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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sakura studies

The more I study and practice Reiki, the more fascinating I find the culture from which it came. In recent years I've become a fan of classic samurai movies and the television show Ninja Warrior (Sasuke), books about Japanese history, and of course waka poetry. I aspire to study tea ceremony and flower arranging, not to mention learn more than a few words of Japanese, and naturally when time and resources permit I plan to visit Reiki's birthplace. Two years in a row now, I've heard from fellow practitioners who made the trip to Kyoto and then up Mt. Kurama just in time to catch the cherry trees blossoming, and I confess I am envious.

Cherry blossom viewing is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore Japanese culture, and it can be done outside Japan as well. Like the system of Reiki, cherry trees (sakura), are native to Japan. The cherry blossoms are not only breathtakingly beautiful but a living lesson in the Reiki precepts: they are with us almost literally "for today only," emerging as the first blush of spring and then drifting down to earth in the blink of an eye as green leaves take their place on the branches. In Japan, cherry blossom season, or hanami, is a time to pause and celebrate life, because the blossoms' brief but spectacular appearance each spring reminds us that our own lives, however magnificent, are also fleeting. Cherry-blossom viewing has been a tradition there for thousands of years.

Here in the New York City area, the cherry trees are in peak bloom right now. Since I couldn't make it to Japan, I went instead by subway last weekend to my favorite cherry-viewing venue, the Japanese hill and pond in the world-renowned Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The winding paths around the pond and over the hill were as crowded with gawkers as Times Square. Jam-packed as it was, the garden still seemed a world apart from the anger and worry Mikao Usui warned us to avoid in the precepts, and people were generally thoughtful and polite, so nobody needed to remind us to "be compassionate to yourself and others." Wandering among the flowering trees, and being reminded of the ephemeral nature of life, is humbling, and it inspires gratitude for the many blessings we have.

My visit to the garden was just for a few hours, but I see cherry trees blossoming elsewhere: along a chain-link fence by a gravel-covered lot under development, poking through scaffolding over the sidewalk, even on the piers jutting out into the Hudson River. I've learned that even if a tree is one around the corner that I walk past almost every day, the flowers I see exploding today will likely be littering the ground before I pass that way again.

Ornamental cherry trees bear no edible fruit: the blossoms are fruit enough. That fact reminds me, every time I give a client Reiki, that it is not my job to diagnose or prescribe or even decide how and where the energy will flow or what purpose it will serve. I simply stand, rooted to the earth, reaching to the heavens, and let the energy blossom.

(For a more succinct, and beautifully illustrated, take on cherry blossoms, scroll down or click here.)

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