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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

The Suffering of the World

suffering of the worldOne morning while reading the news on my way to work, I felt overwhelmed by the suffering of the world. I arrived at my stop, exited the L, and walked the streets of Chicago and saw suffering all around me: the homeless man with the deep, open gash in his leg; the elderly woman limping slowly along the sidewalk; the child crying and clinging to her mother’s leg; the frowns on faces of my fellow walkers – stressed about the day.

Sometimes I feel the suffering of the world so fully that it stops me in my tracks. As a Reiki practitioner, one of the things I hope to do is help people decrease their own suffering. However, sometimes it feels impossible.

I help one person only to turn around and hear the story of another person’s suffering, and another, and another.

I feel it and it nearly overwhelms me.

How can this be? I’m a Reiki Master of Masters. I help people. I offer up the universe’s energy through my hands and I can even do this without directly touching someone. So, how can it be that I feel so overwhelmed and helpless?

I really did not know how to address this or what would be helpful and then, this thought came to mind: “You made a difference for this one and that one. It’s the most you can do. You must keep doing it and you must include yourself in this healing.”

And then, of course, I remembered the story about the starfish, which I’ll share with you here:

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
Loren Eiseley

Go out there today and make a difference, even if it’s just for one person. It matters.

Everyday Mindfulness

This post also appears on The Huffington Post

“If you really want to be a rebel, practice kindness.”
The Kindness Rebellion by Sharon Salzberg

Stop. Notice. Or don’t stop. Keep going AND notice. It’s all here for you right now.mindfulness meditation

Lately, I’ve been putting a focus on everyday mindfulness as a way to increase kindness and calm in my life. For me this means not just the mindfulness of the meditation cushion and the Reiki session. It also means the mindfulness – the deep awareness – of the ordinary.

An example of everyday mindfulness is feeling the water while I’m washing my hands. Noticing its temperature and the sensation of the water on my skin. Seeing the bubbles of the soap and smelling the scent of the soap. Hearing the sound of the water flowing from the faucet and into the sink. Still . . . only washing for 60 seconds or less, though in those moments – those seconds – completely mindful of washing my hands.

This exploration allows me to experience the sacred in the ordinary. It takes me deeply into all the gifts of this abundant life . . . the water, the soap, the knowledge, the care, the ability . . . to wash my hands. So ordinary, so divine.

You may be reading this and saying to yourself, “How can you revel in such an ordinary and mundane task when the world is imploding upon itself?! When we’re faced with constant violence and hatred. Wake up and fight.”

And, yes, I hear you. I can’t read the news or interact on Facebook without crying. I hear you, my heart breaks constantly and I speak up as I can. And my path is one of peace. My path is one of the warrior of peace. I will stand calmly in the face of violence. I will be a source of love, kindness, and calm.

In order to do that, I need to cultivate it. To create calm in me, I need to practice it. To be able to smile and reassure those who are suffering, I must be sincere in my peacefulness. To be able to listen calmly and provide helpful guidance, I must be calm. I must be able to be present. Here in the ordinary of everydayness and in the extraordinary face of violence and upheaval.

I’m not saying that this is your path or should be your path. I’m simply saying this is the way for me. The path to peaceful presence and kindness for me is through everyday mindfulness.

I’m able to access that through the practices of Reiki and meditation and ongoing, daily, moment-to-moment reminders to be myself, to be here – not in the past and not in the future. Here at this red light, this opportunity to breath, to notice my hands on the wheel and my feet touching the floor, and the sensation of a small smile that comes over my face that reminds those around me that I am safe, I am calm. I am.