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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Reiki Digest for November 8, 2006: Symbols and Mantras

It's a dark and rainy Wednesday in November as I write this here in New Jersey, but where you are it might be sunny, midnight, or the dawn of a new day somewhere on the other side of the globe. You might be reading these words as soon as I publish them, or you might run across them days, weeks, or months afterward, which means that I'm communicating with you across space and time, thanks to the handy tool we call symbols. In this case, the symbols are the 26 characters of the English alphabet, along with some other symbols: punctuation.

In order to send you these symbols, I used some other symbols -- my username and password -- to log into Blogger.com. Then I used other symbols, including mouse clicks, to tell Blogger that I wanted to begin a new post. Blogger, meanwhile, is on the other side of the continent from me, in California. The symbols I put into the computer via the keyboard (a bunch of buttons to push, each of which represents a symbol) travel from me to Blogger, and from there to you, over the Internet. One American politician once famously, and laughably, described the Internet as "a series of tubes." I prefer to think of it as being made of symbols. Every computer runs on electricity, and in order to get electricity we must pay our bills. Paying our bills requires symbols, either the numbers of our bank accounts or more tangible symbols such as cash. Blogger has an electric bill, too, and the same is true for all the computers in between us. Whether we have dial-up, broadband, satellite or wi-fi connections, we all have to connect to the Internet: that, too, requires symbols. The computers we use were symbols before they were objects, because in order to be made, they had to be designed. And the software that enables them to do anything meaningful is also made of symbols. Ultimately, those symbols must be broken down into the most basic symbols: ones and zeroes, on and off, in order to be written onto a disk or transmitted.

I've been thinking a lot about the power of symbols the past few days because I had the privilege of re-experiencing a Reiki 2 class, in which students learn three Reiki symbols and the sounds associated with them, in order to send Reiki across space and time. The symbols are traditionally not revealed except from teacher to student, but in recent years they've been published in books and online. They're easy to find with any search engine, but finding them and reading about them doesn't quite make them usable for the reader. Similarly, I could do a search for dollar signs and find thousands of images, but that wouldn't add a penny to my accounts.

Many people are skeptical when they hear about the use of symbols in Reiki; some even scoff. Those people always use symbols to express those opinions. Without symbols, we would have no language.

Language is not only written, but spoken. In western Reiki, the names of the symbols are called mantras; in Japanese Reiki they are known as jumon. We all have mantras of some kind, whether or not we've ever studied Reiki, yoga, or meditation. I got my first mantra before I started school, from one of my favorite books at that age, The Little Engine that Could: "I think I can I think I can I think I can...."

All that seems so obvious, so simple, yet many people unfamiliar with Reiki or the traditions from which it sprang find the use of symbols hard to fathom. The best way to understand is to study Reiki and learn to use the symbols and mantras yourself.

As I was leaving yesterday after the class, one of the students came up to me on the street and asked, "If you're already a Reiki Master, why were you in a Reiki 2 class?" I explained that our teacher requires the Masters she teaches to observe one Reiki 1 and one Reiki 2 class, and I was fulfilling that requirement. Since one of the students couldn't make it at the last minute, we had an odd number of students, and that meant I got to participate more fully in the class, working with students for chair and table sessions, and even re-experiencing the Reiki 2 attunements.

I also got a chance to revisit the Reiki 2, or Okuden, level in the Shinpiden, Level 3, class I took last month in traditional Japanese Reiki. I am now working with a familiar name, but a new mantra: the jumon usually associated with Symbol 1. Every day, I sit on my meditation bench, hands in gassho, and repeat that jumon for at least five minutes. That's the way Mikao Usui's original students learned, working with a jumon for six months or more before adding the symbol associated with it or moving on to the next one. I find it adds a lot to my daily Reiki practice.

Having completed the Shinpiden Level, I am also allowed to take the Reiki 1 and 2 levels in the Japanese tradition at the International House of Reiki at no charge, not counting the cost of getting from here to Australia and back. Maybe if I keep working on those symbols and mantras, I'll build up enough Reiki energy to send myself....

A quick update on the Reviewing Reiki Online Project: the reviewing form still isn't quite ready, but we hope to post it by next week. Meanwhile, you're still welcome to volunteer to review Reiki-related sites or recommend a Reiki site for review. Reviews will be collected and compiled in December, and in January we'll announce the Top 10 Reiki Sites.

On to this week's Reiki Roundup. First, we return to Baytown, Texas, USA, where the jury has reached a verdict in the so-called Reiki trial, which really wasn't about Reiki at all. A woman had claimed Reiki was a "new-age religion" and that she was fired for objecting to it.

This week's edition of The Reiki Show podcast features British Reiki Practitioner Graham King on Reiki for children.

Reiki turns up in the Des Moines Register in Iowa, USA, in an article headlined "Hands Down, Reiki Wins Over Skeptics," featuring a practitioner who's not only a Reiki Master, but a military veteran.

Britain's Cambs Times also features Reiki this week, as does the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, which includes Reiki in a list of suggestions for avoiding colds this winter.

"Reiki: Can it heal what ails you?" asks the web site askmen.com.

Finally, this week's Celeb-Reiki: actress Sam Grey, who stars in the BBC television drama series Casualty.

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