Usui’s third precept is “Just for today be thankful”. Are you a thankful person? Are you full of gratitude or do you regularly complain about your lot?

When Usui formulated this principle I believe he was asking us to do more than just say “thank you”. He was asking for us to develop an attitude of gratitude.

It seems that in our society we always want to have more – a bigger house, a better car, more money, or more stuff. We say things like, “I need a new car” or “I need a new top”. We are getting our needs and our wants mixed up! We actually forget what we do have because we are constantly focusing on what we don’t have. I believe Usui was asking us to focus on the blessings we have in our life and to become grateful.

So how do we do this and how to we differentiate our needs from our wants?

Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, (1908-70) came up with a hierarchy of needs which I think is a useful illustration of this concept. Basing our needs on a triangle he came up with 5 groups of needs.

Needs hierarchy

Starting at the base, the widest part of the triangle we have our major needs – the big things we need to actually survive – food, drink, sleep and the need to procreate.

Secondly then once our basic physiological needs have been met we can move to our need for safety – the need for a safe place to live, enough money to live on and psychological security.

Once those foundations are in place then we can move up the pyramid to the third set of needs – the need for love and belonging – our need for affection, intimacy and roots in our family or society.

Group four covers our need for esteem – Maslow argued that this need would only come into place once the first three sets of needs were met. This is our need to believe in ourselves, in our competency, our self-respect and having respect for others.  It may be, therefore, that if you suffer from an inability to respect yourself or to believe in yourself that your base needs are not being met.

It is only once all these needs have been met that we can move up to group 5 at the top of the pyramid – Maslow called this the need for self-actualisation – in other words, the ability to become what we are capable of becoming. It is at this point that we feel safe and confident enough to explore more and investigate philosophical concepts and spirituality.

It is an interesting concept and one which I feel has quite a lot of merit. If we do not meet our basic needs then how can we try and develop ourselves spiritually or personally? Perhaps it is time we all looked at our needs from this perspective and then we can easily identify whether our wants and our needs are the same thing or if we simply desire more and more things to try and fill a void within us.

The late Wayne Dyer, in his book “Manifest your Destiny” says,

“The nature of gratitude helps us dispel the idea that we do not have enough and that we ourselves are not enough. When your heart is filled with gratitude it is grateful for everything and cannot focus on what is missing.”

Wise words. The more I develop my own grateful attitude each day the less I find I have to complain about!

Usui’s precept asks us to live with appreciation. Why should we be grateful and appreciative? What difference can it make to our lives?

Research has shown that grateful people are actually happier in general than those who are ungrateful. Think about it this way – if your house was burning down or if you only had moments to live – what would be important to you? Would it be the stuff you have accumulated?

I think not! It is more likely to be the people in your life, your memories and your love that is important not the 52” flat screen on the wall or the shiny car in the driveway.

Developing an attitude of gratitude reminds us of what is important in life. It helps us to focus on the positives – on our blessings. It also helps us to turn negatives into positives. For example – if you have had a rough day at work, at least you have a job to pay the bills and at least that day is over now and you are home safe and sound. Problems often help us grow as a person.

I read a lovely analogy of this on social media the other day. A man was sitting in his garden when he noticed a cocoon on one of the plants nearby. As he watched he could see a tiny opening and from this opening a butterfly was struggling to emerge. He watched and waited patiently as the butterfly struggled and strained against the restrictive cocoon, trying to free itself. After some time the butterfly stopped struggling and appeared to be beaten. The man was worried and thought he should help so he went inside and got a pair of scissors. He carefully snipped off part of the cocoon to allow the butterfly to emerge easily. However he was shocked to see that the butterfly’s body was very swollen and its wings were shrivelled and small. The butterfly emerged from the cocoon but was unable to fly – it spent the rest of its life crawling about. In his kindness the man had prevented the full development of the creature. The point of the restrictive opening and struggle was to force liquid from the body of the butterfly into its wings thus enabling it to fly when it finally emerged. And so it is for humans too – often our struggles are what makes us grow and we need them in order to learn and develop. By developing an attitude of gratitude we can begin to see the bigger picture when struggles come our way and we can remain positive in the face of adversity.

So how do you actually begin to live with gratitude?

It is really quite easy – you begin by saying “Thank you”. When someone does something for you, thank them. Why not thank the bus driver for driving you to your destination or thank the shop assistant for serving you?

When was the last time you sent a thank you card to someone? Or the last time you rang or emailed someone to say thank you?  These days we have forgotten the joy of receiving a card in the post as everything is online – why not send a thank you card the next time someone gives you a gift or does something kind for you?

Have a morning and evening gratitude session. Each morning be thankful that you have woken up and that you have another day of life ahead of you – so many people don’t! Be thankful for your body and the wonderful things it does for you to keep you alive.

In the evening write down 5 things that you are grateful for that day. They don’t have to be massive things – look at the simple things – thank you for the lady who held the door open for me in the shop, thank you for the sunshine today, thank you for the clean water I have from my tap, and so on.

I keep a gratitude journal and it really helps me when I find myself falling into a dark mood. Each evening I write down 5 things from the day that I am thankful for – I try not to repeat myself each day so that by the end of the week and then the end of the month I have a lot to be thankful for. I read it back to myself every now and then and really count my blessings. Try it – it really works!

Why not try a simple exercise now – list your blessings. How empty would your life be without your friends, family, home, everyday objects, etc.? Take a moment to list all the things and people in your life that you are grateful for. Can you see how that helps to shift your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have?

To develop an attitude of gratitude means to be willing to express appreciation to those you care about. Say “I love you” more often. Thank them, give them gifts, and care for them.

Practice random acts of kindness. Do something for someone with no expectation of receiving anything in return. For example buy someone’s coffee or pay it forward and leave money for the next person to come along. Hold a door open for someone or help an elderly person with their shopping or across the road.

When you notice that you are about to complain, stop yourself and pause. Most people are simply trying to do their best – look at the bigger picture before starting to complain.

Look at all the “things” you own – your home, your furniture, your gadgets, your food etc. All these things you owe to other people – those who built it or grew it, those who shipped it, those who distributed it and sold it. Think about the food on your table – thank the earth for providing it, thank the farmer for tending the crops, thank the distributors for getting it out to the supermarkets, thank your boss for the job which allowed you to pay for the food, thank the person who manufactured your cooker so you could cook the food … it’s amazing when you start to think this way. It reminds us that we are all connected and that a little gratitude goes a really long way!

The next time you have to pay a bill, rather than grumbling about it, say thank you! You have the means to pay it and you are paying with a grateful heart for the service or utility you have received. Give as generously as possible for the more generous of spirit you are the more you will find to be grateful for.

I hope that I have shown how developing an attitude of gratitude can benefit your life. When working with the Reiki principles it is so much more than simply meditating on them and chanting them morning and night. You actually have to live them and make them part of your everyday life – that is where the real magic and healing lies!

Next time we will look at working with honesty and integrity. Until then, live well, be grateful and be Reiki.