Today I’m at one of my favorite places in the world: Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary in Essex, England. My “Everything Animal Reiki” class starts today! (Looking forward to seeing you if you’ve signed up.) Situated on 40 beautiful pastoral acres in the English countryside, Remus was founded in 1983 by Sue Burton. Here are a few of the reasons why Sue is such an inspiring animal hero to me, including a closer look at what makes Remus so special:
1. What was once a post-war dairy farm is now home to more than 200 rescued farm animals—among them horses, donkeys, cows, goats, sheep and the resident cats and dogs.
2. Sue founded Remus partly because, as she states on her website, “I have always had a great belief in wrong and right and total respect for all living creatures—be they animals or humans. I could not believe that in this country [England] we could stand by and watch an animal suffer and die needlessly and that we would not all move mountains to ensure it never happened again.”
3. Sue makes sure that holistic remedies like Reiki take center stage at Remus, and for a variety of ailments—including tumors, cancer, colic, Cushing’s disease, chronic emotional problems and end of life. Sue says of the animals, “They’re all Reiki sponges up here.”
4. Thanks to Remus’ cutting-edge Elderly Horse Campaign, local horse people are educated about the various things they can do to help their horses thrive in their golden years.
The road to Remus
Some of Remus’ beautiful (and friendly) horses
A resident cat
Sheep in the mist
Me and Sue Burton
Remus volunteer Caroline Thomas, Sue Burton and I enjoyed lunch at a yummy pub nearby.
One of Remus’ Shetland ponies, now living the good life.
5. Sue and her staff of 10 (and more than 50 volunteers) take extra special care of the animals. “We want to actually make their life better,” she says. “Not just look after them, but give them something back.” In addition to food, water, veterinary care and love, these animals—who previously found themselves in abhorrent conditions—also get sugar-free feed; natural herbs; soft, sandy floors; and even a solarium.
6. An amazing 70 percent of the rescued horses at Remus are more than 20 years of age—including the adorable Orchid, who just celebrated her 49th birthday. In fact, Remus is currently petitioning Guinness World Records to recognize Orchid as the world’s oldest horse.
7. Remus has won many prestigious awards. In 2011, the sanctuary won Best Horse Rescue Center in the UK from The Wetnose Burgess Awards.
8. In 2014, Remus won £500 as runner up in the Heart of Essex Awards, which honor the most deserving unsung heroes in the community.
9. Remus is also a “Best Place to Visit With Your Dog,” according to The Kennel Club’s Open for Dogs UK awards.
10. Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, Sophie Rhys-Jones, is patron of Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary.
Who is your animal hero? Share with us in the comments below!
Photos copyright Charlotte Jensen and Kathleen Prasad.
I remember the first time I saw a cow factory farming video my freshman year in college. I gave up beef on the spot and have gradually moved toward veganism ever since. My initial desire stemmed from a childhood instinct of loving animals and not wanting to harm them. But all these years later, I now know the issue goes way beyond that. The factory farming industry damages not just the animals, but our world, too. And it seems to be getting worse.
Our society was literally founded upon filling our bellies with meat (Thanksgiving, anyone?), but times have changed; the world is different now. Many scientists argue whether eating meat is even sustainable. Though many of us still aren’t ready to alter our thinking, for those who are, I’m here to tell you there is another way—a healthier, ethical way. Though this isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, here are 10 ethical reasons to go vegetarian today:
I always spend a few days in London before heading into the beautiful countryside to Remus. And now that this is going to be my third trip across the pond, I feel like I’m really getting to know London. With that in mind, here’s my ultimate top 10 list for visiting London:
1. Fave lunch spot: Ottolenghi restaurant in Notting Hill
Imagine the most delicious (and beautifully presented) vegetarian dishes you’ve ever tasted. I can promise you, I will be eating here at least once next week!
Sound has a profound effect on the entire mind-body physiology. –Deepak Chopra
From Gregorian monks and Tibetan Buddhist monks to Hindu priests and even Native American shamans and medicine men—the ancient practice of chanting has historically been a universal way for spiritual seekers to create a peaceful space and achieve therapeutic healing. And it still is today.
Chanting is a wonderful way to “consciously breathe”—to unite our breath with sound in a way that is very healing for our emotional selves. Research has shown that chanting lowers blood pressure, and even just listening to chanting can help reduce our stress by calming our nervous system. Chanting also creates an inner feeling of well-being that radiates outward—meaning our animals can feel it, too.
Peace in ourselves, peace in the world. —Thich Nhat Hanh
Heavy emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger and sadness are very small and constricted. Chanting, on the other hand, is a very expansive exercise. The more expansive you become, the more easily you can feel emotions without being knocked over by them.
Your animals will feel this expansiveness as a tranquil, serene balance and will come forward to share it with you. They will want to be a part of this strong, balanced space that you radiate.
If we accept that sound is vibration, and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears, but through every cell in our bodies. —Dr. Mitchell Gaynor
Here are two ways you can use chanting for healing with your animals:
1. Chanting the first Reiki mantra: The “oh” sound is associated with the navel area, the “oo” sound with the solar plexus, and the “ay” sound with the heart/head. So this chant can help to move your energy from the earth up—just as if you are a beautiful tree who is nurtured from the earth, and growing and expanding upward. This is how all creatures on earth grow, from the earth up—and we must remember that this is also our true essence. When we remember this, we can more easily deal with the difficult situations we and our animals may face. Listen in and chant along with this beautiful, musical rendition of chanting Choku Rei, by Jonathan Goldman.
Your thoughts are your message to the world. Just as the rays are the messages of the sun. —Amit Ray
2. The Japanese Medicine Buddha Chant: There is a long Buddhist tradition of chanting this mantra for the healing benefit of animals. I have created this special audio for people to listen to (and chant along) with their animals for healing. Here, you can take a listen and feel the energy during this healing circle at a recent SARA (Shelter Animal Reiki Association) retreat:
Maureen Petras of Reikicares-Animal Reiki in Penn Valley, California, uses this Japanese Medicine Buddha Chant to help shelter dogs. “[This chant] is amazing,” she says. “I used it recently with an unsettled puppy at the shelter I volunteer at. It was like I flipped a switch, and he went into a deep sense of peace within seconds of me starting to chant quietly. The rest of the dogs became quiet and relaxed as well—so quiet and relaxed that when I was finished with the cats in another room, I walked by the dog kennels on the way out to say goodbye, [and there was] not one bark. That has not happened once since I started a month ago. Just happy peace!”
And according to my student Caroline Thomas of Hoof and Paw Holistic Therapies in Chelmsford, England, “The chanting truly helps me to let go and to just ‘be.’ It helps with my breathing, and the animals love the grounded energy that it creates.” She reports that the Medicine Buddha Chant, in particular, helps tremendously in her work with the sanctuary horses at Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary. “Using [this] chant, I have been able to work with a horse called Marcus who was beaten so badly, that when he came to Remus, he stood in the exact same position in the Remus stable for days, as he was so scared to move. My relationship with Marcus now is one of trust and respect. I hold the ‘Reiki’ space—chanting along with Kathleen’s audio—and stand motionlessly in the field. During these moments, he will often come and nestle his head on my shoulders. I refrain from touching him, as I know that he does not want me to touch him. He respects me for this and now looks for me while I walk through the fields.”
No worries if you’re a chanting newbie. Here are five great tips for beginners!
Tell me: Have you tried chanting with your animals?
The concept of “mindfulness” has been on my mind a lot lately. Not just because it’s splashed across headlines and gaining wider acceptance in the U.S. (even corporate America is embracing “mindfulness”)—but also because I spend so much time with animals in my work. And as I’ve written about before, animals are mindfulness masters who teach us important lessons about living mindfully every single day.
But with so much out there in the world about mindfulness these days, I’ve noticed absolutely no one is talking about a vital ingredient to living a truly mindful life: the heart. In other words, I believe you cannot be mindful without also being heartful—feeling and embracing the abundance of emotions and feelings in one’s heart. Without the heart component, mindfulness leads to a calm and aware state of being, yes, but also a state of indifference or detachment.
You cannot be mindful without also being heartful.
In Japanese, the character “kokoro” means mind and heart (the same). So in Japanese tradition, your mind has to unify with your heart for you to be in the “right” space for healing. This idea—a fusing of heart and mind—fits well with my Reiki work with animals. When we sit or walk mindfully with our animals, our hearts open so we can radiate our inner compassion. And with our furry friends by our side, offering their unconditional love and acceptance of us, we are able to access our inner peace more easily. The heartful thinking that follows promotes generosity, openness to others, healing and more.
So next time you think of living mindfully, remember the importance of living heartfully, too. Instead of falling into old patterns of thinking—that the mind and the heart (thinking vs. feeling) merely battle one another—embrace the possibility of heart and mind existing as one and in partnership.