I received my first Reiki treatment some three years ago. Since then I have realized that the Reiki journey is never-ending. My most recent epiphany stems from working with the five precepts. I recall being intrigued by these rules of conduct as they seemed so simple: “Do not anger, do not worry, be humble, be honest in your work, and be compassionate to yourself and others”. What could be hard about doing this? True, it might be difficult at times to not be angry, not be worried and be compassionate, but with a little effort I was certain these states were easy to achieve. Truthfully, at the time I really had no idea what being humble even meant. Thus, I was very relieved that “being honest in my work” was not only clear, but I did this very well having been told many times what a good worker I was.
So like all good workers I set out to conquer the other four precepts, trusting in my belief that I knew what being honest in my work meant. Once I could recite the precepts at will it became quite easy to focus my energy and effort on the hands-on healing aspects of Reiki as this was the ultimate goal of learning the Reiki system in the first place, as this would allow me to do and teach Reiki. I was “working at Reiki” and very honestly indeed.
My understanding of the meaning of work had been gained while living in a mining community in the Canadian near-North which was wholly owned by the International Nickel Company, INCO for short. As a young child I learned that work was “very important” as it was what my father did to earn the money that provided our family with everything. It determined what house INCO assigned to us and what street we moved to when my dad was promoted. Work was “very hard” and how well my father did it meant a new car every two years, membership in the company owned club, bonuses and ultimately the social success of the whole family.
The joyfulness of our Christmas celebration was directly related to whether my parents received the coveted invitation to the annual Christmas Levy hosted by the General Manager at his luxurious home. If the invitation was received, my father had earned it; if not received, then my mother, my brothers or I had failed to do our part to advance the “family name” appropriately during the past year.
My appreciation of the value of work increased during the 1960s when as a teenager I learned that, in contrast to my “stay-at-home mother”, I would be expected to attend university and support myself. Having witnessed my mother’s total dependency on my “breadwinner” father, I was more than willing to work and become successful. And this I have done beginning with my first summer job at the age of 15. This year, 2011, will mark 50 years that I have been either attending school or working full-time, with two four-month breaks surrounding the birth of my sons. Therefore, it really is not that surprising that I believed implicitly that I understood and practiced “being honest in my work”.
Fortunately for me Reiki continued to be of consuming interest and I spent more and more time delving deeper and deeper into the Classical Japanese system as taught by the International House of Reiki. After attending Shinpiden in July 2010 I continued to work hard “at” Reiki. My daily practice was more or less visible depending upon my “workload”. And then for Christmas last December I treated myself with 4 of Bronwen Steine’s downloadable guided meditations. Being very busy with work it took me approximately 5 weeks before I was able to find the time to listen to Nentatsu Ho: a meditation method that allows for sending or reaching “right” thoughts. When coupled with the five precepts this meditation helps guide you to correct thought for yourself. I followed Bronwen’s directions, completed the fourth precept, “be honest in your work”, and was completely startled by the first thought that occurred to me. The sentence that went through my mind was “oh, I guess if work means to be balanced mentally, spiritually, and physically, then I’m going to have to pay a great deal more attention to my body”. As if by magic I reached a conclusion that for all my certainty regarding being honest in my work I truly did not know the meaning of work at all.
I have known for years that I had responsibility for the development and use of my mind. As well, I have craved spiritual truths and growth for as long as I can remember. In fact it was this desired end that led me initially to the system of Reiki. On the other hand, I have never felt any responsibility towards my body. It is the one thing that I have taken for granted my entire life. I have abused it knowingly at times and unwittingly often. I have rarely listened to the internal voice telling me what I have been doing to my body—not feeding it properly, not resting it, making terrific demands on its to be there when I need it. I expect my body to run, to walk, to wake up, to have resilience, stamina and to never fail me when I call upon it. In short I have not been honest in my work towards my body. Until several weeks ago I thought intellectual constructs were sufficient—take supplements, eat well when possible, but accept that “treats” (especially sugary ones) are legitimate whenever I want them.
Over the past weeks I have been exploring the meaning behind looking after my body/physical health. The first thing I recognized was that I had terrible eating habits. I indulged myself with appalling frequency. Although I had great ideas I often failed to follow through on my promises to myself to eat healthy foods. In addition my exercise patterns were modest at best. Upon reflection I discovered that I am a person who decides to climb many different mountains all at once. Therefore instead of making progress steadily, I am forever running up and down different slopes, doing this, doing that, and hoping to achieve growth.
As I began to focus more honestly upon my body and the work that I needed to do for it to be healthy I found myself worrying that I was about to apply the same false work ethic to my body responsibilities as I had to so many other things. In other words I was concerned that I was going to set out to conquer my body and myself. Fortunately, I am far enough immersed in the system of Reiki that the balance of mind, body and spirit is now my goal. As I practice “for today only” growth and development are happening. Next week, next month, next year, next decade are becoming vague concepts now. Today I will give my body, my mind and my spirit as much attention as I am able to give.
Once I started listening to my body I discovered that I have a whole new book of wisdom to explore; for example, one cup of coffee is enjoyable, while two cups upset my stomach. I have discovered that I feel better when I do physical exercises, my choices being belly dancing, yoga, and walking [when it is not -20° outside] and golf in the summer. It is totally astounding to me to exercise for the joy of it rather than “because I should”. An added bonus is that when I feel better physically and nourish my body I realize that I am nourishing my mind/emotional self and my spiritual self at the same time. When I select delicious food, I reduce my intake of sugar and caffeine. I also have stopped using prescription sleep medication, preferring instead to allow my meditation practice and hands-on healing to support my physical body. All of these things have put me on a healthier path but the amazing part of this journey is that none of these things feel forced. They are just doable and not that dramatic.
I no longer am attempting to climb five different mountain slopes at the same time. Instead, each day I sit quietly and pick up yet another stone from the mountain that is me. I have discovered that
“If you truly hold the stone, you can feel the mountain it came from.”
(“The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo 2009)
I am grateful that Reiki has led me to this discovery and I have no doubt Reiki will sustain me as I go forward. Who would have ever believed that “I am good enough, just the way I am”!
Dr. McAndrew is a Psychologist in Private Practice in Durham, Ontario, Canada. She is also a Reiki practitioner and teacher who continues to study with the International House of Reiki. She can be reached at [email protected].