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How to transform skeptics into believers

When I started my animal Reiki business out of my living room 11 years ago, one of my biggest challenges to building my new business was finding shelters willing to allow me in so I could bring Reiki to the animals. Back then, no one had even heard of Reiki! So imagine how difficult it was to open those doors and make those connections. But with a lot of perseverance, one by one I found people with open hearts and minds willing to take a chance on me.

Since then, I’ve been able to work with animals and bring Reiki programs to BrightHaven Sanctuary, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the San Francisco SPCA in California; Best Friends Animal Society in Utah; Animal Haven in New York City; Chenoa Manor Farm Sanctuary in Pennsylvania; The CARE Foundation in Florida; and even to sanctuaries worldwide—like Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary in the UK. Today my nonprofit SARA, which I co-founded with Leah D’Ambrosio to bring Reiki programs to shelters around the world, has more than 400 members worldwide and Reiki programs in shelters and sanctuaries across the U.S., Canada, England and Australia.

None of that could have happened without some amazing transformations—of skeptics into believers. Here are my best tips, based on years of experience encountering plenty of pushback. Try these tactics for staying strong, outlasting the critics and doing what you do best: bringing Reiki to shelter animals in need.

1. Meditate daily. This step is very important, so don’t neglect it. When you meditate every day, you feel more calm and balanced, which helps you keep your cool if people criticize your life’s passion. However, a daily meditation practice also makes it easier to connect quickly with that healing space of love and compassion that’s so essential to helping shelter animals. And when you face distractions like loud, barking dogs or interference from concerned staff who don’t know what to think of Reiki (maybe it’s their first time seeing it in action), tapping into the energy quickly and effectively allows you to get down to business without wasting time on feeling anxious or unsure.

2. Listen with an open heart. Reiki skeptics are often fearful the modality is just woo-woo, hippy-dippy thinking. Of course, we know the opposite to be true! But the key is to establish a friendly connection, listen with a smile and not be easily offended. Establish your common ground: You both want to help animals, and animal meditation is another way to help them. In my experience, most shelters want any help they can get, and once they understand what Reiki is—and how it is both gentle and holistic—they are happy to accommodate you on some level.

3. Understand the science behind Reiki. Many people who discount Reiki simply don’t realize how mainstream it has become. In fact, Reiki is now used as a complementary therapy in cancer centers nationwide because the results are so effective. And mindfulness meditation, an important component of Reiki, is being used in hospitals, schools and corporations worldwide, thanks to studies suggesting it reduces stress and anxiety, eases pain, lowers blood pressure, boosts feelings of compassion and more. This recent shift in mainstream acceptance will definitely help new shelters feel more comfortable giving you a chance.

4. Let your work speak for itself. Animals don’t pretend—what you see is what you get. And this is actually what helps so many people open up to accepting Reiki! I can’t tell you how many times shelter workers have said to me (following a Reiki treatment), “Wow, that feral cat has never let anyone pet him before” or “Amazing, that dog has not stopped barking for hours.” These powerful healing responses are your closest allies. We’ve all experienced life-affirming moments such as these. Check out this special video of me offering Reiki to a kennel full of stressed-out dogs, and the peaceful calm that falls over them:

5. Don’t give up. Not everyone will want to hear about Reiki or help the animals with Reiki, and that’s OK—because there will always be others who are open. So never give up trying. I can’t promise it will be easy, but it will get easier. And the purrs and tail wags sure to follow will be more than worth it.

How do you deal with skepticism when bringing Reiki to animals in a shelter setting?

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