I give thanks for all of my blessings!

chemistry-of-love-heartTo continue with the principles set down by Reiki founder, Mikao Usui, I want to reflect about the benefits of being grateful. Neuroscientists tell us that having a disposition towards gratitude can increase our determination, focus, enthusiasm and energy.

I have experienced once and again these benefits. Since I have made of Usui’s five principles an important part of my daily life, I look for things to be grateful even in the midst of distressing times. I’ve seen the immediate results of  shifting from whining and self-pity to gratitude. It makes you feel fuller, happier. It helps you appreciate life.

But unfortunately we live in a world driven by greed… and not only corporate greed. And greed leave us feeling unfulfilled, incomplete and unhappy.

Have you tried to sit down and set up your basic, real, needs? If you haven’t, I urge you to make a list of the things that if you go without would make your life really difficult and miserable. My list is really short after food, shelter, and health. Awareness would be one of the things I would not want to relinquish by sure. But see? Awareness is not something that you possess, it’s something that you build with practice.

If you seriously think about it, most of the things we want or think we need are not essential for our well-being. In a consumer’s society, there came a point where corporations needed to create needs in the consumer to keep up the market going. Look at the TV commercials or Hollywood movies trying to buy a lifestyle that would “make you happy.”

So you buy the ipod, the iphone, the ipad, the mac and then you need cords, and covers to protect them and cases to carry them, and then you’re prompted to upgrade every year. And if you finally buy a home, you need to furnish and adorn and clean it with the latest products in the market and then upgrade the appliances every once in a while. It’s a never-ending process that keeps us working to exhaustion, compromising the really essential things like health and family.

If instead of being grateful for what we had, greed take over (this desire for wealth or possessions) our lives would be marked by constant worry, maybe envy of what others have achieved and competition instead of cooperation.

I have no doubt that at some point in history, when we had exhausted the Earth’s resources in this “having” madness, when we had killed each other for oil (already happening) or water (corporations are already taking over the water resources), there will be a STOP sign that would make us return to a more basic existence.

I truly believe that if we focused more on giving thanks for what we already have than in having some more, we would live happier. This is not wishful thinking. Studies have already shown that feelings of gratitude directly activate the production of the reward neurotransmitter dopamine, which is also the substance that motivate us to do things.

So let’s give thanks for the wonderful day out there and the endless opportunities life gives us to learn.

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Is selflessness possible?

One of the most compelling challenges in my spiritual life has been to really understand the motives underlying any feelings and actions. One of my teachers said a long time ago that a healer needs to achieve what he called “pure intentions.” However, since subconscious forces drive us, how do we know?DSC00559

For example, the most generous gestures could be driven by the need to please others or be loved. An action could give us stature to the eyes of others but only our inner core would know how many pints of selfishness our generosity hid.

But this is not a new dilemma for me.

At 15, I was already a snob philosopher who could swear with no shame that she understood Socrates pretty well. Plato’s writings got me thinking about the essence of life, about beauty and goodness and I pondered what would be the best way for me to achieve some kind of utter kindness, selflessness, integrity… only to come to the conclusion that achieving this utopic perfection would on itself be tremendously selfish because I’d be striving for it basically to feel good with myself.

Is selflessness really possible?

I follow the great egalitarian philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in that man is naturally good but becomes corrupted by the pernicious influence of human society and institutions.

I also believe with Daoists that we are born with wisdom, trust, faith, love, peace and joy and life experiences makes us learn anger, grief, fear, mistrust, resentment.

But be what it may be, we’re still black and white and all the shades in between: ego and soul, yin and yang, opposite forces characteristic of duality, struggle inside.

Maybe our life is about bringing light into our darkest places. Maybe it’s about increasing our awareness of our true essence.

Maybe enlightenment is this consciousness of the whole made of contradictions, about keeping a constant awareness of our oneness in the midst of our perception of division and differences.

Just for today, I do not anger

ImageWhen I took the Reiki Master level class in 1999, my master told us that the mastery path consisted on achieving success in two “tasks:” One, aligning our will with the universe’s will and two, mastering the five Reiki principles:

  1. Just for today, I do not anger

  2. Just for today, I do not worry

  3. I give thanks for all of my blessings

  4. I honor my parents, elders and masters, and

  5. I work honestly (on myself)

Reiki founder Mikao Usui had developed these principles to help practitioners and students on their spiritual path.

I started to look at the principles and to find ways to apply them. Years before I took that Reiki class, I had read Richard Bach’ explanation of why we get angry. It hit a chord with me. Could it be? Is there always, as he said, a power issue behind our anger?

Throughout the years, I tested Bach’s hypothesis and it seemed to work for me; so, I shared it with others. It seemed clear that when I got angry at the guy that didn’t provide me with, for example, good customer service over the phone, my anger responded to a feeling of  something that sounded like, “who does he think I am? Doesn’t he recognize that I am not a dummy? Why does he talk to me as if I know nothing of the issue I’m calling about?” It felt that I was right in demanding more from customer service.

But what about when my anger was related to family matters? Why do we get upset with people we love? Are we really into power struggles with them? At times, the answer was a resounding yes! And so, I left Bach’s hypothesis unchallenged for the time being.

Later on, Don Miguel Ruiz’s writings offered me another pearl of wisdom. We get angry because we take it personal, he thinks. Do we? Maybe!

And there I went on testing the new hypothesis, combining it with the former one, eagerly trying to know the truth.

However, only recently it has dawned on me that anger is most likely related to love or the lack of it.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine’s five element theory, we’re born with love, compassion and kindness and life experience makes us acquire opposite emotions: hate, anger, resentment.

At first, I started to notice that, indeed, when I got upset, I could be just reacting to unkindness, which felt… fair? I mean, there is indignation and there is anger, right? Indignation is when we justly get annoyed because of something ugly, unfair, unjust or disgusting.

But there was something else. Unkindness just alerted me of the fact that I had a need to feel loved and liked. When somebody is unkind to me, I deducted, then I feel I am not loved. And this could explain the temporary falling out of balance.

Next question I asked myself was if I assumed that I shall be loved? And then, was my feeling rooted on unresolved issues from my past? But, I didn’t think so.

There is this part of me that knows only love, that resonates with love. Unkindness feels as a discordant note. And this was also part of the answer. However, I kept digging.

There was something else, I found, and the insight came out with tears. Unkindness by others also alerted me of my incapacity to love unconditionally and to totally accept others as they are.

I am love and love is what I came to experience! Since love is my north, becoming aware of how far I still am from achieving my destination obviously saddened me deeply.

I shall continue to work on the principles… I shall keep on working honestly on myself!