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High in the sky
there can be seen towering,
a tall mountain.
Were one but to wish to climb it,
a path of ascent exists.
-Meiji Emperor’s Poetry
Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai
I live on the top of a mountain, deep in what many would call nature. I say “what many would call” because today I’d like to think about the idea of what nature is and why we find it so special and what it means to live in it.
When we imagine the beauty of nature we might see flowing rivers in a snowy alpine setting, fields of fragile wildflowers, tall trees with broad girths by a tumbling ocean, wild ponies travelling up a mountainside, or an indigo blue butterfly as large as your hand playing hide and seek through rays of sunshine in an otherwise dark forest. Nature is beautiful even when it is fierce. When volcanoes erupt, landslides occur, rain deluges, the earth cracks open, and fire eats everything in its path.
According to the memorial stone of the founder of the system of Reiki, Mikao Usui, being in nature was an important aspect of his practice. Mount Kurama is where he undertook an enlightening 21-day fast. This experience was a driving factor in creating the system of Reiki for those who were not as accomplished but wished to learn how to help themselves and then others find balance and wholeness. The memorial stone also mentions that the practice of Reiki is to support the way of the world – nature, not just humans.
Because of these ascetic mountain practices, it is thought that Mikao Usui was a Shugendo practitioner, with Shugendo being a blending of the Shinto folk religion, Chinese Taoism and imported Buddhism, thus a unique Japanese practice that has different lengths of observances including 21-days. Its practitioners, called yamabushi, engage in great physical and mental feats in the training grounds of the Japanese mountains.
Mountains have always been considered spiritual homes. At the top of a mountain, we bring the strength of our foundation up to meet the bright clarity of the heavens. This enables us to act and be in this world with wisdom. It is the cosmological blending of earth and heaven that gives rise to life. It is the spark, the ignition, of duality into non-duality: wholeness.
Mikao Usui’s kaimyo name is Reizan-in Shuyo Tenshin Koji 霊山院秀譽天心居士. It is the name you receive after your death and it reflects back upon his life with each kanji (Japanese letter) expressing an important aspect of the man. It indicates that Usui was a pre-eminent person, a lay monk who practised Pure Land Buddhism, and someone who had a spiritual practice in the mountains. Basically validating what little information we have about his life as the dots begin to form a line of knowledge through historical research.
Further yet, we can see that the system of Reiki is tightly bound to natural elements. Take also the Reiki practice of reciting Japanese poetry written by the Meiji Emperor as part of one’s spiritual practice. These poems make symbolic interconnections between the Way of nature and the Way of humans. Read the poem at the top of this article again and you’ll see what I mean. It is correlating the physical action of mountain climbing with following a spiritual path. These poems are tools that enable us to contemplate and be IN nature, receiving its blessings and lessons, without actually needing to physically climb the highest mountain.
Which brings me back to the question of what is nature? If we are IN it, are we OF it? Nature is obviously the natural world around us – those birds, butterflies, trees and mountains. Yet, when we think of it we don’t necessarily place humans within those pictures, nature is possibly everything distinct from humans. So, we don’t often see ourselves as a part of nature, maybe because nature is not of our creation. Nature was there before, and most likely after, us.
Have you ever seen a boulder with a tree growing over it? Its roots clasp the ball of rock looking like eery webs while creating ridges in the rock. It may be difficult for the tree to grow over this boulder. But then, there are often difficulties in life. And together the rock and the tree continue to grow and to create something unique and whole. In every moment.
This is nature. It is forever changing. And if we can let go of our human vanity, we can see that nature has everything to teach us. If we can recognise our complete interdependence, that we too are OF nature then everything shifts for us. In acknowledging that nature has its own supreme wisdom and Way and that nature knows how to be whole in every moment, it tells us that that facility is there for us, too.
The word nature also conveys qualities. The qualities of nature can teach us and mirror back at us what it means to be in the flow, to live with the “good” and the “bad”. To remember to flow, move around things, over things and through things.
Just like the tree. And the boulder.
The quality of the word nature is often attached to the phrase “your True Nature”. This is a term we use interchangeably with the word Reiki. The truth of who we are and how the universe exists: we are Reiki, the universe is Reiki.
If we see that we are OF nature, then there is no need for us to go in search of it. It is us. Yes, it is beautiful to live on top of a mountain, and perhaps I find it a shortcut of some kind, yet to simply live is also beautiful. Recognising the beauty of nature within will help us to respect the beauty and nature of everyone and everything around us, too. It is a path that starts within each of us as we look out to our world.
This magnificent world is flailing under the weight of human disregard. Compare how you care for yourself and then how you care for your world. Bring these elements into balance. Begin by looking within at your True Nature, and know that natural flow of the universe inside. Remember your interconnectedness with everything and let yourself flow out into the universe.
The first of Mikao Usui’s posthumous names is Reizan or Sacred Mountain. You too can be that Sacred Mountain. Let it be your True Nature.