Practicing Reiki like a Martial Art

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Every once in a while, someone who is curious but skeptical about Reiki will ask if I really “believe” that it works. This can be intimidating, depending on the tone in which the question is asked. It is easy to start stammering, and to fall back on vague “woo-woo” language, which never helps. It only takes a few experiences like this to discourage one from speaking with confidence about the value of Reiki, a practice that is truly better experienced than discussed.

Recently I’ve been trying a response that feels more playful: Do you ask an aikido student if she believes in aikido?

My spouse, David Ondrik (pictured above) helped bring me to this idea. A student of taekwando for 25 years, he took Reiki I with me, and immediately saw a reflection of his martial arts training in the approach: the Grand Master/Master/student relationship; regular practice with fellow students; an individual commitment that, when combined with the commitment of others, becomes the larger community of the dojang.

Martial arts training benefits the body, the mind, and the spirit. An aikido student doesn’t believe in aikido, she practices it. More precisely, she practices because she believes in the benefits the practice brings her. It is an art she has committed herself to, and the power of her aikido practice lies in doing the work, not in talking about it. If you’re interested in what she has–strength, ease in her body, a calmness about her–then you might want to know more about how she attained those things. She may have some simple words to offer, but most likely she will encourage you to experience aikido for yourself.

“Reiki” is two things: it is universal life energy (Rei = universal, ki = life energy), and it is also the practice itself. When people ask if I believe in Reiki, they usually mean the former, universal life energy. All I can say to that is everyone knows when they see someone who is lacking in life energy; a person might seem depressed, washed out, a little blue, bored.

Reiki practice works at the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels (much like a martial art). We all know what physical muscles look like, but what about your emotional muscles? What constitutes mental muscle? And what shape does spiritual muscle take?

In the martial arts, testing day is often a public event. Given the task of breaking through a series of wooden planks, the student take all of his or her experience from practice—the body, the emotions, the mind, the spirit, and their sacred connection to their Master’s lineage—and brings that experience to bear on the task at hand. To an outsider, this task might seem impossible; they might not believe it can be done. The student might not even be certain they can do it. All the student can do is prepare, and then give it their best.

And so it is with the art of Reiki. I am less concerned with believing in Reiki than I am in practicing it. It is through practice that Reiki teaches me, and I can speak of my own personal experience with confidence and ease. I aspire to what Stephen Mitchell writes, in his translation of the Tao te Ching: “He who knows doesn’t talk, but words are no hindrance for him. He uses them as he would use gardening tools. When someone asks, he answers.”

 

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Reiki in the Park

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I’ve been wanting to have a “Reiki in the Park” gathering for a while now, and it’s finally happening. Woo-hoo! It can be really sweet to practice under the sky, with the ground directly beneath us, and surrounded by trees. Practicing in a public place can also mean questions from curious passers-by … a great opportunity to introduce people to the benefits of Reiki. Don’t be shy!

Location and details can be found at Meetup.

Do you already have Reiki hands? Wonderful! Please come and share your practice.

Contact me with questions, or just to connect.

The Mystery takes form in the glory of the Earth…

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Epic Earth image from NASA.

Happy Earth Day.

“The Mystery takes form in the glory of the Earth,” Marion Woodman assures us in her wonderful lecture series, Sitting by the Well: Bringing the Feminine to Consciousness Through Language, Dreams, and Metaphor.

Today I’m setting aside some time to send Reiki to our sweet home, planet Earth. I’ll offer healing Reiki — Universal Life Energy — to the waters, the land, the skies; the plants, wild and cultivated; the insects, birds, and animals who run wild, live as our companions, and provide food; and to the humans, whose choices impact every aspect of life on Earth.

A few minutes spent in meditation today can help connect us with our planet and the abundance of shared resources that Earth provides to each and every one of us. If you don’t currently practice Reiki, a conscious expression of gratitude will work, too!

 

Reiki and Pain Management

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detail, “Spectrum”

I recently learned about the Joint Commission, and the Commission’s 2018 new and revised pain assessment and management standards for its accredited hospitals.

What is the Joint Commission? The Joint Commission accredits health care organizations and programs in the United States. It is an independent, nonprofit organization, and is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. In July 2017 they announced New and Revised Standards Related to Pain Assessment and Management, with several revisions, including a requirement that hospitals “provide at least one non-pharmacological pain treatment modality.”

What does this mean? This means that the American health care system is beginning to address the fact that some pain may be better treated with approaches other than pharmaceuticals. The experience of pain can be complicated and multi-faceted, and it varies for every person. Successfully managing pain—while minimizing risks, including addiction—may be best served by a combination of approaches.

What does this have to do with Reiki? In my work with people navigating cancer treatment, 85% of those surveyed have reported decreased pain and/or stress levels following their Reiki session. I have seen people arrive to an appointment in tears because of pain, and then watched their faces soften into relaxation as they receive Reiki and the pain loses its grip. It can be astonishing for the patient, and even as a Reiki devotee, I can still be surprised.

Does Reiki work for everybody? No. Does it work to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the individual? Yes. Is it a one-stop-pain-free-for-life solution? Absolutely not—and nothing is. But Reiki can help calm the body, the mind, the emotions, and the spirit, softening pain and offering just a little more room in which to breathe. In that space, with that breath, other options can suddenly seem viable.

I find myself encouraged by the implications of the Joint Commission’s mandate. Stay tuned for more on this topic, in future posts.

Making Sleep Sacred

Sleep offers the body an opportunity to rest and repair. After a Reiki session, I suggest that clients drink extra water, and then go to bed a little earlier than usual. “Really?!” is the typical response to this suggestion–as if I’ve given people permission to “indulge” in something luxurious.

I have been thrilled about the recent media attention around sleep and its importance. This interview with Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep; the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine going to three scientists who study circadian rhythm; and Arianna Huffington’s 2016 book The Sleep Revolution, have all caught my attention. Huffington suggests reciting meditations when we wake up in the middle of the night, rather than picking up our phones to start scrolling. Yes!

You could also try Reiki. Whatever is causing the insomnia, laying Reiki hands on your own body is soothing, and encourages the body to return to its natural nighttime state: slumber. Reiki can feel like a warm bath for the body and spirit, calming gritty eyes, quieting a spinning brain, or comforting a worried heart.

There’s a good chance that you will fall back to sleep while self-practicing Reiki. But even if it takes some time, I always feel better just knowing that I am actively caring for myself while I wait for sleep to return.

Making sleep sacred starts with how we prepare for it each night. Consider cultivating your sleep-bed as you would a garden-bed: plant yourself tenderly but firmly! If you are fortunate enough to be in a time and place in your life where uninterrupted sleep is a possibility, make sleep a priority. (If only we could donate our sleep-hours to new mothers, like frequent flyer miles.)

Back to Reiki. Haven’t taken a Reiki class? As my friend Kim Lohan says, even if you haven’t studied energy healing, you can still offer yourself healing energy. Similarly, one of my favorite yoga teachers urged her students, “Where does your body need attention? Rest your medicine hands there, and breathe.”

Your next sleepless night is your next opportunity to practice.

 

Bloomington Open Studios Tour

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This weekend! FREE!! Visit over 30 artists studios in the Bloomington, Indiana area.

Studios are open Saturday, Oct. 21st from 10-6 and Sunday, Oct. 22nd from 10-4.

For details, including a list of participating artists and maps, visit the BOST website.

My art practice is nourished by my Reiki practice–and vice versa. If you’re curious about my “other work,” please stop by my studio this weekend and say hello. (There will be home made pie by the multi-talented David Ondrik!)

And if you can’t make it to the open studio, please visit my art site, beckytomato.com.

The Hara Line within Your Energy Field

Today’s guest column about Hara is by Kim Lohan. The Japanese word Hara describes both a physical and an energetic location in the human body. Working with hara is not part of the traditional Reiki training, but I’ve been curious to learn more about it since I began studying the Japanese art of Reiki in 2013. Kim Lohan has practiced energy healing from Hara Studio, near Charlottesville, Virginia, since 2012. She describes the Hara Line, and ways to strengthen it.

You can learn more about Kim and her practice at www.harastudio.com.
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The Hara Line is an invisible line that runs down through your energy field. Although it is invisible, you can feel and experience being in hara, and even see it. If you have ever seen what appears to be a remarkable play in football or soccer where the player magically seems to go through every defender and find a small open space on the field to score, this is being in hara. Personally for me it shows up in ways of feeling like I’m in the zone or as if everything is lining up. When I am holding hara I don’t have an agenda, rather I have the knowing it is all working out. You may have experienced it in a workplace environment when every person in the office had the shared goal and participated for the greater good of the team. In hara you do not experience the sharp points of ego. Being in hara is like going with the flow. To describe it with only two words, it is effortless intention.

The Hara Line helps you energetically align with what you want to manifest by focusing on three specific points in the body; the tan tien, the soul seat, and the ID point. The hara line runs vertically through the body. Each point is related to a certain aspect of intentionality: the tan tien to physical manifestation; the soul seat to your longings and desires; and the ID point is your connection to spirit.

The tan tien is about an inch below your belly button and helps you manifest on a physical level. The tan tien allows you to draw up earth energy, and acts as a base by providing stability. When it’s strong you recognize and respond to opportunities as they arise. When it’s distorted you lack clarity and feel stagnant.

Moving up the body we go to the soul seat. This point is above your heart, yet below your throat. The soul seat is where you store your longings or desires: what you feel passionate about, what you would like to create. Often times your soul seat can become muffled or covered up due to criticism, negative experiences, disbelief in oneself or lack of support from your families. When your soul seat is shrouded it is difficult to know what you want in your life.

The ID Point is a few inches above your head and is where you connect to spirit. This point is where you understand your place on the earth and how to bring your gifts into the world. When the ID point becomes obstructed you lack connection to Spirit or God, and it can feel like you do not belong. If you are experiencing any of these scenarios, the good news is that your hara line can be realigned.

Here are some options to strengthen your hara line:

  • Hara Healings
  • Martial Arts – JiuJitsu, Taekwondo, Karate
  • Tai Chi or Qigong
  • Dance
  • Mirror Exercise – stand in front of a mirror and connect into each point along the hara line. Barbara Brennan, founder of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, explains in detail how to do this hara line exercise in her book, Light Emerging.