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.
As animal lovers, it’s easy to get so immersed in caring for our cats and dogs that sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. It’s happened to me—and I’ve seen it happen to those I love. But what happens when our animals become sick or elderly, and taking care of them suddenly requires a near-24/7 level of dedication and commitment? What happens if we get sick during this time? (Learn more about compassion fatigue here.)
I recently gave a Reiki treatment to one such person, a man whose family recently said goodbye to their elderly dog and is currently coping with a senior cat suffering from kidney failure and other serious issues. This man had always been open to my Reiki treatments for the animals, but never thought of them for himself. But I learned this past weekend that he had been very sick for many weeks—the prescriptions weren’t working, he wasn’t sleeping, and he was in near desperation for some comfort. I asked if he wanted Reiki, and was happy to hear him say yes.
“We all are so deeply interconnected; we have no option but to love all. Be kind and do good for any one and that will be reflected. The ripples of the kind heart are the highest blessings of the Universe.”
– Amit Ray, author and spiritual master
As an animal lover with a very soft heart, I sometimes feel the world is a very cruel place, especially for the innocents of the planet, like animals and children. As a Reiki teacher, I find meditating on the Reiki precept “be compassionate to yourself and others” helps me to be mindful in difficult moments.
When emotions run high, compassion can be an unlikely choice, as anger and worry come much more easily. I think it’s often much easier to be kind to the animals we love than we are to ourselves—if only we afforded ourselves the same kindnesses we offer them. In other times, it can become very difficult to get past our worry and anger over what has happened to the animal so that we can be full of compassion and kindness for them in the present moment.
I remember a dog that I volunteered with who had to be walked with a harness because someone had allowed her collar to grow into her neck. Although it had been surgically removed by the shelter veterinarian, the wound and stitches were fresh, and it caused me great angst to see them. By meditating on compassion as I walked her, by seeing the joy in her face at exploring the world through all the sights and smells on our walk, and by focusing my actions in kindness for her in this moment (letting go of what “was”), I was able to have a beautiful walk with her. I was so inspired by her sweetness and joy—in spite of her injuries. After the walk, she enjoyed lots of pets, eventually crawling into my lap and placing her neck right into my hands and then falling asleep. Sitting there with her in that peaceful moment, letting go of everything except “being” together with an open heart, was such a profound experience. As I left her, I knew we had both been healed by each other.
I was so inspired by her sweetness and joy—in spite of her injuries.
On the other hand, when we allow emotions to overwhelm us, it can be almost impossible to think, speak and act in the best ways to help the animal to move forward into healing. Had I spent the walk feeling angry at the person who had done this to her, or being worried about any lasting scars she would have (physical or mental), I would not have been able to enjoy even a moment of it, or to experience her kind nature and connect in such a place of peace. In fact I would have missed the healing potential of our time together!
Meditating on compassion can help us to stay mindful. When times get tough, we can remember to place the filter of compassion over every situation we encounter. We can practice filling each moment with kindness and love.
By practicing compassion in this way, we will be clearer in our thoughts, more balanced in our emotions, and wiser in our actions, for the good of animals. In addition, the animals we want to help will sense and feel our compassion, and this will deepen our bonds with them. The ripple effect of our compassionate thoughts, emotions and actions will create healing shifts—not only for us and for the animals, but also for everyone who crosses our path. Being able to leave a healing trace wherever we go is the ultimate blessing we can offer to our world!
What acts of service will you offer to animals today?
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. —Anais Nin
Some of my most difficult sleepless nights have been spent attempting to follow the Reiki precept “do not worry.” But as I have since discovered, this Reiki precept actually inspires us to find our courage.
It’s not easy to let go of worry when something is wrong with an animal we love. But fear does not serve animals well at all. When we live in fear, life becomes very small, as our thoughts focus on what is “wrong” It’s like a microscope that focuses in on worst-case scenarios and what might happen. And then we start going through many negative possibilities in our minds. Animals will often mirror our fear, becoming fearful or taking on neurotic habits. We all want to help our animals, but our fear gets in the way.
When we are afraid, it’s hard to connect to our animals because we build a wall around ourselves. Sometimes this wall is the fear itself causing us to withdraw, but sometimes this wall has a different label. We try to justify our fear by surrounding ourselves with “protection”—but in reality we are simply highlighting and nurturing our separation from the very animals we want to help. How can we truly connect if we are putting all of our energy into walls?
On the other hand, when we practice courage, we can expand beyond the limitations of fear. I find meditating with the Reiki precept “do not worry” to be very helpful with this. In meditating on this precept, I find my thoughts coming to rest in the space of courage. With courage, we face and walk through our fears to the space beyond them. Practicing courage doesn’t mean that we aren’t afraid; it just means that we are going to “lean into” our fear, rather than try to avoid it.
Practicing courage doesn’t mean that we aren’t afraid.
Let’s take the example of volunteering Reiki with shelter or sanctuary animals. We might be afraid to do this for many reasons. We might be afraid that we may see and/or hear an animal suffering. Maybe we are afraid we will want to take every single animal home with us. These fears may cause us to avoid shelter volunteering altogether. If we stay in that space of fear, then the shelter itself can become a monster in our minds.
On the other hand, if we push through that fear and go into the shelter, we can see many positive benefits: We can support animals to find stress relief and healing through our Reiki sessions; we can support the staff and other human caretakers through Reiki as well, so they can help the animals from a much better space (as we know, caregiver burnout is so high in shelters); we can also meet the animals one on one. In making personal connections with each animal, we will see courage in action: an abandoned cat that still loves people, an abused dog that is gentle and trusting, or a traumatized horse that seeks out human kindness.
In seeing the gratitude and peaceful responses of the animals, we can experience the healing power of love and compassion firsthand. By acting with courage, even when we are afraid, the shelter or sanctuary becomes a healing place that we look forward to going to, and fear loses its power.
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”—Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Although I like to stay informed about my world, sometimes I hate to watch the news because it is so pessimistic. I often call it “the bad news.” To help stay balanced, I like to meditate on the Reiki precept “be grateful.” In contemplating this precept, I remember all the blessings and good things in my life and in the world. Eventually, my mind comes to rest in the spiritual quality of positivity. When we live each moment in gratitude, it is a way of practicing a positive way of seeing the world. Practicing gratitude is also a way of focusing on our heart. Within our hearts lies our most profound healing power, and positivity helps us to harness it.
Sometimes animals are the best models of positivity. A great example of this can be seen in this video of mine on YouTube:
For me, I often remember this particular dog when I think of gratitude and positivity. This dog was so happy and so grateful for the Reiki session. He was so full of joy afterward. Clearly, he lived his life always expecting the best: as if something wonderful was happening now, and something awesome was about to occur at any moment! I was so surprised, after offering him that treatment, when I found out about his past.
He was found in the street with another dog, emaciated and left for dead. The other dog had died; this pit bull, when found, was barely alive. The vet didn’t think he’d survive, but he did. By the time I met him to share Reiki, he had been at the shelter for several months, gaining weight and strength but still waiting for his new family. I had no idea so much had happened to him in his past! All I saw was a dog full of joy, of gratitude, of positivity. What valuable life lessons this dog had taught me!
In this experience, there is also a great lesson in learning to let go of the “stories” of the animals—their sad pasts, the bad things that have happened to them and so on. When we focus on all the bad experiences from the past, this often creates a negative energy in our minds and hearts that stifles our ability to connect in the present moment. We can also become overwhelmed with sadness, at which point we are not much help to anyone, especially the animals we want to help. The more we practice gratitude and positivity, the easier it is to let go of these kinds of negative stories about the past. We can go deeper and see animals with our hearts. We can see them for who they really are: beautiful bright lights that can never be dimmed, no matter what challenges may come their way! All healing potential exists in this beautiful heart-to-heart connection.
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