Being a Reiki Student as a Way to Practice Non-Duality

Carol BurbankArticles, English Leave a Comment


I never know what’s going to shift when I re-sit the Shinpiden class. As Anna Rosanna Danna (the great Gilda Radner’s magical SNL character) says, “It’s always somethin!” — something good, when it comes to Reiki. 

This month in the DC class, something so simple shifted that at first, I hardly noticed. The meditations, Reiju, and group energy helped me move from a space of wanting to learn properly to a space of simply wanting to learn, for one long, enlightening afternoon. It’s probably good that I hardly noticed — I didn’t have much of a chance to get in my own way. 

And what a difference! Because I stopped trying to be a good student, gave up, for a short time, reaching for my best self, I experienced the (relatively) non-dual space of simply paying attention. It’s such a different resonance from wanting to improve, to be special, to be skillful. Looking back on the experience, it was also very powerful.

In the Inner Heart of Reiki, Frans talks about rediscovering our True Self, quoting Taisin Deshimaru: “When we abandon the ego our consciousness opens up to the infinite” (p. 173). During a Reiju, our “energy needs to be like a calm lake” (p. 120). A learning space of being more present helped me experience something new, especially during the Reiju, to vibrate calmer and brighter, to get closer to that peace and connection of non-duality.

It’s always the “small” shifts that turn out to be the most powerful, isn’t it? By releasing the person/student I should be, I also let go of the person/student I have been (whoever they are anyway!) In the space between, the stories that sometimes get me stuck lost their power. I had a chance to acknowledge them, and cut a few ego-strings, a great practice for facing those same stories as they pop up in my daily life.

In the complicated web of emotions, stories and habits that attach me to my beliefs about what is valuable about myself, the desire to be a good student is one of the thickest knots. It has been trained into me through years of education — and I mean years, if you include my Ph.D. and the holistic training that is the foundation for my healing practice! 

The longing to be seen as special and gifted is also the frenzied heart of the American family system, and one of the deeper blessing/curses of my own upbringing. So it’s been one of my biggest spiritual challenges, cutting two ways: making me ambitious as I reach for “success,” and making me fearful, as I shy away from “failure.” 

Knots like this need many small shifts to untangle, and that’s why classes are especially valuable. They create multiple chances to practice new perceptions. Being compassionate with ourselves and others as we learn forward helps us all move into transformative shifts, together. 

My daily Reiki practice feels really different after that experience of opening up to new possibilities in the Reiki classroom. My old ways of doing shifted with the experience of being present outside my usual student habit, shifting in the gentle way ripples subtly shift the energy and contours of a pond. It’s going to take a little getting used to, and a lot more practice.

It’s a good thing walking the Reiki path is a longterm project. Allowing subtle changes to ripple me forward is simple but not easy, as simple and hard as releasing my student expectations, as simple and hard as letting my practice have a central place in my daily life. 

There’s another resonance from this simple but not easy shift: I have begun revisiting my teaching. If as a student, my ingrained habit is to look for reinforcement and advancement, then as a teacher, I am probably rewarding those behaviors in my classes and workshops. Since being present and curious is so powerful as a student, then it must be equally powerful for being a teacher. And it makes sense to me that, whether I’m teaching Reiki or something else, my work will become more effective, engaging and inclusive.

Frans’ last blog defined practice (gyo) as: “being true to my way and my being, not to someone else’s way but to my own organic nature…. Because if we anger and worry we cannot be flexible…. This activity from a pure experience is an activity from our True Self. An activity from pure experience is when we are free and can flow within the flow of the universe, instead of being stuck with manmade rigid rules.”  

Last weekend offered a moment of grace, a release from my “manmade” rules for learning. For a few hours, I got to live something new. I didn’t have to be special, but only needed to be present. It’s as if I had a chance to breathe more deeply in a less cluttered space, a space that’s mine, but bigger than me-as-I-know-myself.

I liked it, so I’m going to practice until it happens more often. After awhile, it might just become the new Reiki normal.

As I write this, I have an overwhelming sense that what I’m describing is pretty basic, no doubt a recurrence of the “good student” virus. I’d love to hear stories of fellow students who experienced something similar, or lived this kind of presence in their own classrooms as teachers. I would also love to hear about some ways you’ve used the Reiki practices to become more present and change similar habits of being. Thanks in advance!

BIO: Carol Burbank is a teacher, coach, healer and writer based in Maryland, and a Reiki student with IHR for the past 15 years (give or take a few!). She uses Reiki as a foundation for Storyweaving, a coaching and healing strategy that shifts core stories as a way to move closer to a flexible, true self. Her new workbook, Storyweaving Playbook One: Answer the Call to Adventure will be published in October, 2015.  Contact Carol. or find out more about Storyweaving.


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