Reviews written by David V Hill
|3 results - showing 1 - 3|
Sensei Mikao Usui (1865-1926) is regarded as the “founder” of Reiki, and author/sensei Don Beckett draws from extensive interviews with the founder’s former students to trace the threads of Reiki and Usui’s life, which included rich and varied experiences. Sensei Usui grew up in a Tendai Buddhist monastery, studied the Japanese equivalent of qi-gong, and obtained the highest proficiency in the martial art of Yagyu Ryu (Samurai swordsmanship) and other traditional Japanese martial arts. More informally he studied Chinese medicine, numerology and astrology. He also worked as the bodyguard for various minor Japanese politicians, a reporter, office worker, and supervisor of convicts.
Reiki, as taught by Mikao Usui, was apparently taught according to the needs of the student. For example, some students learned it as a method of self-awakening with levels of initiation and ceremonial rights of passage modeled on Japanese martial arts practice. Others learned it as a spiritual path that included some focus on healing and an “empowerment” procedure called Reiju. It is this latter practice that has come to come to be commonly known as Reiki. For Mikao Usui, Reiki was “a method to achieve personal perfection.”
This book is divided into four sections. The first three sections are based on the three levels of initiation into the practice of Reiki, and the final section looks at practices complementary to Reiki.
The first section and first level of initiation is called Shoden (The Entrance), and describes the origin of what we call Reiki and how it passed from Japan to the West. The story of how a Japanese-based spiritual path to was transferred to America during World War II is an amazing story that by itself is worthwhile reading.
Shoden also covers the basics of Reiki as a spiritual and energetic healing practice. This includes step-by-step instructions for working with the energy of Reiki. These are presented in terms of focusing Reiki-energy into the chakras, a practice derived from Beckett’s own work. Where the author’s own practice varies from “traditional” Reiki he is clear to identify it as such.
The second section, Okuden (The Deep Inside), presents the second level of Reiki, with advanced exercises for spiritual development. These teachings are identified as Earth energy, Heaven energy, and a state of mind or being called Oneness. Students “become” Earth, Heaven, and Oneness through daily meditations and/or kotodama: the latter is a toning practice derived from Shinto. It is at this point that the symbols of Reiki, actually Japanese kanji (written text) figures become part of practice. The symbols were not always part of Usui’s original practice but were taught to his final students, officers in the Japanese navy, in lieu of meditation and kotodama.
The third section, Shinpiden (The Mystery), presents the “Master” symbol. This section focuses on combining the Earth, Heaven and Oneness teachings along with a fourth aspect, Empowerment. Empowerment is presented as a symbol and as a series of exercises only given to someone who has “mastered” the energies of the Okuden level—a practice that might take years to integrate.
The fourth and final section deals with the use of alternative energy systems that Don Beckett has found compatible within his own Reiki practice. These include the use of chakras as energy channels, Chinese elements, and Johrei— a different school of Japanese energy work. The book also provides a glossary of Japanese terms that are encountered throughout.
Whether your previous experience with Reiki has been through a class or weekend workshop, or you’ve spent years in study with a Japanese-trained sensei or you are just curious about Reiki, this book provides a comprehensive account of the practice and its origins.
If you are tired of disempowering apocalyptic descriptions of 2012 that sound more like novels than explanations and guides for the future, this is the book for you. If you are interested in how and why the Maya considered 2012 an important date, this is really the book for you.
With media frenzy surrounding 2012, the supposed “end” of the Mayan calendar cycle, it’s about time we actually heard from a real Maya about “the end of the world.” Author, Gaspar Gonzales was born in a traditional Q’anjob’al (one of 30 different Mayan languages) village. Today he is a member of the Guatemalan Academy of Mayan Languages and teaches at the Mariano Galvan University in Guatemala City. Gaspar Gonzalez, brings a lifetime of personal involvement and direct study of Maya culture to the subject of 2012.
In our awe of the amazing artistic and architectural achievements of the ancient Maya seen today at archaeological sites like Chichen Itza, Tikal, or Palinque we forget that there are more than seven million Maya living today in southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Though European-introduced diseases and warfare reduced their ancestral population by two-thirds or more, the Maya retain much of their ancient culture and knowledge, which was handed down from generation to generation.
The first chapter tells the story of the violent end of this world by natural catastrophe as forseen in a teaching related by a father to his son. This story is later expanded through the visions of a Mayan priestess. The current world that we know is the most recent of three previous acts of creation. Each creation is serves as a chance for humanity to spiritually perfect itself. However, in each case it is humanity that destroyed itself. The First World passed through the inability of humans to balance freedom and responsibility. The Second World was destroyed through pride. We live in the Third World, commemorated on Stele C from the archaeological site of Quirigua in Guatemala. This creation event is recorded as having taken place on August 14, 3114 B.C., a time when the Maya lived in small farming communities. As in the previous two creation events humans are again asked by Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth, the creator of this world to perfect themselves.
Side note: ancient Mayan mathematical knowledge was amazing for its time. They developed the concept of a “zero” value as a notational place-holder prior to its appearance in Old World cultures. They also developed a complex calendar system that allows dates that were carved into stelae (sculpted stone columns) to be directly converted into our own Gregorian calendar.
The following chapters describe the ordering of the Maya World, which is divided into four quarters, each with an assigned color, function and associated deity. This section is followed by a chapter introducing the reader to the Mayan system of mathematics that describes how the Mayan calendar(s) actually work. The author’s presentation of these subjects is very easy to read and understand. Even the most math-phobic will be able to understand how and why the date of December 21, 2012 closes out the “end” of the Mayan calendar -cycle.
The final three chapters discuss the challenges we face as humans living at the end of the third cycle of creation. Forget the sensationalism. In the end, humanity will not be destroyed by some interplanetary catastrophe, but by us ourselves. The challenge the Gods have presented us, as inhabitants of the Third World, is to perfect ourselves. We have been given the power to do so, but we need to recognize injustices such as racism, violence, the unequal distribution of wealth, and environmental pollution and work to correct them. After all, the Gods have placed us here to make ourselves and our world a better place, and only we can do that.
This volume condenses a lot of material about the Maya world and humanity’s place in it into a very small volume. I found myself looking back at pages a couple of times to make sure that I understood a particular concept. The grammar and sentence structure were a bit uneven, but as this volume was translated from the original Spanish I can give this a pass.
This volume is definitely not a novel, nor is it just an anthropological treatise on the Mayan worldview or a source of spiritual teaching; rather, it combines these themes into something far greater.
This book is based on Bradford Keeny’s experiences while living with the Bushman of the Kalahari in Botswana and Namibia. You may know the Bushmen from the film The Gods Must Be Crazy released in 1980. Bushmen otherwise referred to in anthropological literature as the San, Ju/'hoansi or !Kung peoples have lived by collecting wild plants and hunting southern Africa for tens of thousands of years making the Bushmen one of the most continuous cultures on the planet. The Bushmen speak what is known as a African “Click” language. The “!” in !Kung is pronounced as a click of the tongue like you might use to encourage a horse to move. This “click” will become important later.
The Bushmen are known as the original affluent society. Until their recent placement by national governments on reserves, adults spent less than half their time searching for food. As mobile people Bushmen lack the more elaborate material culture of their more sedentary neighbors, but have over the millennia have developed an amazing intellectual and spiritual culture that has been seldom documented. Over two decades Bradford Keeney has learned the Bushmen’s language and in the volume describes their spiritual practices as lived experience. Two appendices are provided in the book as guides to pronunciation and definition of terms from the Bushman language.
“Religion” for the Kalahari Bushmen comes through direct emotional connection with the Divine. Access is gained through n|om. N|om (the | is used by Keeney to designate the same sound as !) is the non-subtle universal life-force. To receive n|om one must be softened or cooked. Being cooked or softened is the process of becoming receptive to direct connection with divinity. Softening also opens one up to accessability to n|om. Softening can come through ecstatic dance, humor or anything that pulls your mind out of the world of the mundane. N|om can also come through ecstatic dance or being “shot” with an arrow or nail of n|om by another person. For Bushmen spiritual elders or healers called n|om-kxaos (owners of n|om), humans are blind and sensory-deprived until they wake up their deepest emotions with infusions of n|om. In other spiritual traditions n|om would be called kundalini, chi, or possession by the Holy Spirit.
When filled with n|om Bushman and the author connect to the divine, heal sickness, communicate with ancestors and even find game. N|om allows for a sense of connectedness between humans and with all other beings called ropes. Under n|om Bushmen can climb these ropes to connect with God, the ancestors or to obtain knowledge. Although unstated, rather than something that can be obtained on one’s own access and sharing to n|om is very much about a community-based spiritual practice.
Keeney frequently references his fieldwork with the “Shakers” on the Carribean island of St. Vincent and members of Afro-American Pentecostal communities near his home in New Orleans as spiritually kindred peoples who understand the power and transmission of n|om. In these communities terms like being filled with God’s love, or the Holy Spirit or Soul substitute for n|om. Watching the videos and seeing the images of members in the author’s web site (www.shakingmedicine.com) of the Kalahari Bushmen filled with n|om, with images of worshipers in Pentecostal churches in the American south or St. Vincent amply shows that these traditions share a common experience.
The Bushman Way of Tracking God can be read in two ways. As the description of the authors experience in absorption into the spiritual life and power of the Bushmen of the Kalahari the book is absolutely riveting. The authors accounts of all-night dancing and being drunk with n|om are the kind of tales that only someone who has really experienced spiritual ecstacy can describe. As a guide for reaching the states of consciousness and spiritual ecstacy, something that the author tries to do, the book misses the mark. As the book was written by someone who has been “cooked” and drunk with n|om to try to communicate how to reach that state using words alone is perhaps an impossible task. It is rather like describing the colors of a sunset to someone who has been blind since birth or reconstructing the sound of Renaissance music without knowing the notation. What the author does covey is that spiritual ecstasy can best be obtained through group settings using dance and music. So have friends over, have them bring musical instruments, get loud and keep doing it. Shake your bootie for God!
|3 results - showing 1 - 3|