Allow yourself to imagine the entirety of the Universe... It is far too vast for any of our minds to contain, but in the attempt, we pull ourselves open. We unzip our edges.
Reiki is a meditative practice that cultivates an awareness of the natural energy permeating the whole Universe. As we tune into this auspiciously vast field of interconnectedness, we become still enough to feel that we are one with the whole. Touching this internal space is transformational, deeply healing and activates an awakening of consciousness. When we connect to the Universe in this way, we become mindful of the deeper dimension of ourselves. We realise that we are expressions of the Universe. A being made of cosmic energy, alive in a world of frequency.
At first this system of healing that arrives with attunements can, on the surface, seem like we are connecting to something outside of ourselves, something new. But slowly we unravel that there is nothing outside. We are not working to channel an external force greater than ourselves; rather, we are becoming who we really are. The Great Bright Light within. The being that was here before it had a name, a body, a story of limitations and physicality. You are Reiki. The system provides a simple and profound practice of remembering that you are embodied soul energy.
By connecting to the universal intelligence, you can begin to feel the underlying web that is woven through all existence, heal your life and understand the deepest nature of your True Self. Rooted in Buddhist wisdom, this is a pathway of connecting to our inner medicine because it is a means of giving attention to our inner Buddha. This being lives in us all and heals with its very presence. It offers unconditional love and kindness, and sees clearly through compassionate eyes. This awakened inner being loves all it touches. Discovering this aspect of ourselves is the Reiki way – a lifelong journey.
What we find is the unconditioned energy of our expanded self, knowing how to receive the love that pulses from the beat of the Universe’s heart. This is always available to us. We can touch the unseen force that animates, creates and harmonises all of life because it dwells in us. This one stream of consciousness manifests into infinite varieties of form. Reiki is an emanating magic that is rather indescribable, though it is fun to try.
It is not just ‘spiritual energy’ as a concept, it is the essence of the Universe that flows through all of life. The essence of ourselves. When we connect through our heart, we discover that our heart is connected to the heart of all things. Spiritual energy is all of the cosmic energy of the formless. We often see Spirit as separate from ourselves, so language points us in this direction even further, yet Spirit is All That Is – the quantum field of endless formlessness and the manifested form reading these words. This is a trapping of the world of duality; we see form and formless, yet in the ultimate realm where our soul dwells, we find that everything has energy and all of that is spiritual energy. Eastern cultures do not make a distinction between spiritual energy and natural energy; it is considered one and the same. That all-pervasive energy is what we call Reiki. Clients often describe it as a warm blanket because it is the blanket of immeasurable space unto which we all exist. It is the Pure Land. The canvas of spaciousness that holds the whole Universe. What could be more natural? What could be more spiritual? This energy is Source.
The great quest of us seekers is searching for this essence of ourselves, trying to get back to where we came from. As children, we were deeply in touch with our true nature. We took our time walking short distances, never fixated on the destination. We paused to wonder, to absorb our surroundings, curiously touching every leaf and new texture. We were in touch with our body and with our feelings, expressing ourselves freely moment to moment. In this human form you have lived the way you seek to live. Children are present, joyful, true, woke beings. We can get in touch with this freedom again. It was inside us all along – the infinite dwelling place of Source. This feeling sparks the healing, the change, the alignment with the divine. This is our wholeness, our fulfillment with the Buddha-mind, the soul, the perfection of emptiness. The peace we seek.
How very profound this work is; it seems as simple as the laying-on of hands but that is a small picture of the eternal place we touch. It begins with connection and goes as deep as our awareness will allow.
Reiki comes from within you, the greatest you, the part that remembers not only where you came from, but who you are, right now. You are powerful. You are vast.
You are connected. You are unlimited, unbound and unbreakable.
This is all so much more dynamic than a complementary therapy, though that is an undeniably beautiful and practical expression of it. Reiki is a deeply spiritual, holistic practice focusing on the wellbeing of the practitioner. Our practice evolves through our years of tenderly getting to know the energy. As our understanding of it broadens, it extends far beyond the time we set aside for personal hands-on healing. We practise Reiki with every breath.
I see Reiki as the energy of the soul in all its vastness, as a pinpoint of Source’s infinite light woven through the great cosmic tapestry. It brings me home to my essence, as I focus on the deepest dimension of stillness within me while rooting my body-mind to the magic of the present moment. Any exchange with another is a gift that allows our understanding to overflow from our heart, cascading through our meridians to nurture both ourselves and the other. Together our souls co-express in this dance of energy. Where the mind had become fixated on a problem, the soul eases it into grace. As an anchor of presence in a world of frequent chaos, we invite order to return simply by joining the harmony of our unbound essence.
We don’t need to figure anything out, try to control what is not ours to control, or aggressively assert healing; we choose instead to indulge in peace. The soul-voice is always whispering, guiding us to act with clarity. We trust that as we align with harmony, everything around us returns to its own natural state of balance. Healing becomes a way of seeing the world in its true nature, accepted and invited to be as it is. This includes anything we judged about ourselves in a less than forgiving light.
I’ve come to see that the process of healing doesn’t mean we need fixing or editing; rather, healing happens when we completely embrace every shunned aspect of ourselves. It’s a journey toward true wholeness. Reiki shows us that our mind is ultimately what receives healing in its perception of the world. We learn to accept and adapt; we water the seeds of compassion within our consciousness and we find a more meaningful connection to life by becoming friendly towards it (and ourselves).
The practice isn’t unique to Reiki. It flows through countless teachers who bring the same quality of energy through their presence. I encounter Reiki everywhere. I’ve sat in the audience of Eckhart Tolle receiving what felt like an extended Reiki attunement simply by the clarity of his presence. Quantum physicists speak to me of it when they dreamily explain the Unified Field. It hums within Sanskrit texts. It chimes through every Buddhist monk’s invitation of the bell. I find it in the Zen teachings, in the Tao Te Ching, in Animism and Paganism, in ancient Greek philosophy and even in a theologian’s utterance of the holy spirit.
Reiki is everywhere.
Without being a religion, it is the basis of all spirituality.
This is one of the most remarkable things about Mikao Usui’s method: he created a very practical, very approachable, yet very rich spiritual practice which requires no belief and yet provides limitless applications of universal energy through direct experience – from deep personal meditation to healing clients in hospital settings. Our focus is inward.
Whatever transpires on the external level simply can’t compete with the treasure we discover within. These are the riches no one can take away and no one can give, yet they create wealth for us all. Others benefit as a natural occurrence – an offshoot of our practice. This flowering tree provides abundantly beyond ourselves. Our work is to nurture the tree, to root down into the earth, to open to receive sunlight and rain. The fruit comes without any strain.
Moser-Clark, Brighitta. The Reiki Way: Unlock Your Healing, Amplify Your Light, and Attune to Who You Truly Are. Matador, 2021.
I am reading a book by Baron Baptiste, the founder of The Baptiste Institute. It’s called Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice.
In the chapter “The Dance of Yes and No,” Baptiste considers the connection between our yoga practice and our life. He says:
“There are only two ways we show up on our mat and in life: as a yes, or as a no.”
What does he mean exactly? Yes carries the energy of possibility, whereas no carries the energy of resistance. Yes expresses your willingness to claim your power and use it to discover the real meaning of commitment. Yes invites you to expand and to come into your full creative expression. It opens you up and affirms your willingness to be teachable when you don’t have the know-how to get where you want to go.Yes affirms the existence of a destination in your yoga practice beyond mere physical gain.
No, on the other hand, carries a very different energy, though (in my opinion) not wholly negative. It is closed, rigid, and often stubborn. It takes the forms of excuses, complaints, procrastination, resistance, frustration, and so on. No impedes or flat-out stops you in your tracks.
You are always in a dance of yes or no. What is interesting to me is how being a yes for anything automatically makes you a no for something else. In fact, if we can’t point to what we are saying no to, then our yes means nothing.
Think about it. If you are a yes for peace, then you are a no for war. If you are a yes for creating vibrancy and health in your body, you are a no for ingesting junk food, doing drugs, and so on. If you are a yes for full acceptance in your relationship, you are a no for criticizing and trying to change the person you love. If you are a yes for growth, you are a no for procrastination and stagnation.
Baptiste then explores the no side of showing up on our mat and in our life. He says, “Looking at this from the other side of the lens, we see that saying no is the action of saying yes to something else.”
Now consider the mindfulness aspect of becoming aware of your yes and no responses to your yoga practice and life. When you pause and consider what you are saying yes or no to, then you learn that in contrast to no, yes allows for a sense of timelessness and the joy of being fully in your experience.
I share this with you to invite you to engage in your own inquiry of “What am I a yes for in my practice?” and “What do I refuse and say no to?” Or, to put it another way, “How am I showing up on my mat and in my life?”
Esoteric but Tangible: Yes & No Energy
Yes and no take the form of emotional energy, and emotions contain vibrations. That sounds esoteric, I know, but in your body and your being, you can feel it as something tangible. Think about when you’re around someone who is angry; you can feel that vibration of rage, can’t you? Similarly, someone who is happy gives off a different kind of vibration, radiating a sense of lightness and joy. These different vibrations of yes and no have an impact on your body and on your energetic capacity to support or block what you’re up to in the pose and in your life.
Emotional vibrations fuel our actions. In other words, being a yes or being a no will dictate what you do or don’t do. Consider that when you are inspired by the possibility of something, your body vibrates at the perfect frequency to support you in achieving the thing that inspires you. The energetic vibration of yes carries the emotional energy of enthusiasm, which translates into action. You are naturally moved and inspired to create and achieve.
The only way you or I can impact our practice is through action. Each asana/pose does not actually care about our intention, how committed we are, how we are feeling that day, or what we are thinking, and it most certainly has zero interest in whether we like it or dislike it. The asana’s only really evolve for us when we act into what we want to create. When you are a yes for what’s possible in your practice, you will act. And out of that action, you will expand and create a new physical reality.
Be a participating player instead of a spectator to your own experience.
“Being a yes inspires you to take the actions needed to move from where you are to where you want to go.”
But is Yes always a positive? Sometimes there are those who fall into the trap of people pleasing. They tend to say yes when they really want to say no. In the practice of yoga asana, we can try authentically saying yes to what we want. Baptiste calls this aiming true. Carl Jung said that all consciousness begins with an act of disobedience. Our dignity is found in our ability to say no to the things we don’t want—to disobey the urge to say yes when we really want to say no—and open the door to saying yes to pursuing our true desires.
Today, on your mat, are you a yes for deep, rhythmic breath (called ujjayi), or a no? If you are a yes, it will enable your breath to carry you with ease. Are you a yes for a fixed, steady gaze (drishti) or a no? If you are a yes, it will give you the action of focusing your gaze with intent and fire. Are you a yes for lightness and play on your mat, or a no? If you are a yes, your practice will be buoyed by joy.
It’s important to know where your inner compass is pointing; this is how you consciously map your path. If you don’t have it set to say no to resistance and complaints, then by default you may inevitably say yes to procrastination. If you’ve been saying yes to procrastination, it’s important to get to the cause. Is procrastinating getting on your mat to practice yoga or meditation costing you the vitality, vibrancy, and health you want? Remember, to be a yes is to act. Saying yes to the practice of saying no to the habits and thoughts that no longer serve you becomes a great source of strength and confidence.
The Energy of Yes is Acceptance
In any pose, I’m always dealing with what is actually happening in my physical body. I can accept and empower what is so about my body, or I can oppose and resist what’s happening. Being for your body exactly as it is and as it is not is acceptance. The energy of yes is acceptance. Saying yes to accepting how things are and how they are not is a choice you make moment-to-moment, breath by breath. You can choose to be a yes for exactly how the pose is and how it is not, or you can oppose and resist. Yes holds the space for acceptance, and acceptance is the place from which you empower your body to generate some new result in the pose.
Being a no for what is happening in your body is opposition. Opposition produces tension in your body and manifests as rigidity in the pose, both physical and emotional. Ordinarily, if we experience strong sensations or physical limitations, we oppose what’s happening in our bodies. To be against something is to be in reaction to it. In our body, we experience that as stress, discomfort, contraction, and shortness of breath. We don’t like that our bodies won’t or can’t do as we want, and emotionally, that leaves us with complaints, frustration, and resentment.
I’ve met many people who have faced serious health challenges and crises. Most went through an initial period of being angry, resentful, or even in downright denial about their illness—all perfectly understandable reactions. But the ones who I am always most amazed by are the ones who get to the idea that resisting what is so is actually causing them greater emotional suffering than the illness itself. Accepting what was going on allowed them to flow with the new demands of their bodies in a much more empowered way.
Acceptance of what is and is not happening—in a pose as in life—creates a mood of peace. As you engage in the dance of yes and no in the pose, you will discover that the muscles and the mood of your body become flexible and malleable in the energetic vibration of yes, and the experience of rigidity and unneeded hardness will begin to dissolve like ice in the warm sun.
Your No Pose
Every student has their no pose. Maybe even more than one haha. You know your no pose: it’s the one that makes you inwardly groan when the teach calls for it, and likely leads you to automatically think, Ugh.... I don’t want to, I can’t do this one.
But you actually don’t know for sure that you can’t do that pose. What you’ve come up against isn’t necessarily a physical limitation. Resistance can be very deceiving behind the many masks it wears. Maybe you haven’t been able to do that pose in the past, but what about today? The yogis say you can never step into the same river twice because the current is always shifting and changing. You’ve never stepped into this exact river before today. Not with this body, not with today’s particular energy, with the specific number of bites of breakfast in your belly, with the earth tipped on its exact axis. Perhaps up until now, you haven’t had a breakthrough in this pose, but that was then. What’s possible today?
Every pose is a new opportunity, each and every time. All the work you’ve done up until now has led you to this precise moment, to face precisely what you’re facing. Yoga is a dance of dealing with what is and allowing yourself to fully experience whatever you’re experiencing right here, in the moment. In life, we so often resist what we don’t like or don’t want to do. Here, on your mat, is a safe opportunity to see what’s on the other side of that. Physical asana is a measure of some higher possibility.
Put your attention on what you want to have happen and be for it, and watch the magic unfold.
What are you a yes for today? Please let me know in the comments section below of the web version of this blog.
Live Your Yoga
You want to balance a practice that works with a practice that counts. The challenge is recognizing that just because you’ve got your practice to a place that works for you emotionally and physically doesn’t necessarily mean it matters. A practice that matters is tied to something deeper: the powerful, spiritual, alive energy of yes.
The only two forces at work in a pose are aliveness and patterns that block our aliveness. As patterns are dissolved and experienced, our body becomes clearer, and the flow from pose to pose begins to make more sense. It’s funny, but when the more alive the you emerges from behind the smokescreen of all those patterns of resistance (created by the energy of no) and begins to participate in the practice with resolution and directed focus of being a yes, the practice really does take on a purpose. It all somehow makes sense in a fantastic way.
There is no use searching externally for purpose or trying to “pull it in.” It is already available right here in the pose. Just focus on clearing out and letting go of what is between you and aliveness: your energy of no. Aliveness and purpose are practically the same things, and they are both created by yes. The purpose is greater aliveness, so every time we generate greater aliveness, the purpose of the practice is being served. So the answer to how we create greater aliveness in our bodies and lives is always yes!
Baptiste, Baron. Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice. Hay House, 2016.
"Divinely I meditate
I recently finished an MA program, and within 48 hours, I began feeling anxious. I thought, "I ought to be doing something, creating something, or contributing something... acting, doing." It was challenging to feel content with what I had accomplished or graciously bask in its glory. I worried that perhaps I wasn't enough, that maybe I lacked talent, skills, and worth now that I wasn't writing essays concerning the fallout of colonialism, racism, and other forms of oppression. I felt uncomfortable laying out my yoga mat and pretending to teach someone (for practice). It had been so long since I taught a yoga class, perhaps a year and a half. I wondered, "Is this who I am still? Am I just a yoga teacher? Am I worthy even for that role?"
Eventually, my attempts to teach an imaginary student turned into a personal practice which turned into Reiki meditation, a flow of tears, and a moment of mindfulness. Picture it. My hands are in the air, above my head, and I begin saying the Reiki Principles to myself, "Just for today, don't be angry." My hands immediately start coming down as I am not angry, and I feel no radical amount of blockage or energy in that part of my aura/body. So I move towards my throat, "Just for today, do not worry." (Cue the tears). My hands organically come down to rest an inch in front of my heart, "Just for today, be grateful." And they settle there, feeling this pulsing of energy, this warmth, and a need for healing. "Just for today, be true to your way and your being" (more tears), "Be Kind to Yourself and Others." Like a mantra, I repeat these Reiki principles, and I let go. And I let go. And I let go. And here I am.
Living in mindfulness means paying regular, calm attention to the present moment. It means checking in with yourself, the weight you might be carrying around, and the shallowness, or depth, of your breath. It means allowing yourself the time and space to be, feel, and process that which is occurring inside you, in your subconscious, and your heart. It means understanding your emotions and the actions they subconsciously cause.
In the upcoming weeks, we will learn a silly-looking asana (The Lions Yawn), radical forms of pranayama, and nourishing asanas to add to our yoga flows. We will also practice mindfulness throughout. However, to move towards mindfulness, we must first understand what it is and how it is practiced. The Kriya book we have been working with, A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya by Satyananda Saraswati, has multiple lessons on mindfulness that we will, of course, explore. Still, for now, I'd like us to look at the painting above.
If you'd prefer to be led through this exercise, then click on the audio recording located within the internet version of this blog post now (versus the newsletter as Mailchimp doesn't always include slideshows and recordings in their platform).
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The first thing we see is the intense, yellow light of the winter sun outside -- a sun that dazzles without warmth. Then we notice the old man sitting motionless, having turned away from his table and the book he was studying. Is he thinking? Resting? Meditating? We look to the right and notice the low cellar door, then our eyes are drawn to the spiral staircase, but we have barely registered its first few steps when we notice the fire crackling in the grate and the woman stoking it. Finally, our eyes return to the staircase, but it leads only into darkness. The painting is small, the place it depicts is dark, yet we have a sense of immense space. This is the genius of Rembrandt, who leads us on a visual journey through all the dimensions. We travel the painting widthways left to right, from the daylight pouring into the fragile, almost derisory firelight. There's a dialogue established between the sun that lights but does not warm and the fire that warms but sheds no light. Are these the sun of reason and the fire of passion, two ingredients that combine in philosophy? We travel the painting's height by means of the spiral staircase that links the deep secrets of the cellar to the dark mysteries of the upper floor, and we travel its depth, from the background where the philosopher sits to the surrounding circle of shadows. But the sense of space also derives from the subtle interplay between all that is revealed and all that is hidden, where our imagination is crucial -- what lies on the other side of the window, behind the cellar door, at the top of the stairs? The largest of the worlds hidden from our restless eyes is the philosopher's mind, his inner world. Shadows and darkness, a little light, a little warmth, and a working mind -- is that what our inner selves are like?
Meditation Means Stopping
Stop doing, stop moving, stop twisting and turning. Meditation means withdrawing a little, stepping back from the world. At first, what we feel seems odd. There's an emptiness (no action or distraction) and a fullness (a tumult of thoughts and sensations that we suddenly notice). There's what we lack -- points of reference and things to do -- and, after a little while, there's the calm this lack brings. Things here are not the same as they are 'outside,' where our mind constantly attaches itself to some aim or project, acting or thinking about something in particular, having its attention held by some distraction.
The apparent inaction of the experience of meditating takes a little while to get used to. As in Rembrandt's painting, or when we move from light to shadow, we don't see clearly straight away. We have gone inside ourselves, for real. Our inner world was close by, but we never went there. We tend to hang around outside; in today's world of frantic demands and frenzied connections, our relationship with ourselves often goes untended. We abandon our inner world. The outside world is easier to travel and better signposted. To meditate is often to move through a land without paths. In the room where the philosopher is meditating, there's less light, so you have to open your eyes wider. The same is true inside ourselves. There is less that is obvious or reassuring, so we must open our mind's eye much wider.
We expected -- or hoped -- to find calm and emptiness. We often find ourselves in a huge, rowdy, chaotic bazaar. We aspired to clarity; we find confusion. Sometimes meditation exposes us to anxiety and pain, to things that hurt us and that we have avoided by thinking about something else or busily doing things elsewhere.
It all looked so simple from the outside! We thought it would be enough just to sit down and close our eyes. But no, that's just the start. It's indispensable, but not enough in itself. So what now? Now we have to work. We must learn to look, to remain slightly apart from the world, sitting just like this with closed eyes. We must learn to allow the tumult to settle.
The first thing to accomplish is no more than that, sitting still and quiet for long enough to allow a kind of calm to settle around the chatter of our mind, enough for us to start seeing a bit more clearly. We must not try to achieve it by force or will -- that would only trigger more chaos. We must let it happen, let it come from inside.
Sometimes we have to wait a long time. This process is not something that can be rushed. We would like to speed it up, but no, meditation takes time. In fact, there are days when nothing comes at all, which may come as a bit of a shock and seem out of tune with times that promise us instant, guaranteed results. Zen wisdom has many tales to illustrate this point, such as the one about a student who asks his teacher, 'Master, how long will I have to meditate to attain serenity?' After a long silence, the master replies, Thirty years.' The student looks stricken. 'Er .. that's a very long time. What if I make twice the effort? What if I work really hard, day and night, and don't do anything else?' The teacher remains silent for a very long time and then says, 'Then it will take you fifty years.'
Starting to See More Clearly
So we have stopped, we have sat down, and closed our eyes. Not to sleep, not to rest, but to understand. We need to understand what we feel and put some order into the chaos that is simply the world's echo within ourselves. We must understand that there are two paths: the path of intelligence (acting, intervening, kneading reality with our will, lucidity, and effort) and the path of experience (welcoming naked reality and allowing it to cover, inhabit and imbue us, in a movement of intensely attentive letting go).
Both intelligence and experience keep us in contact with the world, one enabling us to understand it better, the other to feel it better. Each, in its own way, is a perfect path. Neither is superior to the other. We need them both, and we must keep both alive and in working order.
To put it more simply, we can say that the first path is that of philosophical thought, while the second (receiving the world without necessarily understanding it, or understanding it but without words, or beyond words) is that of mindfulness. It is the meditative approach of mindfulness that is the subject of the upcoming blog posts.
Living in Mindfulness
Mindfulness means intensifying our presence in the moment, stilling ourselves to absorb it instead of escaping it or trying to alter it through thought or action.
There is mindfulness in the action of the philosopher who turns for a moment from his work of thinking and enters a different mode of being, digesting and assimilating all that his intelligence has just produced or discovered, preparing himself, perhaps, to go further still, and pausing to be aware.
So mindfulness is not about creating emptiness, nor is it about producing thoughts. It means stopping in order to make contact with the ever-shifting experience that we are having at the time, and to observe the nature of our relationship to that experience, the nature of our presence at that moment. This is what is happening now if, while continuing to read these words attentively, you realize that you are also breathing and having bodily sensations, that there are other objects in your field of vision besides this blog, that there are sounds around you, that there are thoughts calling you away or murmuring assessments and judgments of what you are reading, and so on.
Mindfulness means, just as you are about to erase this email or close this browser tab and move on to the next (perhaps your hand is already poised before you even finish reading these lines), halting your movement and observing, for example, the intention to close the tab, the intention that's already within you. Saying to yourself, 'I'm going to close/turn the page,' rather than doing it without even noticing. Mindfulness means making a tiny space every now and then to see ourselves doing something. You will tell me we don't need to do this in order to erase an email or turn a page. And that is true. On the other hand, it may prove useful at many other times in our lives.
Saraswati, Satyananda. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Yoga Publications Trust, 2013.
André Christophe. Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art. Replika Press, 2014.
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley
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Enlightenment Is Your Nature: The Fundamental Difference Between Psychology, Therapy, and Meditation
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