The Inner Determines the Outer
Reiki practice may be best known as a hands-on healing practice to care for oneself and others, but the system of reiki teaches much more than hands-on healing. The system of reiki, as developed in Japan by its founder Mikao Usui, is a complete spiritual self-development system of wisdom and compassion teachings, based in meditation and contemplation practices. The reiki meditations are a simple, practical and accessible resource for everyone.
Three reiki meditative and contemplative practices to consider are: hara breathing, joshin kokyu ho and contemplation of the Five Reiki Precepts.
“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” Ram Dass
The most essential Reiki meditative practice is hara breathing. Hara (also known as tanden or dantian) is a Japanese word referring to our center of awareness, or energy center, in the lower abdomen; it is also our connection to Earth Ki. By breathing slowly into the lower abdomen (hara) and gradually expanding the breath out, we can stabilize our being and become aware of the qualities of Earth Ki within ourselves—solidity, stability, safety and strength. Without working hard, and without trying to achieve anything, just by breathing into the hara space, we can actually change our own physiology.
The longer expansive outbreath signals the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain to calm and settle; downregulating our nervous systems from sympathetic to parasympathetic. Breathing into the hara allows us to cultivate a stable, secure foundation. With that solid foundation, our minds are clearer, calmer and more focused, instead of frantic, racing and scattered. This base of balance within us allows us to manage our fears and the uncertainties of our lives with greater mindfulness and resilience. From this inner space of mental-emotional stability, we can also provide a calm, comforting presence to those around us. In fact, this is precisely the state of mind the reiki practitioner seeks to embody. We undeniably experience in hara breathing that the inner determines the outer.
“If the inner mind has been tamed, the outer enemy cannot harm me.” Atisa
Building on the central practice of hara breathing, the teachings of reiki include the meditation known in Japanese as joshin kokyu-ho, which can be translated as soul cleansing breath to focus the mind. In this meditation, we begin with breathing into the hara, focusing on gently bringing the breath down through the body to the hara, with the intention of filling our beings with ki. We focus the mind there, sensing ki radiating throughout our body, dissolving and dissipating any stress or tension. On the slow outbreath, we focus the mind on expanding ki out from every pore of our body in all directions into the openness of our surroundings. When we expand the breath and the mind out, we feel spacious and open-minded, able to accommodate the realities of our lives with more ease, mindfulness and skillfulness.
“Sooner or later you’re gonna realize, just like I did… There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” Morpheus in The Matrix
Spending time meditating on the Reiki Precepts is something we can do to “walk the path”. It is challenging to be mindful of our anger, worry, fear and other reactive feelings that make it hard to connect with our greater human purpose. The Reiki Precepts are the core of the practice of reiki, as we seek to embody them in our thoughts and words, in the choices we make, and in our interactions with others. The Reiki Precepts were developed to assist us in moving into a state of well-being, ease and peace of mind.
Reiki meditation practices are a practical resource from which we can all benefit. Whether we are seeking to reduce reactivity, to create an inner space for gratitude and compassion, or to gain relief from physical and emotional distress, reiki meditation practices are not only valuable, but vital for our health and well-being.
Elise Brenner, Ph.D, reiki practitioner and teacher, and founder and executive director of the nonprofit reiki educational and outreach organization, Celebration of Reiki, Inc., is a strong advocate for reiki outreach, education and empowerment. She assists clients at Brenner Reiki Healing, in Newton, while also providing reiki at veterans’ retreats, community wellness fairs, support groups, schools, hospitals and hospice. For more information, visit BrennerReikiHealing.org.