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3 ways rescued cats are the best teachers

I am a Reiki teacher who works with animals. Some might ask me if I’m an “animal healer,” but I don’t like that term: Partly because I respect the wisdom and power of animals too much to claim that I’m the one doing the helping, and partly because of what some amazing cats in my Reiki journey have revealed to me.

For those of you new to Reiki, the word itself literally translates as “spiritual energy,” which points toward our inner self. I see Reiki as our beautiful light of compassion, or our “heart.” Reiki meditation helps us remember that we are all connected, and in that place of Oneness, all healing possibility exists.

In my own journey, Reiki has been my path to rediscover my inner self-healing power, and when I practice my Reiki meditations, the animals take notice and want to connect. I’d like to share three unexpected lessons in healing I’ve learned from some special feline teachers:

1. Healing is about touching hearts, not hands.

We humans seem always to focus Reiki on hands: Hands equal healing. Well, we humans are very tactile creatures, aren’t we? We feel more connected when we use touch. For example, we might love to give a cat a little scratch behind the ear to show affection. Those of us with domestic, affectionate cat friends might think of a Reiki session as us with our hands resting on the cat. However, I’ve had so many beautiful experiences of connection and healing with shelter cats without ever making physical contact. It is amazing to see a feral or traumatized shelter cat respond to Reiki meditation with a softening of posture followed by yawning, falling asleep and sometimes even a slow blink (wonderful!). No touch needed! Or should I say, and more importantly, wanted. My shelter cat teachers have shown me that we should always let animals choose touch, rather than initiating it ourselves, just because it’s our “human” way. Cats know that healing is much more than skin deep!

2. Healing is not a one-way street.

One special cat, Frazier (may he rest in peace), taught me how healing is a space that we share in compassion, rather than an act that we do from a space of pity. Frazier lived the final chapter of his life at BrightHaven holistic animal sanctuary and hospice in Northern California. He was in his 30s (!!) when he passed, and I only knew him for the last few years of his life. When I knew him, he was suffering from cancer, and the tumor had taken one of his eyes and part of his face. Yes, he was living with cancer, but truly I can say he was “living.” He had the energy of a young and vibrant cat. He carried himself as if he was the most handsome of all the cats at the sanctuary. And he loved Reiki. But every time he sat in my lap and pushed his ravaged face into my hands during our Reiki meditation together, something strange happened: I felt a beautiful healing warmth in my own heart from his compassionate presence. It was as if he was saying to me, “Oh yes, Kathleen, I know I have cancer and I’m in hospice now, and you might think you’re here to help me. But actually, we’re here to help each other.” And so we would sit in Reiki and heal, together as One. Frazier knew that true healing is a space that is shared.

3. Healing is possible amidst illness.

We humans are always looking for the “cure.” That’s one reason many people end up finding me and asking for help with their animals: They’ve exhausted every other modality, both conventional and holistic, and they’re desperate to find a cure. In my own personal journey through breast cancer, I have come to realize that healing isn’t always about a physical cure, even though we may wish for it. Another special cat named Sam, also a hospice resident at BrightHaven, showed me this lesson through his beautiful poise and charisma. When Sam was rescued from the streets, extremely thin and very ill, he was not expected to live even a week—yet he lived for more than a year! He was the ever-present, extremely enthusiastic Reiki sponge at every class I gave, charming all the students with his affectionate head butts and blinking “kisses.” As I recovered from my own cancer treatment, he often sat in my lap, gazing up lovingly into my face and reminding me that we are not our bodies and our illness, we are the light that resides within.  When I would feel discouraged or emotional about my own struggle, he would reach out a paw and stroke my face, as if to say, “All is well.” And somehow, he was right. Although Sam passed away, in the 15 months he lived at BrightHaven, he showed me that true healing is about the love and kindness that we can share with others each moment that we live. And this is so much deeper than the physical body!

I am so grateful to my feline gurus for lighting the way toward healing! To find out more about how Reiki can help you and your animals find true healing, click here for free audios on a variety of animal Reiki topics.

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