Reiki and Balance

This article previously appeared on The Huffington Post

A client named, Colleen, came to my office a few weeks ago feeling out of sorts. When I asked her what she was seeking, she said, “balance.” Ah, yes, indeed, Reiki is an excellent modality for helping one achieve balance and clients often are seeking it.

Later on another client stated she was seeking the same thing from her Reiki session and this really started me thinking about what we are ultimately hoping for when we say we want balance.

Sometimes, I’m hoping to release a deep emotion or stop a pattern of grief or depression when I’m desiring balance. So maybe it’s not so much balance that I seek, but a change in a persistent emotional pattern.

For me, balance is best illustrated by a tree pose in yoga. When one practices this pose, often we sway, need to put our leg down, and make other adjustments in order to achieve a balanced posed. Getting to a place of balance means being un-balanced at times. Balance is achieved after we have swayed and stumbled.

Balance is a flow, not a fixed place.

In a similar way, when we think of the balance that we feel from a Reiki session, it comes from swaying back to center from being off-centered by a strong emotion or experience. To me, this is helpful because when I’m in a place that I would identify as being “off-balance” I can remind myself that this is part of the flow of life – part of the swaying of life and emotions.

A lovely Reiki session or yoga class can help me release that part that is persistent and pulling me in a singular direction. It can help me come to a more centered and balanced place. A place of not all sad, not all happy – a place in the middle that has ridden the flow left and right and stands in the middle – for now.

Wishing for you a gentle ebb and flow of balance.

Anger and Disempowerment

This post also appears on The Huffington Post

I’m so angry!! How could you do that to me and my team?!

That was my reaction the other day at work when a coworker strongly criticized the work my team was doing. She unfairly accused us of many things including working too slowly, not working in the right way, of not understanding how to work, and of general incompetence.

The reality is much different than her accusations, but I was flaming mad.

I mean really angry. Fuming. How could she have done that? How could she have been so thoughtless, careless, insensitive? Darn, I was overheating with anger!

Then I stopped and noticed. Noticed how these thoughts were landing me in a place where something was being done to me.

When I mindfully explored the thought pattern some more, I saw that my anger was disempowering me. So often we hear of people stifling their anger or letting their anger go in inappropriate ways. Anger, is difficult to work with. For me, there is often an inner dialogue of: I “shouldn’t” be angry.

However, this time, I was seeing anger as something else. Anger is a natural reaction to some situations. Like all emotions, it arises and falls away.

Now as I observed it and contemplated it falling away – rather than clinging to it. I saw how holding it, stifling it and denying it removed my personal power. [This, I believe, is different than the other way of looking at disempowerment and anger, where someone is feeling disempowered and then feels angry.]

Anger is disempowering.

So I thought to reframe the situation. What if I looked at it this way: Her actions and words were about her. Not me or my team. Yes, they had an impact on me, but they were not directed at me. They came from a place of her own struggles; her own weaknesses; her own blindspots. Yes, I felt angry. I acknowledge that and it is 100% legitimate.

Now, can I move forward from it? Can I be in a place of power instead? What might that power place look like?

Would I speak up about the situation and my feelings? Would I take another course of action?

And this for me was the most helpful approach to dancing with my anger. Turning the anger around from what was being done to me, to what I could do. Taking my power back. Taking it back from anger, from the situation. Using that fire in my belly to fuel action.

Today, I’m turning anger into action. Positive action, positive change. Changes that I can make for me and my team.

So go ahead, piss me off. I’m going to take that as more fuel for my rocket ship of positive action.

 

We Ate When We Were Hungry

 

This article also appears on the Huffington Post.

One time a colleague of mine, who was based out of Amsterdam, went on a summer road trip with her husband and two young children. They had a camper that the kids had helped to paint and spent their two weeks vacation at various campsites in Europe. When they returned she described the experience with great joy. She said it was a carefree time, and then said the following:

We ate when we were hungry.

This comment really stood out for me. It is remarkable because so much of the time we don’t eat when we are hungry. We eat when the clock tells us it’s time to eat. Or we eat because we are worried or troubled or depressed.

My point here is about time, not our relationship to food, per se. Eating when they were hungry was so remarkable for Henriette and her family because normally they ate, as many of us do, according to a schedule. A schedule dictated by work and school obligations. However, they had a different experience on vacation and ate according to the cues from their bodies.

In the wellness world there is a frequent rally call about listening to your body, however, our modern world is really stacked against making that something that’s viable and easy to honor. Our obligations to schedules dictated by others are so large and confining that listening to your body may be a lovely thing to do during a yoga class or Reiki session, but really is not an option during your work or school day. We listen to the clock more often than we listen to our bodies.

Wonder Woman
Warner Bros. Picture

As Diana in the latest Wonder Woman movie reacts to Steve’s wristwatch, “You let this tell you what to do?” Indeed, we let our schedules and the clock tell us what to do. What if instead, we listened to a wiser voice that is expressed by our bodies – that spirit that lives inside of us that connects us to all that is? What if we let that tell us what to do?

What if today, you eat when you are hungry, pee when you first get that cue from your body, walk when your body craves movement, create when the spirit moves you, and hug when love fills your heart? I invite you to take one step forward to living by the signals of your body and spirit.

 

 

Do you have a personal bubble? 3 Steps for Reiki Practitioners

This article also appears on the HuffPost

Individual Reiki SessionSo, you’re a sensitive person. Some people may call you highly empathic. You feel things, you notice things, you know when something is not right and someone is out of balance. It’s not an intellectual knowing — it’s on an intuitive level that you sense these things. It may be hard to describe how you receive this information, but without a doubt your intuition / your radar is highly attuned to others and the world around you.

This intuition then guides you to a Reiki class and you arrive there wondering how being attuned to universal life force energy will effect your empathic self.

Because, hey, let’s admit it, sometimes it’s all a little too much. All that information, all that knowing, all that feeling – it can be a lot to carry, a lot to receive, a lot to process.

Will Reiki increase the amount that I feel and know and sense about others? Will I go to a place of infinite and intimate connection with the truths that others hold in their bodies, minds and spirits? If yes, then what happens to my sense of self? And, ultimately, how do I protect myself from the hurt, pain, and dark places that I find in others?

If you’re empathic, you likely came to a Reiki class with questions like this swirling around in your head. You came to class because you were drawn there. A deep, ancient knowing said, “Yes, now is the time. Take this class.” And so you came and you wonder if Reiki will increase your attunement with others.

This is a really important conversation that I have in most Reiki classes. What do I do with the stuff I notice in others? And there are three important points to remember:

  1. Reiki is a one-way street.
  2. We don’t catch other people’s stuff when we practice Reiki.
  3. Reiki helps to fine tune and fortify your personal bubble.

When I offer Reiki, I’m offering universal life force energy, not my personal energy. That offering goes one way – through me to the recipient, who is in charge of that energy and chooses what to accept that energy or not. I do not take in the energy of others.

Also, other people’s stuff: their physical pain and disease, their emotional hurt and angst, and their mental activity — is theirs. I am separate from them. During a Reiki session, I might notice the many things they are experiencing, but it is theirs and not mine.

Which leads to the personal bubble. Recently, I returned from traveling which included caring for others, and went right back to offering some Reiki sessions and teaching a class. On Monday, I returned to project management work and commuting and was shocked by the world.

My personal bubble was almost non-existent. I was an open vessel for the world around me and it was a mess of emotions and strife and I felt it all. I knew I had to put my personal bubble back in place, though I wanted to do it in such a way that I still remained open to those I’m closest to.

That’s the thing with a personal bubble. You don’t want it to be impermeable. As an empathic person, you need a personal bubble to protect your space and your sense of self, however, you want it to be soft enough to be open at the right times and places.

This is a practice, like all of Reiki, to fine-tune our personal bubble. Your self-Reiki practice, awareness of your thoughts and feelings, and respect for yourself and others, will guide you to a place of equanimity.

Wishing for you a healthy personal bubble and an abundance of universal life force energy in your life.

 

 

Mindful Running

Two runners on trailLast month, I completed my second half marathon. It was a different challenge for several reasons. Some were known ahead of time; some were not.

I knew it was going to be on a groomed trail and because of that, and the type of training that I was completing prior to the race, I would probably not top my previous finish time. So that left me wondering what type of race I should run. If I wasn’t running for a time goal, what was my goal? If my goal was not time, how could I avoid the obsession on time? Would my ego allow me to race, talk about it afterwards and not have the type of outcome that is usually expected and praised?

First of all, I started to develop a non-time focused goal. I came up with: “focus and fun.” Though, I always have two preliminary goals: don’t get hurt and finish. I practiced visualizing completing the race safely and with a stride that was focused and a heart that was having fun.

Secondly, I had to figure out how to not worry about my time during the race. I started to devise this plan: leave my running watch at home. I talked about this with my running buddies and got lots of positive feedback. One very experienced runner told me that she had her fastest 10-mile race when her watch stopped working during mile one. She said it improved her focus. Instead of being driven by the time on her watch, she was listening to her body, paying attention to her stride, and going with the flow. Then I found an article in Mindful magazine, called “Meditation on Foot.” It reinforced the steps I needed to take if I wanted to be truly focused during the race.

So, I was now resolved to leave my watch at home and have an intention of “focus and fun”. During self-Reiki sessions prior to the race, I would spend 5-10 minutes visualizing: running with focus and fun, moving fast and with ease, and crossing the finish line with plenty of energy left in my tank.

How did it turn out? As with any race experience, it had some unexpected twists. The biggest one was the number of hills. I’m accustomed to very flat conditions and the hills were brutal – not so much from a cardiovascular perspective, but from a muscle perspective. In the last mile, my left calf muscle was screaming and I was worried it was about to tear. I had to walk for awhile and was uncertain I could cross the finish line running. However, the course leveled out for the last quarter mile or so and I was able to run across the finish line at a modest pace.

Overall, though, I achieved exactly what I set out to do: I finished, I did not get hurt (beyond needing a couple of extra rest days for my calf to recover), I was focused (so focused I didn’t even listen to music), and I had fun (it was a beautiful, well maintained and dry course set in a forest preserve. My fellow runners were friendly and supportive and the weather was perfect.)

So next time you set a challenge for yourself, I encourage you to get clear on your intention(s) for the activity. Do whatever preparation and training is required and utilize visualization to achieve your desired outcome. If you can add in some Reiki it will help to boost your focus and calmness!

Wishing for you laser focus and lots of fun!

First, yourself

This article also appears on the Huffington Post.

There’s a reason why as soon as you’re attuned in a Reiki class, you learn the self-care practice. Before you’re ready to practice on others, you must experience this yourself, because, Reiki is known through the experience of it. My words and years of experience may meet the needs of your mind, but the deep intuitive knowing comes through the experience of this universal life force energy.

This spiritual healing practice is a daily ritual for those who have taken a Reiki class. As a Reiki Master of Masters, I practice self-Reiki everyday upon waking. That first encounter of the day is often a brief one – usually 10 minutes – then, at least, once a week, I practice on myself for a full session of about 40-45 minutes.

Recently, during one of these full self-Reiki sessions, I went deeply into a state of connection with this energy that is in us and all around us. Here is what I experienced.

The difference between my hands and any part of my body where they rested were completely gone. I felt pure connections between my energy body and the universe. The confines of the body faded away and I touched spirit. When I did experience my body it seemed to be floating.

And then my mind came in . . .

It wanted to know something. I’m not sure what it wanted, but it needed attention and to be busy.

And, so, using the Reiki symbols, I allowed my mind to ask deeply philosophical questions: What’s next? What’s next for me? What has meaning for me?

Now, my mind, body and spirit were in harmony and went to a place of union and peace. The possibilities opened up before me.

Ah, so this is what it’s like to receive a Reiki session! This is what’s behind the smile and peace on my client’s face when she sits up after a Reiki session. Ah, sweet peace, sweet connection with the universe!

Is self-Reiki always like that for me? Absolutely not. Self-Reiki has taught me an important truth, which is that everyday I’m different. Like the tree in the photo above, I’m in a constant state of change and so are you.

Every Reiki session will be a unique experience because you are unique from moment to moment, day to day. Yes, there are physical ailments and mental patterns that persist; however, this snapshot in time, this moment is unique. The deep awareness that comes from a Reiki session allows you to see the truth of this uniqueness.

If you’ve taken a Reiki class, I encourage you to practice self-Reiki every day. It can be a daily 10-minute session before getting out of bed, or a full session as described above, and/or touch points throughout the day when hands are on and Reiki is on – connecting you to what really matters through this spiritual healing practice.

 

 

 

My Body, My Friend: Finding the Spiritual in my Toes

two friends having teaThis article also appears on the Huffington Post.

“Is it possible to find the spiritual in the body?” a reader of my blog asked in response to a post on body image. My first reaction was, “No way. There’s nothing spiritual about my toes.”

However, I continued to explore this: Could it be that the spiritual is in this body? There were a lot of thoughts in my mind that disagreed with this, e.g.: “The body is of this earth. It’s banal, temporary, and dirty. It’s a vessel for the soul which is all that is spiritual. It serves a purpose and is not spiritual. It gets old, it dies and therefore cannot be spiritual.”

These thoughts went on and on and were reinforced by some things I was reading. For instance, there is a school of thought in the self-help community that “the body keeps score.” This is meant to be helpful in terms of letting people know that, or become aware of, how you live your life and the thoughts that you have are impacting your body and your body can tell you a lot about the life of your mind.

Though when I reflected on this – the body as a referee of my life – it felt incredibly negative and dualistic. My body vs. my mind and my body is the judge and jury and will sentence me to . . . illness and, of course, death at some previously undisclosed point.

So none of this was entirely ringing true: the body as a vessel or the body as a referee. Could I find in my body, even in my toes, the spiritual?

What if my body is spirit in the same way as my soul? Why do I cling to this dualism (tri-ism?) of mind-body-soul?

The truly troubling trend in all these thoughts seemed to be an antagonism toward my body. Then I had a thought: What if I befriended my body? What if, rather than seeing her as a scowling referee, I saw her as a friend (an old friend in my case) who wants to tell me something?

Perhaps she’s that very dear friend who wants to have tea with me and tell me something true. Perhaps she wants to speak to me with deep honesty. It may not be easy to hear. These truths she holds and wants to share with me may be surprising or difficult to accept and, yet, I must hear them.

Maybe she wants to tell me that those work choices that I continue to make, the ones that round my shoulders and hang my head, are not the right ones for me. Maybe this will be difficult to hear, but she is a dear friend who is on my side, who wants to share with me the truth of what is.

Perhaps rather than thinking of her as a means to end, I can see how she makes “it” all possible. She makes this life possible. She makes the joy of being here with others, of being in a conversation and relationship with others, sharing my gifts, writing these words, eating beautiful food, and connecting with nature, she makes it all possible.

I was in a meeting one day at work, and a colleague was speaking with such honesty and kindness and as I listened to him and watched his face move, I thought about how his spirit was being expressed by his body. How the reason he was able to share that truth and beauty was because his body was there and allowing / facilitating the expression of his words and soul.

So I offer to you this approach in this journey to the spiritual in the body: think of your body as a friend. She is here for you and makes this complicated, beautiful life happen. Be kind to her, offer her tea and biscuits, and listen carefully to her wisdom. She has a beautiful story to share with you.

Wishing for you a deep spiritual friendship with every aspect of who you are.

A Photo-a-Day

In January, I set an intention for myself to take one photo per day. It was a gentle intention. Some days I remembered and some days I didn’t. Some days I took multiple photos. No big deal, I just did what I could.

The ideas was to see the beauty around me each day and stop and appreciate it. The drive for this intention came from two places. 1. After a conversation with a colleague who has a highly developed analytical mind, I realized that the visual in general and, visual beauty, really matters to me. 2. Many years ago I was a fine art photographer. I loved making images, especially in the darkroom. I miss that activity and these iPhone photos allow me to touch that place in my heart at least a little each day.

Hope you enjoy the results of my month’s intention.

Wishing you abundant love, light, and beauty.

photo collage by Janice E. Lodato

 

 

photo collage by Janice E. Lodato

 

 

photo collage by Janice E. Lodato
Photo collages by Janice E. Lodato

Just One Thing

This article also appears on the Huffington Post.

Hope is the sparkPerhaps you’re like me. It’s mid-January, you’ve made big plans and set sincere intentions for this bright, shiny new year and . . . you’re stuck. It’s like you’re in a hole and you can’t find your way out. Any spark of action or glimmer of hope is lacking and you find yourself overwhelmed by the day-to-day needs of your life, unable to start even one change.

That thought is what brought me here today: “start with one change.” What if I changed just one thing today?

This is the idea behind what the founders of Simple Green Smoothies did. Unhealthy, broke, de-energized, and not sure where to go next, Jadah decided to change just one thing. She decided to have a green smoothie every day. With that change, she started losing weight and had more energy; then she started working out and the momentum continued to grow. She changed one thing and the rest followed.

So I started to think of the 10s or 100s of things I’d like to change, what is one thing I can do to get to “better”? What is one thing that can help me out of the hole and lead me toward hope?

The first thing that came to mind was going for a lunchtime walk each day. For my project management work, my office is located two blocks from Lake Michigan. Can I steal away for 20-30 minutes each day to connect with a little nature and gently move my body? Can I do this one thing every day for a week?

Will there be barriers and excuses? Oh, yes. An overly packed meeting schedule is sure to be a hurdle. What if I put it on my calendar to make sure it’s prioritized? Will the weather be cold and nasty? Hey, this is Chicago, you can guarantee it will be. But I commute by public transit so I already have all my gear with me. I can handle the weather.

Then my mind chimed in some more: But, wait. Does this make sense? How does this get you any closer to those lofty and important goals and intentions of the new year?

Honestly, I have no idea, but I stopped the analysis. It’s just one thing. It is a change. It breaks a pattern. It facilitates a shift. It changes a behavior of overwork, under-thinking, and under-breathing.

Perhaps it will be the spark that leads to something else. Perhaps it will provide me with the mental space to make a bigger change. I’m not sure, but it’s just one thing, that I’ll do for one week.

Will you join me? What’s your Just One Thing that you’ll do for a week to ignite a spark in your heart? Let us know in the comments below.

 

~Wishing for you the spark that lights up your heart with hope.