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Tree Dharma

One of the questions which often haunts me is what my purpose in life is. Is there a higher purpose? Am I here, on this earth, for something specific, something special? Am I meant to do something, or expected to do something, in order to fulfill a destiny? This question somehow both attracts and repels me. I dislike (and am ashamed of) the feeling of ego that seems to me almost gelatinously attached to it, as though I am somehow unique or different from other people. At the same time, however, I long for a higher purpose, for meaning, in what I do and the way I live.

Another problem with this obsession with a higher purpose, when combined with a thread of (both inherited and nurtured) over-achiever-ness, is that no matter what I do, I never feel it is enough unless it brings fame and fortune. This means, for example, that I can’t just write a book. It needs to be on the best seller list and change people’s lives. Not an easy task, to say the least, when you’ve only got a few words on the page and are not quite sure where the plot and characters are going next.

The other day, while talking about this higher purpose business, my IMC mentor asked me what I see when I look inside — what is most important to me in there. I looked inside myself, and a tree materialized, clear as day. “There is a tree inside me,” I answered. But how is a tree a higher purpose? Can I connect it somehow to a higher purpose? My thoughts churned: hiking, climbing, protecting nature, growing tall, expanding….. aaaaaghhhhh! Too much obsessing!

I like the idea of having a tree inside, of my essence being the essence of a tree, even if I am not sure I understand what it means. After all, I love trees. I hug trees. I kiss trees (I really do). Then, on Sunday, at a group conversation about this subject at Insight Meditation Center, someone said, “A Tree does not feel the need to have a life purpose.” A part of me leaped at this sentence. Is it true? It can’t be, I thought. A tree gives us and other animals food and shelter, shade, oxygen, a place to rest, an appreciation of beauty. What is more a purpose than that?
I started to play with this idea in my mind. Do peach trees feel superior somehow to a Joshua tree because they give fruit and can provide (at least in the spring and summer) more shade? Or does a Joshua tree feel superior because, in the California desert, it is really the only tree there? Do trees care about these gifts they give to us, or do they simply give them, without asking for either internal or external recognition? And, if the essence of trees is also their higher purpose, could I apply it to my question by saying, what could be a better way to achieve a higher purpose than by simply being me?

Perhaps, after all, this is the difference between animals, plants and humans. We humans continually search for more. We don’t just write a book because we want to write a book. We write because we want other people to read it. We don’t just live our life — we continually seek to influence others, change others, make an impact. Trees breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen. They extend their limbs to the sun. In spring they renew their coat of leaves and in fall they drop them. They allow tiny blooms to blossom out and fruit to grow without a need for any to see or use them. If one blossom is never visited by a bee, the tree does not think it is a failure. If fruit drops on the ground uneaten, the tree doesn’t obsess about the waste. Whatever comes, comes. Whatever is, is. The tree, stoically, just “be”s.

What I would like to happen, in all areas of my life, is exactly this: this calm, stoic, quintessential being. Writing a book because I want to write. Working with the Reiki because I wish to give Reiki. Spending time with the kids, with Dar, and the dogs because I wish to spend time with them. I wish for my higher purpose to be just being. No proving anything to anyone, no trying hard to be different or more than what I am. Just to be, happy with being what I am right here, right now. A tree.


The Tooth’s Way

I don’t know if any of you have ever had a tooth extracted, but man, does it hurt! It’s been almost a week now, and my tooth — I mean, the space where my tooth used to live — is still throbbing worse than labor pains. I don’t particularly care to take pain meds, and when the oral surgeon prescribed codeine, I blithely (and blindly) refused to take the prescription. I’ve had wisdom teeth taken out before, I declared, and that wasn’t too bad. So how bad could just one tooth be? Famous last words, right?

Instead of the rejected codeine I’ve been using a mixture of tylenol, advil, Reiki, and prayer (to all the different gods I can think of), all of it without much obvious result. I am embarrassed to admit that I also tried crankiness, anger, frustration and self pity. Those, sadly, did not work either. The oral surgeon, on a return visit, was even less helpful, claiming he’d known it would be like this, that my tooth had been badly inflamed, and that it will take at least another week. He proposed the codeine again, which I scornfully declined. No way am I taking codeine now, after a week of pain. I can do this. Sooner or later, surely, this pain must go away.

The most frustrating part of this experiment in pain management turned out to be my expectation that Reiki would help me bear the pain, or rather (in the way my mind figured this) that the Reiki would make the pain disappear. So many people have miraculous Reiki healing stories! Why can’t I be one of them? I wanted the Reiki to close the open wound, heal the sutures, heal the issues beneath, relieve the pain, clear up the inflammation, and make everything all better right away. And when I say right away, I do not under any circumstance mean within a week, and definitely not two.

I was listening the other day to Gil Fronsdal, meditation teacher and the founder of Insight Meditation Center. Appropriately enough, he was explaining sickness and well-being and the way Buddhism views the metaphysics of health. What he said struck me strongly, because I had always assumed that if I got sick then it was my fault somehow — I had failed to deal with some issue, I failed to talk about something which bothered me, or I failed to take care of myself. But Gil Fronsdal said that the Buddha encouraged his disciples not to worry or ruminate about why they were sick or why some trouble has befallen them. According to the Buddha, illness or painful situations come from one of three reasons (and I hope I’m not massacring his exact words or meaning here):

1. Free will, or situations/conditions which we invite into our lives because we want to learn from them. Karma.
2. Accidents which are unrelated to us or to our karma and simply happen in the world (I guess without rhyme or reason).
3. The body’s own function and use (and it sure gets used a lot).

My late tooth, though it did get used quite a bit in 42 years, had an issue behind it, I’m pretty sure. It really didn’t want to leave my mouth. The oral surgeon had to fight to dislodge it. As for me, while he was struggling with the tooth, I called upon the Reiki to help me continue to feel happy and safe during the extraction, and I continue to call upon it to help me heal, not just the tooth, but also the problem behind it. A lot of love is required for this particular one. Inside this tooth were lodged, I think, all my hopes and dreams about having a whole, normal family, about having the kids at home every day, about having the marriage I had wanted. I’ve been divorced nine years, and it has not been easy for me to adjust to many parts of the divorce. I can see how it would really be time for me to release, to let go, to accept, even. Still, the Buddha’s words make me wonder if ruminating on the problem is the way to go. What if I don’t need to worry about the reason? What if I can just let go?

Now that I’ve been attuned (or should I say, ignited) to Holy Fire Reiki®, calling on the energy is much easier than it’s been. Before, I did not quite understand what my teacher, William Lee Rand, meant when he recommended calling on the Reiki for answers. I knew the Reiki came when I placed my hands on someone or on myself — I could feel the heat of it, the prickling of it in my palms — but I could not understand how to call on it for guidance. Now, however, with Holy Fire, the energy comes easily to me. My hands fill with the flame of it, and my heart and abdomen turn warm and safe. In a way, I finally understand that Reiki is not outside of me or inside of me. It simply is me.

Buddhists believe that Ki is the energy of the pool of creation. If so, then we are all made of it. I am Reiki, you are Reiki. Even my cellphone is Reiki (though that does require a leap of faith, seeing as how it seems so radioactive and unhealthy). And if I am Reiki, then all I need is to let go of my beliefs or needs for the healing of my tooth to happen a specific way or in a specified amount of time. I can support the healing by taking some pain meds (or at least support peace at my house by taking the pain meds, which will then probably lead to better healing opportunities). I can support the healing by giving Reiki to myself. But most of all, I can step out of my own way, and allow my tooth (I mean the space where my tooth used to be) to heal the way it needs to happen. Not my way. The tooth’s way. The best way.


A Dream During the Holy Fire Ignition

In my dream, I reached mountain summits.
Everest, the Top of the World, turned out
Both warm and cold,
Deprived of sufficient oxygen yet abundant in the essence of life.
Startled to find myself up there,
Without having ever climbed
And frightened of his height,
Clouds merging with snowy peaks,
My heart tightened —
How could I possibly deserve to be up here
So effortlessly?
I retreated as the dream flew me down
And across continents and oceans to

Shasta, magnificent in her aloneness,
Sheer in her glaciers and cliffs,
Her spirit grand and giving,
Filled my heart with health, confidence and joy,
Reminding me, this much is true,
This has already been done.
There I stood, alone on the summit of rock and snow,
Flinging my hands up in triumph,
Awash in the glory of my connection to the mountain
Vibrating to her spiritual song.

I flew north, the dream reminded me
There’s more summits visited —
On Rainier, my tears washed away
Sadness from my heart
Illuminated by the barely risen sun.
Cool and solid, the mountain
Received my tears yet reminded me
Adding himself categorically, without my asking,
First, and not alone, to a new list of
My breath, not quite enough,
Left me whizzing, my lungs screaming for more oxygen —
All this crying left me lacking in air,
My heart heavy with the knowledge of the
Burden I had carried for so long,
Overcome by the mountain’s generosity
And the weightlessness of my burden
Now left buried in the mountain’s mantle of snow.

The dream then flew, wings at my back
South and East,
Over low-slung trees
And herds of tiny elephants
A desert, not a desert.
There, lonely on the Serengeti planes,
Kili rose above me, a goddess of freedom,
Surprising me with her majestic ridges,
Making me laugh and sigh with longing.
I strained to see her snow, her glacier,
But so close only the mountain rose,
Like a hump over the plane.
Up here, she whispered, come here next.

I wondered at this influx of mountains
Climbed or unclimbed in my dream, when
Once again the scene changed
To a path, made of a sudden
Into a river, an ocean of sparkling gold
From the rays of the sun,
Leading me,
(So it said in a gravelly, cascading voice)
To joy, with joy;
To peace, in peace;
To love, with love;
A path to path.

I walked, floated down the river, soared overhead,
And found that
There is only love and love,
There is only peace and peace,
There is only joy and joy,
There is only path and path.

An abundance of love,
And that love, nothing like I ever imagined:
Not a consuming love
Or an enfolding love,
Or a holding-on-to love,
But a space
A freedom
A limitlessness
An openness.

In my dream, I reached the tops of mountains,
Touching them with my feet and my heart,
A fire burning
In the palms of my hands.
In my dream, from these summits,
I sent out a message
Of peace and love.

Because, remember?
There is only peace and peace
And love and love
And joy and joy
And path and path.


What Is Reiki?

I never know what to say when people ask me what is Reiki. I don’t have an elevator pitch — you know, the kind where you say one sentence which will make your listener want to know more. I used to start out by giving a translation of what Reiki means in Japanese (rei = sacred, ki = universal energy), but I doubt the translation gives any information about how Reiki feels or what it can do. Reiki Master Pamela Miles suggests sitting the inquirer down for a sample treatment, but a Reiki treatment can easily last longer than an elevator ride between the first and fourth floors. Instead, I wonder if I can simply say that, for me, Reiki is about love, about filling myself or someone else with love. As the Beatles so aptly said, “Love, love, love. All you need is love.”

The popular legend of the origin of the system tells that Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki, discovered Reiki while meditating on Mount Kurama, a spiritual mountain in Japan. Like most of us searchers for meaning, Usui too probably wanted to find answers to life’s questions: Who am I? What is my life’s purpose? Am I living up to my potential? Am I worthy of love? This was back in 1920. He fasted and meditated, and, while sitting there, he suddenly perceived above his head the Reiki cure. The legend doesn’t really say what the Reiki cure was, but this insight must have been the answer to Usui’s questions.

Usui came down from the mountain and founded a spiritual system that combined palm healing (moving energy with the palms of the hands), meditations, mantras, precepts and a spiritual blessing ceremony which he began teaching to students and used in treating clients. In this system he brought together elements of Buddhism, martial arts, and other spiritual practices. Any student of Reiki can be grateful to Usui for taking often obscure practices, which novices had previously spent most of their lives studying, and simplifying them so that we lay people can learn them in a weekend workshop and start applying them in our lives.

Some people say to me, how can touching someone with your hands help the person to heal or feel better? Palm healing has existed long before Usui incorporated it into his system. Medical Qigong, for example, is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine which uses hand movements to move the energy in the body, displacing stagnant energy with healing without even using touch! In the New Testament, Jesus performs many miraculous healings by touching his patients. According to Frans and Bronwen Stiene of the International House of Reiki, “Palm-healing has a global history that extends throughout the ages. Religious groups and even monarchies (using their ‘Royal Touch’) have often claimed exclusive rights to these gifts, yet the truth is that each person has his or her own innate ability to heal.”

I love the emphasis the Stienes put on the idea that we each have our own innate ability to heal. The phrase really has a dual meaning: we have the ability to find healing, an inborn ability, but this inborn ability is not simply to heal, but to heal ourselves! The healing and the ability to heal truly come from inside us and not from some outside source. What we often see as the divine power to heal really exists inside each of us.

An innate ability to heal can be difficult to believe in our day and age. Sometimes, when I’m unwell, it seems to me that a headache won’t go away without pain medication or that an antibiotic treatment is necessary. And this, in fact, may be true. Reiki is not a substitute for medical attention. In a way, while Reiki can be used to improve our physical wellness, I see it really as a spiritual system meant to integrate our body, spirit and soul, or, if you prefer, our body and mind. It is a spiritual system whose purpose it is to heal our whole self, not just the physical body. Heal this whole self, and physical wellness may very well follow.

My purpose in teaching Reiki is to give you the tools to take yourself to the next level spiritually, to feel that your spirit and soul reside fully in your body and that you begin to accept and integrate all the aspects of yourself as one. I want you to believe that healing, true healing, is possible and comes from inside of you, to transcend the smaller ailments of the body and seek an alignment with that divine power which I believe exists inside each one of us.

In the Reiki I workshop we learn about the five elements of the system of Reiki: the five precepts which Usui claimed were the secret to happiness (kindness, trust, humility, honesty, and compassion), palm healing, meditations; and we receive the initiation ceremony, which is also a healing experience or a spiritual blessing. The mantras that belong to the system are taught in the second and third levels of Reiki. The workshop is mostly experiential with several guided meditations and practice sessions in which you will experience giving and receiving palm healing.

One of my favorite parts is teaching people the self treatment, or giving love to yourself, as I called it earlier. Many of us find it much easier to give love to or care for our children, for example, than to take care of ourselves. But Reiki is really first and foremost a system of self care, for how can we truly give others love if we don’t love ourselves? I love watching people accept their right and freedom to give love to themselves, accept their right to become their own best healer, in all aspects of the word.

To find out more about my classes, please check the Workshops page.

In the writing of this blog post, I used the following online articles: — This article by Frans Stiene gives some insight as to the spiritual practice of Shugendo which seems to have influenced Usui’s teachings.  — This article from the IHReiki website describes the history of palm healing and includes a video of the five positions taught by Usui to begin a treatment.  — This article by Pamela Miles discusses the difficulty in explaining what Reiki is.  — This article by William Lee Rand discusses the Christian history of palm healing.  — This article by Bronwen and Frans Stiene gives a chronological history of the Reiki.  — This article by Bronwen and Frans Stiene gives the history of one of Usui’s students, Eguchi, and his take on palm healing.


Self Expression and the Fear of Death

Some time ago I had a conversation with my cousin about open-hearted writing. I had that morning finally published a blog post about the five Reiki Ideals, and I confessed to my cousin how difficult writing that particular post had been for me. I had agonized over several different versions before finally feeling safe enough to publish it and before my inner censor could at all agree that writing about Reiki was allowed.

My cousin wanted to know what worried me about publishing a post about that particular subject. As our conversation developed from “what will my parents say,” to “I don’t want people to think I’m promoting myself,” I realized that my inhibitions about writing from the heart, and especially about my spirituality, originate not only from my fear of what other people will say, but also from a fear of making mistakes, appearing ridiculous, and — most strangely of all — risking my life.girl_flying_painting_final_glossy

Writers, poets, song writers, and others, however, do choose to risk their lives by expressing their truths despite the danger. Salman Rushdie provoked a lot of controversy in Muslim circles and his book, The Satanic Verses, sparked violence around the world. He lives with an Iranian execution decree over his head. John Lennon was murdered by a man who was angered by the lyrics of his songs. It seems, however, that you don’t have to write political or religious content to annoy people. Dan Slott, for example, the writer of “The Amazing Spiderman,” received death threats last year from fans over the final storyline of his comic.

Mark Twain once said, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” A Hebrew saying agrees with him, advising us that “Silence is appropriate for the wise, and even more so for the fool.” I can see how silence is an admirable virtue and important to cultivate — knowing when to speak and when to keep quiet can be critical. It can be the difference between life and death, for who knows what yelling, “Go Dolphins!” might do in the middle of a Raiders’ game?

“I am not there yet,” I told my cousin, referring to willingness to put my life (or my dignity) on the line for my writing. But even as I was affirming my fears, I realized that my words and actions do not match my beliefs and my innermost wish to live life freely. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all,” said Helen Keller. I choose to live the daring adventure. Perhaps I am not quite there yet. Perhaps I am only taking baby steps instead of leaping. But one day I’ll be there, and you can watch for me flying — not overhead — but down here, with you, and I hope you’ll be flying as well.


The Jewish Year in Satisfied Review

שנה טובהWe Jews are so lucky — we get to reflect on our soul accounting, “Heshbon Nefesh,” as we say in Hebrew, twice a year. On Rosh HaShana we welcome the Jewish new year with honey and apples and by asking forgiveness for the sins we committed knowingly and unknowingly all year, and on New Year’s we welcome the Gregorian new year by making resolutions and celebrating till after midnight.

As the year 5773 winds down, I too reflected on what I did (and did not do) this year and was surprise to find the balance a good one.

This year, 5773, I visited Israel twice for a total time of three weeks. I traveled to Florida twice, the Bahamas, Maui, the Redwoods, San Diego, and Arizona twice. Dar and I also went freeze-camping with the kids and the dogs in Point Reyes in February for Valentine’s Day. On the downside, it is the first year in a long time that I had not been to Yosemite. This will have to be remedied in 5774 at least twice.

I wrote a total of 67 blogs, about a third of them for my new blog. I love the new website that the new blog is on! I worked a lot on my novel this year, but finally decided that I need some distance from it. Like many other wonderful creations, I am still “cooking” it in my head, and I hope to get back to it fresh and energetic this year.

Another thrilling thing I did this year is start my own Reiki business. I taught my first Reiki I workshop and have one scheduled for the end of September and another for November. Two weeks ago I finally found a gorgeous space for my practice, and I can now give Reiki sessions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings as well as at your home! I’m excited about the new prospects opening up for me this year.

Learning is high on my list of favorites, and this year I learned a lot! I took a Maya Abdominal Massage class which led me to begin training as a certified massage therapist. I’ve taken courses in Tuina massage and acupressure, and this year I hope to begin a medical qigong certificate as well. Another amazing class I took is Karuna Reiki® (this was why I went to Maui). I loved this class and working with the Karuna energy! It is a beautiful, beautiful energy of love and compassion, and I’ve been enjoying treating with it.

I read some fabulous books this year. Perhaps the most notable of all is The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. I just finished reading it for the second time, and it is as fabulous as it was the first time I read it. That book is an entire world in and of itself, and I was again amazed how Gary Schmidt succeeded in creating so many rounded characters, all of whom grow and change in the book. I also finally read War and Peace this year — I’m very proud of that!

Seems to me, looking back, that this was a wonderful year. My boyfriend asked me to marry him and bought me two sparkly rings. The kids grew tall and happy. I finally bought curtains for our bedrooms. We had fun birthday parties for all of us and ate lots of good food. I hope for more wonderfulness for this coming year. May we all continue to grow, may we be happy and healthy, may we be free, and may we all be together!
Shana Tova everyone!


The Reiki-Chihuahua Five Precepts

Over 43 million dogs live in homes around the United States. I personally own three of those. Kathleen Prasad, Reiki master and owner of Animal Reiki Source, calls pets our animal teachers, but I had my doubts. My less-than-impressive chihuahuas did not seem likely candidates for imparting wisdom. Then, one day, I found myself explaining the five Reiki precepts to a friend by using Chaim, Nati and Percy as an example. Turns out, they have a lot to teach, and I have a lot to learn.

1. For Today Only, Do Not Anger
I never get really angry, or rather, I should say I rarely realize that I am angry. I fear anger, and so I often bury it deep beneath the surface where, unrecognized and mishandled, it turns into hopelessness and despair.

During our walks, the puppies get mad at every passing dog. They  turn into a raging whirlwind of blood-thirsty canine storm. I drag them forward, ashamed of my inability to control them, and just like that, with the other dog left behind, they are little angels again. They never hold a grudge. They never stay angry for more than a second.  They are experts at living in the moment and letting go.

2. For Today Only, Do Not Worry
Worry lines crease my forehead permanently now. I constantly worry about the children’s well being. I worry about the future, and I worry about the past. Even telling myself, “Just for today, do not worry,” does not quite do the job.

The puppies get worried too. You should see Chaim’s little face whenever he sees me pack a bag. He knows that I am about to go away, and his eyes follow me as I move about the room, seeming to ask: “Must you go?” Sometimes he stays sad for a little bit after I leave, but he is a cheerful little creature, like the other two, and he soon lets go his worries in his other responsibilities as a dog: keeping the house safe from passers-by and UPS deliverymen.

3. For Today Only, Be Humble
Every time I dread meeting someone or am afraid of what my performance will be like, I can feel my ego stretching to take control. Perhaps I ought to retreat back into my turtle shell, it suggests. But I remind myself: Be Humble. Be ever ready to embarrass myself.

For the puppies, humility comdogs sunninges naturally. They beg for food. They lie on their backs, exposing their bellies in hopes of a petting. They do not imagine that they are a lion (except when they meet a bigger dog) or that they can defeat the world. They have no ego about success or failure. They simply know they are who they are, and it’s ok.

4. For Today Only, Be Honest in Your Work
Every morning I groan with the thought of the chores awaiting me. I need to put away the dishes, clean the chicken coop, make dinner. If only I had a Mary Poppins magical umbrella, or better yet, a wand! Sometimes I finish everything that needs to be done, and sometimes I’m just too tired, lazy or distracted, and those chores are left for another day.

The puppies, in contrast, are always honest in their work. You will never hear them say, “I already got up twice today to bark at people walking down the street. Now it’s your turn.” They are never too tired or busy to come to the door when I arrive. Chaim jumps up and down, Nati dances the hula on his back legs, and Percy runs around in circles. Every. Single. Time.

5. For Today Only, Be Compassionate to Yourself and Others
I love this precept. I’ve engraved it on my heart and try to live by it. But being compassionate, especially to myself, does not come naturally to me. At first reaction, I am often critical, judgmental, or simply not in the mood to be understanding, and sometimes even after I remind myself to be compassionate, I just cannot.

Compassion truly defines what it means to be a dog. Unlike us humans, dogs are always compassionate to themselves. They live by their needs and inner motivators: “I need, therefore I am.” They are ever compassionate to us too. Even when I least like myself, my dogs still love me. They love me happy, and they love me sad. They even love me when I’m mad at them. They simply are a compassionate body, mind and heart.

A children’s poem titled “Loyalty,” by an unknown poet, reads:

You can’t buy loyalty, they say,
I bought it, though, the other day.
You can’t buy friendships, tried and true,
Well just the same, I bought that too.
I made my bid and on the spot
Bought love and faith and a whole job lot
Of happiness, so all in all
The purchase price was pretty small.
I bought a single trusting heart,
that gave devotion from the start.
If you think these things are not for sale,
Buy a brown-eyed puppy with a wagging tail.

I did not buy my puppies. All three are rescues. The loyalty, friendship and love came built-in their little bodies. Usui Mikao called the Reiki ideals the secret to health and happiness, and I have my three canine teachers to show me the way.


Intention to Change

changephotoIn my latest audio CD, Jack Kornfield told this story. A meditation teacher met with a student who complained about some issue in his life. The teacher gave the student some suggestions on how meditation might help, but the student answered each suggestion explaining why it wouldn’t work or saying he had already tried that. Finally, the teacher sat back, looked at the student for a long moment, and said: “You know, I think your intention to stay the same is stronger than your intention to change.”

Oh dear. I couldn’t help but remember my conversation with my therapist, Jeanne, earlier that day. I had recounted a problem I was having, but when Jeanne suggested a possible way of handling it, I responded exactly as the student in the story. “I already tried it,” I said more than once. I never really listened to her. I was caught up in my intention to stay the same.

I wonder why I cling to staying the same even when the promise of better things shines before my eyes. I hang on to the lip of the waterfall with bleeding fingernails, resisting the flow of the river that is my life. The water rushes past me, throwing me against rocks and thorny bushes. I am scratched and exhausted, and yet I cannot release the edge no matter how much pain I’m in. There is nothing for me up there, and I can see the clear blue pool below, but I’m too afraid of the turbulent waterfall to let go.

As a Reiki practitioner, I often remind myself to release my need for specific results when I treat a client. I know that though I am the one channeling the energy, it is really the client who heals himself or herself. The healing that happens and the way it manifests are always in the client’s highest good, and they depend (among other factors) on the strength of his/her intention or willingness to change.

Interestingly, since we have free will, we can refuse the flow of Reiki into the body. This may sound strange. Why would anyone refuse well-being? But remember all the times you procrastinated going to the doctor or refused to take the medicine prescribed? Choosing health is not always the easiest path. A student can even refuse an attunement. It happened to me in a class once when I was feeling particularly ornery. Fortunately, by the time the second attunement came around, I had made my peace with receiving its gift, and I could feel the energy flowing into my body.

I’ve discovered that my immediate “No” almost always ought to be a YES. YES to letting go and going down the waterfall. YES to trying something new. YES to listening to my therapist’s suggestion. YES to an offer that might scare me. I have found that no matter how big the waterfall, life is always better in the clear blue pool below.

These days, when I am feeling sick or unhappy, I ask myself the question: is my intention to stay the same stronger than my intention to change? Sometimes just noticing how much I resist change is enough to give me the boost to let go my resistance. Sometimes we all need to take a step into the unknown. I hope, perhaps, I’ve inspired you to leap into the clear blue waters of the pool, too.


The WOW Factor

lotusA few days ago, I received some feedback for the Reiki I workshop I taught last month. “It lacked the WOW factor,” a student told me and explained that in contrast to how she feels after yoga, she felt nothing from Reiki and did not see the benefit of practicing the healing palms aspect of it for herself. I was left stunned. Did she mean that I was not inspiring? And what WOW exactly had she expected to feel?

Before the workshop, I decided to let go of my need for results, goals and expectations. Of course I wish to improve people’s life, to bring them the gift of Reiki, to bring them healing and wellness. I know, however, that healing comes from within, and that I have no control over whether or not people will use the gift I give them. As the old saying goes, I can bring the horse water, but I cannot make it drink. Reiki is not for everyone, and sometimes it is just not the right time.

Still, I could not ignore the student’s feedback. How could I be more inspiring? And, were I more inspiring, would my students be more likely to follow what I teach? And the important question follows: is it my ego that needs students to follow my teachings? Isn’t it right to let go of results?

I once read the following story in one of Jack Kornfield’s books. A man wishes to become a spiritual teacher. He sets himself up as one and begins teaching, but no students come. In that village there was a wise man, and students flocked to him. The man decides that in order to get students, he needs to show them that he is smarter than their teacher. He takes a baby bird and hides it in his pocket and goes to see the wise man. He thinks: I will ask the wise man if the bird in my pocket is dead or alive. If the teacher says it is alive, I will wring its neck and show the students that their teacher is wrong. If he says it is dead, I will release the bird and prove he is wrong again.

The man goes to the wise teacher and asks his question: “Oh wise teacher, is the bird in my pocket dead or alive?” The teacher looks at him and replies: “That, my dear friend, is entirely up to you.”

I learn two lessons from this story. The first: setting myself up as a teacher does not guarantee that students will come. The second lesson: the willingness to learn is entirely up to us. And the conclusion: the only student I am sure to teach is myself, and I am, after all (as we all are) my own best teacher. Teaching might be redundant, because everything we need to know is already within us, but it is also important and beautiful because it reminds us of what we already know. A good teacher does not teach us something new but brings out what is best and wisest inside us.

For my next class, I already have a few ideas on how to increase the WOW factor. I am not going to do any magic tricks, stand on my head, or perform miracles (especially since healing is done by the client, not the practitioner). I do hope, however, to make my class (one workshop at a time) more inspiring, inviting, and attractive by reading, gaining new experiences and knowledge, and listening to feedback, no matter how alarming.


In Favor of Belly Liberation

In the MBA program I attended in Israel, I had a brilliant, funny, and really hot Strategic Games professor. One day in class he asked us the following questions:

“How many of you suck in your stomachs while wearing a bathing suit?”
The response: Lots of titters, red faces, one hesitant hand (not mine, of course).

“How many of you suck in your stomach while wearing shorts?”
A few nodding heads, some hands (not mine, of course).

“Do any of you suck in your stomach while wearing a coat?”
Full-out laughter. Most everyone shaking their heads.

“Does anyone suck in his or her stomach all the time?”
Lots of uncomfortable shifting in the chairs.

Our world is a flat, six-pack-stomached world. In our dreams, of course. It is a world in which tanned, six-feet tall women with concave bellies weigh a mere one-hundred-and-twenty pounds and jog on the beach in skimpy bikinis, hand in hand with even more tanned, six-pack-stomached, six-foot-seven tall men. On television commercials, at least. If we want to fit in with this make-believe world, we need — a diet? or, quite plain and simple, to suck in our tummies.

For one moment, close your eyes and imagine a world of people sucking in their tummies. Imagine the constriction, the pressure, as we refuse to let those bellies have some air. Imagine the mark left by button on skin made by wearing too-tight jeans. Ask yourself, just for this moment, what would happen if we allowed ourselves to breathe into our bellies, to expand them and make room for all our fabulous inner organs? The belly is the very center of our being. What would happen if we let it just be the way it was born to be?

Frans and Bronwen Stiene, authors of The Japanearch bellyse Art of Reiki, often mention a point three inches below the navel. This point is called Hara in Japanese and literally means belly. The Stienes refer to it as the Earth Center. This is what the Stienes write about the Hara in one of the articles on their website: “Energy is stored at this point from where it expands throughout the whole body. This is the energy you are born with, the energy that is the essence of your life and gives you your life’s purpose and stamina. It is not just the energy that you receive from your parents when you are conceived but most importantly it is the energetic connection between you and universal energy.” Yet most of us constrict that energy all day long by sucking in our bellies.

I am self conscious about my belly. I’ve written about it before. I wish I had that concave belly without stretch marks. But this is the belly I was born with, the belly that shows the marks of my children’s births as well. It is my belly, and I do so wish I could be proud of it, that I could breathe into it to my heart’s content without thinking how many months pregnant it makes me look. I wish that instead of worrying about fitting in with absurd social norms, I would only breathe in and out with the energy of the world.

There are so many wonderful round things in our world: the sun, the earth, an orange, a pregnant belly, a bowling ball. Perhaps it is time for the round revolution, from concave to convex. A belly liberation. The freedom to inhabit our bodies in every shape and form.


Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109