern day society. I think the consecutive treatments offers a way to maintain this healing energy around us to enable us to heal faster.”  Bingo!

I am firmly convinced that adapting the way we do Reiki to fit the demands of our fast-paced American schedule is absolutely the wrong approach.  After all, it is this very lifestyle that bring on the stress and disease which cause us to need healing in the first place.  If we are going to make that healing possible, we need to adapt our schedules to make healing possible, not adapt the healing to make our schedules possible!

That is, in a nutshell,  the insight I gained this week.  As soon as I had gone through 4 treatments in a row myself, I knew this was an approach I just had to make a focus of my own practice.  Going through those sessions somehow enabled me to access my own deeper awareness that this is the way it needs to be done now, as it was when Drs. Usui and Hayashi were practicing.

And with this insight I also understood the reason I have always felt drawn to focus my efforts on Reiki and only Reiki, instead of branching off into other modalities: it is so that I can, through my own practice, strive to offer Reiki in a way that will allow those I treat to experience its full power and make use of the energy’s full potential for facilitating profound transformation. Not on a schedule that is constrained by the demands that we allow modern life to place on us, but on a schedule that honors and supports who we are as beings who deserve the chance to experience full healing, rather than the just partial healing that we receive when we come for treatment only when we can manage to fit it in without disrupting our chaotic, health-destroying lifestyles.  So, what I want to offer people is the chance to pursue full healing.

What does that mean on a practical level?  How I will do my healing work from now on?  Certainly I will continue to offer once-a-week or every-other-week sessions to those who want them. Because even one session is far better than no sessions and bring great calm and improve one’s ability to go back and meet life’s challenges.  But I will encourage those who want to experience Reiki’s full transformative benefits to come and join with me in the shared work of intensive healing that we will do together through a series of daily treatments.  And to take advantage of the shifts that occur to gain insight into how they can alter their lives so that the healing they receive can have lasting effects and benefits.  This feels like the most wonderful, profound commitment that I can make to my clients – to step onto the healing path with them and stay on it as long as they want or need me to be on it with them.

So, I feel  that this week I have gained clarity not only about my own spiritual path, but about the way that I can best help others through the Reiki which is an integral part of that spiritual work.  And so, from now on, folks, I’m gonna do things old school –  I hope you’ll join in this beautiful healing project with me – for one session, or 3, or however many it takes.  I’ll be right there with you.  We’ll do it together.  That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

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