Reiki for Animals

Reiki has become a common practice for restoring balance and wellbeing for people, but it is also a healing modality that can also be used for animals. Our pets are usually the first ones who come to us when we are in need of mental, emotional or spiritual healing. We are already energetically connected with them. When they are in need of help from us, Reiki can be a beautiful, healing and compassionate gift.

My first experience with energy healing and animals took place 26 years ago when my husband and I owned a small horse farm. We also had an adorable black pygmy goat named Elvis. One day, one of the horses accidentally stepped on Elvis’s pastern bone and broke it. I began calling around to veterinarians, and at that time there wasn’t a large selection for farm animals, so I called the one and only number I could find. The vet came out to the farm, examined Elvis, and taught me to hold my hands a few inches above Elvis’s pastern and allow energy to flow. I was incredibly skeptical as I had never heard about energy healing, but I did it, and it worked! After several weeks of daily treatment, his pastern bone was completed healed.

After I learned Reiki in 2007, I began to use it for my family and my pets. My horse, Starr, had developed a small bump on her chest that began to increase in size. My veterinarian biopsied it and the results came back as pre-lymphoma and she suggested it be monitored. In the meantime, I started sharing Reiki with Starr and within a few months it completely disappeared. Several years later, my son’s dog Dharma, was hit by a car and had a traumatic brain injury and broken paw. For several days she had to be kept at the veterinarian’s office to receive intravenous medication and fluids and I would go there each day, crawl in her crate and gently share Reiki with her. With the help of traditional medicine and Reiki, her brain injury resolved.

During all of these experiences, I used Reiki intuitively with the animals, but wanting to learn more, I invited my friend, Kelly McDermott-Burns, who is a student of Kathleen Prasad, the global leader in animal Reiki and founder of Animal Reiki Source to come teach an animal Reiki course in our area. Kelly brought an entirely fresh perspective on offering Reiki to animals in a way that made complete sense. Just like offering Reiki to humans, she instructed us to ask the animal if they would like to receive Reiki and then set an intention that the energy go where it is needed most for them. The next part was quite different than what I had been doing previously. Kelly suggested that we sit in a space of quiet meditation, allowing Reiki to flow from every pore of our being and wait for the animal to come to us when they were ready. This was different than the direct hands-on practice I had been doing previously. The animal will lead the way; if they are ready to receive, they will come to the practitioner. There is no need to do a series of hand positions because more than likely, the animal will turn his/her body towards the area where they would like to receive it.

A few weeks after the Animal Reiki Class, I had the opportunity to try this new technique. One of the horses where I board my horse had come down with a case of colic. This is a very serious condition in horses and the owner asked me to try Reiki to see if it would help. I quietly entered her stall and could see that she was in distress. She was anxiously touching her nose to both sides of her belly, which is an indication that she was experiencing pain. I stood in the corner of her stall, took a few deep breaths, set an intention and asked if she wanted to receive Reiki and allowed the energy to flow. After about ten minutes she walked over to me and pushed her belly up against my hands and stayed there for several minutes. Then she walked away for several minutes and then came back, offering me the other side of her abdomen. After a few more minutes she walked away again, turned her hind end towards the opposite corner and was able to move her bowels. In a horse with colic, that is exactly what you want to happen. The horse’s owner and I looked at each other, smiled and then cheered with relief.

All of these experiences have helped me to grow in my own Reiki practice. I know that Reiki is not an “on/off” practice. The goal of facilitating the healing of others, whether it be animals or humans, is “being” the energy all the time. How we do that relates directly back to the outcome of the system of Reiki, the Precepts. For today only, do not anger; do not worry, be humble; be honest in your work; and be compassionate to yourself and others. We can’t help to heal our animal friends if we come from a place of anger or if we are worried whether or not it is working. If I go into a session with an animal thinking I know what is wrong, then I’m coming from a place of ego, which is not humble and will not be helpful. Being honest in my work is in perfect alignment with being true to my way and my being, just like our animals. They come to us without judgment; they are open and accepting. Being compassionate to ourselves might be jump-started by first showing compassion to our pet; it is a reciprocal action.

The Reiki journey is always interesting and insightful. My 14-year old Jack Russell Terrier, Ruby, has always been very aloof to receiving Reiki. She would sometimes come to receive it, but then would jump off the sofa after less than a minute and take a spot on the floor and go to sleep. Lately, however, she is my constant partner in my daily meditation practice. She anxiously waits for me to prepare my tea in the morning and when I ask her if she is ready to go with me to do my Reiki meditations, she hops down the steps to my studio and snuggles next to me on her meditation blanket. She is also a constant presence when I teach my Reiki classes. She picks one student and cuddles up with them for the day. She has even participated in a session that I had with a young child. He was slightly nervous and she wanted to get on the massage table with him. They both received and shared the healing, calming and loving energy of Reiki.

Animals shelters and rescue organizations are also now recognizing the value of Reiki in helping to bring calm and peace in an incredibly stressful environment. Reiki helps to restore balance and ease the body towards healing in body, mind and spirit. It is important to recognize that just as with humans, healing is always on the animal’s own time schedule. We must let go of our own agenda, timeframe and release any expectations that we might have for healing to take place. In shelter and rescue situations, this can sometimes be extraordinarily difficult to do. Having a strong Reiki self-practice and meditation routine can help us come from a very grounded place so that we will be in the best position to help our animals friends. For more information about bringing Reiki to shelters, please visit the non-profit organization founded by Kathleen Prasad, Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA) at https://shelteranimalreikiassociation.org.

Originally published in the Fall 2018 Issue of Therapeutic Thymes Magazine

How Taking a Reiki Class Can Help to Heal Your Mind

             Quite often people think that Reiki is a hands-on healing practice for others, but in truth, it is a practice to rediscover what we already are - spiritual energy.  It’s a journey to find the True Self, or that inner light that innately shines within us.  That light is often hidden and covered up by the hurt, pain and false beliefs we accumulate and carry with us.  The beauty of the practice of Reiki is that during a Reiki class, the student will learn how to work on peeling away those layers by practicing the meditations and techniques learned within the system.  It isn’t something magical – it does takes work.  However, when you put forth the intention and effort, every aspect of your life has the potential to become easier and lighter.  You will be able to shine your light and facilitate the healing of others, just by being you.    

            Reiki is based on Precepts which the student learns to use in their daily meditation practice.  They begin with:

            For Today Onlywhich refers to being in the present moment.  So, if we are able to hold this space of the Precepts for even a short time, it will help us to begin to heal our minds.  

           Do not anger.  This first Precept does not mean that you won’t ever be angry again. However, it does mean that we can explore where our anger is coming from.  What are the triggers and how can we best work through them.  What deep place does this feeling come from and how can we explore ways to release our hurt and disappointment?  When we are quick to anger, we also cause our bodies to become incredibly stressed.  Stress leads to a multitude of physical problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.  

            Do not worry.  As you are reading this blog, think about the things that you have already worried about today.  The world challenges us every day with this Precept.  We are usually worried about things that haven’t happened yet and quite frequently, the things we worry about don’t come to fruition.  Learning to let go of worry means working on staying in the present moment and releasing the fear of the future.  The system of Reiki gives us the meditation tools to help with this.

            Be humble.  Reiki embraces the concept of oneness or non-duality.  Recognizing that we are all in this together creates a feeling of “being right mind” and releasing the ego.  When we release our own agenda, we can focus more on kindness and understanding. Being humble also keeps us in a mindset of gratitude.

            Be honest in your work.  This Precept can also be interpreted as being true to your way and your being.  The way in which we do that is by being diligent with our Reiki self-practice routine and meditation practices.  

            Be compassionate to yourself and others.  We can’t begin to show compassion to others unless we are compassionate to ourselves first.  This means having a strong self-care routine and nurturing yourself.  We can do that best when we are aware and mindful of everything around us.  Take some time today to pause, be aware of your breath, let your shoulders relax and practice a few moments of gratitude.

            The main focus of the system of Reiki is about embracing the Precepts in all we do.  During a Reiki class we delve deeper into these concepts and much more.  If we embrace this way of being we can help to heal our minds, which will help us become more grounded and focused practitioners. This, in turn, will help us to facilitate holding the space of healing for others.

Turning Sadness into Gratitude - How Reiki Can Help

            Although we often think that the winter blues manifest during the holiday season, quite frequently emotions can be even more heightened after the festivities are over.  Thoughts and feelings can be incredibly volatile during this time of year, especially if we have been unable to process the unrealistic expectations the holiday season may sometimes bring. Additionally, the onset of shorter days with less sunshine may lead to an increase in stress, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of sadness.

           Last year’s post-holiday season was especially challenging for me.  In an effort to help others who may also be experiencing a sense unhappiness and melancholy, I felt moved to share my story and how I was able to turn a very difficult and distressing time into embracing adeep sense of gratitude.  In my despair, I saw myself as having two choices.  I could go into that dark place where my soul sometimes wants to hide and stay forever.  Or, I could fully envelope my personal Reiki practice, which includes self-Reiki, journaling and meditation.  Don’t get me wrong, last year I was in that dark place for almost a week.  Even after diligently practicing Reiki for over ten years, I am still human and metaphorically “fall off the wagon” at times.  Life is full of circuitous routes and there are highs and lows.  Unwittingly, sometimes I still decide to slide on the old jacket of hurt that I wore for so many years.  It feels oddly familiar, but incredibly painful.  The key for me was in recognizing old patterns and choosing to let go of the layers that sometimes decide to resurface. 

            Knowing that I needed to release and rebalance myself both energetically and spiritually, I opened my journal and began to write.  Several years ago, I began to study and write a form of Japanese poetry referred to as waka or tanka, which is similar to haiku.   Waka is arranged in a specific pattern of five lines each containing  5-7-5-7-7  syllables.  The founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui, frequently recited waka written by the Japanese Meiji Emperor who ruled in Japan from 1867-1912, as a form of respect and contemplation (Stiene, 2016).  One of my first poems was written after sitting quietly outside in the early autumn and watching the leaves begin to fall.

Cicadas strong voice

Signals the end of summer

It ends so quickly

Leaves begin to dry and fall

Autumn breezes fill my soul

            However, the waka that I put onto the pages of my journal during the time my heart was heavy and despondent was exceedingly different.  My soul was filled with heartache and despair.

Where do they come from

These deep wails of intense pain?

Pent up anger moans

Anguish as intense as death

Strangles my inner being

            These words were the beginning of my healing process and the beginning of an emotional and spiritual release.  It was also a signal for me to get down to the “work” of my Reiki practice. As I have written before, Reiki is not something magical; it is a diligent practice of working on the self.  It requires embracing and embodying the Reiki Precepts.  They read as follows: For today only, do not anger, do not worry, be humble/grateful, be honest/diligent in your work, and be compassionate to yourself and others.   My soul-searching and healing process had to begin with an opening within me; I was able to begin to do this with writing waka. 

            In my darkness, I had stopped using my meditation bench.  I ignored it.  It just seemed too overwhelming to sit down and do the work.  There is a beautiful quote by the Native American Elder Sa’k’ej Henderson that reads, “To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.” Change can be terrifying and taking time to listen to the heart requires intentional presence. It is often much easier to look the other way.  However, I knew I had to begin.  After I began to chip away at my sadness with writing poetry, I was able to start “sitting” again and contemplating the Precepts.  I started to deeply examine the origin of my anger using my meditation practice.  Where did this anger come from?  How can it be healed and how can I peel away those curtains of sadness and find a place of joy again?  I continued to write.

Emotional wounds

Cut deeply into my soul

How can they be healed?

Only with an open heart

And the power to forgive.

            Forgiveness sometimes seems unreachable and can be extraordinarily difficult.  In forgiving someone else, we often need to forgive ourselves first.  I returned to the Reiki Precepts and began to ponder self-compassion and gratitude.  I was born in the late 1950’s and self-compassion was definitely not something that was nurtured or even discussed; it was much more about helping others, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.  That self-compassion piece is one that continues to challenge me at times and can be elusive for my mind to grasp.  However, one way that I can readily tap into it is with my Reiki self-practice.  Gently placing my hands on my heart and allowing the loving energetic flow of peace to enter my being helps to bring me in harmony with my body, mind and spirit.  As my hands touch my heart, I remember that my heart is also touching my hands; it is a compassionate practice of oneness of all that is. It also helps me to connect with my True Self, which is the spiritual energy of who I am.  This spiritual energy is the definition of Reiki; the divine and loving energy of the universe.

            Using these tools, gratitude began to speak to me.  I have two hands to hold my heart.  I have two feet that I use to walk upon the earth, which help to keep me grounded and centered.  I recognize that I have the ability to breathe deeply and release my worry and fear with each exhalation.  I can hold onto anger or I can choose peace.   All of these things I learned from the practice of Reiki.  It is an empowering tool for self-development, self-compassion and cultivating a deep sense inner peace.  The gratitude is in knowing that Reiki is a practice where there is no giver, no receiver and no gift.  It is the energy of sharing compassion with the self and all sentient beings.

            Although Reiki is often thought of as a hands-on healing practice for others, it is so much more.  It is a tool that we can use to help us during times when we may feel sadness and despair.  It can assist us in releasing false beliefs that we may have about ourselves and gently nudge us towards self-kindness and self-love.  Working with the tools used in the system of Reiki can bring about monumental changes in how we see ourselves and the world around us, bringing with it a deep sense of gratitude.  It is a simple and loving practice that anyone can learn and continues to help inspire me to promote mindfulness, presence and compassion.

Originally published in Therapeutic Thymes magazine, Winter 2017.

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Reiki and Energy Healing - Is There a Difference?

In the last ten years the interest in energy healing has blossomed and many people are reaching out for holistic modalities to complement traditional medical care that can assist in their physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.  There is finally recognition that we are much more than our physical bodies.  It is an exciting time, but can also be confusing when comparing and contrasting different practices. 

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