How can we live a more heartful and fulfilling life? Is it even possible? I believe that it is. But only if we protect ourselves (and our hearts) from life’s inevitable stresses. Think of it as building an armor of sorts—against impatience, anger, short-sidedness, judgmental thinking, grudges and other negative emotions. If that sounds compelling, it is! To get started, you must learn to embrace the four dimensions of heartful living. They are as follows:
1. Peace: Peace can be difficult to find in our crazy, busy lives. Our complicated days often end up pulling us in different directions, leaving little time for ourselves. Our overactive mind can leave us feeling scattered and stressed—and closed off from those around us. But by finding that peaceful space within ourselves, we can handle the obstacles thrown our way and open our hearts to animals (and even people) on a deeper level. It’s not always easy, but I find peace by quieting my mind with meditation. I like to meditate when walking my dog, standing in a pasture with my horse or even taking a stroll on the beach. Meditate regularly, and peace will follow. Here are three tips for finding more peace in your day.
2. Love: Only once we feel peace within our hearts can we tap into love and its healing possibilities. Truly heartful living means universal love and respect—for ourselves, for those around us (human and animal), for the world at large. Opening your heart and connecting with others means so many things, including: learning forgiveness, feeling gratitude for the now, eliminating prejudices and showing love through actions, like volunteering or simply noticing and being friendly with those in the community around you.
3. Clarity: What happens when we quiet our mind through meditation and open our heart with love? We are able to see deeper than the surface of things and awaken to what truly matters. A dog at the shelter that is sick and depressed doesn’t need you to use Reiki to try to “fix” this or that. What he does respond to is you sitting quietly with him, opening your heart and inviting him to share that space. This may take up to 45 minutes or an hour or more. But with patience, I’ve seen dogs like this open up to me, walk over wagging their tails and offer me their tummy. Only with peace, love and clarity can we see beneath the surface.
4. Compassion: If all beings felt and lived with compassion, our world would be transformed. Though we can’t control what other people say, do or feel, we can control ourselves and then radiate heartfulness into the world. So choose compassion. Realize that we are all One, and therefore we must choose kindness and be of service to others, as often as we can.
When we can learn to live a heartful life by embracing these four dimensions—peace, love, clarity and compassion—we find ourselves closer to happiness, closer to fulfillment, closer to being the kind of person we want to be. But like any puzzle, the picture isn’t complete without all four pieces. So if one is missing in your life, strive to reconnect with that dimension in order to maintain your balance and harmony. Your heart (and the animals) will thank you.
When our animals are sick, it can be very difficult to stay positive. The more upset and emotional we become, the more it weighs upon our animals, as they are so sensitive to our inner states. Here are four ways to shift into the positive when life gets us down:
1. Look inward.
Through your own personal daily meditation practice, you will heal layer upon layer within yourself. As you shed these layers, like peeling an onion, you will uncover your bright and beautiful inner light. And, yes, there may be tears. 🙂 But they are good tears of healing and release. The more you can see the bright light in yourself, the more you can recognize it in someone else. You will begin to be able to see animals in a different way! This all starts within your own experience—only then can you share it with others.
2. See with your “Reiki eyes.”
In other words, see with your heart. See more deeply than the surface of things. Realize that the true essence of the animal is always perfect, no matter what physical issues may be faced.
3. Notice the silver lining.
In any situation, there is always a positive. Sometimes, while sitting with a very sick dog in a chaotic shelter setting, I would look up at the sky and admire the beauty of the clouds and be grateful to be alive and healthy enough to help someone else in that moment. Or when sitting with a hospice animal at BrightHaven, I would realize the blessings of love and peacefulness surrounding the animal—how wonderful they managed to come to BrightHaven for his or her final chapter in this life.
4. Find an affirmation as a mantra.
Pick a positive word and use that to focus your mind when it begins to turn toward fearful or emotional thinking. For example, if you are sharing Reiki with a fearful dog, try using the word “love.” If you are sharing Reiki with an animal who is in pain, try using the word “peace.” Bring your whole heart to this word and chant it to yourself each time your mind begins to focus on what is “wrong” in that moment.
The more that our energy releases fear and sadness, the more we can radiate love and compassion. This beautiful positivity radiates all around us and will help animals to remember their own self-healing power. Animals will be drawn to be with us even when they don’t feel well because they feel our positive energy. We can walk this journey of healing side by side. The most powerful healing gift we can give to them when they are facing illness is our clear sight: seeing them as they really are—as beautiful perfect bright lights!
Do you have any secrets for staying positive when your animal is sick?
Sound has a profound effect on the entire mind-body physiology. –Deepak Chopra
From Gregorian monks and Tibetan Buddhist monks to Hindu priests and even Native American shamans and medicine men—the ancient practice of chanting has historically been a universal way for spiritual seekers to create a peaceful space and achieve therapeutic healing. And it still is today.
Chanting is a wonderful way to “consciously breathe”—to unite our breath with sound in a way that is very healing for our emotional selves. Research has shown that chanting lowers blood pressure, and even just listening to chanting can help reduce our stress by calming our nervous system. Chanting also creates an inner feeling of well-being that radiates outward—meaning our animals can feel it, too.
Peace in ourselves, peace in the world. —Thich Nhat Hanh
Heavy emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger and sadness are very small and constricted. Chanting, on the other hand, is a very expansive exercise. The more expansive you become, the more easily you can feel emotions without being knocked over by them.
Your animals will feel this expansiveness as a tranquil, serene balance and will come forward to share it with you. They will want to be a part of this strong, balanced space that you radiate.
If we accept that sound is vibration, and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears, but through every cell in our bodies. —Dr. Mitchell Gaynor
Here are two ways you can use chanting for healing with your animals:
1. Chanting the first Reiki mantra: The “oh” sound is associated with the navel area, the “oo” sound with the solar plexus, and the “ay” sound with the heart/head. So this chant can help to move your energy from the earth up—just as if you are a beautiful tree who is nurtured from the earth, and growing and expanding upward. This is how all creatures on earth grow, from the earth up—and we must remember that this is also our true essence. When we remember this, we can more easily deal with the difficult situations we and our animals may face. Listen in and chant along with this beautiful, musical rendition of chanting Choku Rei, by Jonathan Goldman.
Your thoughts are your message to the world. Just as the rays are the messages of the sun. —Amit Ray
2. The Japanese Medicine Buddha Chant: There is a long Buddhist tradition of chanting this mantra for the healing benefit of animals. I have created this special audio for people to listen to (and chant along) with their animals for healing. Here, you can take a listen and feel the energy during this healing circle at a recent SARA (Shelter Animal Reiki Association) retreat:
Maureen Petras of Reikicares-Animal Reiki in Penn Valley, California, uses this Japanese Medicine Buddha Chant to help shelter dogs. “[This chant] is amazing,” she says. “I used it recently with an unsettled puppy at the shelter I volunteer at. It was like I flipped a switch, and he went into a deep sense of peace within seconds of me starting to chant quietly. The rest of the dogs became quiet and relaxed as well—so quiet and relaxed that when I was finished with the cats in another room, I walked by the dog kennels on the way out to say goodbye, [and there was] not one bark. That has not happened once since I started a month ago. Just happy peace!”
And according to my student Caroline Thomas of Hoof and Paw Holistic Therapies in Chelmsford, England, “The chanting truly helps me to let go and to just ‘be.’ It helps with my breathing, and the animals love the grounded energy that it creates.” She reports that the Medicine Buddha Chant, in particular, helps tremendously in her work with the sanctuary horses at Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary. “Using [this] chant, I have been able to work with a horse called Marcus who was beaten so badly, that when he came to Remus, he stood in the exact same position in the Remus stable for days, as he was so scared to move. My relationship with Marcus now is one of trust and respect. I hold the ‘Reiki’ space—chanting along with Kathleen’s audio—and stand motionlessly in the field. During these moments, he will often come and nestle his head on my shoulders. I refrain from touching him, as I know that he does not want me to touch him. He respects me for this and now looks for me while I walk through the fields.”
No worries if you’re a chanting newbie. Here are five great tips for beginners!
Tell me: Have you tried chanting with your animals?
I’ve said before that animals are our greatest teachers. My beloved dog Dakota was my first animal Reiki teacher. And the animals I’ve worked with over the years have taught me so much about compassion and even guidance on meditation. But the other day, as I caught sight of my dog Mystic napping contentedly in her little dog bed, I realized the animals teach us other important lessons, too. Do any of these spiritual lessons from animals sound familiar to you?
1. Unconditional love. Mystic loves me when I’m in my PJs, grumpy, sick and even if the house is messy. No matter what mood I’m in, she’s there for me without judgement. It’s definitely a perk when you share your life with a dog, isn’t it? You can just be yourself. And it’s always been the same for the other dogs I’ve shared my life with, too (and also the cats!). Even my horses love and accept me for who I am. They don’t tell me, “Be different. Change who you are.” The wisdom of animals in rising above and embracing their humans (warts and all) is something for me to remember, learn and carry over into my life and those I share it with.
On this Memorial Day, I am thankful to live in the place I find most beautiful in the world: Northern California. I am grateful for the men and women who gave their lives so that I can live in a peaceful place. I also want to honor the many animals who have died serving in war. When I was in London, I was so touched by the beautiful Animals in War Memorial in Hyde Park. The movie War Horse was also a very moving look at the history of horses who helped humans in World War I. I invite you to join me in this special meditation today which is offered for peace and healing to all the animals (and people) who have been affected by war in this world. Blessings to those who have lost their lives, and may peace heal the hearts of those living with war each and every day. May the peace which we create today in our hearts radiate out and help to heal the world.
Healing Meditation for Those Affected by War
Find a comfortable place to sit, with your beloved animal at your side if you wish. Place your hands, palms together, in front of your heart, and dedicate this practice to all the animals and people who have lost their lives or been affected by war. Then rest your hands on your lap or on your animal. Your animal may decide to stay with you and support your meditation.
Close your eyes as you breathe. As you inhale, imagine the breath as a beautiful healing light flowing in through your nose, filling your body with beautiful light. On the exhale, imagine this light can expand out your body and all around you. Breathe in light. Breathe out and expand this light. Continue this breath at your own pace for 10 repetitions. Then allow your breath to return to normal and breathe gently.
Turn your mind toward the animals and people who have been lost in war or affected by war. Feel your light shining so brightly. You may begin thinking of the animals and people you love, then continue to expand your thoughts to the circle of people and animals you know or have heard about, and then expand your thoughts to include all animals and people lost in or affected by war that you haven’t heard about.
Allow your heart to connect to each of these beings as you breathe gently: “May you be safe and happy. May you be filled with peace. May you be free. Know that you are loved.” Continue to repeat these words in your mind for several minutes as you feel them radiating out. Imagine the light of your heart shines so brightly that it can reach all animals and people affected by war that you know. It can shine beyond, to the animals and people you have heard about who have been affected by war. It can even shine through the whole world, creating a beautiful vibration of healing for the entire planet.
If you feel distracting thoughts, imagine they are clouds just floating by. Don’t chase them; let them come, and let them go. When you are ready, set your intention to finish, take a nice, deep breath and slowly open your eyes.
Peace is powerful healing. Please share how you spread peace in your life.