When people first encounter Reiki, maybe from a friend or a website or flyer, they often can’t wrap their minds around it. It seems a little cuckoo. A little “out there.”
It doesn’t help that different Reiki practitioners and schools have different approaches, some of which are somewhat removed from the Japanese origins of the practice.
When you take the system of Reiki back as much as possible to its Japanese roots, it’s really not that “out there.” The system of Reiki is a simple meditation and healing practice, no more cuckoo than sister practices from other traditions such as yoga or qigong.
The system of Reiki sometimes seems “out there” because it is hard to describe.
By its very nature, any spiritual practice is hard to encapsulate in words. These are mystery practices.
Engaging directly with the mystery – of life, existence, and what lies beyond existence as we know it – is so worthwhile. But we have to let our brains step out of the driver’s seat to truly explore.
So in Reiki, understanding is not necessarily the same as intellectually knowing.
Words are fantastic tools for exploration. Our brains are excellent protectors, creative drivers, and life navigators. I don’t advocate abandoning language or intellect. But words can be limiting.
It’s true that understanding without words can make us uneasy, since we are so used to being able to place our experiences in nice, neat idea boxes with labels carefully pasted on the outside.
But understanding without words is also powerful, without those boxes keeping things contained.
Understanding without words is limitless.
Do you want to be limited or limitless? There are many right answers, as in any spiritual inquiry. What are yours? Your answers are colored by your own experiences and might be nuanced and even contradictory. Please share your thoughts below if this post sparked something in you.
May each of you embrace words for all they offer you. And may you also settle under those words and engage directly with the mystery of being.
Ps. The irony is not lost on me that I have used so many words to explore this concept! You have to start somewhere.
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“Understanding without words is so powerful.” Alice Risemberg, I’m embracing your words and settling under what you’ve written. Beautiful. Like you. xo
How lovely, Susan! That sinking down under the words can be so comforting, can’t it?
Great article. The other day I had a discussion about this with someone.
Words just do not do it.
This is what I wrote to the other day:
“The hardest thing is to create a way to express the ultimate reality.
If you work with someone who understands the ultimate reality you can “just sit” together and allow it all to unfold.
But often when we say” lets just sit together, the other person gets confused and might say, aren’t we supposed to do anything?
So sometimes we need to speak in our relative/dual language as the “receiver” is not ready to just sit.
As long as the practitioner knows that he/she is not sending anything.
So words can be tricky.
When people say or write these things we really need to look at what they really mean?
So we need to look at their hidden intention, do they talk from that non-dual space or not.
Maybe teachers speak about oneness or non-duality but their real underlying feeling is still dual and separation.
Some teachers talk about giving a treatment yet their underlying essence is non-duality
This means we always need to look at the essence, their energy and mind to see what they are really saying.”
Wonderful thoughts, Frans. Thank you for sharing.
What a good point that looking at the essence, the underlying way, is essential. What is under the words and in the mind and being of the person speaking them.
I know for me, the most important thing is looking at my own essence under my own words. For instance, I would be kidding myself if I said that I am totally in a non-dual space when I am speaking, sharing Reiki, having a cup of tea, or whatever. So self-honesty is important.
On the other hand, in a way I would rather be saying “I am non-dual” than “I am dual,” even if my understanding/experience of that is not complete. The words themselves can be a beautiful intention, don’t you think? As long as the essence under the words is openness and humility rather than pride or closed-mindedness.
I love this idea you also mention of speaking in what seems like a dualistic way but having the underlying essence of nonduality. How much easier it must be when you are comfortable with the truth of oneness, or compassion, or spiritual attainment, as you wouldn’t have to worry so much which words you use to describe it! Except in being sensitive to who is doing the listening, I suppose.
Thanks again. It’s always great to hear from you.
This is why one of the precepts is honesty, we need to honestly look in the mirror to see how we do in our practice and teachings.
I see many teachers talking about non-duality and oneness yet the way they teach is all about duality and separation!? Which means their words haven’t really sunk in their direct experience.
Yes true too, it is important that we come from a place of non-duality, even if it is first just our intellectual understanding and later on we can couple it with the direct experience. Yet we need to be careful not to boost about: I am non-dual etc.. as this is just plain silly.
A buddhist teacher once said that he was fed up with people saying that they are one and non-dual, so he explained that you can do a test at home of what you say is really true. This is the test: place a big candle on the table, lit it and place your hand above it, keep saying you are one with the candle. If you burn stop boosting that you are one with everything. 🙂
I do like to be silly, though. But perhaps not in that way. 🙂 Thanks for ringing in again, Frans. Wonderful.
😉 I just did the test and now I burned my hand 🙂 Just kidding…Better get back to my meditation pillow 🙂
Sounds about right for both of us, Frans. Less words/talking and more meditating! 🙂
Great blog Alice! Thanks and thanks to Frans as well. Yes. It sure is difficult to talk about Reiki! I find it even more challenging the longer I practice. I think we talked about this the other day. It’s like what I know now gets in the way of the simple explanation. And then the simple explanation seems so lacking because there are so many layers and even though there are complexities it is simple! Because it’s actually the semantics that complicate it. Aaarrgh!! Back to the bench!
That’s a good point, Kelly (HeartSong). The system of Reiki is simple, but it’s layered. That adds to the communication challenge.
I think what you’re also pointing out is that we need to be mindful of who we’re communicating with. It’s an opportunity to practice the Reiki precept on showing compassion, isn’t it? We have to really see someone for who they are and where they are at on their journey to speak in a way that they can also understand.
Thank you for commenting, Kelly! And of course, we’re all going “back to the bench” again and again, aren’t we? Putting down the words for a while yet again.