Last month, as I do every February, I had the honor of teaching Reiki 3 at The C.A.R.E. Foundation in Apopka, Florida. This beautiful sanctuary is home to more than 200 exotic animals, including bears, monkeys, big cats and even a friendly skunk!
The interesting thing about working with animals (not just the ones at C.A.R.E.) is that even though I am teaching animal Reiki to humans, the animals are truly the ones teaching us. In fact, I’ve come to realize that the special animals at C.A.R.E. perfectly model the five Reiki precepts, as illustrated in the following photo essay:
1. For today only: Do not anger
Mokoto the black panther came to C.A.R.E. angry and hating humans, but now he sits quietly in meditation with visiting Reiki students and also loves to be scratched through the cage at feeding time. Despite all he’s been through, he is willing to connect with humans through Reiki. Reiki is gentle, and an “offering”—not something we push or force—allows him to feel safe and connect in his own way.
2. For today only: Do not worry
Amos the monkey came to C.A.R.E. traumatized, for his human “parents” had passed away. He had been raised as a human child and knew no other life, trusted no other people and had been orphaned. Through founder/director Christin Anne Burford’s patient loving-care and kindness, he has learned to trust again and now sits quietly in meditation with the Reiki students. One time he even sat opposite a Reiki student and mirrored her perfectly—sitting in the lotus position, with his hands resting on his legs. He is a wonderful example of letting go of worry and being happy and confident, healed through love. 🙂
3. Be grateful
Christin saved Brutus from an alligator farm where he was being beaten up because he was so small. Yes, in true “Christin style,” she jumped right into the alligator habitat and wrestled the naughty big gators who were bullying him, grabbed Brutus and jumped right out. Luckily, the owner of the farm allowed Christin to rescue Brutus, and he lived for a time, recovering physically and emotionally, in her bathtub. Always a sweet gator, Brutus loves Reiki and will often come and stand near the fence during Reiki meditations. He is so happy in his new life at The C.A.R.E. Foundation; you can feel his gratitude in his new life when you connect to him. Brutus also brings the gift of grounding; when students connect to him in the meditative space, they feel a renewed connection and balance with the earth.
4. Practice diligently
Although I’ve never bonded much with skunks in the wild (they always make my dogs miserable by spraying them in the face, LOL), I have to admit that I adore Boo, the resident skunk of The C.A.R.E. Foundation. Boo is a lavender skunk who has his own daily practice, and all who know him watch him practice it: being sweet and gentle. Because of his wonderful nature, he is able to work with special-needs and autistic children. He is a true healer in his own right, but also enjoys the peaceful space of a Reiki session. During my latest visit, one day when it was raining, I stood outside his habitat to offer Reiki, and he came outside and stood in the rain, just to be closer to me during the Reiki session. Boo and Reiki too remind us that it’s good to practice our own sweetness and gentleness every single day.
5. Show compassion for yourself and others
Lucius the lion is one of the most-loved residents of The C.A.R.E. Foundation. He has such a big heart—plus he has a wonderful sense of humor and always makes us laugh with his adorable and playful nature. Lucius is also special needs, having been diagnosed with hypovitaminosis, which, according to the C.A.R.E. website, “results in enlarged bones in the head and necks of lions, which can put pressure on the brain, affecting motor functions such as balance and coordination.” Lucius may be a little off-balance physically, but his spirit is so strong and courageous, and anyone who has shared Reiki with him has felt it! Lucius reminds us to look deeper than the surface and remember the bright, beautiful light within—and we must cultivate our inner compassion to be able to do so.
Take some time to sit in Reiki meditation with wild animals at your local zoo or sanctuary—it just might give you a new and deeper experience of meditating with the Reiki precepts!
And on a final note, here’s a video of me at C.A.R.E. talking about mindfulness and animals: