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Thursday, July 26, 2007

O! Another Oprah-Reiki connection

As many of you will recall, back in February Reiki got a brief mention on the influential Oprah Winfrey Show. In a program on alternative medicine in which Oprah had acupuncture in front of a live audience, celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz mentioned Reiki in passing when making his case that "the next big frontier is energy medicine." We were thrilled to report that news here and excited about what a mention on Oprah might mean for this natural healing practice. Alas, as far as we can tell, there's been no further mention of Reiki on Oprah, and no "everybody gets a Reiki session" shows as we had hoped.

This week, however, we discovered another Oprah-Reiki connection. Her name is Lisa L. Oz, she's the wife of Dr. Oz, and guess what? She's a Reiki Master. No wonder Dr. Oz knows about Reiki! Now if Oprah would just invite Mrs. Oz to appear on her program....

Like her husband, Mrs. Oz is a best-selling author, because she has co-written some of the "You: The Owner's Manual" series of books. She and Dr. Oz, along with co-founder Dr. Michael F. Roizen and personal trainer Joel Harper, are traveling the United States on their "It's all about YOU!" tour, answering questions and offering handy health hints in an all-day workshop. The tour comes to New York on August 5, and The Reiki Digest will be there (in the audience) for Mrs. Oz's presentation on "Energy, Spirit, and Making Sense of Life."

For now, we hereby name Mrs. Oz this week's Celeb-Reiki, and we thank the DC Express newspaper for publishing an interview with her.

On to the Reiki Roundup. This week we begin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the Post-Gazette features an item about a retreat center founded and operated by two Franciscan nuns, one of whom is a Reiki master.

On the other side of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Inquirer is the latest newspaper to report on Reiki for animals.

You'll need a tissue or handkerchief for our next stop, Seattle, Washington. A tear may come to your eye when you read about Tom Ingram, a massage therapist, Reiki practitioner and cancer patient who just had his last radiation treatment and is forgoing further chemotherapy so that he can make one more trip to Moldova, where he and his wife do volunteer work for children Ingram isn't using Reiki as a substitute for medical care. He seems to be trying to live life as well as he can while he's alive. The Ingrams were originally scheduled to go to Moldova in September, but his doctor advised him to go sooner because "she isn't sure he will make it until then," according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article.

On to Kuwait, where the Kuwait Times features an article headlined "Reiki: The infinite flow," in which we meet a pharmacist and Reiki master who says, "I don't believe that medicine and Reiki can be separated."

That leads us to this week's podcast of The Reiki Show, UK Reiki Practitioner Claudia Bonney talks with hosts Bronwen and Frans Stiene about "Demystifying Reiki in the Mainstream Health System."

In Missoula, Montana, we find a Reiki practitioner who tells a reporter about, among other things, her "Reiki baby."

And in Ocala, Florida, yet another reporter bravely climbs onto the table to receive a Reiki session and write about it.

The Prevention magazine article we told you about last week that mentions Reiki is now available free online, so you can read "The Best Zen for Your Personality" without buying the magazine.

There are still spaces available in the October Shinpiden (Master/Teacher level) workshop in New York City with Frans Stiene, co-host of The Reiki Show and co-author of The Reiki Sourcebook, The Japanese Art of Reiki, The A-Z of Reiki, the Reiki Techniques Card Deck and Your Reiki Treatment. The workshop is sponsored by The Reiki Digest, so if you're interested in reserving one of the remaining spots, e-mail or go here for more information.

Rest in peace

Reiki Master Kathleen E. Passarelli, 46, Cumberland, Rhode Island

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More secrets in plain sight

More evidence that symbols some insist must be kept secret show up in some very public places. Only some Reiki practitioners will find these of interest. Any reader is welcome to look, of course, but they might not mean much to you -- and that's exactly the point:

From the 1993 Jet Li film "The Legend":

From the 1955 film "The Left Hand of God" -- Humphrey Bogart, Gene Tierney and something else that may be of interest.

From the streets of New York's Chinatown:

And now let's move on to some items that (we hope) will be of interest to all our readers. It's been a couple of weeks since our last Reiki Roundup, so let's get going. Our first stop is beyond cyberspace to the print edition of : Prevention magazine, which includes Reiki in an article in the August issue titled, "The Best Zen For Your Personality." The section about Reiki is fairly accurate, as those things go, but I don't know that all Reiki practitioners "believe that they can channel energy through their hands and transmit it to the patient." Actually, neither practitioner nor recipient has to believe in anything for Reiki to do what it does. The article also points out that studies have found Reiki to reduce anxiety and blood pressure.

Our next stop is the Los Angeles Times, where we find this week's Celeb-Reiki's: The Heaters, together and in the spotlight again after 27 years. The Heaters' keyboard player and vocalist Maggie Connell is also a Reiki Master as well as The Reiki Digest's Music Editor. Congratulations, Maggie!

In Lewiston, Maine, hospital patients can receive Reiki.

On to Payson, Arizona, USA, where we find a gardener-massage therapist-Reiki practitioner who is quoted as saying, "I am a level II Reiki master."

Meanwhile, in suburban Orlando, Florida, we find another massage therapist who also practices Reiki.

Next, we head over the border to Wilmot, Nova Scotia, Canada, where we find a mother-and-daughter combination rock shop and Reiki practice.

This next article is datelined Hamburg, Germany, but it's in a publication called Indian Muslims. It's headlined, "Many sceptical of healing hands treatment practiced in Europe," and it features a popular straw man in arguments against Reiki:

"This is the key problem with Reiki: Practitioners give the impression that they can heal their patients...," the article quotes the head of the German wellness association as saying. (To which The Reiki Digest replies, if that's the key problem, then there's no problem because ethical Reiki practitioners do not make such claims.) Toward the end of the article, an actual Reiki practitioner, Wolfgang Niedermeyer, finally gets a quote in: ' "When you want to relax, Reiki is among the most widely spread practices," he said. Laying hands on someone could provide comfort or have a relieving effect. But he added, "One should not expect anything else from Reiki." '

It's fairly common for a Reiki client to fall asleep on the table, but in Edenvale, South Africa, we find one still sleeping 40 minutes after her session.

Special Correspondent Michelle Shinagawa has posted some of her Mt. Kurama prayer images on her Reiki Photography blog this week and promises us a Reiki Photography Store soon.

This week's edition of The Reiki Show features "The Haijin Reiki Doctor," Dr. Val Finnell, interviewed by hosts Bronwen and Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki. And speaking of the International House of Reiki, check out the new banner ad there on the left for their international Shinpiden (Master/Teacher level) courses, including the upcoming one in New York in October.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Whomp! Thwack! Zing! What kung fu masters and samurai swordsmen can teach us about Reiki

As I write this, there is a fight going on across the room. Don't worry -- there is frequently a fight going on there these days, on the television, now that our cable company has given us a 24-hour high-definition "Asian action" channel.

"Oof! Crack! Yeeeaaaaaa....! Hah!"

All day, every day, and all night, every night, the conflict continues unabated (and uninterrupted by commercials). Long after he struck down such formidable opponents as Chuck Norris and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the legendary Bruce Lee fights on, decades after his untimely death, and so do his imitators, Bruce Le and Bruce Li. The great Shintaro Katsu, also no longer with us, still swings his sword as one of Japan's greatest fictional heroes, Zatoichi, the blind swordsman. Contemporary star Jet Li still flies around courtyards kicking down beams and rescuing innocent maidens, some of whom join in the fighting as well and even save the heroes on occasion. And Jackie Chan combines his kung fu with comic relief -- he and Jet Li are currently making a movie together but it will probably take awhile to show up on TV.

So what does any of that have to do with Reiki?

When people ask me "What is Reiki?" my answer isn't always the same. I try to figure out why the person is asking, and what they might already know about the energy known as ki (qi, chi). So here are some of my answers:

What is Reiki? It's a Japanese system of hands-on healing that reduces stress and can help with many problems. It's used in lots of ways and places, and is being practiced more and more often in hospitals.

What is Reiki? It's a form of energy. The "ki" is Japanese for "universal life force energy," also known as qi or chi in Chinese, as in qigong or tai chi. The "Rei" has been interpreted many ways, but "spiritual" is one of the most common. So Reiki is "spiritual energy" or "spiritually guided universal life force energy."

What is Reiki? It's a personal spiritual practice based on the teachings of Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist lay monk who died in 1926.

What is Reiki? I seem to spend more time and energy explaining what Reiki is not than what it is. Reiki is not massage, not fortune telling, not psychic reading, not a religious practice, not medicine, not from ancient Tibet or sunken continents or little green men.

What is Reiki? For me, it's not only a daily practice, it's a continuous practice.

What is Reiki? With me, it's $80 an hour.

And if all of that fails, I use this answer:

What is Reiki? Have you ever heard of karate? Aikido? Ju-jitsu? Judo? Kung fu? (Most everyone has.) Well, in Reiki we work with that same energy, only we don't use it for fighting. We use it for healing and for a happier, better-balanced life.

And that usually settles it, thanks to those fast-punching high-kicking martial arts stars.

Unfortunately, Reiki isn't the kind of art that makes exciting action movies. Can you imagine sitting through two hours of people gently placing their hands on or near either themselves or their clients, speaking very little, moving around in a quiet, meditative state? The point where the recipient rolls over would likely be the most "action" in the whole film, unless perhaps the practitioner sneezes.

It is helpful to remember that Reiki is a contemporary of such martial arts as judo, aikido, and modern karate. The founder of judo, Jigoro Kano, was even said to have been an aquaintance of Mikao Usui, according to The Reiki Sourcebook. And while karate predates Reiki, its modern form came to Japan -- and then to the rest of the world -- from Okinawa in 1921, just a year before Usui developed Reiki. Coincidentally, there's a reference to the meaning of "rei" on the Wikipedia page for karate:

"Words that I have often heard are that "everything begins with rei and ends with rei." The word itself, however, can be interpreted in several ways; it is the rei of reigi, meaning "etiquette, courtesy, politeness," and it is also the rei of keirei, "salutation" or "bow." The meaning of rei is sometimes explained in terms of kata or katachi ("formal exercises" and "form" or "shape" ). It is of prime importance not only in karate but in all martial arts. For our purposes here, let us understand rei as the ceremonial bow in which courtesy and decorum are manifest. He who would follow the way of karate must be courteous, not only in training but in daily life. While humble and gentle, he should never be servile. His performance of the kata should reflect boldness and confidence. This seemingly paradoxical combination of boldness and gentleness leads ultimately to harmony. It is true, as Master Funakoshi used to say, that the spirit of karate would be lost without courtesy."

That quote gives us yet another definition of the "rei" in Reiki. So maybe we could say that Reiki is "courteous, humble, gentle, bold, confident universal life force energy."

Martial arts, or "Asian action" movies are, as Jet Li says in one of his best films, "all about the energy." They show us the cultural context from which Reiki emerged, a culture in which nobody has to explain what ki (or qi, or chi) is. Maybe ordinary people can't jam a sword into the ground and send a bolt of universal life force energy rushing toward their opponent, lifting the earth above it like a lightning-fast mole (as in a great Korean film I saw the other day). But when they see it onscreen, they get it.

No special effects are needed for some other great exhibitions of the use of ki: with every move, Bruce Lee demonstrates how to direct his own energy while redirecting his opponents'. You might have to use slow-motion replays to see Zatoichi's use of ki, as he frequently wipes out entire gangs of attackers in the blink of an eye. The kung fu channel gives me constant reminders of the power of universal life force energy, and the importance of practice, practice, practice to be able to use it well, for whatever purpose.

Even the worst kung fu movies have important lessons for us. The cheaper the production, it seems, the more likely it is that the stars might speak when their lips aren't even moving, and sometimes move their lips when they're just listening. From that we learn that some things happen asynchronously. We also learn that when one thing is out of synch, it throws everything else off.

We also learn that emotions such as anger and fear throw us out of synch: kung fu fighters and samurai are much better at fending off their opponents if they don't allow anger and worry to take over. Does that sound familiar? It helps them to concentrate on the moment at hand, and to be humble, honest in their work, and kind to themselves and others (they're even kind to their opponents sometimes).

Mikao Usui himself was born into a Samurai family in 1865, and was already studying ki ko -- the Japanese version of qigong -- by 1871, when the 267-year Shogun era ended and the emperor ordered the samurai to cut off their topknots and put away their swords. That dramatic change was depicted in the film "The Last Samurai," which so far hasn't turned up on the "Asian action" channel. Who knows what kind of a life Usui would have had if he could have grown up to be a samurai like his ancestors.

Special Correspondent Michelle Shinagawa
tells us more about the cultural context from which Reiki emerged in the latest post on her trip to Reiki birthplace Mt. Kurama in Japan, titled, "The Land of 8,000,000 Deities."

I began working with qi -- peacefully -- more than 20 years ago, long before I discovered Reiki. Today I not only practice, but teach qigong. If you're in the New York City area and you like getting up early in the morning, I've got just the class for you.

This week's podcast of The Reiki Show features Deborah Harrigan, a Washington, D.C.-based Reiki teacher, medium, intuitive consultant and more on the subject of Mediumship and Reiki.

There are still spaces available in the October Shinpiden (Master/Teacher level) workshop in New York with Reiki Show co-host Frans Stiene, sponsored by The Reiki Digest.

Reiki hasn't been mentioned much in the news this week, so we'll save the Reiki Roundup for next week.

And this week's Celeb-Reiki's? The aforementioned "Asian action" stars, of course. And now, back to the action...

Whop! Swoosh! Aieeeee! Crash! Cue the flute, because we've come to...

-- The End --

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Reiki and reincarnation

The Reiki Digest is celebrating its first birthday this week: as of July 1, we've published a full year of weekly issues. And we just got an influx of new readers, thanks to The Reiki Show podcast from the International House of Reiki, which this week is about The Reiki Digest. Whether you've been with us from the beginning or are just joining us, whether you're a full-time professional Reiki practitioner, a dedicated amateur, or simply curious, we thank you for your kind attention and hope you find this publication of value.

We've never really tried to be controversial -- haven't tried not to be, either -- so it was a bit of a surprise to see this description from Bronwen and Frans Stiene, hosts of The Reiki Show: "She tackles subjects that most Reiki resources dare not touch."

This week, however, we tackle a controversial subject that does get touched quite a bit in other Reiki resources: the concept of reincarnation. So what does the notion of past lives have to do with Reiki? As far as we know, Reiki founder Mikao Usui did not include it in his system. Yet even in a recent issue of the only Reiki magazine on the shelves at mainstream bookstores in the United States, in an article on another subject, one well-known writer makes a point of telling readers that he is the reincarnation of "the enlightened high priest of Sayayi, the Great Goddess venerated and loved so much by the people of Lemuria." Then there are all the newspaper articles I've read in the past year in which the reporter assumes that Reiki and reincarnation are connected because the practitioner they interviewed is a believer in both.

I've got nothing against the concept of reincarnation. I've always liked the idea myself. I'm not necessarily a believer, or a nonbeliever, but I do find it an interesting notion, a spiritual parallel to Einstein's E=mc2 equation, which tells us that matter and energy are just different forms of the same thing. If the makings of the universe are sometimes matter, sometimes energy, then couldn't its inhabitants also sometimes have form and sometimes not? In any case, there's no way we can know for sure, so belief in reincarnation comes down to just that: belief. And that's where linking it to Reiki becomes problematic, because as we've said many, many times here, Reiki is not a religion: neither practitioner nor recipient need believe anything in order for it to work. And Reiki is practiced all over the world by people of all faiths, or no faith. Connecting Reiki to any particular religious belief system is generally not helpful to the overall public image of this valuable practice. Many Reiki practitioners are Christian, for example, but when Reiki is presented as a Christian practice, it only excludes people of other faiths.

A 2003 Harris poll found that 27 percent of Americans believe in reincarnation, and young adults (40 percent) were much more likely than senior citizens (14 percent) to do so. A 1998 study found that 35 percent of people in the United Kingdom believe in reincarnation. In many other cultures, the concept of reincarnation is so deeply rooted and pervasive that such a poll would be laughable. Belief in reincarnation even predates Buddhism in Japan, Reiki's birthplace. And the 14th Dalai Lama, leader-in-exile of Tibet, is called the 14th because he is considered the 14th incarnation.

Anecdotally, I had a high-school classmate who was convinced he was the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln because his birthday was the same as Lincoln's. But that didn't seem to help him much on history exams.

That's where I believe it's important to maintain a clear separation between the system of Reiki and the notion of reincarnation or other religious beliefs. If it doesn't help, then why bring it up? Let's say, just for the sake of discussion, that you fervently believe you were once Cleopatra. Fine. But whether you were, or whether you weren't, you're not Cleopatra now, are you? So why mention it at all? Most of the time, it isn't helpful to go around telling people you used to be Cleopatra, and it can definitely have a downside. People might take you less seriously, especially if you bring it up in the wrong context. Let's say you are a surgeon about to perform a delicate operation, and you're talking to your patient beforehand. If you must talk about your past, it would probably be more helpful to talk about your training and experience in this lifetime, especially with the operation in question, rather than saying, "By the way, I used to be Cleopatra." Now let's say you're not a surgeon, but a Reiki practitioner, working with a client who has come to you for help. Do you think it would give the client more or less confidence in Reiki, and in you, to announce your Cleopatra connection at the beginning of a session?

OK, now let's imagine that it is not you but your client who believes she was once Cleopatra. If your client brings it up, if that's her/his cultural context, then there is nothing to be gained by declaring there's no such thing as reincarnation (if that's your belief). If your client doesn't bring it up, but seems to have, say, a fondness for Roman conquerors, an irrational fear of small snakes and a tendency to wear a lot of eye makeup, it also seems less than helpful for you to conclude, "You must have been Cleopatra in a previous life!" After all, Reiki practitioners do not diagnose, nor should we jump to conclusions or interject our personal beliefs into our work.

It may seem like a contradiction to segue from what you've read so far to what follows, but so be it. If it doesn't help (or have anything to do with the subject at hand), then don't bring it up. But sometimes it can be helpful to consider the possibility of reincarnation -- whether or not you actually believe it -- and there is no better example of that than the book Courageous Souls: Do We Plan Our Life Challenges Before Birth? by Robert Schwartz, published earlier this year by Whispering Winds Press (click here to download a chapter free). Reading this book didn't make me any more or less likely to believe in reincarnation, but it did make me a happier, calmer, less frustrated person overall, as does my Reiki practice. You don't have to believe in reincarnation at all to benefit from just considering the possibility that many of the challenges we face in this life may well be tasks we assigned ourselves.

Most books about reincarnation focus on past lives, but this one is different. Here the focus is on what Schwartz calls "pre-birth planning." Schwartz delves into the stories of people dealing with some of the most difficult situations imaginable, working with several mediums who tell astonishing but plausible stories about how they set themselves up for just such challenges in order to learn and grow during their lives.

Even if you dismiss the notion of reincarnation, it's still possible, even probable that even within this lifetime, many of our problems are actually obstacle courses we set up for ourselves, whether consciously or not. And even if you dismiss the idea that we set ourselves up for some of our own difficulties, simply looking at our problems as learning opportunities, as chances to grow, can help us see our whole lives in a different light.

This week's Celeb-Reiki is, ahem, yours truly.

Our Reiki Roundup turns up fewer stories than usual, perhaps because of the 4th of July holiday here in the US that for many meant a day or week off.

In Ohio, Cox News Service columnist Elizabeth Schuett whimsically suggests that Reiki should be a constitutional right.

The York Press (UK) introduces us to "a former Reiki healer" who now works with an image consultant to give clients "a complete mind and body makeover."

There are still spaces available in the October Shinpiden (Master/Teacher level) course with Frans Stiene in New York City, sponsored by The Reiki Digest. For more information, contact:

Rest in Peace

Sinie Klomp, Reiki Master/Teacher, The Netherlands.