“Before I explain what I mean by survival, let me clarify that the mastery I speak of is not simply the control of breath and body, but of thoughts, speech, behavior towards others, as well as towards ourselves. It is compassion for every living thing, an understanding that all and everything is connected and therefore to be nurtured if we as a species, we as individuals, are to survive with dignity and purpose.”—Helen Noakes
By Helen Noakes
Editor’s Note: Helen Noakes and I have been friends since the 1980s and 90s when we were both living and working in Athens, Greece and, later, in London, England. Since March of 2010, she has been writing regularly and with gusto for “Hubris.” This column first appeared here in October of 2019.
SAN FRANCISCO California—(Hubris)—1 April 2023—“Every day, be a master.” It’s the mantra I repeat after each lesson to my Reiki III students. It’s a mantra I repeat to myself, daily, often more than once a day. Because this reminder of self-mastery is not easy to maintain in our current world climate, the mantra is crucial to survival.
That sounds a bit dramatic—“crucial to survival”—but, let me assure you, it isn’t. Before I explain what I mean by survival, let me clarify that the mastery I speak of is not simply the control of breath and body, but of thoughts, speech, behavior towards others, as well as towards ourselves. It is compassion for every living thing, an understanding that all and everything is connected and therefore to be nurtured if we as a species, we as individuals, are to survive with dignity and purpose.
And survival? It isn’t simply ensuring that we go on living, but ensuring how we continue to live.
The temptation to rant against the horrors which we hear about daily on our newscasts is great and, being human, we’re allowed a bit of a rant now and then. But ranting does little good. A master considers the injustice, the lies, the treachery which cause turmoil and takes action. The master asks: “How might I change the situation? How might I help those who are suffering? How, in my daily life, might I alter the energy of hatred into compassion?”
With some of us, sudden illness or physical disabilities might cause anguish, fear of the future, and disappointment in friends who seem not to be there in our hour of need. Again, all these are natural feelings, but it is incumbent on the master to see the reality in a different light, to take measures to heal him/herself, to allow that some people do not have the need or capacity to respond, and to marvel at the miracle of unexpected sources of caring and assistance.
Within our darkest hours there is a way to light. That light comes when we make an effort to see ourselves as part of a whole, as an integral element in the universe we occupy. And when we are able physically and emotionally to do so, the effort to assist others, to translate our trials into creative endeavors, whatever they might be, is more powerful than any medicine.
When I began to teach Reiki, I decided to place a few quotes related to healing practice throughout the classroom. As soon as I made the decision, remarkable quotes seemed to materialize wherever I looked. The one I offer here above, by Mahatma Gandhi, “May the work of your hands be a sign of reverence to the human condition,” spoke to my current state with such clarity that I could not ignore it. So, I set out to explore why.
I took to dividing my days between writing, reading, gardening, clearing my house of things that no longer have any meaning to me, donating whatever is useful and, of course, engaging in my daily spiritual practice of meditation and distant healing. The work of my hands rendered a conscious, mindful progress to my day, gave me respite from the mayhem of our politics, and the horror of our current government. Oh, I didn’t ignore what was happening. On the contrary, I stopped ranting and started doing.
The mantra “Every day be a master,” helps me retain this sense of purpose in my life. When reality bites, when the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” bombard, I find I must repeat the mantra, like the refrain in a song. And somehow, it works. It always works. One day, perhaps, I shall achieve mastery but, for now, I need reminders to work towards it.
Every day, be a master.