The Importance of Practice

At the core of the system of Reiki we find a set of precepts. They are there to guide us and support us, and provide that anchor which we can always go back to, when we are in doubt. One of the many beautiful translations I have come across since I started practicing this system, is the following:

Just for today Do not be angry Do not worry Be grateful Practice diligently Show compassion to yourself and others

The original version of the precepts is in Japanese so it's only natural that each country adopted a translation in its own language. Moreover, within the same language, we can find different translations depending on lineages and teachers.

Very often, when different teachers express the same concept in their own way, students start having questions. What is the correct translation? What is the best one?

If you go to one of those stock photos websites and search for Mount Fuji, you'll find thousands of pictures about it. They are all different. The light is different, the distance from the mountain is different. The sky, the clouds, angles, position, and perspective, all are different.

Is there a best picture, one that will allow you to fully grasp the essence of Mount Fuji? Is there a correct picture?

You just need to go to Japan, and stand in front of it, to realise that those pictures offer only a limited view. You won't be able to grasp how majestic Mount Fuji is, until you find yourself at its foot and admire it reaching into the sky.

Similarly, some of those translations of the Reiki precepts are excellent, some are not, but none of them will show you the intimate essence of the precepts.

"Let us not forget, however, that words are but symbols of symbols. They are thus twice removed from reality." - A Course In Miracles

So, a diligent student of the system of Reiki will ask: "How can I understand the essence of the precepts?" The answer, funnily enough, comes from the precepts themselves. To see it, it is very helpful to take a look at the original Japanese version, found in the Gokai.

The five key concepts expressed in the precepts are anger, worry, gratitude, diligent practice, and kindness. The kanji from which they are derived are, respectively, ikaru, shinpai, kansha, gyo, and shinsetsu.

When we attempt to translate them, we immediately see why any translation might be considered reductive, or limited.

Within those kanji we find concepts such underdeveloped heart-mind; scattered heart-mind; to dispel emotions; action, karma, practice; and intimacy with oneself and others (not intended at a physical level, of course).

In simple words, when our heart and mind aren't developed enough, we will be prone to anger.

If we can't focus on the here and now, we will often dwell in the past and future, and we will start to worry, as our mind is all over the place.

When we dispel our emotions, and stop seeing reality through the filters of thought, cultural bias, feelings, etc., then we'll be able to see reality as it is. This allows us to be truly grateful for everything we have in life.

Words like action, karma, practice, are all much better than work, in the context of the fourth precept, and they express the importance of gathering the type of knowledge that can only come from direct experience.

Finally, when removing the artificial distance with ourselves, after recognising our ego as an illusion, we can subsequently remove the distance with others too. This allows us to experience oneness, and develop the genuine desire to help everyone get rid of their suffering. This is compassion, which is the essence of kindness and intimacy.

Now, with this perspective in mind, what can we say about the precepts? Clearly they are all about the mind. They all point out states of mind. In this case, mind is meant in its widest meaning, which also encompasses the heart.

But there is more. Precepts also means instructions, and these instructions are pointing at the root causes of our issues. How do we fix an underdeveloped or scattered heart and mind? How do we have the direct experience of reality, and get rid of the illusions that cloud our perception and understanding of it? How do we truly inspire others to do the same, and help them get rid of their suffering?

With practice.

When we practice, we develop our heart and mind. We learn to focus it on the here and now so it won't be scattered around anymore. Practice will show us our illusory ego, and therefore it will help us gradually remove all the veils that cloud our vision. Finally, by practicing we get closer to ourselves. When we accept what we discover inside, we make friends with who we are. This helps us recognise that we are not different from any other being. We all want happiness and no-one wants to suffer. This realisation helps us experience how we are all connected.

So, in light of all these considerations, I believe it is fair to say that Reiki practitioners, and teachers, should embrace practicing diligently. Reiki for me is a lifelong journey, I know I'll be practicing it until my very last day.

Practice is key. Practice is the way.

I believe it is very useful to learn how to practice and, over time, to understand what role practice can have in our lives. So let's spend a few words about these two topics.

We breathe on average 20.000 times a day. Most people think that when we breathe in, we are sucking the air into our lungs, but actually that's not how it works. When we breathe in, we contract some muscles in order to increase the volume of our lungs. In turn, the pressure in the lungs decreases. Immediately, because of the atmospheric pressure, air is pushed into our lungs. This means that the force that is pushing air into our lungs is actually outside our body.

We can look at this from a philosophical perspective, and notice that whenever we open up, the universe is ready to provide us with everything we need. Not once, since the day we were born, we have expanded our lungs and air didn't enter them. Not once. We just need to open up, and we will be taken care of.

Similarly, we should behave like this when we practice. We should simply sit on our butt, and try to open up as much as we can. We shouldn't sit with an agenda already in mind. We shouldn't sit thinking that we're working on our compassion, or anger, or love, or what have you. We should simply sit, do our practice, and try to be as wide open as we can.

The simplicity of this concept might be deceitful. It might feel "too simple", but it's actually very important. If we knew how we were causing ourselves so much suffering, it would be very easy for everyone to simply sit down and fix whatever we need to fix. But we don't work that way. We don't know what the tide is meant to bring today. Maybe it's a blissful experience, maybe it's a difficult one. Maybe it's a good meditation day, maybe a bad one. We simply don't know. Internal changes can take their sweet time to come to the surface. Hence, the best approach is to allow complete freedom to the experience, to let it unfold as naturally as possible. Sit down, be open, and whatever happens happens, don't worry about it, don't cling, don't reject, it's just an experience. Let it go.

Establishing a daily practice can be challenging these days, but at some point we might succeed. Some teachers might then suggest to try and find the time to practice more than once a day, as well as to try and bring the practice into our daily lives. This is wonderful.

It comes a time though, in the life of a practitioner, when quantity is no longer the answer. When that happens, the mind has to make a further switch. We actually need to do the opposite. Instead of bringing the practice into our life, we need to bring our life into the practice. This is eloquently expressed by the Tibetan word ལམ་འཁྱེར། (Lam 'khyer), which means "to bring into the path".

We have to bring our entire life into the path, so we can live our life while our mind is constantly oriented towards the practice. This way, whatever we do becomes a practice.

The system of Reiki originated within a Buddhist context, and every Buddhist practice has some stages that are all the same. We begin by understanding how and why we want to practice, then we perform the practice itself, and finally we dedicate the merits to the benefit of all sentient beings.

So, imagine performing everything we do in our life from this perspective. We eat this way, sleep this way, work our office job this way. We talk to the phone with our parents this way. We make love this way.

Anything we do, we find a motivation for it, which should be altruistic. Then we perform the task at the best of our abilities. Finally, we dedicate the merit, which means we develop the honest desire that the outcome of our actions will benefit as many living beings as possible.

Living life this way is very powerful.

When setting our motivation to do something for the benefit of all sentient beings, we get to the task with a huge amount of energy; much more than we would have if we were doing the same thing just for our own sake. Moreover, this attitude develops pure gratitude, the one that comes with no strings attached. Furthermore, dedicating the merit helps developing generosity, which is an aspect of kindness.

If you read between the lines, in the above you will be able to find all the Reiki precepts.

This attitude of bringing our life into the path is also expressed in the first line of the precepts: Kyo dake wa. We normally translate this as "Just for today", but a better translation can be "In every action you do today". That expresses the same concept: to bring life into the practice.

This final consideration closes the circle on our journey, and leaves us a wonderful instruction: whatever you do in life, make it into a practice.

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