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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Reiki Digest for April 25, 2007: Breaking the breaking news habit

Having spent decades chasing the news as a reporter, I still tend to keep up with current events a bit more than is really necessary. A few years ago, I ran across the idea of taking a "news fast" now and then, but I admit I haven't ever tried it for more than a day or so. My effort to break the news habit has turned out to be more of a news diet than a news fast. But last week, the news was so bad that I just had to turn away for awhile. There was nothing my attention could do about the heartbreaking headlines, so I focused on more positive, or at least more neutral matters, and went on with my day.

Learning to let go of the news to the extent that I have so far has turned out to be a lot like practicing the Reiki Precepts. I'm not talking about just repeating the precepts, although that's a good way to keep them in mind. I'm talking about trying to live by them as much as possible.

For today only,
Do not anger
Do not worry
Be humble
Be honest in your work
Be considerate to yourself and others

By letting go as much as possible of anger and fear (another word for worry) as I try to follow the precepts, I have been able to reclaim a lot of energy that used to get spun off pointlessly in negative emotions. Being human, of course, I do still get angry sometimes, and I still worry, but not as much as I once did. The precepts are something to strive toward, not rigid rules bound to be broken. When I do experience those feelings, I find that if I remember the precepts, and my experience with them so far, I can acknowledge that I'm feeling anger and/or worry (another word for fear) and then let it go.

One thing that helps with that is a Japanese phrase I learned more than 25 years ago from a hibakusha, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. Unlike Reiki founder Mikao Usui, The Rev. Kiyoshi Tanimoto was a Christian minister, and after the bombing he spent the rest of his life helping other survivors and working for world peace in hopes that nuclear weapons would never be used again. When I interviewed him in the early 1980s, I told him I felt a bit guilty because, having been born in the extraordinary town created to make the fuel for the Hiroshima bomb, I had indirectly benefited from it. He told me that in Japan, there was a phrase that was almost like a philosophy in itself: shikata ga nai. He said it means "it couldn't be helped" or "unfortunate thing happened; we must go on." "Shikata ga nai," he said, was how he felt about the bomb. Since that day, long before I ever heard of Reiki, I have thought of that phrase at least once a day. I figure if Rev. Tanimoto could say that about the Hiroshima bomb, was there anything so bad that I couldn't say "shikata ga nai" and move on? So far, there hasn't been.

So last week, if I found myself inclined to turn on the television, I put it on a nature program, classic comedy or an old movie instead of the news. I listened to music. I took walks outside in the sun (once the torrential rains stopped, that is), or did a little extra Reiki self-care.

But when I went to my office to treat my first Reiki client of the week, the news walked right in with him. This is a longstanding client, facing a relentless form of cancer that is usually lethal within months of diagnosis. I am only one member of the team of practitioners he put together to attack the disease from every angle. The oncologists go after the cancer with cutting-edge experimental treatments, I give him Reiki now and then to reduce his stress and help him deal with the side effects. (Please note: Reiki is not a substitute for medical care!) My client had some good news -- the experimental drugs are working and his tumors are shrinking -- but he had little time to dwell on it. For the first time, he brought issues other than his illness to address in our session: one of his nephews was a student at Virginia Tech, the scene of last week's awful news, and another is being sent to Iraq, the scene of awful news every week for the past few years. For all my efforts to ignore the news, there it all was, right there on my treatment table.

This time there was something I could do about the news: the same thing I'd done all the other times I'd seen this client, the same thing I do for other clients who come in with other problems. I gave him Reiki, which helped him shift his energy to a more positive place, at least for awhile.

As a natural health practitioner, I do still work with people and their stories, but in a different way now. I don't just give them my attention while they tell me their stories and then spit their tales back out for the late edition. I still listen, but now my job is to help them rewrite their stories and take control of their lives. And I find it far more rewarding than seeing my byline on the front page.

Having applied some Reiki to the news, let's apply some journalism to the world of Reiki. It's time for our regular Reiki Roundup.

We begin with a good news, bad news situation: the good news is that Reiki made headlines in the respected journal Scientific American this week; the bad news is the headline reads: "Reiki shows no effect on neurologic diabetes pain."

A study of 207 patients with diabetic neuropathy divided them into three groups: one group received regular Reiki sessions, another group received "mock" Reiki from actors, and a third group received "usual care." At first, both the Reiki and "mock" Reiki groups showed improvement, reporting less pain and walking 12 percent farther after their treatments, but by the end of the study (12 weeks) all groups were the same. The same article also says "medical therapy is helpful in roughly one third of patients with this condition." Could that third be the same third that was helped by "usual care" in this study? The source of the Scientific American article was a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, which calls what the actors did "mimic Reiki" instead of "mock." It would be interesting to know what kind of acting the actors were doing -- were they trying to think and feel what a Reiki practitioner might think and feel during a session, were they mimicking movements and facial expressions? What was their intention, in other words? Was it, "I want to help this person feel better" or "I want to make people think I'm doing Reiki even though I'm not"? As much as anything, this study illustrates the limitations of studying Reiki in this manner.

Under the startling (and misleading) headline "Massages can cause 'cancer'" in Kuwait's Arab Times, we find nothing to back up that warning except what seems to be an advertorial quoting a "Reiki energy therapy" expert recommending natural aromatherapy oils instead of synthetic chemicals.

Now we turn the spotlight in the direction of this week's Celeb-Reiki, our very first upside-down honoree: U.S. television personality Rosie O'Donnell, who "hangs upside down to treat depression" according to an article on the benefits and risks of inversion. What's that got to do with Reiki? Nothing, except that the featured interviewee is the proprietor of a place called "Harmony Yoga Reiki Center." So for those who might wonder, Reiki has absolutely nothing to do with turning yourself upside down. Ms. O'Donnell reportedly demonstrated her upside-down therapy on the TV show "The View" shortly before she and the network announced she was leaving the show.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Reiki Digest for April 18, 2007: Up close and personal

How would you describe the experience of eating chocolate to someone who's never had it? You could show them a picture of chocolate, but that wouldn't really do it. Neither would a video of chocolate. To experience chocolate, you and the chocolate need to be in the same place at the same time -- there's no other way. And so it is with Reiki -- the only way to "get it" is to get it, because descriptions just fall short. Sure, you can buy a "Reiki attunement" on video or online, but you really need to be in the presence of a teacher in order to share the same energetic space and truly feel the energy.

I've just spent three days in close proximity to one of the world's foremost Reiki teachers, along with 20 eager Reiki students in the first (but not last) Shinpiden (Level 3) class with Frans Stiene in New York City. Some of the students traveled for hundreds of miles to be there, and Frans himself traveled all the way from Australia, by way of San Francisco, along with his wife and co-author, Bronwen, and their lovely daughter Bella. In their latest book, Your Reiki Treatment, Bronwen and Frans have come closer than anyone to finding a way to describe Reiki to those who haven't experienced it. They also do a lot of traveling, circling the globe teaching those of us who practice Reiki how to explore the energy more deeply. And in their spare time, they produce even more Reiki resources with their weekly Reiki Show podcast, as well as their blog, their MySpace page, and their interactive web site.

The class was also the first (but not last) class sponsored by The Reiki Digest. In the coming months we'll be offering more courses in Reiki and related practices. Stay tuned for details in the coming weeks.

After those three days, all participants and the room itself were buzzing with Reiki energy. I'm coming in for a landing now that the class is over and plan to take an actual day off just as soon as I publish this week's edition of the Digest. I hope some of the other participants will add their comments to this post on The Reiki Digest web site -- same for any other reader with a question or comment. It would be so nice to get a conversation going.

Everyone in the class had already learned Western-style Reiki, in the lineage of Hawayo Takata, who brought Reiki from Japan to the West. Some have been practicing for as long as 25 years. Among us we had, in addition to full-time Reiki practitioners, a doctor, a psychologist, a couple of massage therapists, a medium, some animal communicators, a dental hygienist and a former wrestling champion. It was, in effect, a roomful of teachers as well as students. All were blown away by the techniques Frans taught and the experience of working with energy in new ways.

We had such a good time there that I quickly arranged to return to that same Reiki-filled room soon for regular practice evenings. Stay tuned for details next week about The Reiki Digest's new Reiki Dojo in New York. If you can't wait until next week for details, email me at with the word DOJO in the subject line, and I'll send you the announcement directly.

Frans and Bronwen Stiene at East West Books in New York

Last Thursday, before the Shinpiden class began, Bronwen and Frans spoke at a special NYC Reiki Meetup at the East West Books yoga studio. Bronwen began the presentation with a brief talk about their Reiki journey, and then Frans spoke and took questions. The Stienes -- he's from Holland, she's Australian -- first studied Reiki in Nepal, then moved on to Darjeeling, India, where they set up a Reiki center. Back in Australia, they established the International House of Reiki, and then decided to seek out the roots of Reiki in Japan. Their extensive study and research led to their first book, The Reiki Sourcebook, the most comprehensive book ever about Reiki. Their second, The Japanese Art of Reiki, focuses on self-care from the traditional Japanese perspective. They followed those with a handy pocket guide, the A-Z of Reiki, The Reiki Techniques Card Deck, and now Your Reiki Treatment.

The system of Reiki has five elements, Frans explained: the Reiki precepts (gokai), breathing techniques (kokyu ho), hands-on healing (tenohira), symbols and mantras (shirushi and jumon), and attunements (reiju).

"Are attunements necessary?" one person asked.

"We can do healing without attunements," Frans said, "But that's not Reiki."

Attunements are not necessary to connect to Reiki energy, however. "Reiki is universal energy, right?" Frans said. "How can I connect someone to universal energy if they already are universal energy. We are all universal energy -- otherwise we'd be dead.

"I'm everything, you're everything...ultimately there's only one flavor of universal energy," he said.

Frans said he prefers the term used in French for attunements: initiation. "It's an initial experience. "As soon as I say, I can do this on you, there's a separation. It's a tool to help the student connect with this space."

Frans led the group in a brief meditation, and then both Bronwen and Frans autographed copies of their books: The Reiki Sourcebook, The Japanese Art of Reiki, The Reiki Techniques Card Deck, The A-Z of Reiki, and Your Reiki Treatment. Fans were still lined up for autographs from these very special Celeb-Reiki's when the place closed for the night.

Frans will be back in October to teach another Shinpiden class, also sponsored by The Reiki Digest. If you're interested, just email with the word SHINPIDEN in the subject line and we'll send you the details as soon as we have them.

As you probably know, The Reiki Digest has two full-time reporters, full-time as in 24/7. Their names are Google and Yahoo! and they constantly scour the Internet for news about Reiki. This week in addition to our electronic ace reporters, we have numerous citizen journalists who've notified us about an obscure U.S. government document that might lead to stricter regulation of the practice of Reiki and other natural modalities. The document has been the subject of numerous emails forwarded around the natural-health community, and we've received at least a dozen of those here. Here's an example:

"PLEASE ACT NOW…AND SEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!! We have the fundamental right…IT IS OUR BIRTHRIGHT…to make our own decisions about what we choose for health & alternative healing modalities…please speak up so that we can stop the tail from wagging the dog!!!! THIS is the TIME to collectively bring our power together…our health & freedom depends on it!!!

There is a crisis in health freedom of choice. On April 30, 2007 the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] will close the public comment period on a "Guidance" which will classify every alternative practice as medicine so that only licensed physicians can carry out the procedure AND vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc., will suddenly become "untested drugs" which will be forbidden.

Bad? Real Bad! WAKE UP…public outcry can stop this assault on your health and your freedom!

Spread the word! Tell everyone in your Circle of Influence, professionals, alternative practitioners, nutrient and herb companies, everyone! Let them know how important their participation is to make sure the FDA backs off from this repressive course."

I took a look at the document itself, and it doesn't seem nearly as bad as the description. Take a look yourself -- especially if you're a Reiki practitioner in the U.S. -- and let us know what you think. Am I missing something here? The proposed "guidance" doesn't seem necessary, but it doesn't seem to be forbidding anything, either. If you have an opinion about it, the FDA is still accepting comments until April 30. If you've read the document and want to comment, click here to submit your comments to the FDA. If you haven't read it, wait until you have before commenting. Many of the emails going around include the phrase, "this only takes a minute," which is true if you don't take the time to read what you might be commenting upon.

In order to give you more time for that reading, we'll save the Reiki Roundup until next week. See you then!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Reiki Digest for April 11, 2007: Commuting with Reiki

One of the many things I love about my work is that I don't have a regular daily commute. I see clients in a couple of different offices, have meetings and classes all over town (and sometimes out of town), and of course I put together each week's edition of this publication here at The Reiki Digest world headquarters, i.e. my home office. But no matter where I'm going, or when, I always bring Reiki along on my journeys.

Last night, for example, I traveled from Hoboken, New Jersey, to New York's JFK Airport to meet Celeb-Reiki authors and teachers Bronwen and Frans Stiene and their charming daughter Bella. They just finished a Shinpiden (master level) workshop in San Francisco and will be doing the same class here in New York this weekend, sponsored by The Reiki Digest. (the class is sold out, but we do have a waiting list). The Stienes are used to traveling and wouldn't have minded if I'd just asked them to take a taxi from the airport, but I thought it would be nicer to greet them personally.

I don't have a car, which is actually an advantage in the city, so I used public transit. First, I walked a block from my home to the bus stop. By the time I stepped out the door, my Reiki meditations had already begun. Those of you who've learned the symbols and mantras in Reiki 2 can probably guess which symbols I concentrated on as I hoped the bus would arrive soon, as I got on the bus, as the bus traveled through the Lincoln Tunnel and into the terminal in Manhattan. I can't prove that meditating with those symbols, or any symbols, actually makes the bus arrive any sooner, but that's not really the point. It gives me a chance to practice, and the wait doesn't seem so long because I'm concentrating on Reiki, not checking my watch or feeling frustrated over delays. None of the other passengers ever seem to notice or care that I'm practicing Reiki.

Sometimes I bring a book to read, but even then I continue practicing Reiki.

From the bus, I moved to the subway, and once again I used the appropriate symbols and mantras as I waited for and then got on the train. It probably wouldn't have bothered anyone if I'd discreetly used a few self-care hand positions -- people do all kinds of things on the subway -- but for me the meditation, visualization, and breathing exercises are enough. When I'm practicing it effectively, I feel blissfully disconnected from space and time, and at the same time acutely aware of my surroundings. I never expected that the "A" Train could take me to "the Void," but that's mostly because I tended to think meditation needed to be done in quiet isolation in order to be effective. It's one thing to reach that peaceful state lying on a yoga mat, quite another to find it in a crowded train while trying to get somewhere on time.

The subway took me to the Airtrain, which delivered me to the arrivals terminal with plenty of time to spare. I can't speak for Bronwen and Frans, but even as we chatted by the baggage claim, I continued practicing Reiki, this time focusing on the hope that all their bags would come through quickly. Again, I can't say that it helped, but it didn't hurt, either.

I spent much of my life commuting not by public transit but by car. Reiki would have helped me years ago in dealing with the stresses of life on the California freeways, but I knew nothing of it at the time. If you're an automobile commuter as well as a Reiki practitioner, maybe you could try Reiki while commuting and see what it does for you. Carefully, of course: keep your eyes open and your mind alert, even as you relax with Reiki.

For me, the transportation system itself is a wonderful reminder of the fact that everything is inextricably connected. Without the networks that link us all, I would have had to walk to the airport, but then there would have been no airport, and no reason to go there because I would never have heard of Reiki or the Stienes and their excellent books about it. There'd be no Reiki Digest, no readers, no Reiki, either.

If you're in the New York City area and you'd like to see the Stienes, you don't have to go all the way to the airport. Just drop by East/West Books at 78 5th Avenue on Thursday, April 12, at 6:30 p.m., for their talk and book signing. The Stienes are the authors of The Reiki Sourcebook, The Japanese Art of Reiki, The A-Z of Reiki, The Reiki Techniques Card Deck and -- just published -- Your Reiki Treatment, the first book ever to look at Reiki from the client's perspective.

Now let's commute our way around the world with our weekly Reiki Roundup. First stop: Lucknow, India, where we meet Celeb-Reiki Rati Agnihotri, Bollywood star and Reiki practitioner.

Next stop: Seattle, Washington, USA, where we find another Celeb-Reiki, Michelle Shay, who plays a 285-year-old character in the August Wilson drama "Gem of the Ocean" at Seattle Repertory Theater. Shay is also a Reiki practitioner as well as an actor.

On to Peterborough in the United Kingdom, where Reiki has found its way into prison.

Our last stop this week is Kyoto, Japan, where Reiki Digest Special Correspondent Michelle Shinagawa is wrapping up her trip. Once she gets home and online again, we trust she'll tell us all about her adventures.

Until next week, wherever you are, wherever you're going, travel safely and don't forget to take your Reiki practice with you.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Reiki Digest for April 4, 2007: Following Usui's footsteps up Mt. Kurama

Our intrepid Special Correspondent Michelle Shinagawa has made it to the birthplace of Reiki on her visit to Japan. We know that because she posted these words on her blog last Thursday:

I am at Mt. Kurama right now.

She hasn't posted anything since then, but it seems unlikely she changed her itinerary and decided to stay 21 days there, as Reiki founder Mikao Usui did. The most likely scenario is that she's continuing her travels but still having Internet access difficulties. We will let you know as soon as she posts again. Michelle, if you're reading this, we hope you're enjoying the journey and we'll look forward to more dispatches when you can send them, even if we have to wait until the trip is over to read about it.

Meanwhile, I'm holding down the home front, and not doing much more than that, thanks to a visit from an incurable but thankfully temporary affliction: the common cold. Yes, Reiki can help with the symptoms, but tissues, hot tea, and cough drops come in handy, too: the illness is affecting the whole person, so I'm treating the whole person. If this were a typical mainstream media article about alternative medicine, the kind that turn up at least once a week in some newspaper or magazine somewhere, at this point the reporter might interview a medical doctor who warns, "Reiki can be dangerous, because if you rely solely on Reiki to treat your common cold, it could turn into pneumonia and that could be life-threatening." It's a false argument: Reiki practitioners don't insist on using Reiki at the exclusion of other treatments: not for cancer, not for the common cold.

Fortunately, germs can't travel across cyberspace (even though computer viruses do), so please disregard the sneezing and sniffling on my part as we travel together on this week's Reiki Roundup.

Reiki on the ranch: In an article headlined "Cancer: Treating the Whole Patient," the Tucson (Arizona) Citizen takes us to a former dude ranch, now a cancer support center, where Reiki is among the therapies offered. Yeee-ha! Chant 'em, cowboy!

In Wilmington, Delaware, the News-Journal takes us to the Christiana Care Center for Integrative Health, where Reiki is among the offerings in an East-plus-West approach to healing.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, Vermont, also offers a holistic program for women with breast cancer. The program is free, thanks to a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

And in Milton, Pennsylvania, the Standard-Journal introduces a Reiki Master who led a workshop in labyrinth walking at a recent cancer conference.

In Sebastapol, California, we find a Reiki practitioner who set out to follow her late teacher's funeral instructions and ended up with a new career in a new field: death midwifery.

This week's Celeb-Reiki is Bollywood moviemaker Aparna Sen, who found the lead actress for her next film, The Japanese Wife, when she went to Japan for Reiki.

With your kind indulgence, dear readers, I'll keep this edition short but sweet and get back to blowing my nose. If you're so inclined, please send some Reiki my way.