Silence, and Speaking Up

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
Tao te Ching
Lao-tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Silence can be profoundly healing. Next to sleep, I find nothing to be more restorative. And in these past winter weeks, I’ve been unsure about what I have to say that is worth throwing into the cacophony of dismay reverberating throughout the United States, and the world.

Possibly I’ve been waiting for my mud to settle.

But as people gather in protest against too many distressing developments, I’ve been considering how speaking up—and out—is healing, too.

I have attended several events in the last couple of weeks: the Indianapolis Women’s March, author Roxane Gay’s appearance at IU, the National Organization for Women’s Monroe County call out meeting, and a postcard write-in at Yarns Unlimited. I have noticed that many of the speakers are saying: pace yourself. We’re in this for the long haul, and each person must pick the issues that speak to her heart, and take on only what she can reasonably handle.

This seems very different from the activism I participated in years ago, and I wonder if this is what mindfulness practice, slowly trickling into the larger culture, looks like. Personal healing is intrinsically connected to community and global healing, and speaking out and keeping quiet are twin skills to be cultivated with equal dedication.

Which brings to mind a favorite poem by Pablo Neruda, Keeping Quiet.

Talking Reiki

Reiki has been a significant part of my life for just over two and a half years. Which is not that long, ultimately — there are practitioners out there who have been practicing for decades. My Reiki journey has just started.

As much as I practice and think about Reiki, and occasionally discuss it with other practitioners, I still find Reiki difficult to describe in words. I know how Reiki feels to me when I experience it: usually relaxing, often “lightening,” and sometimes more energizing than a power nap + espresso. I’ve watched others fall into states of deep relaxation, emerging dreamy and calm, or bright-eyed and energetic. Often people will sleep deeply the night of their treatment, feeling rejuvenated the next day.

Practically, Reiki is a safe, gentle, method of supporting relaxation and the body’s intrinsic ability to restore itself to balance. A Reiki practitioner has been empowered into their practice by a Reiki Master; I find it helpful to think of Reiki as a gentle martial art, wherein the student is guided and encouraged by a mentor. The student is taught the skills to practice on themselves, other people, animals, or plants. The student learns, but then they must practice, practice, practice.

But this “factual” description doesn’t capture the poetic essence of Reiki, which somehow evokes our deepest vitality and unfolds in mysterious ways.

I have long been a fan of Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching, especially the audio book version. A few months after I started practicing Reiki, I realized how much my understanding of the Tao is similar to my understanding, and experience of, Reiki. Yep, we’re talking two totally different cultures, separated by 2500 years (give or take) — but something resonates there.

As Lao Tzu wrote:

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.
(Chapter 5)