The Reiki Gifts of Healing: Earth and Sky
I love this quote because it helps us to remember what a miracle life is! For me, my animal Reiki practice is something that brings magic and miracles to my life every single day.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
The meditative gifts of animal Reiki practice are many, however I'd like to focus on the gifts of healing brought by connecting to the earth and sky. For me, the earth and sky are at the core of many Reiki practices because they are two of the purest qualities of our spiritual essence, and as such are keys to our wellness. To touch earth and sky energy within one's own nature is to access the ability to relieve suffering and find healing in the deepest layers of being. Earth and sky practice brings balance, peace and harmony. Our animals can also benefit from our self-practice; when we invite them into this space of wellbeing and harmony, we can support their self-healing too.
The Stable Healing of Earth: Remembering Where We Come From
"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."
It's true; a forest is a wonderful place to rediscover the universe inside us. Connecting with forests or other natural places on earth brings the gifts of grounding and stability. This happens more easily when we develop our connection to our hara with regular Reiki practice. In reality, since we are physical beings, we come from the earth and we will also return to it once we die. Everything we have in this life—our breath, our health, our food, our water and more--we owe in one way or another to her generosity and wisdom.
Even so, perhaps it is human nature to take life for granted. We imagine that we will always have the gifts that earth provides. And then one day, when we come face to face with our mortality—when we realize that in truth, at any moment it all could end--then suddenly the most mundane earthly things become the most miraculous and beautiful—the laugh of our child, the click of our dog's toenails on the floor, a flower or sunset.
Out the windows of my home I can see a natural temple made of earth—Mount Tamalpais, a beautiful mountain here in Marin County where I live. For many ages she has been here, standing so proud and tall. I love that I get to see this mountain at all times of the day, for she looks different at sunrise than she does in midday or at sunset. I love that I get to see her in all kinds of weather—shining in the sun or obscured by clouds. Through the wind and rain, sometimes I can catch a glimpse of her. And even in the darkest night, although I can't see her, I know my mountain is always there.
One day my world changed as I knew it—I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I knew it would take everything I had inside of me, including the grace of the universe, to survive. Suddenly I realized, on a deep visceral level, that life had absolutely no guarantees—not even tomorrow—and all I had was this very moment in time. As soon as I got home from the hospital after my diagnosis, my whole being was drawn to look out the window, and I remember standing there silently, gazing at her tall, dark form, as everything inside of me felt as if it were crumbling.
As I looked out my window it was as if I had new and different eyes, and I suddenly saw something in this mountain that gave me resolve: the strength and stability of earth—dependable, immoveable, unemotional. As I moved through my surgery, treatments and recovery, she watched, silent and strong. Some days I would feel so weak and mortal, as if the slightest breeze could dissipate my energy and I simply would cease to exist. On these hardest, most painful or scary days, I would lie in the guest bedroom where I could see the mountain from my pillow and ask her for healing. I would imagine that all of her strength and fortitude was also inside of me. We are not so different, I would say to her; you and I, we are both made of earth. Her unchanging presence—a powerful symbol of earth's power—was an incredible comfort to me, and helped me to weather the storming emotions that the coming months would bring.
Experiencing this stability in myself was such a gift from the earth, and it gave me insight into many animal experiences I had had over the years. For example, when working with traumatized horses, often I would feel their energy as very flighty, unstable and chaotic. To place my own energy in their space, it would take lots of focus on grounding, so that I wasn't also swept away into their chaos and fear. The horses had shown me over the years that by turning inward, focusing on my hara, feeling the earth beneath my feet and its stability inside of me, I would experience an interesting change. Even the most unstable of horses would eventually stop his fretting, take notice of me, sometimes even coming over to investigate and connect. Over and over I would see that as soon as I got my own grounding, the horse would also slow down, relax, and maybe even sleep. And even when they chose to continue to move around and graze during treatment, there would be such a big shift into calmness that I could sense in their energy. It was as if they had felt the earth inside of me, and then remembered it inside of themselves. Although I had experienced this with many horses over the years, the fact that these were gifts from the earth eluded me until I had experienced this grounding and strength in my own healing journey.
The Spacious Healing of Sky: Remembering Our Expansive Spirit
The gift of the sky represents the spacious nature of our relaxed consciousness. This happens when we let go of our thoughts and intellectual mind and just sit in the perfect stillness of the Reiki space. So many times in our lives we are focusing on regrets in the past, worries about the future, or trying to control the present moment—our minds are so busy "doing" that we forget about "being!" Buddhism teaches that happiness is when we learn to let go without judgment into the spaciousness of our mind:
"Vast and spacious as the sky, this is our mind without the dualistic labeling. When we label and get attached to dualistic thoughts our mind becomes cluttered, boxed in, and narrow. When we can naturally experience this openness of mind without effort this is the process. Having the ability to sustain and maintain this vastness of mind, this spaciousness mind and clarity of mind in all situations in life is called Perfect Happiness."
But what if this present moment is difficult? When going through a challenge such as a life-threatening illness, we might find our thoughts slowly getting more and more focused on our problems. Dwelling on our physical suffering, worrying about the pain and side-effects of treatments and surgeries, fears about if/when we will recover—these kinds of thoughts become like thick clouds covering the vast nature of our mind. Sometimes it might feel like we ARE the disease, and that there is nothing but pain, fear or a bad ending—our minds become smaller and more boxed in, darker and more depressed.
For me, Reiki chanting was the practice that helped my mind to let go of all the clouds of fear and suffering, that helped me to remember who I really am. In reality, my inner essence is eternal, is bright, is beautiful, is perfect, is connected to all things and is as wide as the universe. My true essence is always free and always well. After a chanting session, I could always feel this spiritual shift inside of me, no matter what I was going through physically. Maybe the pain was still there, maybe I still had some fear, but it no longer felt overwhelming, or as if that was ALL there was. I could sense and feel so much more possibility within myself—compassion as wide as the universe, healing potential as deep as forever. This recognition of my larger spiritual self gave me so much relief and comfort from my suffering...
It also made me suddenly mindful of the experiences of shelter animals I had offered Reiki to over the years. These were animals who were frightened, abused or traumatized. Some of them were suffering terrible injuries or illnesses, even dying, yet when I would sit with them in the Reiki space, and allow my mind to let go—completely let go of worries, fears, judgments, expectations, all of it—then, as I felt my mind relax, I would see that even the animals with the most suffering would be able to lie down peacefully, take a deep sigh, and truly relax. The reality of being in a shelter hadn't changed, their health hadn't changed (yet—but often healing or adoption miracles do shortly follow treatments!) and yet they were able to find peace and wellbeing even in the midst of that difficult situation. What a miracle! I had witnessed this so many times over the years, but it was only after I had experienced the expansion and letting go in my consciousness during my own deep suffering that I recognized these were the gifts of the sky.
Pondering all of these experiences, I've come to realize that although Reiki often lessens pain and improves physical or mental issues, it's not always that Reiki necessarily removes the suffering, but it just puts it in perspective. Suffering might be there, yes, but it's not the only thing that is there; it's not the only thing that we are. I suppose we could say that suffering is part of life, but the question is, do we let ourselves be overwhelmed by it? If we can stay grounded and stable, while also finding a way to touch our expansive consciousness, suffering loses its strong grip and we can find our way back to balance.
For me that's the real gift of Reiki—not that it will prevent anything bad from ever happening to us—there are always bumps in the road of life—however Reiki can help us to stay in touch with our true natures, which always and at every moment, no matter what we are facing, have the capacity to experience peace, harmony and relief from suffering.
Developing the earth and sky together within our bodies through the practices of Reiki brings peace, equanimity, balance and perfect, lasting healing—beyond the physical body; it is the healing of our eternal spirit. This peacefulness is always there, no matter what struggles we or our animals will face. Grounding in the earth and letting ourselves expand into the sky allows us to remember our true natures. Our Reiki practice gives us the tools to uncover our inner bright light that is always perfect and beautiful, no matter what struggles we, or our animals, may face on the surface.
Try This: An Earth Practice for Us...
Find a place to sit directly on the earth. Alternately, place a chair on the earth so that at least your feet can be flat on the ground. Place your hands over your lower belly (hara). As you inhale, feel the breath as light flowing up from the earth, into your legs, body and into your belly. On the exhale, feel the breath flowing from your lower belly, down your legs and feet and returning to the earth. Imagine this light can travel instantaneously from your hara to core of the earth and back again. With each breath, imagine the light grows brighter and brighter, both at your hara and in the core of the earth, the energy circulating back and forth. Feel your lower body becoming heavier and heavier, as if there is no separation between you and the earth's center.
After several minutes focusing on your breath, relax and just sit in the energy. Feel the energy in your hara as bright, warm light. Just as your hands are connected to the hara, all of your being is connected to your hara. Feel as if your hara is no different from the core of the earth. The same beautiful light emanates from your core and the earth's core. Feel the stability and strength of the earth within your own center.
Imagine this light can expand, filling your whole body with a beautiful bright light. Your inner light is the light of the earth—feel every cell of your body radiating the stability of earth. You are a mountain, even more, you are all mountains, and in fact you are the very planet.
Bring your awareness to the present moment. Feel the strength of earth ripple out your body, into your emotions and into your spirit, making you stronger and stronger, just as the energy of earth ripples out into space. The earth moves in space yet is stable and balanced within the universe. Your life changes unexpectedly, yet you are stable like a mountain; you are as balanced and strong as the earth itself.
Now Add This: An Earth Practice for an Animal
Do the earth practice for yourself for several minutes until you feel your mind and body relax into the energy. Then simply invite the animal into the space for whatever they might need. Don't try to "do" anything, or push the energy towards the animal. Just imagine that you ARE the mountain or you ARE the earth and you are there, strong and stable, for the animal in this present moment. You are there for whatever this moment looks like, for whatever they might need. Share the space of strength, balance and harmony.
Photo © 2014 Kathleen Prasad