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.


Fearlessness and Endless Energy

paragliding, fearlessnessLet’s shatter some myths here. There is no state of ongoing fearlessness or endless energy. One may experience moments of fearlessness or heightened bravery. And one may experience days of bountiful energy. However, these are not states that are fixed (or static) in our human experience.

I started reflecting on all this a couple of weeks ago when I saw a post on the MindBodyGreen website, titled, “’Fearlessness’ Is a Myth: Learn to Control Your Fear Instead.” The trigger for my reflection was the word, “control.” In my experience trying to control one’s emotions leads to a lot of angst and internal conflict.

However, the article is much more balanced and helpful than the title implies. The author, Jennifer Mielke, offers three approaches to working with your fear rather than trying to control it or trying to strive for an unattainable fearlessness. The approaches are:

  1. Get familiar with the ways fear shows up in your life.
  2. Spend some time with your fear.
  3. Appreciate your fear.

Familiarity with fear: I would call that being mindfully aware of your emotions. When you’re mindfully aware, you might notice how certain words, settings, sounds, or experiences trigger fear in you. Then you might notice how that fear shows up in your body. Do your shoulders lift? Does your breath shorten or stop? Does your mind scurry in a fit of “What ifs”?

This exploration is part of what Mielke calls, spending time with your fear. The bodily awareness of your emotional state can be that time as can journaling, exercising, meditating, talking with others, or being in nature.

I really love what she says about appreciating your fear. She notes that fear is a way to put the brakes on. And putting the brakes on is something we all need at times. In our go-go-go culture, fear can be a signal that something needs reassessing. Sometimes the thing we fear is not the thing that needs to be addressed, but it can be a signal that something needs reassessing.

I used parts of this process in a similar way a few weeks ago when I heard in my self-talk a string of judgementalness towards myself, friends, and strangers too. When I asked myself where this was coming from I realized I was bone-tired. This deep fatigue had led me on a fighting mental rant to “shield” my tired self.

I, then, acknowledged my fatigue and instead focused on what I could do to help myself feel more refreshed. I appreciated the mindfulness that led me to this awareness of how things were for me in that moment.

Will I be able to rid myself of fatigue, judgementalness, and fear? Absolutely not. Will I remain aware of them and appreciate them and know that they arise and fall as all things in our human experience? Absolutely yes.

Wishing you the freedom and power of mindful awareness.


Mindfulness: Current Research

Mindful Meditation BuddhaMany people wonder, why should I meditate? What are the benefits? To me, the short answer is: “Because it works.” Then, of course, the next questions are: “How does it work? How will it help?” Simply put, meditation works by increasing awareness. To be mindful is to be aware of one’s experiences, both internal and external experiences. Mindfulness-based meditation helps one to become aware. By being aware, we are able to make better decisions, manage our mood, and activate more parts of our brain.

Now you may be asking, “But what difference will awareness make? What does the research show in how awareness changes our experiences / our human experience?”

Here’s what the research shows: (Courtesy of *

  • Mindfulness Relieves Anxiety and Improves Mood
    • A review of 39 previous studies involving 1,140 patients, by Professor Stefan Hofmann of Boston University, concluded that mindfulness is effective for relieving anxiety and improving mood.
  • Mindfulness May Keep Brains Young
    • A study by Dr. Eilnee Luders at UCLA School of Medicine, published in NeuroImage, shows that long-term mindfulness practitioners have greater brain volume, stronger neural connections, and less atrophy than non-practitioners. This suggest mindfulness may keep brains young and even help prevent dementia.
  • Mindfulness can lead to better Decision Making
    • A study conducted at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute by Dr. Ulrich Kirk, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, finds that people who practice mindfulness use different parts of their brains in the decision-making process. This is most visible in their ability to react more rationally, rather than emotionally, when faced with unfair situations.
  • Mindfulness Changes Brain Structure
    • Research published in 2011 in Neuroimaging by Sara Lazar and her team at Massachusetts General Hospital, reveals that an 8-week mindfulness training program makes measurable changes in brain structures associated with learning and memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress.
  • Mindfulness Reduces Stress
    • A study conducted by Britta Holzel at Massachusetts General Hospital, and published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, finds that mindfulness-based stress reduction can lead to structural changes in the amygdala, a brain structure that plays a crucial role in stress responses.
  • Mindfulness Increases Immune Response
    • A study by Richard A. Davidson and Jon Kabat-Zinn, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, indicates that mindfulness increases both positive feelings and antibody responses to immune system challenges.
  • Mindfulness Enhances Attention, Mood, and Memory
    • A 2010 Wake Forest University study, published in Consciousness and Cognition, shows that only 4 days of mindfulness training can enhance the ability to sustain focused attention. It also shows significant improvements in mood, visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and cognition.
  • Mindfulness Reduces Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • A 2010 Swedish study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry finds that 10 weeks of mindfulness training results in a 50% reduction in IBS symptoms, as well as other positive outcomes.
  • And others:
    • A study at Duke University shows that mindfulness can reduce the frequency of binge eating by as much as 75%
    • Patients in recovery for substance abuse at the University of Washington were 50% less likely to relapse if they practiced mindfulness

Two of these studies strongly relate to my experience of practicing mindfulness. For instance, the study of meditators who play the ultimatum game concludes:

“In summary, when assessing unfairness in the Ultimatum Game, meditators activate a different network of brain areas compared with controls enabling them to uncouple negative emotional reactions from their behavior. These findings highlight the clinically and socially important possibility that sustained training in mindfulness meditation may impact distinct domains of human decision-making.” (from: “Interoception drives increased rational decision-making in meditators playing the ultimatum game” Frontiers in Neuroscience, 5:49)

The key phrase here is that they were able to “uncouple negative emotional reactions from their behavior.” This seems to me to be one of the main benefits of mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and Reiki. The ability to uncouple my emotions from my actions is embodied when my life is in flow – where I feel in control of myself in the healthiest of ways, i.e., where I am aware of how feel (and feel it) however, I mindfully choose how to act in any given situation. Because I have practiced this dance between emotions and action on my meditation cushion, when the opportunity arises in “real” life situations, I’m able to discern between my emotions and my actions and, more often, choose wisely.

The other study that really spoke to me was the one that examined the experience of participants who trained in mindfulness for only 4 days.

A 2010 Wake Forest University study, published in Consciousness and Cognition, shows that only 4 days of mindfulness training can enhance the ability to sustain focused attention. It also shows significant improvements in mood, visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and cognition. (from “Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training” Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 19, Issue 2, June 2010, pages 597-605.)

In my experience, it doesn’t take a lot of sessions to start gaining the rewards — of course, the more consistent the practice, the better. It is indeed a practice. The more practices, the greater the rewards. The more automatic the responses become and, as some of these studies point out, one will start to experience changes in physiology, including brain chemistry.

Hopefully, you’ll find this research as compelling as I do and you’ll join us on the cushion today!

Wishing you the gift of awareness!


* Resources:

  • Mindfulness Relieves Anxiety and Improves Mood
    • “The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Therapy on Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 78, Issue 2, 2 April 2010, pages 169-183.
  • Mindfulness May Keep Brains Young
    • “The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter” NeuroImage, Volume 45, Issue 3, 15 April 2009, Pgaes 672-678.
  • Mindfulness can lead to better Decision Making
    • “Interoception drives increased rational decision-making in meditators playing the ultimatum game” Frontiers in Neuroscience, 5:49
  • Mindfulness Changes Brain Structure
    • “Mindfulness practice leads to increase in regional brain gray matter density” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, Volume 191, Issue 1, 30 January 20111, pages 36-43
  • Mindfulness Reduces Stress
    • “Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdale” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Vol. 5, Issue 1, pages 11-17.

5 Reiki Precepts: Applying them to your life

Japanese print

In one of Phyllis Furumoto’s recent YouTube videos she responded to a question that someone had sent in regarding listening to spirit guides. When I heard the question, I was intrigued to see how she would respond to it because she teaches a very traditional form of Reiki that is very close to the teachings she received from her grandmother. (I was also imagining the question being directed at me and how I would have trouble answering this question myself.)

Phyllis, of course, answered the question with great skill and compassion. The first thing that she said was, “My only guide is Reiki.” Then she went on to state, “I have Reiki inside me. I listen to myself. I follow the five precepts.” In her experience, she does not have spirit guides in the way that the questioner was asking about, however, she is guided by the practice and the teachings of those who came before her in this lineage.

After listening to this, I spent some time reflecting upon what it means to follow the five Reiki precepts. To review the 5 precepts are:

Just for today:

  1. Don’t get angry
  2. Don’t worry
  3. Be grateful
  4. Work diligently
  5. Be kind to others

These have been presented and translated in many different forms but the meaning is basically the same. They provide guideposts for right action. Certainly they are not revolutionary and they clearly align with other systems for ethical action.

When Phyllis answered the question about listening to your guides, she was definitely aligning herself with the precepts. She didn’t exhibit anger or worry. She was appreciative of the question. And she carefully crafted her answer while being kind to the person who answered the question and others who might have the same question.

In our day-to-day lives, we will experience anger and worry. Being Reiki practitioners does not make us immune to our emotions (and definitely should not lead to repression of our feelings). However, how we express those feelings, how we behave towards others, and how we show our gratitude, our work ethic, and our kindness define us as Reiki practitioners.

How do you apply the Reiki Precepts in your life? Please let us know in the comments below.

Playing in the “And” Space: A Gratitude Practice

GratitudeI hope you all have had the opportunity to utilize some of the wonderful resources that become available this time of year around developing a gratitude practice. I find that, even in the most difficult of times, a gratitude practice can be a great comfort and can really uplift my spirit.

Today, I received Chelsea Dinsmore’s post on cultivating a gratitude practice. She shares many thought-provoking questions and provides some other guidance that I think you’ll find helpful.

Chelsea also shared this reflection, which you may have seen elsewhere. It can be a wonderful way to reframe some of life’s challenges:

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.

~ Author Unknown ~

I know for some of us this approach feels like we’re forcing positivity onto things that just aren’t. “I don’t need to be thankful for the difficult times. Sure I may grow from them but there are other things I’ll share my gratitude with.”

If this is how you feel, my heart is with you as we move through difficult times with grace and strength. And with deepest compassion I offer you the following:

Thanksgiving the Good AND the Bad

I feel grief
And yet, I’m thankful
For friends and flowers

I see oppression
And yet, I’m thankful
For a voice to speak truth and to try
To make things better

I see injustice
And yet, I’m thankful
For striving and action to bring balance to this world

I face violence
And yet, I’m thankful
For brave warriors, first responders, and those who practice peace

I feel pain
And yet, I’m thankful
For breath, for life, for love

I lose hope
And yet, I’m thankful
For all I have

~ Janice Lodato

Sending love and light to all of you this holiday and always. May you feel the encompassing compassion of the universe as you live in your “and” space.



You can heal your life

to-beat-two-fistsThere is a powerful book that is popular in the alternative and complementary health fields called, “You Can Heal Your Life.”  It was written by Louise Hay who has an amazing story of personal transformation. For many years, I have included this book in the recommended reading list that I provide to Reiki 1 students. With the next printing of my Reiki 1 manual, I will be removing it.

Please note, this post is not a book review as I sometimes do in this space. Rather, I’m writing today about the dark side of the power of positive thinking movement. Also, please note that I am not opposed to positive thinking. Honestly, I think it’s a helpful tool. Our minds can be royal pains in the ass. When we bring awareness to our thoughts and consciously choose to reframe and reword them into a more helpful form, this can be incredibly empowering in our ability to manage our emotions and take action in our lives.

What I am opposed to in the positive thinking movement is the flip side. The side that says that if something “bad” happens to you, it’s because you caused it through your negative thoughts and general self-destructiveness. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really admire Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer. They have helped so many people. What I don’t find helpful is the leap from “Positive thoughts are helpful,” to, “You caused this tragedy in your life. You invited this cancer diagnosis. You brought on this flu. You created the environment where your loved one is violently killed.” Really???!!!

Let’s start with one question, “How is that helpful?” How is it in anyway helpful to assign blame to the person who is facing a debilitating disease or the sudden death of a loved one?

Dr. Dyer’s final blog post recounts a story of a talk he gave where he used a metaphor about an orange being squeezed. In the post he states that when life squeezes you, if anything comes out other than love, it’s because that’s what’s inside of you. Really??!!

How is that helpful to the cancer patient, the widow, and to Andy Parker, for example. Each of them have probably felt anger, grief, and fear. Is this because they were not cultivating love? No, it is because they are wholehearted human beings. It is because they love that they also have these feelings. Life is squeezing them, what we should expect to come out is the whole range of human emotions. Let’s not shame those who are experiencing the so-called “negative” emotions. Let’s extend to them compassion, a shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear — even on their darkest days. Let’s offer them love, not judgement, so they can journey with this life. Suppressing or judging their emotional life will not help them to heal on any level. It will not help them to live their lives fully.

Now this point of view is not isolated to Dr. Dyer and Ms. Hay. (One only has to read the title of the book: “The Gift of Cancer” to get a glimpse of this perspective.) I remember several years ago being in an ICU where across from a cardiac patient’s bed there was a sign saying, “Ask yourself why you’re here.”  Yes, please ask yourself, because we want to blame you and judge you and make sure you know this is your fault. Let me say it again, “this is not helpful!”

Megan Devine has written so eloquently about this subject in the Huffington Post. Her article is titled, “Your Pain Isn’t Your Fault: Why Some Teachers and Gurus Have it Wrong.”  In it she recounts reading a book by Pema Chodron after she became a widow. She becomes infuriated with the book, “The thing that sent me over the edge, never to return again to fully loving or trusting Pema Chodron, was when she suggested that any pain or difficulty you are having in your life is due to a lack of self-awareness, or to some place you needed to grow.” After destroying the book, Ms. Devine resolves never to read, or recommend, Pema Chodron’s books again. As she writes, “Pain simply is. It’s a natural, normal response to loss.” Ms. Devine was not to blame for her feelings and trying to assign that blame to her was . . . not helpful, to say the least.

If you want to help people to make changes in their lives, you have to love them first. You have to take the time to understand them. From there change can happen. Change does not happen from a place of ridicule or judgment over completely normal emotions.

Please, all my helping professional friends, I’m begging you, love first. And remember, you can heal your life without having to blame yourself first.


Movie review: Inside Out

Movie Inside OutHave you seen the new movie, “Inside Out“?  If not, I highly recommend it. As many of the movie critics say, it’s much more than a kids’ movie. Honestly, it’s probably not even that entertaining for kids under age 6 or 7 as it is somewhat slow moving in the beginning while they establish the assumptions that they’ll use for the workings of the human mind and our emotions.

One of the reasons why this film is so delightful is that it brings us face-to-face with the complicated cast of characters (our emotions) that are busy formulating our impressions of the world and how we interact with it. The movie doesn’t shy away from the complexity of our emotions, our personality, and how a significant event in our lives (in this case, moving to a new city and leaving one’s friends) can chip away at the core parts of who we are and make some emotions, that previously were playing minor roles, major characters in our life. All of this can lead us to act in unexpected and uncharacteristic ways that can lead to a turn point or rebuilding of our core selves.

At the beginning of the film, we are entertained by the energetic and, literally, glowing, “Joy.” She is clearly in control of the emotional and mental life of Riley, the 11 year old girl who is experiencing this dance of emotions, mental development, and the upheavals of moving to a new city. Joy oversees command central and makes sure things run in a largely positive manner, including making sure each day ends in a joyful moment.

I found Joy to be a happiness tyrant who belittles Sadness and dismisses Fear to the point where I felt bad for them and wanted her to treat them better — making sure they are heard (and felt!). One example of Joy’s over-the-top approach is when Sadness touches a core memory and turns it from the glowing gold of a joy memory to the blue of a sad memory. Joy approaches this as a tragic event.  Though as the story unfolds, Joy learns the value of Sadness.  Indeed, one of the beautiful, yet subtle, messages of the movie, from my perspective, is that Joy and Sadness are always together.  They go hand-in-hand in the movie and in our lives. It’s not Joy OR Sadness.  It’s really Joy AND Sadness.

Sadness also demonstrates her value when she helps a despondent, Bing Bong (Riley’s childhood imaginary friend). Bing Bong is filled with sadness and cannot carry-on with his task. Joy is beside herself about what to do. The situation is resolved when Sadness sits down next to Bing Bong and simply listens to him and what he is thinking and feeling. After she does this Bing Bong is ready to continue on his way. Joy is full of wonder about how Sadness did that, and Sadness shrugs and says, “I just listened to him.” What a great example of how the simple act of listening and being with our sadness can have such a profound impact on how we’re able to act in the world.

Another delightful aspect of this film comes at the end when Riley is 12 years old and the inner workings of her mind and the control console are far more complex than they were a year before. I think this is a wonderful representation of the growing complexity of the human mind and our emotional life as we develop from childhood to adolescence. It also seems to make room for the many other emotions that we experience beyond the five (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust) represented in the movie.

I hope you’ll have the chance to see the movie, “Inside Out.” If you do, make sure you bring a hankie or two.

Book Review: The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project book“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Declaration of Independence, In Congress,

July 4, 1776

Here in the U.S., as we celebrate our independence and reflect upon how much progress we’ve made this year and how much more we have to go as a nation, it’s also helpful to pay attention to our individual pursuits of happiness.  Gretchen Rubin’s thoughtful, humorous, and action-oriented book, The Happiness Project, is a great place to start.

Some people may question whether, in the face of so much suffering around us, if the pursuit of our personal happiness is important. To address this, Ms. Rubin often comes back to the question of why someone like her, who has so much and is basically happy, should take on a happiness project. She wonders, can she be happier and can she prepare herself, emotionally, for that dreaded time in the future when things might not be going so well and happiness may be much more elusive?  She is not in the grip of crisis and she writes, “I didn’t want to wait for a crisis to remake my life.” (page 15). I think this is true for many of us, we don’t need to wait for a crisis to start focusing on our happiness. AND, our personal happiness matters.

It matters for at least three reasons:

  1. When you feel happy you can do your best work and fulfill your life’s purpose.
  2. When you’re happy, you can help others and assist them in their pursuit of happiness.
  3. Happiness is contagious. (Relates to point number 2.)

Hopefully, you’re convinced that your personal happiness is a top priority in your life. This doesn’t mean it’s a narcissistic pursuit. We’re talking here about healthy personal fulfillment. Ms. Rubin outlines many, many approaches in her book. A former lawyer, she is methodical in her approach to her happiness project and has done extensive research on the different ways that people have used to achieve this ultimate state of well-being. Let’s look at a few of those approaches.

One of things that struck me throughout her book was the impact of small changes. Some of the small changes that she made included, the “evening tidy-up” which for her proved to be a way to maintain her workspace and home in a way that she found pleasing. She also revels in the cleaning out of a closet — so much so that it is a gift that she offers to do for her friends. (Of course, those who are open to it.) This sharing with friends and family is also a foundational aspect of the book. Ms. Rubin notes how a sunny attitude and a cheerful review can boost one’s mood and those around her. She also does an amazing job (one that I really admire) of not just thinking about doing a kind act for another person, but actually following through and buying a gift or providing that helping hand.

Small changes and the positive contagion of emotion are themes throughout the book, but she notes the one thing that she did that had the largest and most sustainable impact, was her Resolutions Chart. (You can find a copy of the chart to download here.)  The resolutions are broken down by month which is a great approach. Rather than taking on everything all at once, she focuses on a particular area of her life, let’s say, “family,” for one month, has specific resolutions around that topic and then can review her progress at the end of the month. From there she can determine what she wants to continue in that arena.

As I read the book, there were a few resolutions that really stood out for me and I have been incorporating into my daily life. For instance, she has one called, “Be Gretchen,” which I have incorporated as just, “Be me.” A couple of  others that have been helpful include, “Tackle nagging tasks” and “Don’t nag.” For me, tackling nagging tasks has been really liberating because I found there is enormous mental energy and emotional criticism that lingers inside myself with those tasks that never seem to get done. (Getting the appropriate help to complete those tasks is also crucial for success.  There is usually a reason that they’re not done. Maybe they’re too hard, maybe you don’t know how to complete them, or maybe you don’t wanna!)  Also, the avoidance of nagging and, for me, the avoidance of arguing, have been helpful. When I catch myself going there, I try to re-frame my words so that they are kind, motivating, and come from a place of love — definitely more happiness promoting than nagging or arguing!

What about you? Have you engaged in a happiness project? What are your top tips for promoting happiness in your life and those around you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Wishing you an abundance of freedom and success in your pursuit of happiness!

Shop Indie Bookstores

Using Reiki for Working with Grief


When we are faced with a significant loss in our life we want the pain to just go away. Instead of light we often feel engulfed in darkness and unable to make even the simplest decisions. One of the great (and painful) ironies, of the dark emotion known as grief, is that ignoring it and shunning it — over the long run — only makes it grow. When we can sit with our grief and journey with it, we experience a shift that allows us to see light again and live our lives.

Reiki is not a cure all

Sometimes people ask me if Reiki will make grief go away. Unfortunately, Reiki is not a cure-all. However, it is an excellent tool for self-care whether you are a Reiki practitioner or not. By receiving Reiki we can experience deep peace that helps us to exist with our pain. For some people when they experience a Reiki session while they are grieving, they feel a sense of lightness throughout their body afterwards. Some clients have reported a feeling of openness in their chest after receiving Reiki. They say that though the grief is not gone, it seems easier to face it and move through their day.

Keep the light flowing

One client, her name is Holly, told me that the pain of her father’s death seemed to haunt her every step.* She said one day she passed by a mirror and noticed how her shoulders were slouched forward as if she were protecting her heart. After receiving a Reiki session, she said that her heart felt lighter and more open. After a series of sessions she noted that her posture had improved and she said, “There’s a spring in my step again. Reiki didn’t make the grief go away, but it seemed to bring back the light. So now I’m living with lightness and grief.” Holly felt this was a real improvement in her life and she continues to receive Reiki periodically to “keep the light flowing.”

Living in the “and” space

Lightness and grief — this is sometimes called, “living in the ‘and’ space.” This is important when working with grief because when we are so hurt by our loss we feel as if we can never love again. However, when we think of it as an “and” — that is, we love AND we grieve — or, we grieve because we love. If we didn’t love, then there would be no grief; but because we love, we grieve when there is loss. So rather than making grief go away, Reiki reopens ones heart to the love, a sense of wonder, and curiosity about this crazy, and often sad, life that we live.

You are not alone

Another aspect of grief is the profound loneliness that we often feel. Isolation from others exacerbates our grief. When we’re able to share our story with another person, we often feel a lifting of the burden that we are carrying. I encourage you to find that person to talk to. That person may not be within your family or current circle of friends and that’s ok. What’s important is to find someone who will listen and support you. Someone who will help you feel that you can open your heart to love again and journey with love AND grief.

What is your experience with grief? What have you found helpful in this journey?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


*Names are changed to protect each client’s privacy.

How would my higher self act?

PeonyRecently, I had the opportunity to participate in some real world acting.  Not on a stage, not in front of any type of camera, just face-to-face behaving completely opposite of how I was feeling. This can be super challenging for me because I don’t have a poker face, though I’m pretty skillful at the attempt to hide my emotions. In this particular case I had to keep my game face on and act as if everything was a-ok, maybe even great.  (During my Creative Grief Coaching certification course, there was an insightful conversation on the “barometer” of tears. Mine usually runs on the lower end, but for others tears come quite easily and at a high volume.)

It wasn’t easy acting this way and there were times when I thought I would lose it.  I was afraid I would say what I was really feeling or breakdown and cry. I definitely didn’t want to make the people around me uncomfortable and I wanted to appear as professional and “buttoned up” as I could be.  (Fascinating expression, “buttoned up,” as I really felt like my lips were buttoned shut and my real face was hiding behind a mask.)

Periodically, I would encourage myself by saying in my mind, “Act the way your higher self would act.” I’m not entirely sure why this worked, but it did. I immediately felt calmer, less focused on my emotions, and as if I was on a mission to do a noble and honorable thing by acting in this way. I would take opportunities to remind myself — while I was at the mirror in the bathroom, drinking some water, taking a mini self-Reiki break, or about to step through a doorway — “Act the way your higher self would act.” It helped me to release my focus on my emotions and visualize how I’d like the situation to go:  Me being professional, calm, and in control.

I have to admit that a couple of days into this exercise I was feeling particularly worn down by the effort. My calm was fading and I felt on the verge of tears. Fortunately, a request for Absent Reiki was immediately answered by my friend Nancy, of Lyrical Healing in Oak Park.  Now here’s another confession.  Things were going well for the next several hours and I had a break in my day to reflect.  I suddenly realized I had requested the Reiki and soon after had felt very calm — back to my ideal self. Honestly, though, I had forgotten about the Reiki request — however, it still worked! Yes, it works — even on this subconscious level.

Grateful for the Reiki, my friend, and the answered calls to my higher self, I was able to carry on in the way I wanted to in this situation. When the time (and audience) was right, the tears and emotions flowed. It was great to know I could be an actress when needed and achieve the ideals of my higher self.

What are your some of your experiences with calling on your higher self?  Please share them in the comments below.