Hawayo Takata is on my mind. I’m thinking about the way Reiki wove through her; it was the very fiber of her being. I want that level of integration. This takes practice, and practice is not always easy.

In First Degree, Mrs. Takata taught us the importance of letting go of our attachment to outcome. I seem to be testing that capacity in a particular corner of my life.

I live in a narrow, mountain valley in North Idaho. This valley and the surrounding canyons have been the site of more than 100 years of mining. Extracting lead, zinc, silver, and gold has left a legacy of toxic environmental damage: in the 1970s, kids here had the highest blood lead levels ever recorded in this country. Swans still die every spring, feeding on hundreds of acres of contaminated wetlands.

It’s easy to think I know what should happen in this situation. Polluters should pay for the damage, citizens should be involved in the decision-making, and agencies should actively seek out and utilize public input. And, my ideas of how it should be don’t always match how things are.

This valley is one of the largest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites in the US. The cleanup is in its twenty-sixth year and we have another 20-30 years ahead of us. The relationship between EPA and the local community has been fraught with anger, hostility, resentment, and unsuccessful communication.

Three-and-a-half years ago a heavy metals repository went in near my home. The process preceding it was a two-year nightmare for the community and the agencies. I came away from this experience feeling that the future could be different – if we could learn to work together. Since then I’ve been part of a small group working on a collaborative model to enable citizens to have a voice in the cleanup decision-making.

Little did I know what I was getting into. The process moves with glacial slowness. It’s taken 3 1/2 years to gather support from the necessary federal, state, and local agencies. Part of the challenge is convincing everyone that collaboration will lead to a better outcome.

I periodically throw up my hands and think I’ll walk away. Yet, the potential for bringing opposing groups together and creating harmony out of strife is deeply compelling. Plus, I feel an urgency to re-invigorate the democratic process. ☺

And, I’m learning that to stay with the project for the long haul, I must hold it lightly. It really is an opportunity to apply consciously, moment-by-moment, what I’ve learned through practicing Reiki—to integrate Reiki more fully in my life.

Yes, there’s a vision but the ways of realizing it are many. I need to keep my mind and heart soft, knowing the picture I started with can change or expand in ways I haven’t imagined. Other people (with whom I may not agree!) will shape the plan in new ways, making it more complete. If I hold on tightly, the animating spirit of life has little room to create and inspire.

When situations seem intractable, as if there’s no way out and no resolution, I need to remember that this is only a viewpoint. There are other ways to understand what’s happening. A tightening mind and heart won’t allow space for potentialities to emerge. This specific situation or any one of these people may provide a piece of the puzzle that I can’t see from my current vantage point. If I define this moment as wrong or terrible or I fight it, I become rigid and easily miss an opportunity. I also make myself miserable.

If I think I know what should happen, I limit what’s possible and fail to recognize subtle or unexpected shifts taking place. Like a Reiki treatment, I need to remember that I see only a part of what’s happening, not the totality.

Some moments are difficult and I lose track of what I know. My mind can get riled up when I’m publicly criticized. I go home and replay the events. I look at my assumptions and attachments and identify what’s beneath the need to be right and appreciated. With practice, it’s getting easier. I can anticipate places my mind may get hung up and work with these ahead of time. I’m also better at holding the larger picture moment to moment. Fortunately, meetings are far enough apart that I have time to reflect and practice before the next round!

And beyond all of this, I know I have to let go even more, releasing attachment to any final outcome.