Somehow, Always, My Heart Breaks Open

There are moments when I become acutely aware of suffering. This morning, when I was walking, I came across an injured sparrow. She was lying motionless in the middle of the street, one of her little legs splayed out at an awkward angle. I guessed she had been hit by a car windshield or bumper.

I didn’t want her to be run over or stepped on. Although I knew she might not welcome my touch, I picked her up, holding her between my hands, and went over to a little park by the side of the street. I sat on a flight of stone steps and pondered what to do.

The sparrow lay quietly between my palms, not struggling, not trying to escape, not trying to peck me. Not a good sign. I thought about taking her home and calling to find someone for small bird rehab. But it looked to me like she was beyond rehab. And when I thought about leaving the area, it felt like panic arose from the bird. This little piece of the city was all the world that she had ever known.

I thought maybe someone would come by with a cell phone. I always leave mine at home when I do my morning exercise and meditation. But no one came. I prayed, asking for help for the little bird, and help for me.

The little bird urinated and began to struggle and I let her go. Her poor little wings tried to fly but couldn’t. Her back arched and her legs pumped and she made her way over to the garden area beyond the steps, about a foot from where I was still sitting. She lay there, heaving, clearly in pain and distress. I wondered if I should leave, whether my presence was stressful for her.

But when I imagined leaving, I felt a pull towards her. I didn’t know if it was her or me – my not wanting to leave her to suffer and die alone, or her not wanting to be alone. She was clearly in pain, her body vibrating, eyes shutting and opening.

We sat there for a while. I was motionless, to cause her the least possibility of distress. Other sparrows flew in and fed from the plants nearby. I saw the shell of a little egg in the dirt between me and the bird. This little park seemed to be a center of sparrow life.

I prayed for the bird. I asked Sparrow Spirit to come to her, so she would be comforted. I prayed for all the nature spirits and guardians in the area to come to her, and for the Great Light to shine brightly on her. Having done this, I felt it was time to go. I wished her well and walked away.

There are people who deal with death every day of their lives: doctors, nurses, pastors. This is not my experience. But rather, every day of my life, I deal with suffering. Beneath my palms, palpable, present, overlapping my awareness, is the grief and fear and suffering of my clients. And beneath my palms is the strength of my clients. And within my palms is connection to the Great Light.

I often feel that my heart will break. This morning, I thought that my heart would break as I witnessed the suffering of a precious sparrow. But somehow, always, my heart breaks open. Inside our shared pain is embedded the beauty of life, pure and simple. It is so good to be here, so good to share this planet, so good to breathe, together.

Tomorrow morning, I will go back and look for the little bird’s body. She may have been carried away by a predator or scavenger. But if she is still there, I will bury her, and pray for her good journey.

Especially lately,  it often feels that I – that we – are holding tiny candles in the midst of a moonless night. And indeed, night comes to us all. But I will continue to hold my candle, regardless. Each candle may be small, but many of us are holding strong, and light only comes in one size: infinite.

Is it Accurate to Categorize a Reiki Style as “Japanese” or “Western”?

In late May, I was fortunate to attend the first of a webinar series given by Dr. Justin Stein on the history of Reiki. Dr. Stein is a well-known Reiki scholar and has researched and written extensively on Reiki and the cultural context in which it arose. What follows is a brief summary of Dr. Stein’s first webinar, posted with permission.

East Meets West: Varieties of Reiki Practice

According to Dr. Stein, different styles of Reiki are commonly categorized as “Japanese” or “Western.” However, there are two main problems with this categorization. First, Usui, given his historical context, could not have escaped being influenced by the West, including American Spiritualism. Second, Japanese Reiki styles have developed to some extent in relation to Western Reiki, and therefore have been influenced by it.

Dr. Stein sees all Reiki forms as hybrids of Japanese and Western elements, with the Western content varying substantially between lineages. All styles have much in common: all are seen as promoting healing in a holistic manner, all are based on a natural ability that is awakened by a teacher and deepened through practice, all trace their lineage back to Usui, all are taught in graduated levels, and all are centered around a set of basic principles known as the gyokai or the Reiki precepts.

There are also elements that differ between Reiki styles. Some use meditation and recitation practices, while others do not contain these teachings or do not emphasize them. The exact procedures for awakening Reiki in students vary across time and between styles. The type of touch and hand positions are different, again across time and between styles. In addition, there are variations in symbol usage, anatomical understanding, the role of conscious intention, whether or not spiritual entities such as Buddha or angels are included in practice, and the attitude towards promotion and advertising.

When these differences are looked at across styles, there is very little consistency within the two supposed categories of “Japanese Reiki” and “Western Reiki.” On the other hand, when we look closely at Mrs. Takata’s work, especially keeping in mind her need to reach a Western audience in the mid- to late-1900s, we can see that what she presented was quite similar to Usui’s and Hayashi’s teachings.

Most of the new elements in non-traditional Western Reiki styles occurred after Takata. Some years ago, the late Phyllis Furumoto, Takata’s successor as spiritual lineage bearer of the “Western” Usui Shiki Ryoho style of Reiki, met with members of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, widely acknowledged as the most traditional Reiki organization in Japan. The teachers of the Gakkai expressed surprise at the similarities between what Ms. Furumoto learned from Mrs. Takata, and what they had learned from their teachers. And of course, even in the Gakkai, teachings have varied across time due to changes in societal context.

Upcoming Webinars

I found Dr. Stein’s discussion of similarities and differences between Reiki styles to be enlightening, and I am looking forward to his upcoming webinars, which are on June 28, July 26, August 30, and September 27. All proceeds benefit the non-profit Reiki Centers of America and will be dedicated to the English translation of an important Reiki book. For more information, see

Act Now to Protect Access to Complementary Care in Massachusetts

Update: For current information about the legislative situation in Massachusetts, you can consult or We are still at risk of losing our access to complementary care methods, so please consider taking action.

I am blogging today to provide an update on the 2 bills in the Massachusetts legislature that affect clients and practitioners of complementary care. What happens with these two bills is very important to anyone who depends upon complementary care – and that means any wellness practice that is not currently licensed (yoga, tai chi, reiki, homeopathy, shiatsu, reflexology, health coaching, shamanic practice, etc.). If we are not able to put into law common-sense provisions protecting MA citizens’ right to choose, clients and students could find themselves cut off from the practices that benefit them.

The first bill is S168, a bill to license “bodyworkers” which would affect most practitioners of complementary care and wellness methods. This bill is very strict and is not well-fitted to our current system of apprenticeship-style training. It would result in many practitioners going out of business and higher costs for consumers.

The second bill is S665/H3660, which gives MA consumers the right to choose complementary methods. This bill was developed by a group of practitioners, modeled after similar laws passed in a number of states. It proposes common-sense guidelines in order to protect clients, while also ensuring the free practice of non-harming complementary methods in our state.

Both of these bills are currently in committee. The licensure bill, S168, was heard by the Joint Committee on Professional Licensure on Monday, October 28. I am pleased to report that we had a wonderful showing of practitioners and clients at the hearing. Legislators seemed genuinely interested in our point of view, and had clearly been impacted by the many emails and phone calls they received from clients and practitioners.

The sponsors of S168 are currently making revisions. We are hoping to defeat this bill completely, because we doubt that revisions will be substantial enough to avoid damage to complementary care in MA. In order to do this, we need to stay involved. I will do my best to keep you up to date. However, if you wish to become more active regarding this bill, you can send email to Rita Glassman at Once the revisions have been proposed, we will enter into another phase of action regarding this bill.

Meanwhile, the Safe Harbor Bill, S665/H3660, will be heard in the Public Health Committee on November 19. We are hoping to get this bill passed through committee in its current form. Although we have substantial support from legislators, we also need to continue to make our voices heard. Below I have included information from HFAMA. (Please forgive the format of the embedded info – my technological skills are rudimentary!)

I encourage you to attend the November 19 hearing if you can, and if you can’t, to send email to the committee members, either through HFAMA’s convenient on-line form, or on your own. I will keep you updated as best I can, but I also encourage you to sign up to HFAMA’s email list to receive timely information.

If you have questions regarding these bills, feel free to contact me.  (The best way to do that is to use the contact form available on this website.) I am happy to respond as best I can or refer you to others who are more knowledgeable.

Also please spread the word. It is important to realize that not only practitioners will be affected by what happens in regards to these bills. Our advocacy over the next few months will have a long-term effect on MA citizens’ access to affordable complementary care.

Thanks for your attention and your action,


Reiki for Recent Injury

5Over and over again, I’ve seen excellent results treating recent injuries with Reiki. One client came in to a session shaking and pale from a fall. He left breathing normally, walking steadily, and with color in his cheeks.

Another client had severe back pain after a car accident. He was barely able to move and was very worried about his condition. After the first treatment, he was able to move more comfortably. After the second treatment, he was pain-free.

Injuries anywhere in the body and of any degree of severity generally respond well to Reiki – from sprained limbs to surgical incisions to concussion or stroke. Of course, keep in mind that Reiki is a complementary therapy—it is to be used along with appropriate medical care.

It’s best to receive Reiki treatment soon after an injury. As the days go by, energetic patterns become more ingrained in the body. Reiki can successfully treat old injuries, but more treatment is required to achieve results.

When we treat recent injuries, we focus treatment on the injured areas and also on the adrenal glands in order to calm the stress response. Most people find Reiki to be very relaxing and nurturing.

Reiki is method of balancing the body’s energies that focuses on connecting to positive universal energies. These universal energies interact with living cells in ways that balance and support the natural healing process. Reiki was developed in Japan and shares many features with other traditional East Asian healing practices.

Reiki in My Life

When I first found Reiki, I was dealing with connective tissue injuries and post-traumatic symptoms. I was in a lot of pain, physically and emotionally, and I tried many providers, including massage therapists, physical therapists, and counselors. I happened upon a massage therapist who got better results than any of the others. I felt extremely relaxed during and after her sessions, and my pain level went down considerably.

One day I asked her why her treatments felt so different, so restorative. She smiled and said, “Ah, that’s the Reiki!”

She explained to me that she was making Reiki energy available to my body as she treated me. She told me that Reiki is a frequency of energy that is available in the universe to everyone, and that we can be trained to make it available to ourselves or each other. She also referred me to a well-respected teacher, in case I wanted to learn.

A few months later, I took my first Reiki class. I loved it! I began using Reiki on myself immediately. I did, and still do, experience Reiki as a warm fuzzy blanket. It’s as if my cells are wrapped in the utmost caring and comfort. Within this loving protection, my system can find its way toward better balance.

My first Reiki class was 17 years ago. I have been treating myself with Reiki for almost 2 decades. I am healthier now, both in body and mind, than I was twenty years ago! And Reiki continues to be at the top of my list for self-care.

Many wonderful changes have occurred in my life since I found Reiki. I studied three other methods of energy healing. I returned to school and obtained a degree in counseling. And I continued my Reiki study; I’m very fortunate to have studied with two of the most accomplished Reiki teachers on the East Coast.

I now work as a Reiki practitioner, and every day I have the privilege of sharing the benefits of this lovely healing system with others. It still delights me when a client who is under stress falls asleep on my table and awakes at the end of a treatment relaxed and refreshed. I’m still amazed at the swift healing trajectory that Reiki brings for recent injuries and surgeries. I’m still grateful when a client tells me that the comfort of a session makes the challenges of daily life more manageable.

Giving Reiki is a profoundly humbling experience. When we give Reiki, we are conduits for an energy that is beautiful and profoundly restorative. I am very aware that I am not “healing” anyone. I am helping clients to access an energy that supports their own systems’ marvelous ability to heal.

I also am aware that my ability to be a clear and effective conduit has grown over these last 17 years. This has occurred because of advanced training, and also because I have channeled Reiki energy, day after day, year after year.  My own healing journey continues to unfold, and as I move forward, I become more able to assist those who seek help from me.

The benefits of Reiki can run the gamut from alleviating pain to calming post-traumatic symptoms, from hastening surgery recovery to gaining insight into the deepest meaning of our lives. After struggling through difficult times myself, I am now honored to witness and assist others as they benefit from the power of Reiki energy.