Saturday, 3 December 2016

Exchanging Gifts

Have you been busy shopping for gifts?  When I visited my mother recently  her hallway was full of cardboard boxes from all her online Christmas shopping!  I know it will give her pleasure to give all these gifts. Recently she told me how much she had enjoyed the time when I got to the age when instead of looking forward to what I would get for Christmas I began to be more excited about giving presents. I still love to give, but I realise have more difficulty with receiving.  Reiki has taught me that this is an imbalance and for there to be healthy flow there needs to be giving and receiving.  Have you also been taught that it's more honourable to give than to receive?

I learned Reiki because I wanted to give to others the same wonderful experience as I had received from treatments.  I became a Reiki master because I wanted others to be able to have the same gift in their own hands.  Reiki, therefore, initially satisfied my desire to be a giver more than a receiver.

However, Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki teaches us that there needs to be a balance of giving and receiving: we receive Reiki energy and give something in return, maintaining the balance of the universe and fostering flow.  This does not necessarily mean that what is received is of equal monetary value.

The real value of a gift is not necessarily a physical object that is given.  One of my favourites episodes of the TV show 'The Big Bang Theory' is where the character Sheldon expresses his dislike of present giving.  He finds out someone is going to give him a gift and feelsSheldon opens gift Big Bang Theory awkward about finding a gift of exactly the same value to give in return. So he buys lots of gifts of varying values so he can choose which one is appropriate once he receives the gift.  However the gift he is given is a napkin signed by Leonard Nimoy, so has little monetary value but it means a great deal to him in other ways.  So he gives ALL the gifts he had bought in exchange!

Through my Reiki practice I have been challenged to overcome my resistance to receiving and I am learning, through practical experience of exchange for Reiki treatments and teaching, how to give without attachment and to receive without expectation.  I've discovered that when I give as a way to show my gratitude and receive with thanks, there is equal joy in both.

It seems that Reiki wanted to really test me about receiving recently when I decided to ask for support to attend the OGM Retreat: not only did I receive enough money to pay for the trip - thank you so much to all who contributed - but I also received several gifts on the trip, including birthday gifts from the flight attendants on both flights to Almaty!   Sheldon would have been squirming because there was no way to give something back at all!  Among the Russian speaking Reiki people I discovered that giving gifts to visitors is an important part of their culture, so was given a lot of practice in receiving with grace!  You can read more about this in my Almaty blog.

So I wish you joy in giving and receiving gifts over Christmas and in the New Year.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Thank You Martha

On 1st November 1991 Alec and I were initiated as Reiki masters by Martha Sylvester.  I'd like to tell  you Martha's Reiki story.

Martha came across Reiki while she was at a Siddha yoga ashram in India.  She was considering
Martha Sylvester
going home because the climate did not agree with her.  Then she found a leaflet about Reiki in the Ashram clinic.  One sentence jumped out at her: "The Healer will be healed by using this energy".  This appealed to Martha because she had found she became drained when giving massage.  So she began looking for the person who had put the leaflet there. 

The next day a friend of hers, who was also interested in learning Reiki, came up to her and said: "You'll never guess what: there's a Reiki master in my dormitory!".  This Reiki master turned out to be Wanja Twan, a master initiated by Hawayo Takata.  So Martha went up to her and asked to learn Reiki.

Unfortunately Wanja was coming to the end of her stay, so she told Martha that there was not enough time for her to teach her Reiki.  Looking at Martha she could tell that she was unwell, so asked her to wait in her room and she would come and give her some treatment.  She said she might not be able to come, but that Martha should wait for her anyway.

So at the time they had agreed Martha waited.  Wanja didn't come, but at the appointed time Martha felt a wave of energy go through her.  She slept very well that night and the next day felt much better.  When she saw Wanja that morning  Martha asked if she had sent her Reiki, which Wanja confirmed she had.

Martha was even more keen to learn, so it was agreed that if Martha had enough people for a class when Wanja was next travelling via London to visit her relatives in Sweden, she would stop over for a few days and teach 1st degree Reiki.  In fact Martha felt so much better she ended up staying even longer in India than she had first planned!  When she eventually returned to London she persuaded as many friends as possible to join the 1st degree class and later that year was initiated into 1st degree Reiki.

She subsequently took 2nd degree and then became a master in 1985.  She began teaching Reiki alongside her Monday to Friday job, but soon found she needed to give up her conventional work to devote her time to teaching Reiki.  She travelled a lot to teach in those years, including to Birmingham which is where I met her in 1989.  That same year she was told by Wanja to begin making her own masters, which may explain why Alec and I were invited to begin our master preparation in 1990. 

Martha is a founder member of The Reiki Association, established in 1991 and continued to be an active member of the community for many years.  However I think she felt that I could carry this on on her behalf and has always been very supportive of my community activities.

She still gives the occasional treatment and teaches a few people, but these days is happy exploring other creative pursuits such as painting and singing.

Martha has always been an inspiration to me with her grounded spirituality and I am deeply grateful to her for enabling me to be a Reiki master.  Thank you Martha: I am honoured to be your student!

Friday, 7 October 2016

"Ask, Ask, Ask"

When I teach 1st degree Reiki I tell the story of the Spiritual Lineage, which is partly a history of Reiki but also contains teachings about living in the Reiki way.  In part of this story we learn that Hawayo Takata was due to receive an operation when she heard a voice telling her it wasn't necessary.  When she wondered what to do about this the voice said: "Ask, ask, ask".  She had the courage to follow that suggestion, get up from the gurney she was on, undergo the scolding of the nurses, to ask her question of the head surgeon.  As a result of this question she found Reiki - a wonderful example of how asking a question can lead to a change in life's direction!

If you are anything like me, however, you may feel reluctant to ask for what you need or want.  It can be much easier to give than to receive.  But how are we supposed to know what other people really need unless they ask for it?   When people don't ask for what they need we have to make assumptions, which can lead to misunderstanding and discomfort. 

I have felt that asking is like begging or being demanding, which it can be if there is an expectation that what is asked for should be given.  However some years ago I learned from a Non Violent Communication workshop that there are some needs we do have a right to ask for.  These can be physical needs such as food, safety and rest; social ones such as support, acceptance and structure or spiritual ones such as love, adventure or fun.   Reiki practice has taught me that it's important not to be attached to outcomes, so when asking I try not to have any expectation that what I ask for will be given. 

Reiki practice encourages us to live more authentically, supporting each other in community.  Being able to ask for support is part of this: accepting and acknowledging that I am simply human and sometimes I need help!  What I discovered is that people love to help, so I am also serving them by accepting their service.  What works really well is when the service meets both of our physical, social and spiritual needs.

So when I heard about the OGM Retreat in Kazakhstan I felt called to go but saw that it was not possible for me financially.  I could have given up at that point and said "Oh well it would have been nice but ....".

But then I remembered "Ask, ask, ask" and I had the idea of asking my community for support.  It took some courage to overcome my conditioning which said this was not appropriate.  However with the thought that if my request for support didn't raise the amount needed I would accept that I was not meant to go, I took the risk and asked. 

With the Reiki masters from Almaty who supported my visit
Well the answer was obviously "Yes" and I am deeply moved by the support I received, not just financially but all the good wishes about my attending the OGM Retreat.  I found the support continued once I actually began my journey and have come home enriched on so many levels, all because I was able to ask.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my supporters.  If you need something - just ask!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Being Together in Person

Reiki Master Rick Bockner - the last master initiated by Sensei Takata

Listening to Rick Bockner's talk at The Reiki Association gathering in May I was struck by a comment he made about Oral Tradition.  This is one of the Nine Elements of Usui Shiki Ryoho and refers to the way teaching is offered in person rather than through distant learning or books.  What Rick pointed out is that it also refers to making the effort to be together in person.

In the past few years I have participated in many meetings with Reiki people around the world through the internet, where we are able to talk in real time and sometimes see each other (there's often not enough bandwidth for us all to activate our cameras at the same time!).   This is a great improvement on communicating via email, but when I attended the Association Gathering I noticed how wonderful it is to actually meet people in person!  I was grateful that Rick and everyone there had made the effort.

While modern technology does allow a part of the energy of a person to be transmitted over the airwaves, it's not the same as being in physical presence with them.  There are subtleties of communication that we read instinctively when we are with someone, but also I feel there is energetic presence that goes beyond that.

I've also found that a group of people who meet together create an energetic field - something I've often experienced in Reiki Sharing groups.  Even though not a word is spoken while we treat each other, we enter into a deeper connection with each other and ourselves.  This connection is comforting and supportive, so that we leave feeling better, more able to cope with the vicissitudes of life.

So if you're wondering why I'm planning to travel all the way to Almaty in Kazakhstan to attend the Office of Grandmaster (OGM) Retreat, it's because I feel called to be there in physical presence, to meet other Reiki students and share in the energetic field that will be created by this gathering.  Of course I'm also  feeling somewhat daunted by the idea of travelling so far, but I'm receiving wonderful support for this journey and I'm willing to make the effort!

I've often made long journeys for various Reiki meetings - usually in the UK, but also to the USA and Australia.  I'm happy to travel because I know from experience that being there in person can be important.  Perhaps that's why I was required to appear in person rather than by remote link when giving evidence recently to the Crown court.

While it is possible to give Reiki treatments from a distance, there is a story of Sensei Takata taking a long and arduous journey that involved various forms of transport to give someone Reiki treatment.  When asked why she didn't just send Reiki distantly she responded that Reiki in physical presence is always preferable when possible.  So I encourage you to take every opportunity to be physically present in a Reiki energy field whenever you can.  After all Reiki is a way to bring non-physical energy into the physical world, so to receive it we need to be physically present!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Alone but not Lonely

Recently I had to travel alone from my home in Shropshire to Essex to appear as a Reiki expert
Selfie taken just before leaving for court

witness.  It was a daunting journey, not only the physical travel, but also the challenge of appearing in crown court for the first time.  However it struck me that although the experience was challenging I didn't feel alone.

I remember how alone and disconnected I felt around the time I learned Reiki, in my early thirties.  Like many people I could feel lonely in a crowd and also felt unappreciated.  Learning Reiki changed that.

I found like minded people in the fellow students from my 1st degree Reiki class.  We met every weekend to share Reiki with each other.  We talked about our experiences and wonderings about this healing art we had just begun to explore.  From those early days there was a feeling of connection which I'd only experienced in other settings after spending time with people in a deep group process.  This feeling of being part of a spiritually-minded community continues to this day, especially at the Reiki Shares.

Soon after my 2nd degree Reiki class, I began offering Reiki treatments to people I didn't know.  I was surprised to find that I felt kindness towards people who, on initial meeting, I didn't like.  As I gave people a series of treatments this feeling deepened.  When I became a Reiki master a few years later I had a new way to connect through teaching Reiki.  I can see now that this feeling of connection was Reiki beginning to awaken my non-judgemental, compassionate self.

Then I became involved with The Reiki Association, which led to further exploration of being non-judgemental.  As in any organisation there can be struggles around hierarchy and the organisation's purpose.  My involvement helped me to grow personally, towards a more tolerant way of being.  "It takes a whole village to raise a child" - by joining community I received the education and support I needed to grow. 

I learned that the more compassionate I became, the more I received the acknowledgement I craved.  It was good experience of what Phyllis Furumoto said to me recently: "Honour others if you want to be honoured yourself". 
I now have the blessing of being in community with Reiki people all over the world: I feel part of a world-wide Reiki family that is always connected even if we rarely meet in person. 

So when I made my journey to court, I asked my Reiki community to support me by sending Reiki for the physical and emotional journey.  In the witness box I was questioned about distant Reiki: it gave me great pleasure to think "Yes I'm receiving Reiki right now, thanks to those who are sending to me".  I felt them all there supporting me.  I also received kind messages of acknowledgement and appreciation in response to my request.

When the world seems to be going through a time when division and separation are highlighted by violence, it comforts me to know that Reiki practice brings connection and compassion.  So what can I do to help the world in it's apparent state of confusion and disarray?  Share Reiki - with myself, with family, friends and other Reiki students, with a wider circle.