This is the second article on the topic of unpacking the precepts of Reiki and focusing on each one of the core Reiki principles.
- Just for today: No anger.
- Just for today: No anxiety.
- Rather, gratitude for all just as it is.
- Do your work with integrity.
- Show kindness to all living things. (1)
I started this series last month in medias res (so to speak) with the middle precept. Having tackled Gratitude (which was not exactly easy) I’m now ready to take a swinging punch at Anger.
Except, I hate how hard this one is! I mean, it’s not like we’re all sitting around in the lotus position and “Om”-ing all day long. Real life can be a real pain, especially when you’re stuck in traffic and that guy behind you is being such a—
Oh, wait a minute. Maybe I got off on the wrong foot, which is incredibly easy to do.
Anger is so deeply woven into our society and into humanity itself that it can be hard to recognize, much less untangle from our attitudes.
This is especially true here in Washington, DC. where people buy their lattes with an attitude and the Beltway is a Road Rage danger zone.
But it’s not just here (or in other self-important, overcrowded cities). The fact is, anger is hard-wired into our brains. It’s at the root of our fight-or-flight response. And it’s there for a reason. Anger gives us that blast of adrenaline we need to defend ourselves, protect our kin, or guard our habitat. I doubt that our caveman ancestors could have survived very long without it.
Of course, most of us don’t need to fend off wild boars or marauding hordes these days. But anger is still an important force of Nature, when appropriately used. It can give us the courage to speak our truth, tackle injustice, or take a stand against oppression.
Even Jesus was known to indulge in a little righteous indignation. He overturned tables. Dumped out cash boxes. Even cursed a perfectly innocent fig tree. And the names He called the Pharisees would set the Twitter-net on fire.
So, what’s the deal with the seemingly impossible: “Just for today, no anger?”
Well, first off, thank God for that “Just for today.” Usui Sensei was nothing if not a pragmatist. But he was also a practicing Buddhist and meditation master. And remaining focused on the here-and-now is the essence of mindfulness. Which is one of the keys to enlightenment.
Secondly, IMHO, the #1 No-No of Reiki is not about anger as an instinct. It is about anger as an attitude. It’s about anger as a habit or even addiction.
When we harbor a grudge, cultivate resentment, or feel chronically hassled, it starts to color our whole point of view. Without even noticing, we lose any sense of spontaneity or joy. Finding fault and feeling put-upon, we end up feeling lonely, heart-sore, and exhausted.
The Buddha taught us:
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” (2)
So, we’ve established that harboring anger is counterproductive. How do we stop? The first step is to notice that you’re angry. Which is harder than it looks, since chronic rage can masquerade as depression, addiction, fatigue, etc.
But I think that’s because holding onto anger is itself a kind of mask. And you can’t remove that mask unless you’re willing to expose, as Van Morrison sings, ‘your original face.’ (3)
I realized this myself recently, when an unexpected rage flared up, then gave way to a flood of tears over my father’s death. I realized that my superficial ire was actually my sublimated grief.
It was an “Aha!” moment for me. And I saw once again how wise Usui Sensei was, because we can’t grow beyond what we don’t understand. (4) And we cannot heal from the pain we hide. So, anger, in itself, is not the problem. It is the way we numb our hearts with it, to avoid the deeper pain. It is only when we face and appreciate whatever is underneath our anger, that we can heal. (5)
Reiki, in essence, is Divine love.
And as the Buddha taught: “True love is born from understanding.” (6)
- (1) Note: There are numerous translations from the original Japanese. The precepts themselves are the same, but the exact wording may vary. Feel free to use whatever interpretation resonates for you.
- (2) https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/buddha
- (3) https://yhoo.it/2I4bWOn
- (4) Mikao Usui was the founder of Reiki. “Sensei” means “honored teacher” in Japanese.
- (5) For an in-depth look at the key role of appreciation in the Reiki tradition, see my prior blog post.
- (6) https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/504293-true-love-is-born-from-understanding