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Why We Should Let Go of Our Need to Touch animals

We should let go of our need to touch animals during Animal Reiki sessions.

There are so many reasons why the need to use our hands or put our hands on an animal during a Reiki session can slow down or stall an animal’s healing. In one of my previous blogs about the 6 Pillars of the Let Animals Lead® method of Animal Reiki, I explain Pillar 2 (touch is used only when animals seek it out, and then only as compassionate support) and how touch often increases the stress and anxiety of animals who are already anxious, such as shelter animals or wild/feral animals.

I learned to let go of my need to touch animals while I was being Reiki with them, once I realized how adversely touch affected many of them.

In fact, it was through my years of sharing the Reiki space with shelter and sanctuary animals that I truly learned of the healing power of keeping my hands to myself during Animal Reiki sessions. Letting animals lead a Reiki session—allowing them to choose how and when (or if) they initiate contact—gives them agency and builds trust.

And, if we can’t build trust with an animal during an Animal Reiki session, the opportunity for healing diminishes significantly.

Even when using Animal Reiki in unusual situations—to ease a hospice animal’s discomfort or to calm a wild animal while it receives medical care—we still need to build trust, and putting our hands all over animals who don’t know us or are in pain or don’t trust humans has the opposite effect of building trust.

In a previous blog that explains why the Let Animals Lead® is different from other Animal Reiki approaches, I really dig in to the importance of giving animals agency during Animal Reiki treatments and allowing them to choose whether or not they want to join the healing space we offer them using this Animal Reiki method. And, I totally understand, that for people who have been trained in hands-on Reiki methods, it can be a real mind bender to try to wrap our heads around NOT using our hands for Reiki and NOT touching or beaming Reiki energy to an animal we are working with.

Perhaps one of the best ways I can explain the need to let go of touch during Reiki sessions with animals is with an analogy or two that many people can relate to.

Scenario #1: When touch makes us more anxious

Imagine for a moment that you are travelling in a country where you don’t speak the language. It’s dark outside and you take a wrong turn and end up lost in a scary and unsafe part of the city. (And also imagine that you forgot your phone so you can’t simply use Google Translate to ask someone for directions. 😜)

How would you feel if, suddenly, people you don’t know started approaching you, speaking to you in a language you don’t understand, putting their hands on you and trying to pull you in one direction or the other?

Would you feel calm? Would you feel you could trust these strangers touching you and trying to force you to come with them? Or would you feel even more panicked and stressed?

Now, imagine the same scenario, but imagine these people don’t even try to approach you and they keep distance between you. They speak softly and, when they understand that you don’t speak their language, they point in a direction, beckon you to follow without making any move to touch you or pull you, and begin walking. In this scenario, it’s your choice to follow them. You get to choose if you trust these strangers enough to help you find your way, even if you don’t understand them and you don’t know them.

In this case, you are given the opportunity to use your intuition to gauge their energy and whether or not it feels right.

In this scenario, nobody is pushing their way into your space, laying their strange hands on you, or trying to force you in a direction.

Scenario #2: When presence alone calms us

Imagine, again, that you are still in this country where you don’t speak the language. You end up in the ER with some sort of sickness or injury and your travelling companions aren’t allowed to come into the room with you so you are alone with a bunch of strangers—strangers who are trying to help you, but you can’t understand them.

You have nurses and doctors poking and prodding you, you’re in pain, and they’re asking you all sorts of questions that you can’t answer. You’re feeling VERY overwhelmed with all the noise, the beeps and machines around you, the people coming and going, the language barrier, etc. and, even though you understand that you need their help, it’s still very stressful and you are very uncomfortable, even scared.

Looking around and feeling frantic, you notice a woman sitting in the corner of the room you’re in. She grabs your attention because she seems very calm and relaxed. She has her eyes closed, her hands on her lap, and she seems unbothered by the chaos around her. You’re very drawn to her. As though she can feel your eyes on her, she opens hers and looks at you with a smile. She doesn’t speak or anything, just smiles and once again closes her eyes. And then, even though this person is a complete stranger, you find yourself relaxing too. Something about her and her energy has made you feel less anxious and stressed about your situation and you actually feel comforted that she is there. Maybe you even want to reach out to her and hope she’ll come hold your hand while the doctors fix you up.

Can you see how, when we apply these scenarios to animals in different situations, it just makes sense for us to let go of using our hands during Animal Reiki sessions?

Hands-on Human Reiki practitioners have a hard time letting go of their need to use their hands.

An animal’s right to agency and independence within a Reiki session is often not taken into account because of the common mistaken belief that humans “always know better.” Unfortunately, this often causes animals discomfort and creates obstacles to trust and connection. This view also completely overlooks the incredibly important contribution animals make to the Reiki space that we share—they give us just as much, if not more, as we give them.

They are our greatest teachers!

When I first learned hands-on Reiki 25 years ago and no one was specializing in animals, there was no talk about even asking permission! Luckily, that began to evolve for me as I practiced Reiki with many hundreds of animals. In following human protocol of “hands-on, Reiki-on” at first, I would keep animals on a lead so that I would perform all my set hand positions without them walking away before I was “done.” However, thankfully because I was working mostly with shelter and sanctuary animals who didn’t know me (or trust me), it quickly became clear that I was forcing something on many of them and this just didn’t feel right.

I wanted to give them a choice, but how to do that best?

Learning to let go of my need to touch animals while offering Reiki

This has been a process! 😵‍💫😂

Asking Permission to offer Reiki healing to an animal.

At first, when I realized that I was making animals uncomfortable or anxious by placing my hands on them, I thought only of “asking permission” of the animal before my Reiki session with them and allowing them to move away if they didn’t want to participate.

However, in this stage, I would ask permission with my hands already placed on them—thus still leading the session— but at least I left room for animals to say, “no,” by walking away from me.

Realizing that my hands (and often body) were often an issue while offering Animal Reiki

Later on, I realized that my physical presence, touch, and sometimes even just the sight of my hands often disturbed animals, so I began letting go of my “hands-on” mentality.

Instead, I tried hovering my hands over the animals, but the wary and anxious looks and reactions from many sensitive animals made me realize that perhaps this Reiki stance was coming across as “predatory” or “dominant” and wasn’t the best idea.

From there, I began experimenting with ways that I could become gentler and less opposing with my physicality and that’s when I started to really see the positive effect I could have by just being Reiki with animals instead of doing Reiki to them.

Learning to trust the sensitivity of animals to energy

Slowly, I began to trust the sensitivity of animals to energy. I realized they sensed the Reiki space in a way that was much deeper than physical touch or even the proximity of my hands. They even often connected with Reiki from a great distance away, even without my intention or knowledge (for example, sneaking up behind me in an adjacent pasture when I thought I was just offering Reiki with my own horse.)

Taking my hands completely out of the Reiki offering and starting to see major breakthroughs

I began experimenting with my hands in my pockets or face down in my lap and THIS is when I began to see nervous animals relax and start to take charge of the session. They would come closer to me and even sometimes be the ones to initiate touch themselves! And, amazingly, often just being patient enough with animals who were very fearful of touch to be the ones to choose contact during an Animal Reiki session created a huge enough breakthrough for them to allow other humans to be able to work with them closely and even pet them!

Why we should let go of our need to touch animals during Animal Reiki sessions

Regarding physical touch and Reiki, the ethical imperative for the Let Animas Lead® method is to always allow animals to initiate physical touch. In fact, in my experience working with thousands of animals in the last 25 years, touch is not the ritual best suited for Animal Reiki sessions at all. This is why my Let Animals Lead® method has evolved to become so different from human, touch-based Reiki.

That being said, many animals do enjoy physical touch during Reiki, and we can, of course, respond with an open mind and gentle hands when they come forward and initiate it. The important thing is to allow them the choice!

How can you tell if an animal wants to accept Reiki healing?

Once hands-on Reiki practitioners learn about this hands-off/Let Animals Lead® method, this is next question that always comes. I also get it often from my Let Animals Lead® students who have never taken any kind of Reiki before and, to be honest, the answer is both simple and complicated.

Animals respond in many ways when given agency and allowed to choose to participate in Reiki healing sessions.

If you’re interested in learning more about all the ways we can offer hands-off Reiki healing to animals and how to read their responses, we’d love to have you join us in one of our classes!

Sign up for a class to get access to our Let Animals Lead® Community!

My next sessions of Level 1 classes and up begin in March. Check out our Animal Reiki Academy page for more info or contact me at for information on payment plans. Students who sign up this year get a free pass to membership in our Let Animals Lead® Community over on Mighty Networks and it’s full of free, exclusive-access content about our Let Animals Lead® method and includes direct access to me and my best teachers!

Can’t wait to see you there!

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