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What are the Usui 5 Principles really?

I received an interesting question recently regarding the Usui Principles, asking what I thought about changing the sentences to more positive ones.

“As a hypnotherapist I like positive suggestions:

- Today I am content and equanimous

- Today I am confident and grateful

- Today I am working harmonically

- Today I am gentle and kind to everything and everybody I meet

May I ask you, what you think about this formulation?”

This is a common question when we have been trained in hypnotherapy or NLP and know the importance of words. It is common in therapy to be wary of putting negatives in sentences – for example ‘I will not worry’ gives too much focus on the worry – a bit like when I ask you NOT to think about a pink elephant. The mind will go to the words and conjure up images well before we can force the ‘NOT’ into our consciousness.

There is wisdom in this way of looking at things – especially when we are exploring the negative things we say to ourselves and the resulting focus. We often end up spending way too much time focused on the negative rather than what it is we actually want. This is something I teach people when writing affirmations – what is it you actually want to affirm? No point asking me not to think about the pink elephant, much more effective to tell me what to think about, not what not to think about!

When it comes to the Usui Principles however, I don’t think of them as affirmations. They are much deeper than that; they are spiritual contemplations.

When I say do not anger or do not worry I can watch for myself during the day – am I worried? Am I angry? These are actions that are distinct and obvious, it is easy to catch myself getting angry, and it’s easy to see when I’m worrying about something. The same goes for gratitude and kindness, but actually these positive principles are much easier to gloss over, it's easier to kid ourselves we are being kind or grateful. It's harder to kid yourself you are not getting angry when you are yelling.

Part of my teacher training is a 21 day contemplation of the Usui Principles and it's always a lively discussion when we meet to reflect. Students are often surprised by what they found most difficult. It is also interesting to reflect for yourself what you find most difficult and most easy – and catch yourself in your own delusion. For many of us on the spiritual path we have conned ourselves for years into thinking we are full of gratitude and kindness, yet our hardest principle is “I will not anger”. Do you see this is the flip side of the same coin? You cannot be kind or grateful if you are angry.

The principles are flip sides of the same essence. If you are in gratitude you are not worried or angry. You cannot be both. If you are doing your work honestly you will see this and work diligently towards greater awareness. When you get angry or worried during the day and you are honest and kind, you do not beat yourself up or deny the negativity in you. When you are honest and kind you see the anger or worry and you gently bring yourself back to gratitude, or you see that ‘just for today’ you are struggling with these principles. Tomorrow is another day for practice, awareness, and growth.

The Principles have great wisdom and depth, so to me, they are not part of our Reiki education to try to change. They are part of our practice to query: why did Usui choose these phrases? What message was he wanting us to reflect on? What contemplation comes from these five simple directions?

I hope you will take the time to find out for yourself.

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