One of my favorite things about sanctuary animals is their incredible ability to live in the moment. No matter their past, no matter their physical ailments—these special creatures understand innately how to embrace love, mindfulness and spirituality.
I see it time and again when I sit with animals at a sanctuary or shelter and share Reiki. And when I listen close, they have much to teach. In fact, it’s almost as if they want us to learn the ancient wisdom of finding happiness.
Wednesday, March 1, was National Pig Day—and whenever I think of pigs, I cannot help but remember Harley, an amazing pig who touched my heart and the hearts of many lucky enough to know him.
Harley was a beautiful, 800-pound black-and-white pig who lived many happy years at BrightHaven sanctuary in Northern California. Five years ago, on July 11, he passed away—and is still sorely missed by me, so many of my students, and everyone who knew him. He was such an amazing soul that I feel the need to write about his life for those of you who didn’t get the opportunity to meet him in person.
With Reiki increasingly gaining acceptance—not just in the U.S. but across the world—I’m seeing more and more animal organizations not just accepting Reiki, but loving the holistic modality and making a concerted effort to share Reiki with their animals. This is a dream come true for me: I co-founded the nonprofit SARA (Shelter Animal Reiki Association) with the goal of rolling out animal Reiki programs into communities globally. To see animal Reiki being embraced on a wider scale is truly incredible!
Have you been wanting to pioneer an animal Reiki program in your local shelter, or expand an existing one? For inspiration, check out the following amazing SARA-affiliated animal organizations that are embracing Reiki. (Visit their websites for more information and to learn how you can help them.) The more people and organizations that follow in their footsteps, the more animals that can be helped:
One of the best things about Reiki is how deeply it relaxes animals, even those that are incredibly anxious, depressed or sick. Witnessing firsthand so many happy, calm and blissed-out animals following my Reiki sessions keeps me motivated every single day.
Below are a few of my favorite photos and videos of animals loving Reiki. Most of these were taken at BrightHaven, a holistic hospice for animals in Santa Rosa, California, where I’ve had the honor to teach monthly Reiki courses for more than 12 years:
If you’re like me, dogs have always been the loves of your life and at the center of your heart. They never live long enough, and as they get older, it can be hard to admit that they are indeed “seniors,” entering their twilight years. Older dogs often develop certain chronic conditions, and besides finding the support of a caring, holistic vet, sharing Reiki meditations with your dog can help both of you navigate the twists and turns of your aging dog’s health journey. Here are five powerful ways Reiki can help your beloved senior dogs:
1. An improved appetite. Older dogs often get finicky about eating in their old age. Besides getting creative with food choices, Reiki is a wonderful way to support senior dogs when they just don’t seem interested in food. Many times, I’ve had the beautiful experience of the dog going over to his food bowl and finally choosing to eat, either during or just after a Reiki session. It’s amazing!
2. Physical and emotional comfort. Old dogs deal with a multitude of unsettling physical symptoms, either from disease or just old age: an unsteady gait, a tilted head, nausea, arthritis, deafness and blindness—to name a few. Sharing Reiki sessions can address these issues and help dogs feel more comfortable in their aging bodies.
When Dakota suffered from a bout of vestibular disease when he was about 12, I remember sitting with him and sharing Reiki. Although it was very difficult to see him struggling, sharing a Reiki meditation with him each day gave me a way to keep a positive mental focus of peace and healing. He improved much quicker than the vet expected, and I was able to keep a much calmer state of mind throughout the healing process. This article offers some tips on keeping a positive state of mind while sharing Reiki with your animals.
3. Renewed sense of connection and belonging for the dog. Blindness and deafness can lead to fear and a sense of isolation. Dogs with one or both of these issues may begin to lie on their beds all day instead of interacting with the family. This is where Reiki can play a very important role.
Reiki shows us that connecting with our hearts is a profound way to communicate with and relate to our dogs.
Reiki meditation is about connecting from the heart. We learn to breathe and focus into the heart of our being, to uncover the central core of who we are. When we remember our inner heart, we realize that although we often rely on our eyes and ears to connect us to our world, these senses don’t define who we are. When these senses dim, Reiki helps us to heighten our most important awareness—the awareness that comes from an open heart—in order to stay connected. Reiki shows us that connecting with our hearts is a much more profound way to communicate with and relate to our dogs!
4. Improved mobility. Arthritis is one of the most common chronic conditions present in senior dogs. But when dogs receive regular Reiki treatments, they often show significant signs of improvement in comfort and mobility. It brings me great joy to see many of my arthritic clients getting a spring back into their steps after some Reiki. Some clients will show a renewed emotional sparkle, bringing me toys to play with after a Reiki session, even if they haven’t shown interest in play for a very long time. (See how Reiki helped a senior donkey at TOLFA in India here.)
5. Additional support during hospice. I remember how devastated I was when my dear companion Dakota was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 16. I did everything I could to help him—including sharing Reiki with him every single day. Reiki was a wonderful way to improve his comfort level during hospice, as well as my own mental/emotional state in caring for him.
The medications he was on supposedly caused stomach upset, but he never showed any of these symptoms. In fact, to his vet’s amazement, he had a wonderful appetite and digestion up until the day he died. I firmly believe that Reiki was key in helping him fight against the side effects of the medications. (Don’t miss these three simple ways Reiki helps animals with cancer.)
Our gray-muzzled companions benefit greatly from Reiki, especially as they age. So much inspiration in my work comes from the elderly animals at BrightHaven holistic sanctuary and hospice; all of them were given up on by someone else before they made their way to this special place, where they can live out their lives naturally and in peace. You can read more about their Reiki program here.
How has Reiki helped your senior dog navigate the journey of aging?
This article was originally published in the March/April 2016 issue of Dogs Naturally Magazine.