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Reiki is Wisdom and Compassion

For we did not weave the web of life. We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. Let us give thanks for the web and the circle that connects us.
–Chief Seattle

Sometimes when I fly, I get very philosophical. Just the other day, I was sitting in a plane, and suddenly became aware of how much of my life depends on others. I was thinking about the pilot flying the plane, the flight attendants looking after all of us passengers, the cooperation of all of the passengers to make it a safe and pleasant experience. I looked at my seatbelt, the chair in front of me, my cup of water, and all the other parts of the plane around me and reflected on the many, many people it took to make this plane trip happen. For me to be sitting there at that moment, it took the attention and care of engineers, artists, designers, mechanics, safety experts and more.... People who had probably spent years studying their craft, and in turn, who owed their own learning and expertise to countless other individuals. I felt a surge of gratitude at that moment, and felt myself surrounded by the energy of many caring people who shared their talents with the world so that people could travel through the air. How amazing and generous is that?! It just made me want to smile and help everyone I saw.

I guess Albert Einstein, even though he was a scientist, ruminated on this spiritual truth a lot in his life:

A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labor of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. I am strongly drawn to the simple life and am often oppressed by the feeling that I am engrossing an unnecessary amount of labor of my fellow people.

It is this wisdom, the realization of this interdependence of all beings (including animals and mother nature too) that nurtures and deepens compassion in each of us. For me, it is my work with Reiki and animals which brings wisdom of the interconnectedness of all things to the surface of my awareness on a daily basis, and thus reminds me that compassion makes the world go 'round. And more than that: compassion heals. As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, "A person with loving kindness and compassion heals others simply by existing."

So what exactly is Reiki? In the deepest sense, Reiki, very simply, IS wisdom and compassion. Therefore, Reiki heals. Let's look at the elements of the system of Reiki and see how wisdom and compassion fit in...

We can see from the Precepts--For today only: Do not anger, do not worry, be humble, be honest, be compassionate--that compassion is directly stated as a precept for living a balanced life. The other precepts are steps to help us access our compassion; the more that we let go of anger, worry and ego, and the more we can uncover our true inner wisdom—the realization that we are all interconnected—and thus naturally arises compassion! Practicing the precepts with the animals also helps us remember our wisdom by dissolving species differences and revealing spiritual oneness. In my experience, animals help teach us the precepts and open the door to our inner compassion.

We can also see wisdom and compassion in the traditional practices and meditations taught in the system of Reiki, for example the Joshin Kokyu Ho. In this breathing meditative practice, the person sits quietly and brings their energy in through their nose, filling their body with healing light, all the way to the hara (the energy center below the navel). On the exhale, the person expands this light out in all directions, infinitely in the universe. By connecting with the hara, our energy becomes more centered, more grounded, yet at the same time more connected to the entire universe. In essence, with each breath, we are gathering our energy and stabilizing ourselves energetically, while sharing ourselves with all. This is not something we can do with our intellectual mind, rather it is a practice for the body and spirit, and our mind can just relax. By letting go of the mind, and focusing on the breath (which bridges body and spirit), we can slowly let go of anger, worry, and ego; thus again we are remembering our inner wisdom, our connection to all things—and in this space compassion naturally arises. I find that this practice of Joshin Kokyu Ho is best practiced with our animals, as they are great meditation partners! Because they connect with the world and spirit beyond the intellectual mind, they help us too, to go deeper.

We can also see wisdom and compassion in the symbols and the mantras. Practicing with the visual aid of the symbols, or the verbal/sound practice of the mantras engage our sight, our speech and our breath. Just as with the breathing practices, the symbols and mantras help us to let go of mind chatter and sit in a more quiet mental place, while supporting an inner energetic focus on the path towards wisdom: grounding, a nurturing of mental harmony and a state of mind of oneness. An inner drive to compassionate action is a natural by-product of our work with the symbols and mantras. Again, invite your animals to sit with you as you work with the symbols and mantras, they will support you to go deeper!

We can also see wisdom and compassion in our Reiki treatments with others. When we sit and share a Reiki space with a person or an animal, we must be truly present. Hopefully we have a daily meditation practice to help us to heal our own issues—it's important to work with our own anger, worry and ego—in order to be able to hold a space of compassion. To be with another being, with an open heart, with a listening spirit, with a humble eye, to truly become "one," this is our expression of wisdom and compassion as Reiki practitioners. It is not that we are doing something "to" them, rather that we are sharing and "being." This is how we can really help and support others in their healing journeys. In essence, a Reiki practitioner strives to be a bodhisattva, and this is something anyone can do. For me, animals are the greatest bodhisattvas!

"A bodhisattva is someone who has compassion within himself or herself and who is able to make another person smile or help someone suffer less. Every one of us is capable of this."
--Thich Nhat Hanh

We can also see wisdom and compassion in our energetic connection with our Reiki teachers—symbolized by the ritual of Reiju (initiations or attunements) they share with us. In creating a compassionate space and connection with their students through Reiju, Reiki teachers can help their students rediscover their inner wisdom—knowledge of the oneness with all things--and secondly, help their students to open more deeply to manifesting this through compassionate actions in every day life. In essence, Reiju is simply a ritual to nurture and grow wisdom and compassion! As Buddhist teacher John Daido Loori said, "Know that deep within each and every one of us, under layers of conditioning, there is an enlightened being, alive and well. In order to function, it needs to be discovered. To discover this Buddha is wisdom. To make it function in the world is compassion. That wisdom and compassion is the life of each one of us. It is up to you what you do with it."

Our highest goal in practicing Reiki is realizing we are all one (wisdom) and acting upon this in service to others (compassion). Reiki is Japanese in origin and we can see this reflected in the individual teachings and practices, however, this wisdom and compassion is a universal truth that we can see in all main spiritual practices around the globe. It transcends culture, politics, religion, society, species and even time. The ancient text of the Bhagavad-Gita says, "When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of others as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union." And although some may say, "Wisdom and compassion, is that all that Reiki is? Isn't it something more?" To that I say, truly, what more is there?

Photo credit: Lexie Cataldo © 2013

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