Reflections on Struggle

Struggle to reach the lightA colleague said to me a few weeks ago, “Life is meant to be a place of flow and harmony. When we struggle, it’s a sign that we’re not doing the right thing – not working in the right place with the right people. When we find that place, the struggle stops. There is still work but it no longer involves struggle.”

This insight has haunted me ever since he spoke those words. You see, struggle has been a central component of my life. Indeed, I have a deeply held belief, and you may too, that if I’m not struggling, then I’m not challenging myself – I’m not going to achieve anything great or significant.

As I dig into this belief, I see that I believe that making money is a struggle. That big things like parenting, and small things like cleaning the house, are both composed of large amounts of struggle. As I explore a long, drawn out career transition that is taking place in my life, I notice a deeply held belief that work itself must be a struggle. It must be hard, stressful, and go against one’s true self.

If you’re thinking I’m crazy, then maybe you’ll want to stop reading at this point. If there is a nugget of truth here for you, perhaps you’d like to read on.

Let’s look at the career piece. I attended a wonderful and challenging liberal arts college. I learned there that, even though I believed I wasn’t as innately smart as my fellow students, through intense hard work, I could succeed in that rigorous intellectual environment as much as they could.

Coming out of that environment, with virtually no career counseling, I ventured out into the world of work. The lack of self-direction that I approached that first career search with has haunted me ever since. Not knowing myself well, not valuing my innate strengths, and not believing in myself have led to a wandering that has been filled with struggle and very little personal satisfaction. Indeed, most of my career satisfaction has always come from side projects and second “jobs.”

By putting struggle, as a value, first – before self-fulfillment, before a higher calling, before the manifestation of my gifts I was meant to bring to the world – has led me to this place. Have there been good things that have come out of struggling? Yes, definitely, I’ve learned things and achieved things. Now, to turn away from struggle and toward harmony instead is, quite honestly, another place of struggle.

Can I embrace my colleague’s view that life is not meant to be a place of struggle? That when we are in the right place, doing the work we were meant to do, and working within the parameters of what we do best, there is no struggle?

Can I live my life from a place of harmony, self-acceptance, and self-confidence? Can I put my gifts first and find that place that values and nurtures them? Can I work hard and yet not struggle?

I’m not sure, but I’m enjoying this paradigm shift. It feels as if I’m standing on the edge of a huge change in my life. I’ll use deep breaths, the love of friends and family, and, of course, Reiki, to take the next steps forward into this life of harmony.

Thanks for reading and reflecting on this topic with me.

~Wishing you an abundance of love, light, and flow.

The Art of Reiki: The Art of Wu Wei

Master Oogway courtesy of
Master Oogway, image from

When I studied Reiki at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, my teachers, Libby and Maggie, offered a class called, “The Art of Reiki,” which followed my Reiki 2 class. It did not include any additional Reiki attunements or initiations, but was a class about how we live our lives from a place of love and light.  It delved into how we care for ourselves and bring our best selves to the art of helping others.  During the class, Libby and Maggie expertly guided and reminded us of the teachings of Reiki 1 and 2 — including, that we offer Reiki and it is not a manipulation of another person’s energy.

To work from a place of offering takes a certain management of the ego.  It reminds me of the art of wu wei, which was described in a 2014 New York Times article. The article refers to some ancient texts that state, “If you try to be filial, this not true filiality; if you try to be obedient, this is not true obedience. You cannot try, but you also cannot not try.”

In true Taoist cryptic fashion, the texts implore one to the act of non-doing.  This contradictory direction can seem very puzzling, but it also has an incredible power.  During my first yoga workshop, Todd Norian encouraged us to achieve a state of effortless effort, which for me is similar (though not the same) as wu wei. When we’re in this state we are in flow (or in unison) with ourselves and the universe.  It requires one to be able to quiet the mind and fully experience the moment as it is with as much non-judgmental awareness as possible.

As Reiki practitioners how do we practice the art of Reiki and wu wei?  The first important step is to remember our role of offering Reiki.  We are not the healers.  The Reiki and the recipient do the healing.  We are only facilitators, who are here to witness the present moment with our clients.  For many practitioners, this leaves them with a feeling of not doing something and leads to questions such as, “What am I doing during Reiki?” and “How do I know I’ve offered it?” and “What if I don’t . . . feel the energy/see rainbows/envision chakras/speak with angels?”

None of that is necessary. What is necessary is the offering. What is necessary is a wu wei approach to allow healing to happen at the highest level.

How do you cultivate the art of Reiki and wu wei in your practice?  Please share your experience in the comments below.