One of my favorite words is “pithy.” When it comes to language it means: brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression; full of vigor, substance, or meaning. For example proverbs are pithy. Pithy language is simple and brief and dense with meaning.

Usui Sensei’s Reiki Precepts are pithy! I’ve been working with these principles of late and new layers of significance are emerging. One way to work with the Reiki Precepts is to recite them three times a day with the hands in gassho (palms together) at the heart. Another way is to recite them during any of the specific Reiki Meditations as prescribed by Usui Sensei. These meditations are only available in the original Japanese teachings of Reiki and absent from Western Reiki altogether. (Read Meditation: The Roots of Reiki.)

Just to reiterate, the translation that I use in my Reiki classes and manuals is one that’s as close to the Japanese meaning as possible:

For today only: Do not anger—Do not worry
Be humble
Be honest in your work
Be compassionate to yourself and others

Let’s look at anger. Anger is anger of course, a specific emotion. Could it also be resentment? Or bitterness? Just like anger, both of these are related to the past and both keep us ensnared. We’re unable to be present where we are, in the moment we’re in when our energy, mind and heart are occupied by these emotions. We’re feeding something in the past and it makes our present worse. It gets us hot and bothered and drags our energy and focus.

Similarly, worry includes fear and anxiety. Just like worry, both of these are related to the future and makes us unavailable to the present. Instead we’re in a state of disquiet and full of misgivings. This keeps us limited and unable or unwilling to take action. Frozen by fear and crippled by anxiety we can’t make the choices that are healthier for ourselves.

Whether it’s anger and its accomplices, or worry and its accomplices, both sustain a constant state of arousal that in the end rob us of our vitality, presence of mind, our power of intention and purpose. Both steal the day away from us and sometimes the night as sleep becomes iffy in these states.

White Bamboo, painting by Kazuo Ishii
White Bamboo, painting by Kazuo Ishii

The next directive is “Be.” Let’s set aside what comes after “Be” in the next three lines. Just focus on that one word.

This is fresh just in its unfamiliarity. We’re not accustomed to being. As a verb “be” means to have reality or life. This is synonymous with breathing, existing and living. In the present tense it signifies “I am.”

If Usui’s precepts had simply read:

For today only: Do not anger—Do not worry

Period. That would’ve been significant enough! Being is exactly what we’re not when caught up in the past or living in the future. When our life force isn’t available to us in its fullness in the present moment, when it’s entangled with and swallowed up by negative emotions, we’re not really alive or functioning in any real sense.

We’re always looking for certain conditions to be fulfilled before we are… fill in the blank: happy, secure, loved, respected, at peace. A set of circumstances can have a beneficial effect. But circumstances are changeable and we don’t ever really fulfill the one condition we actually have a say in.

We don’t take responsibility for our inner state.

“Be” is an all-encompassing directive. It doesn’t ask us to be motionless or not take action. It doesn’t ask us to be passive. We’re so afraid of being because of a severe cultural and psychological bias toward doing, that if we’re not doing, we’re not succeeding. Well, we can still feed the ‘doing’ animal but from a still center of composure.

When are we ever allowed to be? Even on vacation it’s a string of activities. Retirement? Being in some allotted time that’s still to come isn’t all that beneficial. What we need is to establish a routine of being, a daily and moment-to-moment orientation to be. Being as a parallel track to doing. Being as a center from where we launch and a center to which we return.

Be. Humble. Be. Honest. Be. Compassionate.

Humility, honesty and compassion are worthy, solid and true guiding principles to live by. Usui Sensei is suggesting we be them. And to make that possible, to be able to be. To be a being. Which is what we are.

You can learn more about the Reiki Precepts in the following posts:

Usui’s Precepts: The living tissue of Reiki

Balance of Being and Doing

To find out more about Japanese Reiki Classes, please follow these links:

Reiki Primer

Reiki Training Classes

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“Be.” Usui’s Greatest Reiki Precept?