Saturday, 9 December 2017

Kimono Gifts

In the picture you can see me giving Reiki to a Japanese lady who is the friend of my host for a few days in Osaka, during my recent visit.  The haori (Japanese jacket) you can see me wearing I found at an outlet store close to the hotel where I stayed the first night.  There were other jackets in the store, but they were cut down kimono with rough edges and obvious stitching - the shop was called Raw Edge which may explain that!  However I discovered this particular one on the rack of half price jackets and recognized it as an original haori, probably quite old.  I bought it with much delight.

I have bought other haori and know that they should have two little ties, but they were missing on this one.  I have also never known how to tie them properly.  If you just do an ordinary knot you end up with one end sticking up and the other down, which didn't seem right!

I showed it to my host and she mentioned it to her friend when she called in the next day.  I was told that this lady was a 'kimono expert' - by which I understood she helped people with how to wear kimono properly.  I put the haori on to show her and she confirmed that it is made of silk.  I pointed out that it did not have the little ties.  She immediately said (through my host, as she didn't speak much English) that she would bring me some next morning.

I was delighted therefore to see her again the next day and she brought the two little ties in a colour that perfectly matched the haori.  I asked her to show me how to tie them, which she was happy to do.  We made a little video, so that I could remember after I got home.  Later I was able to share the video with another of my friends who bought a haori and wanted to know how to tie them correctly.

I wasn't sure if I was to pay for them or if they were a gift, so asked my host.  I was assured they were indeed a gift and what's more she had another gift for me: a decoration worn with kimono, made by a kimono master!  This is a little glass bead on a thick thread, designed to be hung from the obi (belt).

I was really thrilled with this whole exchange as I had learned how to tie the haori ties and received a wonderful little kimono gift.  In thanks I offered an experience of Reiki treatment (which she had not encountered before) and my host took the picture.

Opening Gifts

Do you enjoy opening presents at Christmas?  But do you sometimes feel awkward opening a gift with the giver?  Maybe you won't like the contents, but still have to say you do?  In Japanese culture they have a solution for this...

In preparation for the trip to Japan we were asked to bring some small gifts with a connection to where we live.  I also took presents for my host for the few days before the tour.  With other gifts I took on behalf of someone who had been on the tour with Phyllis previously, my suitcase was quite full of things to give away!  It also contained  sellotape and wrapping paper because I learned before I left that the wrapping is almost as important as the gift in Japan. But would the Japanese people appreciate what I had chosen? 

Reading a guide book on the flight, I learned that it is a Japanese custom that gifts are not opened in front of the giver.  I love to see people's reaction when they open a gift I have chosen for them, but of course this does create potential embarrassment if someone doesn't like what I've given them.

With the Japanese tradition the recipient can open the gift in private, with no awkwardness if the gift has no meaning for them.  This doesn't mean a carefully chosen gift isn't appreciated: I found that while I was thanked when the gift was given, there were also thanks once it had been opened.  This felt kinder than someone saying 'Oh it's lovely' if it wasn't what the person wanted!

The class form and initiations are like the carefully prepared gift wrap when I teach Reiki.  I have no expectation that the receiver will really know what the is gift until later.  It's only after the class, when the student goes away and starts practising, that they begin to unpack the mysterious contents and experience the wonder that Reiki offers.  I remember thinking what a wonderful I had given myself when I first felt Reiki coming from my own hands into my body after the 1st degree class.  One of my students, who has been practicing for many years, describes Reiki as "the gift that goes on giving".  I would agree: the more Reiki I have given over the years (including self treatment), the more benefit I have received.

I'm grateful to my Reiki master for this amazing gift she gave me when she initiated me.  I'm also grateful that she encouraged me to discover for myself the true gift through practice.  Like the game of pass the parcel, with a small gift in each later, I have unwrapped layer after layer, releasing  discovering the gifts of grace, joy and good health to name but a few.   Sometimes a layer is challenging to open, but there is always a happy reward.

My pilgrimage to Japan was one such gift  and I received many physical presents and spiritual insights to bring home.  Thank you to everyone who helped me to receive it.

Wishing you a happy time of opening your gifts over Christmas and in the New Year.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Reiki and the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Earlier this year on a visit to the Ashmolean museum in Oxford, I saw an information panel about the Japanese Tea Ceremony.  I was struck by the description of the ceremony as a way to withdraw from the stresses of the life for a time and to be served with grace and politeness, without expectation of conversation.  I felt that this is very similar to what happens when I give Reiki treatments.  Those receiving the treatment are like honoured guests, taking time out from their daily lives to relax and be served with grace and no expectation of talking.  People often tell me how refreshed in body and soul they feel after their Reiki.

I was therefore excited when I heard that we would be experiencing a tea ceremony during my recent visit to Japan.  The experience supported my feelings of a similarity between a Reiki treatment and the Japanese Tea Ceremony. 

We went to the tea house in the late afternoon, after a busy day visiting Ninjo castle, Niji-Jinya house and the imperial palace.  By the time we were heading for the tea master's home I was hot, tired and in need of a rest!  On arrival we removed our shoes and were made welcome in a lovely room, where there was a tokonoma (alcove) where a  calligraphy scroll that said "harmony, respect, purity and tranquility" and beautiful flower arrangement were displayed.   With the beautiful Zen garden outside the window it was a restful space.

Like Reiki treatment, the tea ceremony has a defined form.  Traditional dress of kimono and hakama
are usually worn.   Guests are first served  some tasty seasonal delicacy, on this occasion a small bean paste cake.  The wife of the tea master then prepared the tea: carefully and mindfully placing the tea powder in the bowl, adding the hot water with a ladle, whisking the tea and then presenting it with a bow to the person she was serving.    Their 11 year old grandson also helped to serve the tea, dressed in hakama and bowing beautifully to each person he served.  There was a palpable atmosphere of kindness in the room.  We were also taught about the different ways to bow, according to the status of the person you are bowing to.  We also learned that to make a slurping sound as we finished the last sip of tea was a sign of grateful enjoyment!

Like Reiki, the Tea Ceremony has its origins in Zen Buddhism.  Tea was drunk by the monks in China to keep them awake during long hours of sitting meditation.  Tea was brought to Japan along with the meditation practice and from this developed into the Tea Ceremony. 

When the ceremony was over and we went to put on our shoes I noticed that I no longer felt tired.  The kindness of tea ceremony had brought a sense of calm and peace.  Just like Reiki it had indeed been a refreshing break from the stress of life, bringing ease in body and soul.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A Visionary Hospital

During Phyllis Furumoto's professional Reiki practice seminar that I attended last weekend one of the participants shared her experience of a recent hospital stay in Oregon USA.   Elizabeth is a Reiki master and found that there was a culture of kindness in the hospital.  She observed that the staff  relationships were supportive and relaxed.  She also received this kindness in her treatment and care. 

She complimented them on this culture of kindness, saying they must have a good human resources department.  She was told that it was not down to the HR, but came right from the management at the top.

One evening she needed to have some intravenous treatment, but the nurses were having difficulty finding a vein.  Her nurse said she would have two more attempts, which were also unsuccessful.

"Time to call Amber" she said.  Amber, it turned out, is the Hospital Supervison and, Elizabeth discovered in conversation with her, a Reiki master.  She is also a midwife and the person who is called when there is a difficult birth.  She duly arrived and rather than begin to try finding a vein right away, she first gave 10 minutes of Reiki to the arm where she wished to insert the needle.  She then inserted it with no problem.

I have been thinking about how Reiki could help our beleaguered NHS in the UK - I can see many possibilities, but to hear this story about a hospital in the USA where Reiki and  culture of kindness are already happening and benefiting patients was very inspiring. 

I would love to see more NHS staff receiving Reiki, to help them deal with the stress levels many of them currently suffer.  It would also be wonderful if an understanding that people do better when there is a culture of kindness could reach management levels and could be acted on. 

It would also be wonderful to see Reiki integrated in the care setting, to support the allopathic treatment with the relaxing and calming effects of Reiki.  Doctors already know that patients who have a positive outlook and are relaxed about their treatment do better - and are often easier to treat!  If Reiki could be available for more patients alongside the intrusive treatments sometimes necessary, it could help those treatments to be more effective.

I also know of several Reiki students and practitioners who have had to have surgery who have needed little or no pain relief (they used Reiki instead) and who were up and about quickly and therefore able to vacate their hospital bed sooner.  One case I heard of recently (a man whose sister was treating him) needed his intensive care bed for only 1 night when it had been booked for him for 3 weeks!

However in order to be accepted in such settings practitioners need to be properly prepared, which means doing further training after 2nd degree.  Those who have been attending my Professional Practitioner Foundation Course in Ludlow are making those first steps and I hope that others will follow their lead in the future.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Letting Kindness In

Before I learned Reiki I was not good at letting kindness in.  I had developed a belief that I needed to be totally self reliant and didn't deserve compassion from others.  On the other hand I craved support and this neediness turned into negative thoughts. I was unkind to myself, deaf to positive comments and heard only heard criticism, which supported my pessimistic beliefs about myself and the world.  This caused me to be unable to notice any kindness that was offered to me.

However practicing Reiki invited me to consider an alternative way of being from the start.  Walking to my 1st degree class I found a wallet on the path and took it to the nearby police station.
 The next day there was a knock at my door.  I opened it to find an elderly man - he was the owner of the wallet and had come to thank me.  He gave me some money and said: "Buy yourself some flowers".  As I had little money at the time I didn't normally buy flowers for myself, but perhaps because I was in the middle of my Reiki course I decided that's exactly what I would do.  So I allowed myself to receive his kindness and the flowers gave me much joy over the next weeks.

I found that Reiki gave me a way to offer kindness that I found enjoyable - giving Reiki treatments.  I had learned that part of Usui Shiki Ryoho tradition is that when Reiki is given, some energetic exchange needs to be received.  So I began to practice receiving kindness in return for the Reiki I gave.  The first thing I received in return for a Reiki treatment was "The Sun In My Heart" by Thich Nath Hanh - a spiritual teacher I have come to admire greatly and who has helped me on my spiritual path.

It was only once I embraced another of Reiki's practices - regular self treatment - that I achieved the next step of releasing the old negative beliefs.  I found that self treating is a way to offer kindness to myself and that as a result of daily self Reiki I've become more balanced mentally, emotionally and physically.  This, I discovered,  benefits those around me too as I felt more kindly towards the world.

Initially I also resisted receiving treatment from others: I can see myself at Reiki Association gatherings saying I had far too much to do as administrator to take part in the Reiki exchanges.  I now see that people wanted to offer the kindness of Reiki to help my stressfulness, but I would not allow it!

Being kinder to myself has resulted in putting less pressure on myself, slowing down and allowing time to listen more.  This enabled me to hear the positive messages and to notice the kindness I was being offered.  I learned to be more appreciative of these gifts of kindness and that gratitude is a key to greater contentment.  I now see that people enjoy offering kindness, especially when it is gratefully received, so I have even learned how to let people know what I need!

I'm grateful to Reiki for teaching me about the balance of giving and receiving so that I now find it easier to let kindness in.   I'm also grateful to everyone who has offered me kindness, whether I was aware of it or not!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Reiki for Goldfish

During a First Degree Reiki class in a student's home some years ago the students were exchanging treatments next to a fish tank that contained two goldfish.  We noticed that as we started to do Reiki the fish swam up to the end of the tank closest to the treatment couch.  When we stopped doing the treatments they swam around the whole of the tank.  What was interesting was that this happened each time we began to do Reiki.  The owner of the goldfish later told us that one of the fish was unwell.

So when a student asked in a recent class about whether I thought Reiki could help her sick goldfish I said yes.  I have on other occasions put my hands to the glass of fish tanks and found that the fish swam up to the hand and stayed there for a while, as if they could feel the Reiki.

Of course when giving Reiki to fish it isn't necessary (or a good idea) to take them out of the water.  Reiki will transmit through the water (and glass if they are in a tank).  I have experienced Reiki through water myself when I burned my hand and held a bag of iced water against the injury and gave the area Reiki through the water at the same time.  It was just the same feeling as when I have hands on directly.

So I was delighted when my student shared the following story of giving Reiki to her goldfish:

"I am already feeling the benefits of self-treating myself daily and have given Reiki healing to a very sick goldfish who was suffering from swim bladder disease and had lost all his buoyancy, as well as his appetite, and barely moved. After isolating him for 7 weeks and giving him 3 courses of medication with no sign of improvement, I had all but given up on him.

However, at the end of my first day of the Reiki First Degree course, I placed my hands on his tank and gave him 5 minutes of Reiki energy and he started moving. At the end of a week of doing the same thing every day, he had regained his buoyancy completely and his appetite, was swimming normally and I was able to release him back into the pond.

I have never had a goldfish recover from swim bladder disease and I am still amazed at his recovery – I am convinced he was healed by the Reiki energy as there really is no other explanation."

There are many other people offering Reiki to animals.  When I attended the Reiki Council meeting recently I heard that there are plans to create National Occupational Standards for practitioners who want to work specifically with animals.  This doesn't mean that anyone with their own animals will be subject to any rules, but will ensure that those who offer animal treatments as a profession will be expected to meet agreed standards.  I think is a positive move for animal treatments and the good reputation of Reiki in general.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

"Just for Today do not Anger"

I found myself weeping into my lunch as I listened to the news about the bombing of a pop concert in Manchester that had killed and injured many people, including children.  I think it was the injury to those young people and the lasting effects it would have on the lives of many children that particularly affected me.

Over the ensuing days as I heard more reports of how people responded to this event I was further moved by the kindness shown: the people at the scene just after the explosion who offered first aid, the taxi drivers helping people to get home.  One story I heard was of a taxi driver who had been booked to take two children home but he couldn't park near the arena.  He walked to find them, took them back to his cab then drove them safely home.  I heard of other taxi drivers taking people home without charge and of hotels and restaurants offering food and shelter to those who had been affected.  I found this outpouring of human kindness a wonderful response to this awful situation.

When something so terrible happens it is human to react with anger.  The Reiki principles encourage us 'Just for today do not anger', but anger is a normal part of grief, so are we being told not to allow these feelings?  I don't think this is what is meant: I think we are being encouraged to let go of the anger and look at what is beneath it.  My father (a psychiatrist) taught me that beneath any anger is pain.  Reiki has taught me that in grief it can be very difficult to accept that the loss has happened and this denial leads to the pain and anger.  I have learned, through Reiki treatments, to allow the feelings - so my tears when I heard of the bombing were the beginning of healing.

In Reiki healing we understand that the true cause of illness lies at the mental, emotional and spiritual levels.  The young man who carried out the bombing was clearly ill because no balanced and healthy person could kill in that way.  The underlying causes may have been anger that, instead of being healed, was fostered and encouraged by others.  So if I am angry with him and seek revenge in some way I am falling ill, infected with the same sickness.  The Reiki principle 'Just for today do not anger' is the antidote.  Allowing the feelings of pain and sadness under the anger enables me to move through this moment towards healing.

So I have been very impressed with the people of Manchester and beyond whose response in general has not been to hate those responsible for this atrocity, but to offer loving kindness as an antidote.   Perhaps if more love had been offered to the bomber, instead of fostering of his anger and hatred, he might still be alive today with a life to benefit others ahead of him.  As it is he was infected with a terrible illness caused by anger that took his life and that of too many other young people.