Gyo O Hage Me (pronounced “GYOH OH Hah-gay May”), is one of the five Reiki principles, and it is the hardest to express, absorb, and live out.
Translated literally from the Japanese, it means: “Work Honestly.” But it\’s about far more than not earning your living by running a meth lab or scamming old ladies online. My beloved Reiki mentor, M.J. Pagan, translates it as: Do your inner and outer work honestly. International Reiki teacher and author Frans Steine uses: Be true to your way and your true self. I often explain it to my Reiki students as: Do your work with integrity. Which I would define as: be and do what is authentically you.
In essence, this principle has to do with evolving as a soul. I think Michelle Obama captured the essence of “Gyo O Hage Me” best of all in her autobiography, Becoming: “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”
Still, it is a puzzler, this precept. Because evolving is a matter of both effort and release. To be authentic is to let go of affectations and assumptions. But how to achieve by letting go? How to move forward by staying present? This conundrum has been consuming me, of late.
Like tens of thousands of us over the past six months, my heart was broken open in a whole new way by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. For the first time, it hit me as a white person: this is no longer about trying to prove I’m not a racist. Something is deeply, tragically out of whack in our society; I can no longer just watch or hear the news and shake my head.
So, in the spirit of Gyo O Hage Me, I joined what has turned out to be a life-changing anti-racist training, in the form of a book club run by the charismatic scholar, author, and tenured Penn State professor, Dr. Jeanine Staples. We read Ibram X. Kendi’s, How to Be an Anti-Racist and I learned how race itself is an artifice, constructed over 400 years ago to justify and promote slavery. We read Push Out, by Monique Morris, and I learned how black girls are virtually programmed for disaster by being treated like criminals in school. We read Derrick Bell’s Faces at the Bottom of the Well and I learned how insidious and tenacious anti-black policies are. We read The New Jim Crow, by Michele Alexander and I learned how, for purely political gain, policymakers designed draconian laws that have consigned millions of black Americans to prison for nonviolent crimes, and at vastly higher rates than for whites who’ve done exactly the same thing.
We’ve read other books, had numerous conversations, and at Dr. Staples’ encouragement, I have begun to plumb the “big strong deep” within my consciousness. It is harrowing work, humbling and unsettling. I am realizing the countless ways in which, as a white woman growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s, I was programmed to unwittingly reinforce patterns of behavior and attitude that have effectively perpetuated racism.
So, it turns out that doing my work with integrity is as much about unlearning as it is learning. It requires opening up and facing all those dark, broken places within me. But there’s no other way to find my own light. As Leonard Cohen said, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (1) And more than anything else at this point in my life, I want to find and abide in that light.
In the spirit of Reiki, that is, the spirit of compassion, peace, and healing, I wish all of us inner strength to continuously do the hard work of seeking light and living with integrity.
Gyo O Hage Me.
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I am a published poet and a Certified Medical Reiki Master. I’ve practiced Reiki since the mid-1990s when I was a massage therapist (now retired). I serve on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Reiki Research and teach and practice Reiki in the Washington, DC area.