Posts Tagged ‘brighthaven’

The beautiful life lessons I learned from a hospice cat

Many times when we learn Reiki for animals, we think we’re going to be “doing” the healing for the animals. But the animals know better. They understand that in a true and deep healing space, where hearts connect in compassion, the healing goes both ways. This healing is not about curing, but  about becoming whole. Johnnie is one cat who taught me these lessons.

Johnnie (above left) was a beautiful orange tabby who lived at BrightHaven holistic animal sanctuary and hospice. He suffered from a variety of ailments, including renal problems, heart issues, severe dental disease, low potassium and hyperesthesia. Somehow, though, he always thought of others—never himself.

For many years of his life, he would adopt certain cats who came to live at BrightHaven who needed extra love. At first, many of these cats were not convinced that they needed Johnnie’s rapt and loving attention, but his engaging personality always managed to persuade each one that a love affair was needed—and, indeed, each one thrived under his doting care.

As BrightHaven is a hospice, and the animals there are in the final chapter of their journeys, one by one he had to say goodbye to each cat he loved so much. He sat vigil and supported each one’s death with a pure and open heart. When his last love, Vancouver, passed away, it seemed that finally Johnnie’s own heart was broken. It was only after Vancouver passed that we began to see Johnnie front and center for all Reiki classes. At this time, his physical heart and kidneys were failing, and although he certainly benefited from the Reiki shared, his focus remained, as always, on others.

He would go around the circle, greet everyone and then choose a specific student to settle on. His favorite perching place was in your lap or across your heart, where he would calmly fall asleep purring. The students would feel the energy flowing very strongly, and Johnnie would gaze lovingly into their eyes. For many, it was the first experience of connecting heart-to-heart in the Reiki space. For others, Johnnie’s presence ignited their own inner healing experience. One student had never cried after the recent loss of a parent, and Johnnie’s presence created a safe space for her tears to flow. Another student recently had all three of her cats pass away, and Johnnie was the first cat she had held since these losses. As the tears flowed, she said, “I feel a release of my grief!”

As a witness to many of these heartful interactions with my students, I could see that the healing went both ways; that both Johnnie and each person received exactly what they needed. This is a beautiful quality of healing connection that Reiki creates. In time, I had my own health challenge, and during my first visit back to BrightHaven after my surgery for breast cancer, Johnnie came running to me, jumped into my lap and stretched his entire body over my shoulder and draped across my chest, purring loudly. As I closed my eyes and relaxed into a Reiki meditation, I felt so much gratitude for this wonderful feline Reiki teacher and how he shared himself so unselfishly. He and I could let go of our health issues and just “be” together in that beautiful, peaceful Reiki space. I could feel a lessening in my own post-surgical pain and discomfort and could also sense his breathing become more relaxed and regular.

Johnnie passed away after a long journey with his myriad of health issues, but Reiki helped him to reconnect with his healing purpose even after his beloved cats had crossed. Reiki gave him physical and emotional comfort in his final months of life. He also had a beautifully peaceful passing supported by Reiki and surrounded by loved ones, which was only fitting, as he had sat vigil in hospice for others so many times.

Johnnie taught me that real healing is not about curing this or that problem. We can be truly healed, or made whole, even when we struggle with physical or emotional issues. When we let go of the need to “cure” this or that problem, we are better able to connect to others from the heart with selfless compassion. In doing so, we create a space where all healing potential exists—and we remember what Johnnie always knew: that this is why we are here in the first place—to help each other remember wholeness.

All photos copyright BrightHaven.

Get inspired by these 6 smart superstars for animals

You may not be familiar with everyone on this list, but to me, they’re all superstars for animals in their own right. Read on (and get ready to be inspired!) by these truly influential heroes for the animals:

1. Jenny Brown, co-founder and executive director of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary: Brown left her successful TV career behind after witnessing the plight of factory farm animals while volunteering as an undercover videographer for an animal rights organization. Today more than 200 rescued chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys and other animals call WFAS home. In her 2012 memoir, The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals, Brown shares the inspiring story behind her journey from childhood cancer survivor to vegan animal rights activist. WFAS is currently moving to a new New York location that will expand the sanctuary from 23 acres to 150!

New food trend: faux fish

Dear friends, what are you up to this weekend? Tomorrow and Sunday I am excited to be teaching Reiki 2 at BrightHaven (though we will miss little Joey so, so much). Here are a few interesting and important links from around the web of things I’m grateful for today:

1. A vegetarian alternative to fish: Whether or not you’re a vegetarian, overfishing and mercury levels are real problems when it comes to consuming your favorite fish, whether it’s ahi, bluefin or even unagi. Now enterprising chefs and companies across the nation are experimenting with savory, visually appetizing alternatives to your favorite fish dishes. Vegan options and veggie-based foods like “tomato sushi” (which looks and supposedly tastes like the real thing) are starting to roll out. Though demand is still small, I love this idea and can’t wait to try some of these products. Read more here on the flourishing faux-fish trend.

Raw pet food: yea or nay?

How do you feel about raw food for your dog or cat? Before I became a raw pet food believer, I was a little unsure. You hear so many negative things about it in the media—that it’s expensive, difficult to prepare, dangerous to humans and animals due to the risk of salmonella and other pathogens, that a lot of vets don’t recommend it and so on. But then, my beloved dog Dakota entered his golden years, and a host of medical issues began to creep up. Could changing his diet help? I liked the idea of switching him to a minimally processed food and was willing to try almost anything to improve his quality of life.

With a little trepidation, we decided to try My Natural K9. I’m so glad we did! He loved it and did so well for his last three years—his coat was shiny, and his energy improved. I really believe the raw, grain-free diet had a lot to do with it. (If you’re new to the idea of raw pet food and need guidance, check out this article on how to make nutritious home-prepared dog food.)

Apparently, I’m not the only one with such a positive experience. In 2011 (the most recent year for which I can find figures), raw pet food sales totaled $100 million. And in 2013, U.S. sales of raw and refrigerated pet food grew a healthy 25 percent. It’s no wonder why: Users often report improved health in their animals and fewer allergies.

In 2012, Robert Mueller, vice president and raw pet food guru at BARF World, spoke at one of our SARA member meetings. (BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food; the company sells frozen raw meat patties, supplements and treats for dogs and cats.) He was wonderful and had so much to say about raw food diets.

Even BrightHaven, the holistic animal hospice where I teach my animal Reiki classes, feeds their cats and dogs a raw food diet using Feline Instincts. They’ve reported to me that people who are usually very allergic seem to do OK when visiting BrightHaven: amazing!

I’ve heard good things about these raw food brands as well: Nature’s Variety and Stella & Chewy’s; both use high-pressure technology to prevent bacterial contamination, in case you are concerned about that.

What about you? What are your thoughts and experiences regarding raw pet food?

Live sustainably, protect habitats

I was stunned recently to hear the following statistic: In order to survive, the United States will need 5.3 planet Earths if we continue using up natural resources at the rate we are now. In the UK, that number is 3.5 Earths, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

“Unless we change our lifestyle into a One Planet lifestyle, then we’re going to be in trouble,” says Richard Pope, who serves on the Expert Panel for environmental charity Bioregional‘s One Planet Living initiative and has 25 years’ experience in residential master plans, as well as 10 years’ experience in sustainable/green building. “Sooner or later, we’re going to run out of resources if we keep using them at the rate we are now.”

If any of you have taken my sister Kathleen’s animal Reiki classes at BrightHaven Healing Arts Center for Animals, you may have actually had the opportunity to meet Richard—he’s also the co-founder, with his wife, Gail, of the holistic hospice/sanctuary for animals in Sebastopol, California.

Bioregional is hoping to make sustainable living easy, attainable and attractive for everyone. They’re already starting: A 200-acre site in Rohnert Park, California, with 1,800 residential units and commercial space (including a business incubator for social and sustainable startups) is already underway. Richard is the development director for the site, called Sonoma Mountain Village. It’s also North America’s first fully certified One Planet Living Community—and has a waiting list 2,000 people long.

But what does One Planet Living actually mean? According to Bioregional, it means to live sustainably according to the following 10 guiding principles (born from a collaboration with WWF): zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, local and sustainable materials and food, sustainable water, culture and heritage, equity and fair trade, health and happiness, and natural habitats and wildlife.

Protecting wildlife

The issue of natural habitats and wildlife is particularly close to Kathleen’s heart and her work with Animal Reiki Source. And thankfully, Bioregional works hard to protect biodiversity. Under the guiding principles, if you harm a habitat by building a community, you have to regenerate that habitat and integrate it into the new environment. “It’s not just go in there and bulldoze the land,” says Richard.

Blue Sky Coyote

The ideal of One Planet Living sounds wonderful, but is it possible? “The inspiring thing is, once people have the opportunity to do it, they do it,” says Richard, adding that these communities are replicable. “If you say to someone, ‘You’ll have cheaper utility bills, your friends will love it, it’s within walking distance of your work and schools and restaurants, recreation, and you can save the world at the same time.’ Why wouldn’t you buy there?” These communities show it truly is possible to live in such a way that we only require one planet.

Businesses and communities can take a step in the right direction by following the 10 principles and getting certified by Bioregional. For individuals like the rest of us, a good start is to calculate your environmental footprint (Bioregional provides this handy calculator) and make changes accordingly—for instance, eat local, recycle, protect animals, walk or bike if possible, and cease the use of heavy insecticides. And if you’re a jet-setter, you can buy carbon offsets so that flight to London is slightly less damaging to the environment.

“There’s a change coming,” says Richard. “There’s going to be a great squeeze upwards in the next generation who demand to live in a lifestyle that doesn’t hurt the planet.” Just don’t expect the greening of America—and the world—to happen overnight. “I guess we’re the trailblazers,” he adds. “If we do this and show it’s successful, then everyone will start doing it.” One can only hope.

{P.S. 10 sustainable (and beautifully designed!) homes via Gizmag.}