I have just returned from a weekend workshop, which like all good workshops has rattled my bones and given me emotional turmoil.
It takes me back to the late 1990s when I returned from weeks of trekking in the Annapurna Range and alongside the Dhaulgiri Massive in Nepal. I found it extremely frustrating when people asked me “How was your holiday?” Holiday! It was an experience. It was something very different from what I expected to happen to me. I went because from being a small child I wanted to backpack in the Himalayas. I certainly didn’t go to have my life turned upside down and my bones rattled to such an extent.
Since then I have had a completely different appreciation of what ‘happiness’ is. Lama Thubten Yeshe wrote about this in the late 1970s. “What makes us happy?” he explored. Going on ‘holiday’ means having clean rooms, bathrooms up to Western standards and the food should be varied and good to eat. Then you can find happiness on the beach, going for walks etc. This constitutes a ‘good holiday’. It is not expected that you will experience a different state, a poor holiday where nothing is up to your expectations. Now the first Gokai of being ‘anger free’ becomes a dream as you struggle with the differences in your expectations around happiness. There is suffering, the first of the Noble Truths. And the cause of the suffering is clinging to the idea that if there is to be a change in your everyday situations, that change is not just ‘different’, it must be better. You grasp at the idea of happiness and that is all in the Mind.
But what happens when you take yourself off to the austerity of, for instance, Nepal. A whole different ballgame of what ‘happiness’ is. The Nepali don’t mind the austerity. They do not have that dualistic Mind which compares bathroom facilities in the middle of nowhere to 5 stars at The Ritz. This is what Lama Yeshe labels emotional ambition. This is what makes you unstable; your ambitious Mind is psychologically sick. This leads to another aspect. When you are sick, tiny things make you happy. But only the tiny things you want. If you are given what you don’t want, then you become angry, miserable and unhappy.
Unhappiness often leads to anger and hatred. I wonder if you recognise that situation as you begin to plunge into the latest viral sickness that is going around the community? Whilst spiralling down towards ill-health you are not yet aware you are sick, but you become sensitive and tense and so become easily upset. Because there is a grasping, an expectation, that you will feel good all the time, when you get sick you get unhappy. This becomes dislike of the illness and then this becomes hatred of the illness. “I dislike being ill” becomes “I hate being ill”. Very often when you look back on these insignificant instances you can’t believe you behaved so petulantly. It is ridiculous! But this is what the hypersensitivity of illness does to you. You dislike everything, and small things make you a psychological mess.
Lama Yeshe points out that we have three states of being – sort of happy, somewhat unhappy and betwixt and between the two. In interpersonal relationships, it is the same as spiralling into sickness, if you are not satisfied by how a person is, you easily dislike or hate that person. It is back to that first Noble Truth – there is suffering. Your Mind wants your happiness to last, and even get better. But as Usui-Sensei pointed out in his diary, life is full of impermanence. Nothing stays the same, everything is in constant change. It is not your Body when it is sick that causes the anger, fear, hatred. It is your Mind that is dissatisfied, uncomfortable and agitated. (For more on this read The Chimp Paradox by Stephen Peters). This is samsara.
If you truly understand the concept of samsara, if you understand your own situation, confusion, dissatisfaction, you can see that what causes happiness, and what causes your attachment to happiness, doesn’t actually give you pleasure; how easily you descend into misery and anger and also how neutral situations cause you to feel ignorant and dull. It is a circle that we all go around and around without end.
Now enters something the Tibetan Buddhists call lam-rim or the Path to Enlightenment.
There are three kinds of motivation in lam-rim. Modest motivation is very much seen as the Western religious aspect of striving for rebirth in heaven. Medium motivation is to feel peaceful and try and abandon worldly pleasure and then high motivation is where a person seeks to stop the suffering of all Beings and practises the six Paramitas or Perfections.
In I Met a Monk by Rose Elliot, the Monk giving the teaching said the Buddha’s teaching can be written on the back of a postcard. Similarly, the lam-rim teachings have been simplified from the Wisdom Sutra texts of around 1,000 pages down to about ten pages. For people with modest motivation it is about taking the Eight-Fold Path and adjusting their way of life to have Right Thought, Right Speech, and Right Mindfulness. For those with medium motivation, it is working fully with the Four Noble Truths about the Truth of suffering; the Truth of the causes of suffering (including emotional ambition) towards the state that is free of suffering and finally to work consistently with the Eight-Fold Path (This Path is divided into the qualities relating to Mind, Body and Emotions – e.g. Mind = Right View or Understanding and Right Intention; Body = moral virtues of Right Speech, Right Action/Behaviour and Right Livelihood and finally those concerned with Emotions of Right Effort, Right Concentration and Right Mindfulness). For those who have high motivation – that is, to become a buddha for the welfare of all Sentient Beings – then it is about training the Mind towards Enlightenment, contemplating loving-kindness and training yourself in the Six Paramitas or Perfections of generosity, perfect ethics, patience, joyful effort, concentration and Wisdom.
Whilst lam-rim, even in its simplified form, seems to require a lot of effort, if I return to being rattled in my bones, I know that following the even simpler Path that Usui-Sensei set out for his System of Reiki, then I will gradually return to a state of calm or harmony and maybe even happiness – for a while anyway. Until the next decent piece of CPD! All we need to do is the Five Elements of Reiki:
- Recite (somatically) the Gokai:
- Kyo dake wa – I am present only in Today. I forget about the past and future and live in the moment
- Okula-na – Today, I release the past. I release all anger from my Body and will no longer hold on to pain until it becomes anger
- Shinpai Suna – I release worrying thoughts from my Mind and I will not anticipate the future by worrying. I will not anticipate trouble and worry about things that may never happen
- Gyo hage me – I will be diligent in my practice – expanding my consciousness so I think Right Thoughts, speak Right Speech, and behave well and take Right Action
- Hito ni shinsetsu ni – I will have Compassion for myself and others. I remind myself of my True Essence, my True Self, so that I understand that I am connected with The Source, and also behave in ways that remind others of their True Self and their connection with The Source
- Kansha Shite – I am grateful for all my blessings and nourish my Heart/Mind with things that help my wellness
- Tune into Reiju regularly where the Five Blessings are:
- Faith – not relying on what others say, but thinking things through for myself, living without attachments, without giving up, without fear or expectations and having trust – being a pioneer and going into the unknown with courage
- Zeal or Eagerness – in applying Right Effort and Energy from the Inner Self, not striving but stretching rather than pushing to make the various discoveries we need to make about ourselves, so we can shift out of comfortable patterns and keep on the True Path to Enlightenment
- Mindfulness – Fullness of Mind about what is going on in the Body, our feelings and emotions and not grasping the pleasant feelings and avoiding the unpleasant emotions, but feeling them with openness and softness and deepening awareness of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as well as tuning into our Inner Wisdom so we free ourselves from the patterns that create suffering and pain
- Concentration – Meditation and contemplation through steady attention to the flow of constantly changing things and staying with the breath when distractions come into Mind and just Be – right here and right now
- Wisdom – being aware of the nature of impermanence (stars, mists and candleflames etc as Usui-Sensei told us); keeping the Mind still to see the constant change and insecurity that is in life and release the attachments we become aware of. The more we allow our own Wisdom to direct our lives the more we will be filled with Faith and our True Path will unfold before us exactly as Universal laws dictate
- Breathing Exercises (Meditations) such as Jôshin Kokyû Hô
- Tenohira or Palm Healing – self-healing our Mind, Body and Spirit
- Working with Shirushi and Jumon – internalising the symbolic representations of the vibrational quality of Reiki Healing Energy and chanting Kotodama from deep within ourselves