Covid19 Lockdown – Edition 2

 Metta Sutta for Chaotic Times

Metta is practising loving kindness, Compassion and sympathetic joy to all people. It is looking for the good in people, however small the sliver. It is acknowledging our vulnerability and the vulnerabilities of others. You do not have to pretend to like people – you just acknowledge for this present moment you are connected.

Metta is also about understanding your own needs and reframing thoughts you have about yourself. It is about looking after yourself as well as others. It is about making yourself a priority – me- first on the list so you can give yourself Space to grow and it is about letting go other people’s troubles that have been absorbed consciously or unconsciously. It is a real antidote to all the doom and gloom promoted by the media during this pandemic.

This lovely extending of loving kindness does not have to be when you sit and practise. In these troubled times offer it to the queue at the supermarket, the delivery driver who brings your goods, the people you miss being in physical contact with as they enter your thoughts, the neighbour who waves as they walk past your home, politicians struggling to deal with a situation no one had on their horizons when they were voted into parliament just a few months ago – and anyone else who enters your thoughts or life each day as and when this happens.

Metta can be challenging but it is also a liberating process. It can take time, and you may have to call on all your Compassion. But the more you do it, the more your Compassion will spontaneously arise and the happier you will become – and you will become more aware of the beautiful vibrations you are sending out into a troubled world, and how these will bring about the change you wish there to be.

The benefit of this mantra is the gathering of all your attention on each phrase and its beneficiary. One at a time. If your attention wanders, let go the distraction and come back to Metta.

May I be safe

May I be healthy

May my Heart be at peace

  • Round one – yourself
  • Round two – a loved one
  • Round three – someone who is in your life but you do not have strong feelings about
  • Round four -someone who is having a difficult time, or you find difficult to be with. A difficult person can be someone you have trouble liking, or even hate; someone you are afraid of; someone you are in conflict with; someone you are angry with or who you are distancing yourself from. As you become more comfortable with this practice you will find your Heart eases towards them. You may also have to use your creativity to make some of the statements true for you
    • Whilst sending someone ‘may you be safe’ you may wish to adapt it to ‘may you be free of anger or bitterness, and may I, too, be free of anger or bitterness’
  • Round five – for everyone, everywhere

Going Home

John Muir, a Scottish-American author and philosopher wrote about the concept now known as Shinrin-Yoku, over a hundred years ago. He suggested that thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilised people are discovering that going to the mountains is going home.

“Forest Bathing” or Shinrin-Yoku was a concept developed only 40 years ago by the Japanese Government as a response to the ill effects of nature deprivation that they felt were widespread at that time.

Now we are in lockdown all over the world, Shinrin-Yoku is being offered as a natural antidote to the current chaotic situation and to the anxiety, depression, fatigue and many chronic health problems associated with modern living, social media and smart phones.

Scientific studies are showing that immersing ourselves in nature boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety. In Japan it’s a cornerstone of their preventative healthcare and healing, though it is now spreading worldwide.

Shinrin-Yoku promotes Patience. As we walk in Nature we slow down, we notice and more to the point, understand at a deeper level, that everything is in constant change, it is cyclical, we see more and hear more, and see things unfolding in their own good time. It cannot be forced and we can do nothing about it.

We can compare our own state when we speed up, we get out of sync, we’re pushing against the natural way of things and that is when our physical and mental health get out of sync too. Slow down, stop and listen – that is when you begin to notice the subtlety of change. After 20 minutes in Nature what is called “the dropping moment” occurs, a physical warmth enters our Body and we know we have ‘dropped into Nature’. Nature is all about turning inwards in a gentle and beautiful way.

There are many ways of indulging in Shinrin-Yoku. You may be shielding yourself or others, or self-isolating, or just trying to recover from the anxiety and stress of these times. So here are a few ideas to build Shinrin-Yoku into your daily routines to re-engage with Nature and your Reiki practice.

  • Look out into your garden and choose a spot you will regard as ‘yours’. Spend time each day contemplating that spot whilst you do a simple breathing exercise such as Jôshin Kokyû Hô. Write in your journal what has changed. Maybe you have a robin for company, perhaps a branch has broken, a flower may have burst into bloom, maybe there is a new shoot or a plant draws your attention. Doing this daily, you will quickly become aware of all the small changes that take place
  • If you do not have a garden or access to a walk in the park, woods or hills readily available, there are online sites to help like where you will find a free guide to starting a challenge or social media sites where you can find resources to enhance your practice
  • Find a natural object, in your home, it may be a pebble, shell, feather, leaf, twig. Place your concerns, anxieties, worries or fear into this object and then take yourself on a mental walk, or a physical walk, depending on your circumstances. Slow down, engage fully with your memory of a stream, watch branches as they sway in the breeze, hear the soughing of the wind, notice the bird calls, all the treasures that are in plain sight but overlooked at other times. If it is appropriate, take your natural object and leave it somewhere on your walk to naturally decay and leave feeling physically and mentally de-cluttered and your Soul nourished

Shisa Kanko

When people work at routine, easy tasks, researchers have found they make 2.38 mistakes per 100 actions.

In Japan, people work to an error prevention drill that has been around for a long time. Meaning ‘checking and calling’, Shisa Kanko is a Mindfulness routine that requires a person to point at a thing they need to check and name it out loud as they do it, and this dialogue with themselves reduces errors to 0.38 per 100 actions.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn teaches, Mindfulness is not about sitting cross-legged on a cushion, but moment-to-moment awareness. This way of present-moment awareness leads to the Japanese people taking time to notice what’s going on. It might be considering the transience of life whilst watching the cherry blossom gently shedding its petals or appreciating the design of a cup before drinking their tea and celebrating the aspect that this moment will never happen again. Haiku Poets try to capture the essence of the present-moment in just 17 syllables.

The Japanese set aside time for appreciating present-moment happenings such as a special evening in September to contemplate the full moon, or festivals that give thanks for the work done by inanimate objects. Louise Hay always thanked every object in her kitchen whilst preparing her meals. Marie Kondo always treats her belongings as if they were alive and thanks her clothes (for keeping her warm all day), handbag (for helping her get so much work done today), etc and she writes in her book that she often hears of athletes who take loving care of their sports gear, treating it almost as if it was sacred. She suggests when we do this, clothes last longer, sweaters do not pill as easily and she doesn’t spill things on them as much. In gardens moss is the embodiment of Wabi-Sabi, whether it is on a rock or a lantern.

In my school days, it was an accepted practice to stand when the teacher came in and wait for her to greet us and then we greeted her. At the end of class, the teacher would thank us for our attention and we would thank her. It may seem ritualistic, but this is normal practice in Japanese schools nowadays – with the addition of bowing to each other, plus the teachers ask their students to close their eyes and focus their attention before they start the lesson.

Another way of being present is for colleagues to tell you Otsukaresama as a way of thanking you for the work you have done. Where people hand another person their Meishi (business card) it is examined carefully and commented on, not just stuffed in a pocket or handbag.

Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests these practices are purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily don’t give any thought to – all these practices enable Reiki Practitioners to stay conscious that “my life is my work and I am diligent in my practice” and not to stay in autopilot throughout their day.

Mindfulness can permeate every action in daily life. Whether it is pausing to reflect on the way droplets of water run down the Body after a shower is turned off; chopping vegetables with love and care; polishing a silver object or just cleaning a room.

When teaching communication skills, I often asked the ‘listener’ what colour eyes does the ‘talker’ have? Most times the answer was “I don’t know”.  Paul Reps in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones tells the story of a Zen Teacher visiting his Zen Master. It was a wet day and the teacher left his shoes and umbrella at the entrance. After the rituals of greeting were over the Master asked, “did you leave your umbrella to the right or the left of your shoes?” The teacher was unable to answer and went away to study for six more years.

More and more researchers are discovering that the practice of present-moment awareness boosts stress resilience, and people’s well-being, and lowers anxiety and depression.

Those of us who have trained with Jon Kabat-Zinn know it is not about 20 minutes meditation on a cushion. It is about Mindful moments all day long.

Want to bring Shisa Kanko into your life in simple ways? Devise a routine for leaving home, e.g.

  • Point to the Lights, say Lights off? And Tick
  • Point to the bag you need, say bag and tick
  • Purse/Wallet, say money and tick
  • Mobile phone, say phone and tick
  • Keys, say keys & tick

For me, it is no longer arriving on the bus and discovering my handbag is in the lounge at home, and I have no money and no mobile phone and instead of spending Mindful Minutes quietly contemplating on my journey to Dundee – I needed to concern myself with how I would get lunch that day!

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