Do you have a personal bubble? 3 Important 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 this 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.

Non-doing: Can I do it?

This article also appears on the Huffington Post

Photo by Janice E. LodatoI knew I was in real trouble when I was at the dentist this month for a cleaning and check-up and I was giddy about the prospect of having my feet up and being able to close my eyes for 40 minutes in the middle of my day. Sure, there was someone poking around with a metal object at my teeth and gums, but, hey, if you can get to your relaxed state (thanks Reiki/yoga/meditation), then it’s an excellent spa moment.

Relaying my glee about chilling at the dentist to my husband revealed that something was wrong, very wrong. Why do I have to go to the dentist to relax in the middle of the day?

Hi, my name is Janice and I’m addicted to busyness. Perhaps you are too. Do you have an unrealistic to-do list in your mind, on a piece of paper, on your computer, or smartphone each day? Do you shift constantly from one task to another — perhaps mindless shifting from one to the other? Do you suffer from what Jonathan Fields calls “Reactive Life Syndrome”? If you’re like me, you’re nodding your head, “yes”.

I guess we could spend some time today figuring out how we got here. What life demand or crisis brought us to this place of reaction and constant doing? Part of it is probably cultural. Part of it is probably a coping technique to avoid deeper issues. But how do we break free?

Last week, my life coach, Mary Ann Johnstone, directed me / challenged me to do less. To start taking things off my to-do list – not by working constantly so I could cross them off, but by opting not to do them.

I’m doing miserably at non-doing.

My to-do list is relentless. Though as my 12-year-old daughter noted the other day, “We’re never really doing nothing. We’re always breathing, thinking, meditating, sleeping . . . “ So true, there is always something.

But how can I move to a place of spaciousness? Where is the ability for spontaneity? For choice? For intention?

Here’s a super-simple example. I like to start the week with the laundry done and put away. It seems to make my Mondays easier when I’m not digging through a hamper or staring at my closet trying to decide what to wear. However, sometimes the busyness of doing the laundry takes away from a more soul-fulfilling activity.

So, if I approached my day with greater intention and made a deliberate choice about what I’m doing – one that chooses my higher self – my best self – my highest intention, instead of a preset expectation around clean clothes, then maybe, just maybe, I would feel better about my day and my life. Maybe some stress would drop away. Maybe greater connections would happen; more creativity would manifest; or maybe nothing would happen at all. Remember I’m not doing, right?

So, maybe it’s a feeling or a place of meaningfulness that I’m seeking. Perhaps that is where I would be if I chose intention over reaction.

We are not our actions. We are not what we do. So, I’ve heard people say. There is an essence self outside of our actions. But how do we know it and express it? I think it’s through actions, words, and thoughts. Am I missing something here?

So I’m seeking a place of essence, of intention, of expression of my true self. Of the “me” that is meant to be.

How will I get there? Will it be from a place of relentless doing? Or will it happen in the place between actions? Or is it the type of actions that make the difference? The ones that serve the highest self? Or do even the banal actions serve it? Even the doing the laundry matters . . . done with intention.

What do you think? Are you able to live in a place of non-doing? How do you express your essence-self? Please leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Wishing you abundant spaciousness.

 

 

 

Surfing with Grief

This article also appears in the Huffington Post.

IMG_0582The ground shifted underneath me. November 2016 was a month of grief and shock for me. The loss of the election by way of the Electoral College to a man who brings darkness and hatred with his words and actions shook me to the core. Then, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, one of my colleagues took his own life in our office suite. I’m still reeling from it all.

On the one hand I’m doing ok. Still doing all my self-care: Reiki and meditation every day, eating nutritious foods, and exercising. I’m also focusing on talking with others about these losses. Sleep has been a mixed bag and, honestly, the darkness of this time of year creates an extra weight.

I’ve always been interested in the mind-body connection. When I was a philosophy student, “The Body in the Mind” by Mark Johnson was very influential to me. During this grieving-time I’m paying attention to the signs in my body.

“I’m doing ok,” I tell everyone and yet my head is pounding. I catch my reflection in a window, and I see my body slumped forward. It is difficult to sit up straight. I eat well and then suddenly intense nausea grips me. I sleep very little or a lot or I wake with a fright during the night.

Work is very difficult. Each day I dread going back to the office. I was not there when Sergey’s body was discovered so I don’t carry that pain, but I feel the grief of my colleagues. I see their swollen faces, their gaze that is focused on the floor, and I hear them saying, “I’m ok.”

I’m pushing on at work. Trying to be strong for myself and others. This is the job that I wanted, that I have been seeking. I have a wonderful set of colleagues, the work is meaningful, and a great institution supports us.

However, as things return to normal: an 8-hour day with 10 meetings; demands to meet unrealistic schedules; and difficult problems to solve technically and interpersonally; I feel myself recoiling from it all.

This grief is significant. These dark days are difficult. It’s all a familiar feeling – not sure if that helps or not that I’ve felt this before. I keep coming back to this metaphor:

The “lifeboat” has taken me out to sea. It dropped me off with my surfboard in my regular clothes, no fancy wetsuit or bathing suit. Only thing is, I don’t know how to surf.

Maybe I knew once – in a previous life? Who knows? Anyway, I recall seeing what others do at these times.

They lie down on the surfboard and start paddling with their arms.

So I start to do that. I see a wave form and know that I’m supposed to stand up on the board, balance, and ride the wave. I attempt to do this, but I’m smacked down by the wave and it pushes me to shore.

I stand up with my surfboard in one hand, soaked, sand inside my clothes, salt water in my nose and mouth.

Stinking eyes see people waving to me from the lifeboat – they’re telling me to ride the waves again.

And so I swim out to where the waves are breaking. I don’t know how to do this surfing thing, of that I’m sure, but I see a wave coming and try to stand on the surfboard. I do stand for a tenuous moment with fingertips still clinging to the board and then I fall again.

Back on shore, I sit in the sand exhausted and sore – knowing I’ll need to ride the waves again and again until I’m an expert at this thing I never wanted to know how to do.

That’s what grief is like for me right now.

I don’t know how this will all work out. I do know this is a very difficult time for myself and others and so my intention is: self-care and care for others.

As we navigate grief, I want to offer to you a helpful thought – a practice. When we’re grieving I know these things are helpful:

  • Reiki
  • Meditation
  • Time in nature
  • Talking with friends
  • Physical movement
  • Creativity

That last one is particularly powerful. One doesn’t have to be a skilled artist or even produce work that you share with others, it is the act of creating that breaks down the bonds of grief. Some helpful resources can be found here.

So, I invite you to a place of self-care and creativity. Care of yourself through mindful practices of Reiki, meditation, journaling, connecting with like-minded people, being in nature, moving your body, and creating.

These things will build you up and support your heart in its journey. They will also point to the actions that will align with your values and intentions.

Wishing for us all healing of body, mind, and spirit.

I teach Reiki and mindfulness and I’m operating on autopilot

awareness
Photo by Janice E. Lodato

This article also appears on the Huffington Post.

The title of this post is 100% accurate at times. This is a difficult thing to admit but it’s true: sometimes I’m on autopilot and walk around with an almost complete lack of awareness of my thoughts and of the present moment.

Awareness of my lack of awareness came about in the following way: I have a new, highly demanding job that calls for lots of my attention and time. When I finally carved out some time for writing, an activity that brings me joy and fulfillment, I found I had nothing to say.

My thoughts were not clear, my intention was lost, and the voice in my head that creates a narrative was silent.

There are so many reasons for this situation. First, there is the lack of time spent reflecting on ideas. I haven’t been participating in one of my other favorite activities: staring out a window and just thinking. It may look like I’m doing nothing or that I’m not in the present moment, but I’m in a very present place of engaging with an idea, only in my mind and nowhere else. This feeds my writing.

Second, there is the lack of time spent taking in ideas. Oh, there are plenty of ideas at work that swirl around all day about technology and process issues, but I’m talking about, what are for me, the big ideas. The ideas about what it means to live a meaningful life; what it means to be human; and what it means to be kind and loving. One of the things that feed my writing is reading articles and books that explore these big ideas.

In all honesty, I haven’t been doing those two things and it’s creating a void in my ability to write and think creatively.

Now things aren’t all bad, I’ve been maintaining my self-Reiki practice and I meditate, eat well, and exercise regularly. I spend time with friends and connect with my family, but let’s be honest here, I’m on autopilot.

I stick to my routine like a drill sergeant and have no wiggle room for a healthy, long-term gaze out the window. So, I’m re-evaluating my workdays and my schedule in general to make sure there is open time for reading enriching materials and thinking, just thinking.

Perhaps I’m more mindful than I give myself credit for – I became aware of my lack of day-to-day, moment-to-moment awareness of my thoughts and I’m making changes to come back to that place of mindfulness.

And as I finished writing that, the previously silent wind chimes in my backyard, sang out – affirming my intention and awareness of the present moment.

Sat nam. I am. I am here now.

Wishing for you an abundance of loving awareness.