Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, has a beautiful word for spiritual practice: sadhana. Sadhana refers to a yogic system of practices intended to attain one’s spiritual goals.
Historically in the Hindu and Buddhist cultures of India, the yogi, also called a 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.)” That is what a reiki sadhaka aspires to.
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 perspective, sadhana is exemplified by the injunction of 1 Thessalonians 5.17 to “pray without ceasing.” We want our attention turned toward the sacred at all times.
What is Reiki?
In teaching Kali-Ki Reiki, I always remind students that the word “reiki” connotes both the universal love force 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 yogis or reiki sadhakas, attempting to make reiki our way of life with every breath, thought and action we do.
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 the universal loveforce.
We are delighted to discover that reiki practices need not conflict with any other religious or spiritual practices 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 full wisening through and the true and profound experience of reiki as the force of the the limitless love 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 aspire to achieve through my reiki practices? When making this inquiry, do not hesitate to be expansive: a Kali-Ki Reiki sadhaka seeks the highest.
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.
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 Kali-Ki 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 Kali-Ki Reiki Principles form the foundation of Reiki Sadhana:
In this present moment do not anger.
In this present moment do not worry.
In this present moment be grateful.
In this present moment be compassionate to self and others.
Benefits of daily practice
As part of our daily practice we can activate reiki for spiritual wisening as well as physical, emotional, psychic and spiritual harmony and wholeness. We can also offer reiki to:
- help us meditate,
- offer loving compassion to ourselves and our loved ones in times of conflict and struggle,
- release judgment and negative thinking, to motivate and inspire ourselves,
- ease pain, anxiety and depression
- bless and purify our food and our communication,
- increase insight and understanding,
- offer blessings to our Earth and our troubled world,
- increase our creativity,
- sleep better and promote lucid dreaming
- and manifest that which is in alignment with our highest goals.
At essence, there is not a thought, activity, or state of being than cannot be pervaded and enhanced by reiki intention and reiki healing energy. After all, we are the universal loveforce energy, and it is by practicing Reiki that we come to know this intimately.
We can use distant reiki at distance to connect with and offer healing to the essence of those we love, whether living or transitioned; 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 send healing into the past and future, clearing old karmas and creating new positive patterns.
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.
In Kali-Ki Reiki we practice deep silent meditation with the mantra ‘hamsa’ which means I am that I am. We consider this practice as essential to our wisening as the practice of reiki healing itself.
With a deep meditation practice we gain insight into the nature of the limitless love of reiki energy and see clearly that it is through the loveforce that reiki heals. We experience the bliss of absolute consciousness and are motivated to practice compassion with all those around us.
As a reiki sadhaka, you may incorporate other spiritual practices into your sadhana that you know 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; journaling, art and various other practices of energetic and physical healing.
A true 24/7 practice
When it comes down to it, usually the sadhaka has 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 yoga and 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 middle of a deep and beautiful spiritual practice, we can suddenly find ourselves thinking about baseball scores or 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 mentoring from a respected teacher and it always 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.
An Example of sadhana challenges in relationships.
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 have been considered crazy by his own family and community because he rejected the world to pursue 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 our sadhana 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 judgments, 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 from my soul to the other’s soul, even before I see and encounter the person with my physical senses. My heart has ‘seen’ and acknowledged this person as a being in need and sent him light before my mind has the opportunity to make judgments.
The loveforce 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 challenging to attempt to practice Reiki with every step. But you can do it. That is because you are the reiki, you are the loveforce. All you have to do is walk with your true self, as soul rather than ego.
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.
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 the universal reiki loveforece 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, “More and more I find that I do not do Reiki, I do not practice Reiki, but rather I am Reiki.”
Being reiki is the yoga of becoming that which we were seeking. It is the realization of 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.