Sometimes when I work with shelter cats, my first instinct is to fall inside the sadness of the animals’ situations. But thankfully, in my work with Reiki over the years, I’ve found a better way to serve animals in need—by turning away from that instinctual desire to focus on what’s wrong.
My secret? Two things, actually: First, staying positive. And second, learning to see the heart of things—in other words, focusing on the bright, beautiful light of the animal.
It’s not always easy to do, but as the following wonderful Reiki experience illustrates, there’s great power in positivity, no matter the situation:
“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.
Every year, Thanksgiving week reminds us to be thankful for all of the wonderful blessings in our life. But how do we do this if our beloved animals are sick? Here are some things to keep in mind:
Take the time to just “be”
Set aside time each day to just sit with your animal. This isn’t time to caretake, give medication or focus on what’s wrong—this is just time to be together. Focus on things you love about your animal using your senses—for example, notice how your animal looks, sounds and feels to the touch. This will help to bring you into the present moment, without an agenda and without having to fix things.
Be mindful of thoughts and feelings—and let them come and go
You may feel happy and full of love for your animal. Or, if your animal is unwell, you may feel sad or worried about his or her health. Allow your thoughts to float by like clouds in the sky. All of these thoughts are natural; just try to hold them lightly so that you can let them go, one by one.
Notice your anxiety—and be stable like a mountain
You might think, “I wish he wasn’t sick (or old or what have you—fill in the blank).” Or, “If only I could change this situation!” Anxiety takes our focus out of this present moment to the past that we can’t change, or to the future which we can’t know. Imagine you are a stable mountain of strength for your animal, able to weather whatever might come. Letting go of anxiety will help you to be fully present in this beautiful moment of connection with your animal—this moment is a gift that we might otherwise miss.
Experience the heart of the matter—and see the light
Sometimes when our animals are ill, we can only see what is wrong with the situation. Choose to look deeper—with your heart. When we look into the heart of things, we can find peace, beauty and perfection in this present moment. Underneath what is wrong, your animal’s heart and spirit shine through! Choosing to go straight to the core or heart of things unveils our inner light that is always perfect, even when we are ill. Seeing the heart of the situation will help our focus to hone in on what is true this present moment, rather than being distressed by the surface of things.
Practice gratitude—and shift into positivity
Seeing things from the heart brings with it clarity, and with clarity we can more easily remember things we are thankful for. This is not easy in difficult times, as when an animal is sick, but it is possible. As you sit with your animal, list three things you are grateful for in this present moment. This can help to shift your mind, thoughts and energy into a more positive and optimistic space, which your animals will feel and appreciate. When we are mindful, our energy is balanced and calm, and we are in the best state to truly help our animals heal.
“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.” ~Sri Chinmoy
In my business, I help guide animal lovers all over the world to peace and wellness. Through the meditative techniques of animal Reiki, my students learn how to connect with their animal in profound ways. But sometimes our own humanness can get in the way of helping our animal. Let me explain.
When we are offering Reiki to our animals, sometimes we can sense certain things in our hands or emotional feelings/intuitive information. It’s very easy to find ourselves in a place of judgement and interpretation. However, the best way to help our animals is to let go of these impressions and open our minds to healing possibility.
My teacher Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki teaches that in Japanese these impressions are called Hibiki—which means an echo. Thus, when we sense something from our animal, it is not a true experience, but rather our impression of the animal’s true experience. This is a natural occurrence when we share Reiki, because Reiki cultivates heart-to-heart connections. In this connected space, we often sense many things, but we must remember our impressions are always filtered through our own perceptions.
When we experience these impressions while we are offering Reiki, we have two choices:
1. We can focus on the impressions themselves and interpret them. Or,
2. We can thank the animal for sharing with us (thus focusing on gratitude) and then let the impressions go.
The first choice will involve us focusing on things like “this or that is wrong” or “this is what needs to be fixed” and “this or that needs to be healed.” Inadvertently, we end up focusing on the negatives of the situation. By doing so, our mental state becomes very narrowed and small. Animals feel this. I sometimes call this our “pointy” state of mind because we are unwittingly poking the animals with our negative thoughts. We can see this in their uncomfortable behavior with us, or they may say no to connecting with us.
Focusing on what’s wrong can also give rise to pity. Pity can sneak into our minds when we are working with, for example, shelter animals who have come from a bad situation. They can feel this pity inside of us and it can also cause them to not want to connect with us.
The second choice creates a spacious mental attitude of gratitude. We can acknowledge and thank the animals for sharing with us, and then let the impressions go like clouds floating by in the sky. We want animals to feel our positivity, our openness, our light and our gentle way of being. Choosing this open and expansive state of mind will help attract animals (rather than repel them).
Letting go of judgments is also a way to see your animal as the empowered perfect being that he or she is, even in that difficult moment. In this way we are focusing on the positive. Think back on a difficult time in your life and remember how wonderful it felt for someone to hold positivity for you!
When we offer Reiki to animals, it’s most important to stay in a place of openness and love in your heart and mind. Remember that all things are possible. The following quote is a great reminder when we feel discouraged:
“You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.” ~Shannon L. Alder