Practicing Reiki as a spiritual discipline is almost never discussed in any books, any websites and none of the national Reiki organisations. So prevalent is the obsession with Reiki as nothing more than a hands-on energy healing system, that its larger, more challenging but more important aspects are by and large, pretty much ignored.
It could be argued of course that even if we are focused only on using the energy healing part of the system, we’re still using it as a form of personal spiritual practice because, on a macrocosmic level, there is no ‘other’ to give a healing session to. But that’s a philosophical route we don’t need to go down as it just leads to a very laissez-faire approach to personal spiritual development.
Central to the practice of Reiki is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of what is going on right now: not reflecting on what has passed and not projecting forward into what has yet to come, and doing so, without judgement. This is the bedrock and foundation of the entirety of the Reiki system in all its numerous ways, facets, and nuances of expression.
When we think of mindfulness, we tend to think of what is going on in our head; it is more accurate to think about what is going on in the whole body. Consciousness is not just located in the head; it is everywhere in the human being, and we should keep this in mind when we work with mindfulness as a meditation practice.
When we practice Reiki, most of us are very much ‘living in our heads’. We ignore the presence of our physical body as our minds wander all over the place, projecting forwards into things that have not yet happened, or reflecting on what has already passed. Our minds are either forming their own arbitrary narrative structures; they’re somewhere other than with what is happening right now or are busy speculating, forming opinions, making judgements, or otherwise engaged in a mental commentary based on the sensory data they are receiving.
This gets mashed together with the storehouse of experiences, impressions, and other mental events that the mind has filed away to form new lenses through which to view the world, and none of this is helpful to us or, in a healing context, beneficial to the person receiving the healing session.
So how to practice mindfulness?
Firstly, we need to consider our posture. Given that Reiki is a Japanese practice, it might be appropriate to sit in seiza (which means ‘correct sitting’). This posture, however, designed so that samurai can get up quickly during a fight, can be extremely uncomfortable for those not used to it, and given that it has only existed in Japanese culture for around 200 years can easily be discarded for less painful postures.
If seiza doesn’t work for you, you could try sitting cross-legged in a lotus or half-lotus posture. If you also find that difficult, you could try sitting in a half lotus over an extended period, to see if your leg muscles will loosen up so that you can get into a full lotus more easily. The main difference between the half and full lotus is that the knees are both touching the floor in the full lotus, which gives a much more stable posture. If your knees are floating in the air higher than your hips, you are unstable. Stability in meditation (both body and mind) is a critical element.
You should keep your spine straight, resting in its natural curve, with your shoulders relaxed but in line with your ears. Also, pull your chin in so that it is not tilting upwards or downwards. Place your hands loosely in your lap. You may also like to place a cushion on your lap to take the weight of your hands and arms. Sit with dignity, as if you are holding up the sky with your head.
If you are using a chair, sit independently of its back. To begin with, you might have some lower back pain. Check that your knees are not higher than your hips. If this is the case, you will overwork your lower back and cause discomfort. Place a firm cushion on the chair first if necessary. If you still have pain in this area, it might be because most of us rarely exercise our lower backs due to sitting for long periods. Normally we lean against the back of the chair, allowing our lower back muscles to rest. When we sit independently of the chair back, these muscles must start working. It is worth just sitting through the discomfort for a period until your back muscles get used to working properly. Of course, if you have lower back problems or other physical restrictions that mean you can’t assume a good meditation posture easily, you should use some sort of support. It is always best to be fully independent of any physical support as much as you can, however. Our bodies should be physically independent, and our minds should be mentally independent.
It is also possible to simply lie down to meditate and you may find this to be of great benefit if you struggle with sitting for any length of time. A word of warning: it is best not to lie on your bed as we have so programmed our minds that lying on the bed means it’s time to sleep, that it is extremely difficult to do so and stay focused and alert.
In establishing a successful meditation practice, you must ultimately find what works for you. Perhaps you could experiment and try out different approaches. This is especially true if you suffer from some physical impairment or if you are bedridden or have some other issues that prevent you from assuming a traditional meditation posture. If none of these traditional approaches are possible, it’s perfectly acceptable to get creative and find your own way with this. The important requirements of a good posture are that you are stable, comfortable, and alert.
Do you play tranquil New Age music or recordings of the sounds of nature when you sit to meditate? So many of us do this and mostly because others have introduced us to it, or we’ve attended workshops where this is part of the ‘spiritual baggage’ used to create a certain type of ambience. It has become an expectation within the New Age/alternative healing community. The playing of such music or sounds as an accompaniment to a meditation practice is never questioned. Perhaps it should be.
Just as our body should be independent of external support and completely stable, so should our mind. When did you see video footage on TV of monks with their headphones on listening to their favourite tunes while they meditated? Of course, you didn’t. When you are using an external support such as music, your mind can become reliant on it and influenced by it. When the music gets sad, your mood can change. When the music gets happy, you can get happy. One of the things that mindfulness practice does is reframe your relationship with these types of sensory input. Give yourself a fighting chance with your practice and turn the music off. It really isn’t helping you.
We need to learn to work with the mind during meditation, rather than against it. As we all know, our normal day to day is made up of thousands of thoughts drifting (and sometimes rampaging) across our minds. We are reflecting on the past or projecting into the future, and rarely spending time in the only reality that exists: now. And when we sit to meditate for the first time, we somehow expect this normal mental activity to cease entirely and our minds to just be still and empty: a vast open void of nothingness, of perfect clarity and intense bliss. Of course, this is about as far from the true experience of most meditators as you can get.
When we begin a meditation practice it’s very important to remember that our job is not to stop the mind from thinking but to simply be aware.
Try the following meditation practice.
This is a traditional Japanese Reiki meditation that is becoming increasingly well known within the Reiki community outside of Japan. One of the main benefits of practicing this meditation is that it helps to improve your ability to channel Reiki energy. It also helps to keep you very grounded, and this is a good thing when it comes to your further spiritual development. This meditation strengthens the primary energy channel: The Penetrating Vessel (or sushumna) running down the spine.
You can practice this meditation for maybe 10 or 15 minutes when you first start, but as time goes by, if you wish you can extend that time to whatever suits you.
Get yourself into a comfortable position. You can if you wish, sit cross-legged on the floor in a full or half lotus if that is comfortable, or you can use a meditation stool. It is also perfectly fine to sit on a chair if this works best for you. The important thing is to make sure that you are comfortable and stable in your posture. A stable posture encourages a stable mind. You may if you wish, bring your hands together to form a Gassho mudra for a few moments and fix your gaze on the floor in front of you. Gassho is when you hold your hands together as if in prayer, in front of your chest. Take your awareness into your hands; into Gassho. Reflect on why we hold this mudra. What are you feeling when sat with your hands together in front of you, as if praying?
Now just take two or three slightly deeper breaths than normal and allow any tension in your body to go. Spend a few moments going over your body, releasing any tension that you may find on each out breath. Consciously be aware of any tension leaving your body as you breathe out. Bring your awareness to your hara and notice the way your belly rises and falls with each in and out breath for a few moments.
Bring your hands down into your lap, palms facing up, right hand resting on top of the left, thumbs connecting. This is Dhyana mudra which helps to deepen your concentration and bring about tranquility of mind and a state of inner peace. If you prefer you can simply allow your hands to rest comfortably on your knees. Now close your eyes. If you wish, you can connect the tongue to the palate just behind the upper teeth. This creates an energy circuit through the body called ‘The Microcosmic Orbit’.
Now bring your awareness to your breath, breathing in and out through your nose. Breathe in slightly deeper than normal, allowing your diaphragm to pull in the air and allowing the belly to expand outwards. Be careful not to breathe too deeply and hyperventilate.
Keep your awareness on your breath for a few moments. Be aware of the sensation of the breath at the nose and notice where else you feel it in your body. Do you notice it just at the nostrils, or in the throat, the chest, or further down in the belly? There is no correct way to feel it. Just be aware of where you notice the breath most strongly. Notice how the diaphragm relaxes on each out breath and expands again on each in breath.
If at any time your mind wanders, just acknowledge this and bring it back to the focus of the meditation. It may wander many times, and this is okay. Every time you notice that it has wandered is a moment of success: you are being aware!
As you breathe out, try to use your stomach as if it were a pump, driving out any unwanted air from the lungs. And then draw in another long, deep breath, right down into the stomach. Notice how this feels.
Just keep this breathing up for a few moments, noticing the sensations of air against the nostrils, the rising and falling of the belly as your diaphragm moves, whatever sensations are present, just allow them to be, noticing them without judgment.
Now have the intention of connecting to Reiki energy, using the breath as a vehicle to bring it in to the body. Visualise and have a strong sense that you are breathing in Reiki. Bring it all the way down into your hara. Feel the energy accumulating at your hara. Maintain your focus here as you continue to breathe in and out for a few moments. Notice any sensations of energy at the hara — inside your belly. If you do not notice anything, this is perfectly okay. Just be present with whatever is. Do not try to force or imagine something that is not real for you. Just acknowledge whatever you feel or do not feel at the hara.
Now visualise that the energy from your hara is expanding throughout your whole body. See it rising upwards through your torso, into your head and down your arms and into your hands and your fingers. See it also spreading down into your hips, your thighs, your knees, your lower legs and ankles and down into your feet and out to each of your toes. Feel and get a sense of your whole body filled with this energy radiating out from your core, from your hara. Do you feel any sensations anywhere, or are there any emotions arising? Just notice them and acknowledge their presence. There is no need to do anything with them.
Now see the energy radiating outwards from your body to the world beyond. See yourself sat at the center of this expanding field of energy, that is sweeping outwards and affecting everything in its path. Stay with this process for as long as you wish. Really get a sense of the energy from your hara spreading outwards and washing over everything and everyone in its path, going on to infinity. Do you feel anything? Do you sense any tingling anywhere in your body? Any feelings of warmth, or perhaps cold? What about your emotions? Just notice what is there without doing anything with it. Broaden out your perspective and have a gentle awareness of whatever arises for you. If you don’t feel anything, if nothing arises, just be aware of that. Whatever you are feeling or whatever you are not feeling, is perfectly fine and the way it is meant to be for this moment in time.
Let us now gently bring this meditation to a close. Bring your awareness back into your body and just be present with it for a few moments. Notice how your body feels, Notice any sensations of energy in the hara or anywhere else in the body. Raise your hands back into Gassho mudra.
Bring your awareness to your hands. Two things coming together as one — this is the point of Gassho. Duality gives way to oneness. Breathe into this mudra for a few moments, then open your eyes and reconnect with your surroundings. Take a few moments just to reflect on your experience of this meditation and then slowly move your body. You may now get up and resume your normal daily activities.