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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Strings attached

For more than 22 years now, I've devoted part of my day to an exercise that begins like this:

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms hanging loosely at your sides. Imagine that there is a string of pearls attached to the crown of your head, reaching up into the heavens, and your whole body is suspended from that string. The string of pearls extends all the way down your spine, and as you imagine the string tugging upward from your crown, your spine straightens. Keep your body relaxed and loose as you feel the connection between your feet and the ground, and feel yourself stretch, supported by the string of pearls, between heaven and earth.

That position, and the imagery that go with it, are the foundation of any tai chi or qigong practice, and I've found the string-of-pearls idea fits perfectly with Reiki as well -- ki, chi, qi -- they're all universal energy. So at Monday's Reiki Symposium at the New York Open Center, I was pleased to hear puppeteer and Reiki Master Yvette Edery's answer when she was asked, "But how do you use puppetry when you practice Reiki?"

Edery's reply: "I try to become a puppet when I practice Reiki."

Her puppets aren't supported by strings of pearls, exactly -- the pearls would be visible and spoil the effect during a marionette show. But they do hang from strings, exactly the way I've been hanging from that energetic string during tai chi, qigong, and Reiki practice all these years.

The theme of this year's symposium was "Reiki and Your Creative Spirit," and Edery's puppets weren't the only dancers in attendance. Downstairs in a simultaneous workshop, Reiki Master Jean Bromage was leading a "Dancing With the Chakras" group through guided and improvised movement. The visual arts were represented in art therapist and Advance Reiki Practitioner Natasha Shapiro's mandala-drawing workshop, which ran simultaneously with "Reiki, Sacred Imagery and Your Creative Life" with Reiki practitioner Faith Linda Weissman. And then world-renowned author and Reiki teacher Bronwen Stiene focused on the written word in her "Write from the Heart" workshop.

Bronwen and her husband and co-author, Frans, have done extensive research into the roots of Reiki in Japan, first coming out with The Reiki Sourcebook (2004), and then The Japanese Art of Reiki (2005), the A-Z of Reiki (2006), The Reiki Techniques Card Deck (2006, and Your Reiki Treatment (2007). While they include modern Western Reiki in their books and podcast interviews (The Reiki Show), they focus on traditional Japanese Reiki practices in their classes and personal work with Reiki, including the process of writing.

"One of the things we learn about when we write is balance," Bronwen said. "And in the Japanese tradition, we are the balance of heaven and earth...a microcosm of the universe. When I begin writing, I bring myself into balance with heaven energy and earth energy." The traditional Japanese meditation technique Bronwen used to demonstrate brought us right back to the same space, grounding ourselves to the earth, stretching to the skies, and centering ourselves in the hara (lower abdomen), the body's natural energetic center. No strings (pearl or otherwise) were visible, but we all felt the connection.

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