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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Reiki rubdown, and other misrepresentations

So you'd like some Reiki? Sure -- just take off your clothes, lie down on the table here and your practitioner will be right with you. His name is Elvis, and he's running a little late today because his UFO got stuck in traffic. While you're waiting, one of our Reiki Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Masters will be happy to give you a diagnosis, tell your fortune, let you hear from your dearly departed Aunt Millie and advise you to avoid both medical care and Jesus at all costs. Speaking of costs, it's all free because this is complimentary medicine, right?

I don't know if anyone is as tired as I am of seeing misrepresentations of Reiki in the media. For one thing, I have many more opportunities to see those misrepresentations because of the work I do putting together each week's edition. For another, having been a part of "the media" long before I discovered Reiki, I know how those mistakes happen and worse, how they perpetuate themselves. I also know that facts are the best ways to dispel those untruths. And now that I've been publishing The Reiki Digest weekly for nearly a year, I know that setting the record straight about Reiki is slow going.

This week, for example, Forbes Traveler magazine, by way of MSNBC, introduces us to the "Reiki rubdown," blissfully ignorant of the fact that there's no such thing. And in The New York Times we meet a woman who runs a "Reiki massage studio."

So once more, with feeling: REIKI IS NOT MASSAGE.

Sure, I know massage therapists who are also Reiki practitioners, and sometimes they use a little Reiki with massage. Sometimes they use essential oils, too, but aromatherapy isn't massage. They may offer their clients a glass of water after a session, but water isn't massage, either.

And for the record, you remain fully clothed for Reiki, your practitioner is not a deceased legend who commutes to work in a UFO, and Reiki practitioners do not diagnose, prescribe, tell fortunes or act as mediums unless they are trained, practiced, and where appropriate, licensed in those areas. Reiki may be called "alternative" but it is not an alternative to or substitute for medical care. Complementary, not complimentary, medicine is used with, not against, conventional medicine. Reiki is not a religion and is practiced by people of all faiths, or no faith.

Now that we've reviewed those key points, let's move on to the rest of this week's Reiki Roundup. Put on your spacesuit, because our first stop is far, far away in another solar system. The World Health Care Blog speculates about, among other things, whether Reiki would be more available if our civilization started over on the newly discovered planet Gliese 581c.

From there we zip back to earth, the town of Auburn, California, to be exact, where yet another reporter encounters a Reiki practitioner. This time the reporter gets a lot of the facts right, but unfortunately substitutes the word "parishioner" for "practitioner."

In the Shetland Islands, a Scottish reporter has a chance to experience Reiki while staying in a lighthouse, but he opts for reflexology instead.

On to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where we discover a couple who lost their only child to cancer and are honoring her memory by offering Reiki and other stress-reduction techniques to children with cancer and their families.

Our final stop on this week's Reiki Roundup is Japan's Mt. Kurama, the legendary birthplace of Reiki: Our Special Correspondent Michelle Shinagawa checks in with part four in her series about her recent visit there.

This week's Celeb-Reiki is not Elvis but British television star Gaynor Faye, a regular on the veterinary drama "The Chase." Faye admits to a reporter that she's allergic to some of her co-stars, and in her spare time, she likes to practice Reiki.

And on this week's podcast of The Reiki Show, hosts Bronwen and Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki interview a Reiki practitioner who's also a nutritionist about Reiki and healthy eating.

And speaking of the International House of Reiki, The Reiki Digest will once again be sponsoring a Shinpiden (Master/Teacher level) workshop with Frans Stiene October 19, 20, and 21 in New York City.

Secrets that aren't

Here's a snapshot I took the other day at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden that may be of particular interest to Reiki practitioners, especially Reiki Masters:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reiki at work

It was 2 a.m., and Sinikka Laitamaki was still trying to finish work for the day. She sent off one last e-mail and went straight to bed. Four hours later, she woke up and went right back to work, and at 2 a.m. the next morning, there she was again, still e-mailing. The large New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company she worked for was in the midst of a massive simultaneous merger and acquisition affecting more than 130,000 employees worldwide -- no one could say exactly how many because the company was changing so fast. And deadlines had to be met: a delay for even one product transfer could have cost the company $1 million a day. As the organizational ground beneath them continued shifting, she and her co-workers found themselves not only implementing the changes but threatened by them. “People ended up having to apply for their own jobs all over again,” she recalls. Finally after months of dealing with such extreme stress, Sinikka discovered her own job was being merged out. Rather than scrambling for another position, “I chose to look at new career paths,” she says.

“And that led me to Reiki. I had always wanted to do consulting and teaching,” she says. “I decided I was going to be completely open, without knowing where it would lead me, and then I found an ad for a Reiki 1 class. I just knew I had to go do it.”

She continued her studies and is now a Reiki master in two lineages. As her Reiki training and practice gave her new tools to deal with stress, Sinikka never forgot her former colleagues back in the corporate world. She was determined to bring what she’d learned back into that stressful environment to help them not only cope, but excel.

For most of her corporate career, Sinikka focused not on scrambling to keep up with change but developing high-performance teams and innovative ways of empowering workers. And before that, back in her native Finland, she earned a master’s in education specializing in the Suggestopedic method of learning, which uses music, relaxation and other methods. She combined those approaches with Reiki, meditation, office yoga and qigong into a way of helping workers shift their energy levels to a more positive place even if they don’t have time to take a break. She calls it High Performance from Within, and The Reiki Digest was on hand a couple of weeks ago when she demonstrated a key component at the New Jersey Organizational Development conference. Yours truly was supposed to be the demonstration model, relaxing while Sinikka guided me through her four-step process, but it didn’t work that way. When the meditation began, everyone in the room followed along, so they got a much better demonstration by experiencing the energy shift themselves. I could see the difference in their faces when they opened their eyes.

After the session ended, participants hurried to give Sinikka their business cards. “We need this YESTERDAY,” one of them told her. Now she finds herself dealing with a different kind of work stress, not as an employee but as an entrepreneur. “I am using all the tools I have,” she says. “I couldn't teach this effectively if I didn't practice it myself.”

She has also taught her four-step process to MBA students at New York University and Rutgers University, and will make presentations in Finland and Russia this summer.

As if that weren’t enough, she hopes to make Reiki available in the workplace and even teach workers Reiki “so that they can do it right there at their desks when they need to. So the whole idea is that the employee has all the tools within anytime, and doesn’t have to go anywhere, or change clothes to do yoga or qigong. They can do it right there. It’s also crucial to build this in to the workday and work culture, so that it becomes part of your normal day -- a tool they can use anytime, like Reiki is now a part of my life.”

In the corporate world, of course, it all comes down to the bottom line. With Reiki in the workplace, Sinikka says, employees can not only be more productive, but healthier overall, and that could impact soaring health-care costs. It's one thing to believe it, another to prove it, so Sinikka is now looking for companies to participate in a pilot program to measure the impact of Reiki and the other components of the High Performance from Within system on workers. For more information, visit her web site.

For most practitioners, however, Reiki is not a full-time job. For most, it's a personal rather than professional practice, and for those who do work with clients, Reiki is a part-time business on the side. Nicholas Sweeney of Phoenix Wisdom Healing in New York also has a day job at a law firm, and he found a way to bring Reiki into his workplace.

"As a Reiki Master, I'm devoted to finding more ways to integrate Reiki into my daily life," Nicholas says. "I spend much of my time at work. What better place to use Reiki than at work where there are so many challenges to staying balanced, connected, and stress free?

"With that in mind, as a part of a new wellness initiative at my place of business, I offered to do a 'Reiki Lunch N' Learn.' It is so important to me that my colleagues know what has helped to keep me sane and balanced at work," Nicholas says. "Many people are unaware of just how easily Reiki can be incorporated into the workday to help support their personal and work-oriented intentions and goals. I spoke to my human resources director about Reiki and wellness at work, and she immediately jumped on board with the idea to do a Reiki Lunch n' Learn. I created an outline that is simply a modified version of a healing circle that includes: a short Reiki history, talking about what Reiki is and how it works, my personal Reiki story, a brief meditation, a brief chair-session demonstration, a modified healing circle where everyone gets to experience the Reiki energy, and a discussion about how Reiki can be used at work.

"I have grown quite fond of taking a 15 to 30 minute 'Reiki break' during the day," Nicholas says. "I go into an unoccupied office and let Reiki smooth away any stress and re-set me, so to speak. This is one way of using Reiki at work. Another way is to place your Reiki hands on yourself while sitting at your desk. Feeling a little frustrated about a boss or co-worker? Falling asleep at your computer? Unable to focus on the task at hand? For a few minutes, place one hand over your solar plexus and one over your heart and allow the Reiki energy to flow. It has been my experience when I do this that my energy and attitude shifts, and I am more capable of doing what needs to be done, whether that means taking a break, going for a walk, communicating with that co-worker or boss, or grabbing my headphones and selecting the perfect music to help me get excited about finishing up that project that needs to be completed. Those are only a few of the ways to use Reiki at work. The possibilities are unlimited!"

As reported here a couple of weeks ago, a new study on the effects of meditation found that people who meditated, especially more experienced meditators, were less likely to experience "attention blink," in which people who are concentrating on one image are less likely to notice another that appears in quick succession. That could have a huge impact on multitaskers everywhere, at work and at home.

If you use Reiki at work, and especially if you share it with your co-workers, let us know what you're doing and how it's working. Post a comment on our web site, or send an e-mail to

That leads us to this week's Celeb-Reiki, or perhaps that should be Celeb-O'Reiki. His name is Bill Gates, and we have no idea if he's ever experienced Reiki himself or even knows what it is, but he has earned Celeb-Reiki status because in Ireland, Reiki is one of the job benefits for Microsoft employees. Mr. Gates, if Reiki for your workers on the Emerald Isle leads to more earnin' o' the green, why not offer it to your employees worldwide? And all you other CEOs out there: if it works for Microsoft, do you think it might work for you? (You, too, Apple! How about some iReiki?)

On to the Reiki Roundup, our first in three weeks since our Spring Revue of Reviews took up the past two editions of the Digest. Aside from the news about that meditation study, which didn't specifically involve Reiki, we didn't miss much other than the usual notices about Reiki classes in local newspapers worldwide and the now-standard articles expressing surprise that Reiki can be used not only for humans, but animals -- and even plants!

One of the most interesting articles in recent weeks barely mentions Reiki: the subject is an old folk-healing technique used by the Pennsylvania Dutch that bears a resemblance to Reiki.

Speaking of Reiki and work, a British TV channel reports that 19 percent of Britons have added part-time work to their full-time jobs, and some of them are moonlighting as Reiki practitioners.

In the San Francisco Bay area, Reiki was one of the services offered to homeless people at a recent expo, as well as haircuts, more conventional medical and social services, and a chance to use a computer and work on their resumes.

The Reiki Show podcasts from the International House of Reiki have resumed now that hosts Bronwen and Frans Stiene are back home in Australia after a monthlong U.S. tour. They've made up for lost time with two podcasts so far this month: Reiki and the Healing Power of Mantra and the Council of Australian Reiki Organizations. The Stienes have also resumed their weekly blog posts. This week they answer the frequently asked question, "Why do my hands get hot when I do Reiki?"

The Stienes will be back in the U.S. in October immediately following their European tour, offering a three-day Shinpiden (Master/Teacher level) workshop in New York October 19, 20, and 21, sponsored by The Reiki Digest.

Finally, we welcome our new reader in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Reiki Digest now reaches 47 of the world's 193 countries.

If you've read this far, you probably enjoy reading. So maybe you'd like to review books for The Reiki Digest? We've got some very interesting books waiting for reviewers, and The Reiki Digest staff (that's me) can't possibly read them all. There is no payment, but you do get to keep the book you review. If you're interested, e-mail with the words "Book Review" in the subject line.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Reiki Digest for May 16, 2007: Spring Revue of Reviews, Part 2

Dear Readers,

It's easy to introduce a friend to The Reiki Digest -- just click on the little envelope at the bottom of each post and you can e-mail it directly to anyone you choose.

It's also easier than ever for your friends to subscribe, or for you to manage your own subscription, now that our new improved subscription form is online.

We've made some slight adjustments to our new e-mail format, in response to the helpful suggestions you've made. Thanks!

Very best wishes,

Janet Dagley Dagley
The Reiki Digest

The Spring Revue of Reviews: Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of our Spring Revue of Reviews! We have so many books and other material to review that we just couldn't fit it all into one issue. If you missed Part 1, don't worry -- you can still read it on The Reiki Digest web site. Again, this is an eclectic assortment, not a comprehensive collection -- just a few of the books we've read in the past few months, along with reviews of some music you probably haven't heard.

The 9 Dimensions of the Soul
Essence and the Enneagram
David Hey
O Books (2006)

"Essence and the Enneagram" is a more popular book subtitle than you might think: It turns up in the 1994 book The Tao of Chaos: Essence and the Enneagram by Stephen Wolinsky, the 1997 book Human Types: Essence and the Enneagram by Susan Zannos, and now this one. But what is an enneagram? What does it have to do with essence? And what does any of that have to do with natural healing arts?

An enneagram is simply a nine-pointed geometrical figure, and in this context, we use that figure as a model to identify nine personality types. Although the concept of the enneagram goes back to ancient civilizations, it was brought to the West from the Sufi tradition of the East by Armenian mystic George Gurdjieff, then codified by two South American doctors, a psychotherapist and psychiatrist. Hey puts it this way: "The enneagram is a kind of cosmic mirror that reflects back to us, not only our personality, but all the different dimensions of our Being, our true nature."

And essence? The essence of anything is its true nature. So we look at a person's true nature through Hey's double-layered model of nine enneagram types and nine essence types, and we might see something about ourselves, our clients, or our loved ones that we didn't understand before. Any model can be used in that way. For example, the popular blog quiz "Which Sex and the City Vixen Are You?" Now imagine that the types in question are not contemporary television characters but based on mysterious ancient traditions. Strangely, there has been criticism of the enneagram from skeptics who claim it hasn't been scientifically proven, as well as some who consider it a threat to their religion. Presumably they've also spoken out against the "Sex and the City" types as well, not to mention the old saw, "There are two kinds of people in this world..."

Hey's focus in this book is more on essence than the enneagram, and as he takes you through the various types, you will probably recognize yourself and people you know, just as you might when looking through descriptions of astrological signs. While "What's your essence?" seems unlikely to become a pickup line like "What's your sign?", it is an interesting question, especially if you put it another way: "What's your true nature?"

The Healing Sourcebook
Discover your own path to better health and inner peace
By David Vennells
O Books (2006)

The cover is blue, the title includes the word "sourcebook," the author practices Reiki and the publisher is the same, but DO NOT confuse this with The Reiki Sourcebook. This book does devote one of its 13 chapters to Reiki, beginning with the disclaimer that "although we need to receive an authentic 'attunement' from a Reiki teacher in order to practice fully we can practice Reiki just using the level of life force energy that we possess now." Some hand-position diagrams follow, and then we're off to the next chapter. That's less than helpful! Why not just give the reader an attunement right there on the page, and include a suitable-for-framing certificate?

The other chapters on other subjects, and the book in general, seem to be an amalgamation of too little about too much, thrown together a bit too quickly, perhaps, as evidenced by at least one misspelled chapter title, and a title that is three words on the cover and four words on the inside pages. Was this intended to be an encyclopedia of natural healing modalities? A guide for the reader's personal journey to better health? Hard to say, but it doesn't succeed at either.

The Four Agreements
A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
Don Miguel Ruiz
Amber Allen Publishing (1997)

Why review a 1997 book in 2007? I've read it myself in the past year, and so have quite a few people I know. For me it was a class assignment. Others may have picked it up from Oprah, who lists it as one of her favorite books. Dr. Deepak Chopra likes it, too: he calls it "a roadmap to enlightenment and freedom." Like the five precepts of Reiki, Ruiz's four agreements provide a very clear, simple set of principles that can lead to a happier, healthier life. And even more important, they can help us break some of the thousands of unhealthy agreements we've made with life without even being conscious of them. It won't spoil the book for you if we list the four agreements here:

1. Be Impeccable with Your Word
2. Don't Take Anything Personally
3. Don't Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best

Like the Reiki Precepts, these agreements are something to strive toward, not kick yourself over if you can't adhere to them 100 percent at all times. Learning them, and thinking about all the other agreements and precepts we adopt in life, reminded me of one of the first sets of precepts I ever learned, guidelines I follow to this day:

"Look both ways before you cross the street, always say 'please' and 'thank you', and be good to your mother." -- Captain Kangaroo

The book's sub-subtitle is "A Toltec Wisdom Book," and the Toltec connection links Ruiz to Carlos Castaneda, as noted on the back cover of the edition I have. The superfluous use of "Don" as if it were a first name is also Castanedesque. But Ruiz is from a separate Toltec lineage, through his mother. Ruiz's work seems to have a different purpose than Castaneda's: this is a self-help book, not anthropology or fiction. It's been around for a decade, which says a lot, and Oprah's endorsement means it'll be with us for some time to come.

The Four Insights
Wisdom, Power, and Grace of the Earthkeepers
Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.
Hay House (2006)

Mending the Past and Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval
Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.
Hay House (2005)

Villoldo's four insights aren't as simple as Ruiz's four agreements: each insight comes with four practices to help you shift your perception -- or your "assemblage point," as Castaneda put it -- and improve your life. And yes, he learned them from a teacher he refers to with the honorific "don", like Castaneda's Don Juan and author Don Miguel Ruiz. (In this reviewer's opinion, the "don" references seem somewhat inappropriate, primarily because the native Spanish speakers I know tend to take offense at being referred to as "don" or "dona" because it's too formal.) The ancient wisdom that Villoldo shares comes not from Central America but South America, drawing on secret shamanic traditions said to go back tens of thousands of years. Villoldo's work, particularly the Soul Retrieval book, can be particularly helpful to Reiki practitioners working on past or future issues with clients (or ourselves). In order to heal, we need to understand the stories that control our lives and learn to rewrite them. Villoldo's books can help immensely with that vital process.

Villoldo uses the number four not only for a book title but for the name of his organization, The Four Winds Society, which offers training and expeditions. His "Healing the Light Body" training is on my to-do list, thanks to these books.

Music Reviews

The Reiki Digest now has a music editor, but we haven't put her to work quite yet. Meanwhile, if you've got music you feel would be appropriate for use in a Reiki session, please send us a review copy. That's what Robert Farrell of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, did. Farrell's music is modeled on the chakra system, an Ayurvedic concept that was grafted onto Reiki in the west after the death of Hawayo Takata. While traditional Reiki uses the concept of three energy centers, not the seven or twelve used in the chakra system, Farrell's music is still profoundly effective. My experience in listening to it began with a brief mental note -- "Hmmm, this is done on a synthesizer" -- after which I was immediately transported in much the same way as in a Reiki session. I'd love to hear Farrell's work performed by an orchestra, or even on a more complex synthesizer, but even in this simple form, it works. You can hear some samples, and order a CD or two, at Farrell's web site.

We remain in Pennsylvania for our other music review, "Floating" by Sweet Nancy Groff of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Sweet Nancy teaches us the power of trusting our intuition every time she sits down at the piano. She doesn't use precomposed music; she just sits down and plays. Sometimes she sets a specific intention, as she did for "Floating," which was intended to be used on hot-air balloon rides. It works well for Reiki sessions, also.

That's it for the Spring Revue of Reviews, but not the end of our reviews. Between now and our Year-End Revue of Reviews, we hope to include a review or two with most issues. For that to happen, we need more review copies from publishers, and more reviewers. If you're interested in reviewing a book for The Reiki Digest, contact us at There is no payment, but you do get to keep the book you review.

Next week, we'll be back with all our regular features, including the Reiki Roundup and our Celeb-Reiki feature. If you can't wait till then, here's a hint about our next Celeb-Reiki: This world-famous entrepreneur never finished college, and his charitable foundation includes the words "and Melinda" in its name.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Reiki Digest for May 9, 2007: Spring Revue of Reviews -- Part 1

Spring has sprung here at The Reiki Digest world headquarters, and that means it's time for a special issue: our Spring Revue of Reviews. Whether you're reading this on the web site or by e-mail, you might notice that we've done some seasonal redecorating, and we hope you like the new look. Please tell us what you think by sending an e-mail to

Our spring collection of reviews is eclectic, not comprehensive. These are just some of the books and other products we've had a chance to look at since last December's Year-end Revue of Reviews. Some are specifically about Reiki; others aren't. We have so many reviews, in fact, that in order to leave you some time to read something besides this week's Digest, we're breaking the Spring Revue into two parts.

We begin with a review of the Reiki book of the year (so far): Your Reiki Treatment by Bronwen and Frans Stiene. Since our original review was published here last December, months before the book came out, we're reprinting it here:

Your Reiki Treatment
Bronwen and Frans Stiene
O Books (2007)
reviewed by Janet Dagley Dagley

Once again, prolific authors and Reiki Master Teachers Bronwen and Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki have outdone their previous outstanding efforts. This time it's Your Reiki Treatment, their first book about Reiki aimed at clients rather than practitioners. In fact, it's the first book written specifically for Reiki recipients.

With the reverberations of their groundbreaking first book, The Reiki Sourcebook (2003), still rippling through the Reiki world, the Stienes went on to write The Japanese Art of Reiki (2005), a practical, illustrated guide focused on the roots of Reiki as well as its foundation: self care. In 2006 they followed up with two publications: the A-Z of Reiki, a handy guide to all things Reiki in a book the size of a deck of cards, and an actual deck of cards, the lovely and very useful Reiki Techniques Card Deck (which includes an illustrated booklet as well.)

In Your Reiki Treatment, Bronwen and Frans have topped all that off with a thoughtful, graceful distillation, blending their impeccable and extensive research with insights and anecdotes drawn from their years of experience as Reiki practitioners and teachers.

Your Reiki Treatment rightly envisions the reader as a potential Reiki client who isn't so interested in the name of the founder or the practitioner's lineage or how many branches of Reiki there may be. Potential clients, i.e., everybody on the planet who hasn't already received a Reiki treatment, just want to know what Reiki is and what it might do for them -- or to them. If you're one of those potential Reiki clients, this book will satisfy your curiosity, though not as well as an actual Reiki treatment, of course!

I plan to keep a copy or two in my office to lend to potential Reiki clients, and I can envision a lot of other practitioners doing the same. If you know someone who's curious about Reiki, show them this book and you may end up with a new client.

Study with the International House of Reiki in New York: After the success of last month's sold-out Shinpiden (Master/Teacher level) class in New York, sponsored by The Reiki Digest, Frans Stiene has agreed to come back to the Big Apple October 19, 20, and 21 for another three-day Shinpiden class PLUS a special one-day advanced workshop October 22 open to all Shinpiden graduates. Click here for more information.


The Joy of Living
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
Harmony Books (2007)
reviewed by Janet Dagley Dagley

If you meditate, you need to read this book. If you're curious about meditation, you need to read this book. If you'd like to meditate but just can't seem to get around to it, or if you've tried to meditate but it didn't seem to work for you, you really need to read this book. And if you DON'T meditate, then you're not really a Reiki practitioner, no matter what it may say on your certificate(s).

Perhaps you've heard of the groundbreaking experiments carried out some years ago by the University of Wisconsin, in cooperation with the Dalai Lama, in which researchers measured the brain waves of meditating monks. Yongey Mingyur was one of those monks, and since that experience as a test subject, he has continued to focus on the intersection of spirituality and science. In case you aren't familiar with those experiments, the University of Wisconsin's Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior hooked up Yongey Mingyur and other monks, as well as test subjects with little or no experience with meditation, to advanced electroencephalographs (EEGs) and a special kind of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) that measured brain changes moment-by-moment. At first the monks' EEG readings were so far off the scale that the researchers had to double-check their equipment to make sure it wasn't malfunctioning. It wasn't. During a meditation on compassion, for example, the monks' neural activity in a key center in the brain's system for happiness rose 700 to 800 percent (that is not a typo: seven HUNDRED to eight HUNDRED percent!) Even the inexperienced meditators' brains registered a 10 to 15 percent increase in the same brain area. So when Yongey Mingyur writes about "joy" -- he's proven scientifically that he knows what he's talking about.

Like any of us, however, monk or not, Yongey Mingyur has also experienced some feelings that no one would call "joy." From early childhood he experienced severe panic attacks, and although he tried to use meditation to counter them, his anxieties grew into full-blown panic disorder. (Yes, those things can happen to anybody, even those meditating in caves, even those who have been identified from childhood as the reincarnations of legendary Tibetan Buddhist masters, even those who are the children of legendary Tibetan Buddhist masters.)

While Yongey Mingyur acknowledges his own problems in this book, he doesn't dwell on them, focusing instead on how he learned to deal with them, and how the rest of us can do the same.

By the way, the same lab that did the study involving Yongey Mingyur made headlines again this week with a new meditation study published May 8. This time, the University of Wisconsin, in conjunction with researchers from the University of Arizona and Leiden University in The Netherlands, tested both experienced meditators and novices and found that meditation helped prevent "attentional blink" syndrome, in which a person notices the first target item presented but doesn't notice a second "target" presented immediately afterward in a rapid stream of information. The more experience test subjects had in meditating, the less likely they were to miss the second target item. Those latest findings serve as yet another endorsement of The Joy of Living, not to mention meditation training for anybody who doesn't want to miss key information.


The Universe in a Single Atom
His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso)
Morgan Road Books (2005)
reviewed by Janet Dagley Dagley

So far, I haven't found any books by the Dalai Lama that I wouldn't recommend, but this one resonated even more deeply for me because it addresses one of my favorite subjects: as the subtitle puts it, "The convergence of science and spirituality." Looking at that intriguing intersection from the Dalai Lama's point of view is even more fascinating, especially since he writes in such a personal, accessible way. Having been enthroned at age six as the 14th Dalai Lama, he received the best education Tibet had to offer in "reading, writing, basic Buddhist philosophy, and the memorization of scriptures and rituals," he writes, but he learned nothing of math and science. "I did not even know they existed." Yet he was fascinated by things technological: he taught himself to repair the previous Dalai Lama's old wristwatch and went on to repair watches as a hobby. And one night when he sneaked out to drive one of the three automobiles in all of Tibet and crashed it, he put everything back together so well that no one seemed to notice. When he was first exposed to science as a teenager on his first journeys outside Tibet as head of state, he applied that same curiosity and resourcefulness. Being the Dalai Lama, he had an all-star cast of teachers, including other heads of state, famed philosophers, physicists, and many other experts. In this book he distills all that, and the conclusions he has drawn from his singular education, to show us how science and spirituality, along with everything else in the universe, fit together perfectly. That duality, too, turns out to be just an illusion.

Also by the Dalai Lama, also recommended: How to See Yourself as You Really Are (Atria Books, 2006)

Tarot for the Curious Spirit: Awakening the High Priestess Within
O Books (2007)
reviewed by Nicholas Sweeney

Barbara Venn-Lever has written a wonderful Tarot book for the beginning student of the Tarot. In the preface to the book, she writes:

“In a grounded, yet spiritually exciting process you will learn the rudiments of the tarot. There will be helpful charts and drawings, layouts and spreads along with food for your Soul. This book is a process, which once begun, will assist you on your personal pathway and will assist the questing and growing self to open to the mysteries of Universal Truth.”

The rest of the book lives up to this introduction. The author’s style was professional, practical, grounded, and simple, yet at the same time, she communicates the depth and magic inherent in the Tarot.

As with most books on the Tarot, this book includes a brief history of the Tarot’s obscure origins, a discussion of the overall structure of the Tarot deck, interpretations of the Minor Arcana, Major Arcana, and court cards, a section describing a few simple spreads to begin working with, and some professional tips to get you started giving Tarot readings for others. No Tarot book would be complete without this basic information, and the information here is quite functional and easy for the beginner to follow.

What gives this book its unique flavor, however, is the addition of a series of end-caps for each chapter that the author calls “Wordplay.” After each chapter, the author lists a few words from the chapter, along with some of her own personal definitions and associations. This word play is meant to inspire the reader to connect to the meaning behind the words in new and creative ways. I felt it was a great tool that helped me to open my mind to a place of new ideas and possibilities while working with the tarot. That is the author’s intention. In fact, throughout this book, I was surprised by new yet simple ways of thinking about the cards. The beginning Tarot student as well the more experienced Tarot enthusiast will find this aspect of the book to be very rewarding.

I had been considering which Tarot book I would use to begin teaching a beginner’s Tarot class, and I have found it. It can be difficult to find books on the Tarot that are good at guiding the beginner into the more intuitive and spiritual nature of the Tarot while keeping his or her feet on the ground. Barbara Venn-Lever does a beautiful job of blending the practical and the profound. I highly recommend this book for those who are beginning to use the Tarot as a guide as they journey into the mysteries of the soul. I leave you with another quote from the author:

“…There will come a time when our Spirit calls and we become inquisitive and eager to know about our life purpose, the Universe and the mysteries which fill it. We become spiritually curious. It is then that the archetypal High priestess within steps to the fore and bids us to welcome her qualities…”


Stay tuned for Part 2 next week. We'll save the Reiki Roundup and other regular features until later as well. Meanwhile, The Reiki Digest Special Correspondent Michelle Shinagawa has posted another chapter in the story of her trip to Japan. If you're one of the many who dream of someday visiting Mt. Kurama, or just wonder what it might be like, you'll want to read her post.

NEW! The New York Reiki Dojo opens next week! Drop in for our new weekly practice sessions, open to all! Tuesday, May 15 and May 22 from 7 to 8 p.m., and then every Tuesday beginning in June. Enjoy a relaxing meditation, meet other Reiki aficionados, and experience the "energetic blessing" of traditional reiju, and more. Chelsea Studios, 151 W. 26th St., New York, New York. Sponsored by The Reiki Digest and the International House of Reiki and hosted by graduates of the International House of Reiki Shinpiden class. For more information, e-mail with the word "DOJO" in the subject line. $10 donation requested to cover space rental.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Reiki Digest for May 2, 2007: Echo chamber

POP QUIZ: What is this? Where is this? And what (if anything) does it have to do with Reiki?

Click on the photo or see below to find out

Echo chamber

Hel-lo-lo-lo-lo! Today we explore the echo-echo-echo chamber-chamber-chamber effect in cyber-cyber-cyber-space-space-space. Rumors about regulatory threats to Reiki and other natural modalities have been bouncing around the Internet in recent weeks, particularly here in the United States. The proposed Food and Drug Administration document in question was never a threat to Reiki, as was clear to anyone who actually read the document. The Reiki Digest received more than 60 e-mails in April containing some version of the false report that a new FDA document would reclassify all or most natural healing modalities and thus prohibit their use, so two weeks ago, I followed the links in those e-mails all the way to the document itself, posted on the FDA web site. And then I took the time to read the document. I found nothing in there that seemed to be forbidding anything, and I said so here. I posted a link to it and asked you to read it and see for yourself. I don't know how many people forwarded my brief debunking of the rumor, or the link to the actual document, but none came back to me. Meanwhile, the e-mails with the false warnings kept coming in.

And then, with just hours to go before the deadline for public comment on the proposed document, I finally got a message from, well, a Celeb-Reiki -- William Lee Rand, editor and publisher of The Reiki News, a print quarterly primarily about Rand's well-known Reiki programs, with the subject line, "Information on FDA Ruling Not Factual." The message debunked the rumor and included a link to the document. The Reiki Digest commends Mr. Rand doubly, once for not having propagated the rumor himself, and again for spreading the word that it was false. I'm still receiving a wave of forwards of that message, but I expect that will subside soon.

When in doubt, go to the source, or as close to the source as you can get.

Speaking of going to the source, our Special Correspondent Michelle Shinagawa has now rested up from her journey to Japan and begun posting reports with photos, including the mystery photo at the beginning of this week's Digest.

Here's another of Michelle's photos:

To see more, and read all about it, visit Michelle's blog.

Time now for our regular Reiki Roundup, and this week we've got quite a haul. We begin, inexplicably, on Wall Street, where features an article headlined "Reiki's Healing Touch" under the category "Personal Finance." Writer Danielle Sonnenberg never explains what Reiki might have to do with investments, not even to point out that it can be a good investment in yourself.

Instead, she includes a lot of details that don't usually show up in articles about Reiki, including the "names" of two Reiki symbols. Unlike stock ticker symbols, Reiki symbols and the sounds generally associated with them are generally not discussed publicly (though they can easily be found on the Internet). We wonder why the Reiki practitioner(s) interviewed for the article mentioned the symbols, or whether the reporter found that information online and out-of-context.

Sonnenberg writes that "Most believe Mikao Usui, a Japanese physician and monk, started the practice in the mid-19th century after a period of isolated meditation." Most of WHOM believe that? Usui, who was not a doctor, was born in the mid-19th century, and developed Reiki not at birth but in the early 20th century. I've never met anyone who believed Usui developed Reiki as a child!

The article includes at least one other surprise:

"Most reiki does not involve actual touching, though The hands are held at a distance, usually a few inches or more" -- as a Reiki Master in both Western and Japanese lineages, I find that quite surprising.

On to the west coast of the United States, where the Seattle Post-Intelligencer features an article that uses the "some say...others say" approach rather than "most believe..." The article is headlined, "UW study examines possibe benefits of Reiki" and subtitled, "Some swear by the Japanese treatment, others say it is simply quackery." Who says it's quackery? The proprietor of the controversial web site, who also considers such time-tested modalities as acupuncture and massage therapy to be quackery. And then there are those who charge that is quackery. That's the problem with the "some say...others say" cliche in journalism: there are rarely only two sides to a story. The P-I article also includes several commonly repeated errors about Reiki: for the record, it is not an "ancient practice," nor did it "emerge" in the 1800s. The article also states that Reiki "follows a set pattern of about a dozen hand positions" -- some practitioners may do it that way, and the study may require it, but most practitioners don't just follow a set pattern.

For our third and final feature on Reiki, we travel back to the east coast to the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey for an article headlined "More than Medicine." The best part of the article is a quote from oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Silberberg: "Nobody uses these treatments in lieu of standard medical practices," he says, "but as long as they make patients feel good, feel positive and do no harm, then it becomes a way to improve the quality of life for patients."

Bingo, Dr. Silberberg!

The problem with all these erroneous claims about Reiki -- or anything -- is that the more of them there are out there in the echo chamber of cyberspace, the more credible they seem to the uninformed because so many people are repeating the same claims, regardless of whether those claims are true.