REIKI SADHANA: Reiki as a Way of Life
By Joan ‘Joni’ Dittrich, Ph.D.
REIKI SADHANA: REIKI AS A WAY OF LIFE
The ancient Sanskrit language has a beautiful word for spiritual practice: sadhana. Sadhana refers to a system of practices intended to attain one’s spiritual goals.
Historically in the Hindu and Buddhist cultures of India, the Sadhaka or Sadhu was a dedicated seeker who, renouncing worldly life with alms bowl in hand, attempted to devote every waking moment to various practices of yoga, meditation, devotional prayer and chanting with the ultimate goal of enlightenment or realization of god-consciousness.
The Sadhakas’ life was their practice and their practice was their life. Swami Muktananda, the founder of Siddha yoga wrote, “Whatever we do in this world is Sadhana (1.)”
Although the term sadhana has most commonly been used in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim traditions, it is not unfamiliar to practitioners of Christian contemplative prayer (2.)
From the Christian perspectivesadhana is exemplified by the injunction of 1 Thessalonians 5.17 to “pray without ceasing.”
What is Reiki?
In teaching Reiki, I always remind students that the word “Reiki” connotes both the universal life force energy that is Reiki and the methods of practice that we employ to perform or offer Reiki.
As Reiki practitioners we are constantly deepening our familiarity with universal consciousness. Such a deepening of insight through consistent practice is sadhana.
Although most contemporary Reiki practitioners are not inclined to wander with alms-bowl in hand, many of us are committed to Reiki as sadhana. We are Reiki Sadhakas, attempting to make Reiki our way of life.
Seeing the Potential of Reiki
We may initially come to Reiki seeking stress reduction, pain relief, and to heal emotional turmoil, but soon we begin to see the potential for Reiki practices to increase intuition and insight and to take us deeper into understanding the nature of consciousness and universal life force energy.
We are delighted to discover that Reiki practices need not conflict with any other religious or spiritual practices that we may cherish, and that Reiki can actually enhance those practices. Moreover, with the proper combination of practices, Reiki Sadhana can become a path toward enlightenment (3.)
And yet, because we are not sadhus wandering the forests with nothing to do but practice, we are frequently distracted by our obligations, our entertainments, and our own busy minds.
Reiki as Sadhana
As we attempt to intricately weave Reiki into the fabric of our daily lives, the question then arises: how can I make my Reiki my sadhana?
Sadhana as understood by yogic practitioners has three important aspects:
- the intention or goal of the practice;
- the system of practices that are to be employed to attain the goal;
- and the challenges or ordeals that one experiences either as a result of the practices or in one’s effort to practice continuously.
Why Practice Reiki?
The first consideration of a Reiki Sadhaka, then, is what is the goal of your practice?
Reiki practice goals can be as straightforward as stress management, pain relief, and emotional healing, or they can be as lofty as enlightenment and the true and profound experience of Reiki as the Universal Life Force which animates all reality.
Practice goals can be directed primarily toward yourself or your clients, or encompass the entire planet.
Each Reiki Sadhaka must ask him or herself, what is it that I truly wish to achieve through my Reiki practices? When making this inquiry, do not hesitate to be expansive: a Reiki Sadhaka seeks the highest.
You Set the Aspiration
Reiki can help you achieve anything you aspire to, but you must set the aspiration and stick with it.
Once you have articulated your sadhana goal, the next step is to determine which practices will help you to achieve it.
The beauty of Reiki is that it offers many practices which when applied regularly and systematically can help us move toward our highest intentions. Simply following the Reiki Principles offers a way of life that aligns us with the highest.
The Reiki Principles form the foundation of Reiki Sadhana:
(Insert the Reiki Principles.)
Only today do not anger.
Only today do not worry.
Only today work hard on your karma.
Only today be thankful.
Only today be kind to others.
As part of our daily practice we can activate Reiki for physical and emotional balance,
- to help us meditate,
- to offer loving compassion to ourselves and our loved ones in times of conflict and struggle,
- to release judgment and negative thinking, to motivate and inspire ourselves,
- to bless and purify our food and our communication,
- to increase insight and understanding,
- to offer blessings to our Earth and our troubled world,
- to increase our creativity, and
- to manifest those desires that are in alignment with our highest goals.
Reiki can help us to have better sleep and even promote lucid dreaming.
In essence, there is not a thought, activity, or state of being than cannot be pervaded and enhanced by Reiki intention and Reiki energy. After all, we are Reiki universal life force energy, and it is by practicing Reiki that we come to know this intimately.
Swami Muktananda, the founder of Siddha Yoga, said, “Everything we do in this world is sadhana. This statement is equally true for Reiki Sadhana.
We can use distant Reiki to clear negative energy from our homes and the places we occupy; to offer protection for ourselves and others as we travel and move from place to place during the day; and to connect with and offer healing to the essence of those we love, whether living or transitioned.
Even a practice goal as clear and apparently simple as stress reduction, when practiced through the lens of a dedicated Reiki Sadhaka, can inspire a system of daily practice that includes Reiki self-treatment, meditation, physical exercise, healthy eating, compassionate communication, integrity and balance in work and play, and loving-kindness and forgiveness practices.
In other words the sadhana of someone who wants to be truly at ease and happy in life requires 24/7 one-pointed mindfulness and devotion to practice, which ultimately is not very different from what it required of the seeker of ultimate enlightenment.
Both require dedication, clarity of mind, persistent practice and consistent awareness.
For the Reiki Sadhaka who aspires to ever-increasing enlightenment or universal understanding, a deep practice of meditation is essential.
Although there are many meditation practices one can learn and employ it is advisable to find a meditation teacher or Reiki mentor who is steeped in well-grounded meditative practices to assist you in going deep into the stream of the life force and universal consciousness.
With a deep meditation practice we gain insight into the nature of Reiki life force energy and see clearly how Reiki is the energy of love. We experience the bliss of absolute consciousness and are motivated to practice compassion to all those around us.
As a Reiki Sadhaka, you may wish to incorporate practices into your sadhana that are not Reiki practices per se but which enhance your deepening connection to the life force.
Such practices might include yoga, prayer and rituals specific to various religious and/or shamanic traditions; the study of scripture and sacred texts; and other forms of energetic and physical healing.
A true 24/7 practice
When it comes down to it, usually the Sadhaka can think of enough practices to occupy all of one’s the waking (and sleeping) hours of life, making sadhana a true 24/7 practice.
The trick is to utilize practices wisely and to weave them into daily life without neglecting the necessities of life in the world.
The goal is to be in practice, to be doing our sadhana, even as we are also engaging in the activities of life. This is the goal of all deep meditation practices.
In Buddhist terms, we want to be mindful even as we chop wood and carry water, even as we do the laundry, empty the trash, shuttle the kids, and balance our accounts. A tall order indeed.
For the most part, sadhana should enhance, not conflict with, daily life responsibilities. Of course, sometimes our practices reveal to us particular behaviors or activities that we habitually animate that do not serve the goal of our practice.
Then we must use our sadhana to release those negative behavior patterns. Yet another tall order!
This is why Sadhana is considered by some to be an ordeal.
Truth is, we may set the intention to be constantly mindful and to have “peace with every step,” as revered Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh teaches (4.) However we all know how easy it is to be distracted from our intentions.
In the Yogic tradition Nataraja, an incarnation of the timeless and formless Shiva, does the universal dance of creation, stepping with his left foot on the dwarf Apasmara, the demon of forgetfulness. This demon plagues us all.
No sooner do we intend to practice than we have forgotten all about our intention and find ourselves thinking about or doing something else altogether. Even in the P of a deep and beautiful spiritual practice, we can find ourselves thinking about baseball scores and getting the dog to the vet for overdue immunizations.
All meditators know about ‘monkey mind.’ Monkey mind refers to the chattering thoughts that seem to screech at each other during meditation, like monkeys cavorting in the high branches of the rainforest canopy.
Fortunately, clear blue sky is just above the canopy, and when we meditate we often glimpse that clear sky even as the monkeys continue their chatter.
Sadhana is like this: even with our forgetfulness and busyness, if we skillfully persist in our practices, we will eventually experience the clear blue sky of our spiritual goals. This kind of clarity and luminosity of mind is referred to as “sattva” in yogic practices.
Practice, practice, practice
In the Baghavad Gita, Krishna explains to the great warrior Arjuna that it is through skillful means of practice that the goals of Sadhana are achieved (5.) We must apply our practices skillfully.
This may require that we seek mentoring from a respected teacher and certainly it requires practice, practice, practice. And we cannot forget the old adage, “If you don’t succeed the first time, try try again.”
Many Reiki students and practitioners I have known have run into obstacles to their sadhana while in relationship with a partner who does not understand Reiki or appreciate their enthusiasm and devotion their practices.
One woman in particular found that the more she practiced Reiki the more sarcastic and derisive her husband became. She became angry, hurt, resentful, discouraged and insecure in her practices.
Since her husband refused to receive Reiki, she made a daily practice of releasing her own negativity and of asking Reiki to heal the situation. She did this by setting a crystal grid that was charged to send continuous healing to the situation with her husband.
She did not ask for a specific outcome for this healing, thereby not activating an expectation that he would change according to her desires. In this way she did not interfere with his energy, instead simply asking for the highest good and overall healing of their dilemma.
This practice helped her hurt feelings to dissipate and thus allowed the insight to arise that her practicing were threatening her husband’s worldview and that he also felt abandoned and jealous of her attention to her practices.
Understanding this, her resentment melted and she was freed up to offer him genuine loving attention.
As she re-opened to him, he softened toward her dedication to her practices, and even began taking over some of the household obligations when she attended classes.
Later at a family gathering she overheard him boasting about his wife’s newfound ability to soothe and comfort their kids, and she was grateful that she had employed skillful means of practice in her sadhana.
In addition to the resistance to our practices from the people in our lives, there are other challenges a Reiki Sadhaka may encounter. Sometimes the demands and stresses of our lives are so great that we doubt our ability to continue our practices, feeling too short of time or patience.
Or, the very practices themselves can unveil parts of ourselves that are uncomfortable for us to look at. It can become easy to turn away from our Sadhana under such circumstances and find comfort in old unproductive and yet familiar patterns of behavior.
Take heart in the wandering Sadhu who often had to deal with stressors of hunger and inadequate shelter and may be considered mad by his own family and community as he rejected the world to pursue his sadhana.
For us, honest acknowledgment of unproductive patterns, plus application of positive practices, can be the first step in relinquishing behaviors that obstruct progress toward oursadhana goals.
Willingness to seek help in the form of mentoring and counseling can also help us overcome these obstacles more quickly.
Rewards of Sadhana
Fortunately, the challenges of Sadhana can reap great rewards over time. Even if we don’t find that we are activating and applying Reiki 24/7, we begin to notice in time that our practices become more and more automatic, more integrated into our daily lives.
For example, when I was first practicing Reiki and loving-kindness or metta meditation, I set the intention to offer blessings and Reiki healing any time I saw or heard of someone in distress.
At first, I would notice that if I saw someone on the street who appeared ill or hungry or homeless, a judgment would accompany my observation. In the split second before I offered the silent blessing I might have a blaming thought, such as, “he’s probably on drugs” or “why can’t she take better care of herself?”
I was often ashamed of those thoughts, and just hearing them resonate inside my own head made me reluctant to continue the practice. But I persisted.
Now, years later, I find that a Reiki blessing in the form of distant healing has been already been energetically offered even before the person’s physical appearance consciously registers in my mind.
It is as if the Reiki energy within me intuitively senses the suffering of another being and before my ego has the opportunity to interfere, the Reiki energy is directly projected to that being with an immediate offering of compassionate healing.
Gone are the judgments, and should a wisp of judgment arise, it comes after the blessing has already occurred, so that the person in need has received what the Reiki blessing, without my cognizing mind having got in the way.
Practicing Reiki with every step
It is naturally challenging to attempt to practice Reiki with every step.
The Reiki energy itself, as well as its effects, can be very subtle and almost imperceptible when we are not paying close attention or if we are still new to the practice.
We are accustomed to a rational materialist mindset which values physically observable and measureable effects. Although there is recent research evidence supporting Reiki effects, any tangible scientific proof of universal life force energy or consciousness, like proof of the existence of God, remains experiential and inferential.
Even those of us who have experienced clear and dramatic effects of Reiki firsthand can tend to question or ignore it when immersed in the cultural zeitgeist.
My meditation teacher, Paul Muller-Ortega, muses; “It would seem that every time we take a step into the Absolute, the Relative draws us back in.”
Not Doing but Being Reiki
To consciously and continuously activate and maintain awareness of Reiki Universal Life Force Energy as we walk through our daily life may seem a questionably attainable goal when we first set our intentions for our Reiki sadhana.
And yet, I am constantly reminded of what one of my mentors, Reiki Master Dr. Susanna Luebcke, told me when I asked her about how beautifully she appears to have woven Reiki into every thread of the rich tapestry of her life.
Susanna replied to me, “Joni, more and more I find that I do not do Reiki, I do not practice Reiki, but rather I am Reiki.”
That is Reiki Sadhana.
(1.) I Am That: The Science of the Hamsa from the Vijnana Bhairava. Swami Muktananda, SYDA Foundation, 1978, p. 15.
(2.) Sadhana: A Way to God. Christian Exercises in Eastern Form. Anthony De Mello, S.J. Doubleday, 1984.
(3.) Reiki and Meditation. Walter Lubeck, Reiki News Magazine, Spring 2007.
(4.) Peace is Every Step: The Practice of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Thich Nhat Hanh, Bantam Books, 1992.
(5.) Jnaneshwar’s Gita: A Rendering of the Jnaneshwari. Swami Kripananda, SYDA Foundation, 1999, Chapters 6 & 7.