As a Reiki practitioner I just never stop learning, as an Animal Reiki practitioner the animals never stop teaching me and as a Reiki Teacher this can only be a good thing!
I was reminded of this during my recent visit to The Tree of Life for Animals (TOLFA) in Rajasthan India. TOLFA is a shelter on the front line of animal welfare and some of the animals coming in are in a very poor physical condition and it is fair to say staff see a lot of extreme cases that we just don’t have experience of in the west. So for me it would be a test of my belief in Reiki, to work with the animals and teach Reiki to members of the shelter staff – while trying not to feel overwhelmed – so some gentle reminders about the fundamentals of Reiki from the animals, were most welcome.
The Tree of Life for Animals was founded by Rachel Wright in 2005. Rachel is a British vet nurse who is dedicated to animal welfare, she was awarded the CEVA Welfare Vet Nurse of the year in 2012 is highly regarded for her work in the community where she now lives in India. Rachel and I met in 2002 while studying Essential Oil Therapy for animals and both living in London. Rachel gave me my first experience of offering Reiki to animals by inviting me to the veterinary surgery where she worked and had recently set up a programme of complementary therapies for animals, with a lovely room dedicated to this purpose within the surgery.
TOLFA – The hospital sits in a beautiful valley in the Aravalli Mountain range, between Pushkar and Ajmer in rural Rajasthan. The hospital is surrounded by beautiful countryside, still green after the monsoon, perfect for dog walking. Pushkar is one of the oldest towns in India known for the famous Bahma Temple built in the 14th century, According to legend, the origin of Pushkar dates back to the time when lord Brahma was on his way in search of a tranquil land, lotus fell from the hands of the lord into this valley and a lake sprang up on this spot which was dedicated to him. The Brahma temple located here is a popular place of pilgrimage the area has a wonderful energy attracting many tourists and travellers visiting the holy lake and taking part yoga, meditation and ayurvedic health retreats. Pushkar is also famous for its Camel Fair which TOLFA attends every year to educate the public on animal welfare.
The majority of animals coming through Tolfa’s gates are street or community dogs. Life on the street is hard and when they become ill or injured their local caregiver will contact Tolfa or ambulance staff will pick up sick and injured animals on their rounds. After treatment the animal is always returned to it’s own neighbourhood, if possible.
Tolfa runs a volunteer programme welcoming anyone with animal experience and time, willing to give a bit TLC to the animals in their care. In fact, Rachel sees what she calls Nurturing Volunteers as an essential part of care and rehabilitation that animals receive not only veterinary treatment but also love and attention, so welcomes volunteers especially those with therapies such as Reiki.
So it was as a ‘Nurturing Volunteer’ that I spent 6 weeks there in 2010 putting into practice my skills as a holistic therapist including aromatherapy, massage zoopharmacognosy and Reiki. This year 2013 sees TOLFA become a SARA shelter and I was honoured to attune some wonderful practitioners to Animal Reiki.
My First Day
Accompanying Rachel on her morning tour I soon had a list of animals that she wanted me to do some work with: some had wounds that were taking a long time to heal – perfect candidates for essential oils and nutritional supplements. Many were undergoing treatment that would mean long-term care and, as well as the stress of being confined in a kennel, the veterinary treatment although essential can be a frightening encounter and painful for dogs. Some, suffering from Mange, had already been subjected to emotional trauma while other animals were ready to pass over – TOLFA never turns an away an animal in need and many spend their last days being cared for and loved in safety.
Rachel already had in mind that Reiki could be an important part of end of life care at the shelter and that was certainly to be the theme of this visit, something I needed to work through also, having had a very difficult experience with one of my own precious dogs a number of years ago. Funny how Reiki works, isn’t it!
Remember To Listen
A little black and white dog who had been in a road traffic accident and left with paralysis of her hind legs.
Many of the permanent residents are dogs with paralysis or amputees and I would ask anyone questioning the quality of life for these dogs to just spend some time watching them play and interact with the people and other dogs at the shelter. Of course there are some health issues connected with their conditions but veterinary care is on hand 24/7 and their health is carefully monitored. I watched one little dog speed across the compound on balancing her weight on her front legs to meet her friend, who also only had two good legs, the pure joy as they played was a pleasure to watch.
Back to the little black and white dog. She was very unhappy and although receiving the medical care she needed, didn’t seem to be improving and would warn people off when approached and avoided human contact at all costs. Rachel explained she had the same type of injury as some of the other shelter dogs who coped well and felt there was no physical reason for her to be so depressed. She lived in the puppy yard a secure walled space with sheltering tree where the puppies and younger dogs can move around freely.
As soon as I went into meditation and offered her Reiki she began to move towards me, over to where I sat on a concrete platform passing by my feet then settled directly in front of me a little way off where she made direct eye contact and accepted Reiki for a while (I took the photo when I felt she had enough) but then she came towards me again and tried to climb up on to the concrete platform – at this point one of the staff members reminded me not to touch this dog as she was ‘dangerous’, kind of breaking our connection!
I felt we had made progress so that evening back at the hotel I offered Reiki again distantly and felt an instant connection. I picked up a strong feeling of ‘regret’ and she showed me how her life had changed in an instant, and she just didn’t see the point without her legs. This was really hard to hear and I was determined to help her see that she was now in a safe place where she would be taken care of and loved. We continued with a very strong connection for some time.
Next morning I started my day in the office making up remedies and essential oil blends while Rachel and the veterinary staff made their rounds, then I thought I could go and spend some extra time with the little black and white dog. But it was not to be, she had passed away while I had been in the office, my first thought was why didn’t I go straight to her?, why couldn’t I help her?
Had I really listened to what she was saying I would have realised this was her choice, we have no influence on the outcome and by holding the Reiki space help them to pass in peace and move on if that is their choice. So we sat together in a Reiki space for a while.
Remember – No Expectations, Detach From The Outcome
H9 or Harry is a beautiful soul. He has mange and infected wounds when he was brought in to TOLFA. The mange dogs have suffered twofold, the condition itself is debilitating and leaves them open to secondary disease and complications and emotionally they can be very depressed. As a result of their appearance they are unwanted by the community and often chased away from their homes. It is a common sight to see people throwing stones at such unfortunates, they become pariahs.
Harry is a severe case possessing only a few tufts of hair on his head, the colour reminding me of Prince Harry’s hence his name, I’m sure he’ll be very handsome when it all grows back!
Harry was on my Reiki list and we soon became friends, he is a lovely gentle boy always ready with a wag of his tail. Towards the end of October the weather turned unexpectedly cold at night, earlier than usual, catching everyone off guard (normally shutters are drawn and blankets dispensed to help the more vulnerable dogs cope with the cold. Rajasthan is a desert state and temperatures can drop to minus 0 in the winter months. On checking Harry one morning found him cold to the touch, we moved him out in to the sun and he was given emergency fluids and treatment. He didn’t seem to be responding and other signs meant that things weren’t looking so good for him, my heart sank as I prepared myself for the worst. As I sat with him I felt drawn to chant the mantra for the master symbol, the power of the vibration merging with the sounds of the dogs around us, I would be with him holding the Reiki space while he passed – Harry had other ideas, imagine my delight when he sat up looked up into my face and wagged his tail! Reiki can provide that spark that a soul needs to heal when they are just not ready to go – it is their choice we just consciously bring the energy within their reach.
He continues to improve and before I left found a lovely thick fleecy blanket in the market for his bed. He is still receiving Reiki and his Spirulina milk shakes, which from the photo you can tell he loves.
UPDATE FROM RACHEL AT TOLFA: “Today was funny…I was doing Reiki with another little mange guy in H7 but kneeling in the gallery and your man, promptly got out of his bed (which he hardly ever wants to leave) and pressed himself against the kennel gate trying to get in on the action…he was lapping it up!!”
Remember To See With Your Heart
Mouse my Little Reiki Helper!
I would feel a constant presence at my side while working – even when I was sure I had closed gates – I would turn and this little dog would be standing at my leg. I gave up trying to contain him, he could squeeze through any hole, gap, drain and he was just there – while I walked the other dogs, gave treatments, and offered Reiki. Mouse was a new addition the group of Shelter dogs who live permanently at Tolfa and Rachel explained he had come in as a suspected rabies case and had been rescued from a not so nice area of a nearby town, with an unusual canine tooth/jaw arrangement going on, he looks as though he is about to bite and this had led to him being neglected and abused.
I started to look forward to his quiet calm deep thinking presence during my day, I’m sure he was joining in with my Reiki sessions. So with a little patience and the kindness shown to him by people who could see beyond his appearance, he is settling in well at Tolfa.
UPDATE FROM JEMMA AT TOLFA: “I came in the other morning and was trying to work out who he lively, happy little dog was instigating play with Ginger and Honey… really, it took me a while to realise it was Mouse! He was jumping and leaping about without a care in the world!”
Our class was held in a lovely room in the education centre overlooking part of the shelter compound on one side and fields on the other, a beautiful healing space. We were joined in the morning by seven orphans – five newborn puppies whose mother had just been brought in to Tolfa, but had passed away while giving birth during the night, another poorly 2 week old puppy and a feisty newborn kitten.
By the end of our day all of the puppies had passed away to join their mum, a big lesson for any practitioner is that healing doesn’t always mean the restoration of physical health and can be purely spiritual, and I am so proud of my students, although sad, we all recognised what had taken place, we had helped them on their journey in peace and with love. The kitten continues to thrive.
This reminds me of another essential part of our practice, self healing, the work we do is so emotional and can be draining, we really need to include ourselves in the healing process so that we can continue to give our best. Please read Kathleen’s brilliant workshop/article on Self-Healing for Animal Caregivers.
I thank all of the wonderful people doing this difficult but rewarding job at TOLFA and all of the animals I met they made my visit very special.
Now that TOLFA is a SARA Shelter all animals passing through its gates will be offered Reiki and will be available to support the staff and caregivers.
Left to Right: Jemma Sadler, Cristal, Maria Jose Sanchez, Rachel Wright.
Written by: SARA Teacher Alison McKinnon
“Just for today, I will not worry.” The second Reiki Precept. Like the first Precept about anger, this one encourages us to be fully present as a clear conduit for the flow of healing Reiki energy.
What is worry but another name for fear? Do we ever worry that things will turn out the way we want them to? No, just that they won’t.
We worry when we feel we’ve lost control, when we fear the unknown, and in situations when we face a decision or difficulty and don’t know how it’s going to turn out. We’re anticipating that something unfortunate will happen in the future. Worry creates anxiety, that eating-away at your insides sick feeling.
Paradoxically, when we worry, we’re actually pulling energy away from our desired outcome and feeding it toward what we’re afraid will happen. Working against ourselves.
The Buddhist proverb on worry is, “If the problem can be solved, why worry? If the problem cannot be solved, worrying will do you no good.” [Śāntideva]
It’s easy and frustrating to tell ourselves or someone else, “Don’t worry.” Or in musician Bobby McFerrin’s words, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Yeah, right. Telling ourselves to not worry only adds to the stress of worry—now we worry about worrying.
I asked the animals for more specific guidance, and sensed splash, bubbles, sparkles of sunlight through water, movement. Otter popped up and said, “Why worry? It’s all a game. Be flexible. Find joy in each moment, even when the unexpected happens. When you worry, you get stiff and solid. That blocks the flow. Worry can make you sick inside, and that’s no fun.
“Be in gratitude for the abundance that surrounds us. I trust that there will be enough fish for me and my family. If I worry, it drives the fish away and we are hungry. That’s no fun, either. Life is a gift, and everything in it. Just relax and enjoy it.
“Have courage, be strong, set and follow your intentions. Watch as I turn and swim through the water. I waste no energy. When I am hunting, I am focused, and I eat. Be sleek like me. Point all your energy in the direction you want to go. It’s more fun that way.”
Splash! Ripples of water spread out where a moment ago Otter had been.
Next, Rabbit hopped into my meditation: “Ah, fear,” Rabbit said. “We tremble. We’re gentle and are prey. Our whiskers twitch, sensing, always alert. Walk towards what you fear. Face it. What you fear will not go away. It will linger outside your burrow while you tremble, waiting for you to emerge so it can pounce on you. Ask yourself, what is it you fear? The great unknowing? It is so human, to want to know everything. You can only prepare as best you can, stay alert, watchful, and be ready to run if you need to—lest you become Fear’s dinner.”
Confronting fear and worry brought Boar to mind. I heard him snort, “What!”
“Would you share your thoughts about worry with me?”
“Worry? Confront it head on, do your groundwork, focus, and then go forward.” Boar continued, “To worry is to scatter your energy. Prepare, commit, put your head down and move toward your goal. You can’t control what is beyond your reach, but you can prepare for it. Prepare for the unexpected. Focus. Set intention. When you worry, you send mixed signals. You feed energy to what you fear. I didn’t get to be this big by scattering my energy all over the field. I know what I want and I go for it. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. So be it.” Snort. A hoof stomps. Boar’s head wags from side to side.
Rabbit, Otter, and Boar give good guidance: Otter reminds us that when we’re worrying, it’s time to take a break, have some fun, and then focus. Rabbit reminds us to confront our fear, for it won’t go away. Boar reminds us to set our intention and direct all our energy toward it. All say that when we worry, we divert our energy away from our goal and toward what we fear. Worry is a distraction.
We invite worry when our head/mind speaks more strongly than our heart, when we have doubt about the outcome. Prepare as best you can, and then move forward. When we make a mistake, worrying (fretting, stewing) will not fix it. We can only acknowledge and own it, apologize or make amends, and move forward. When worry creeps in anyway, breathe. Let yourself ground deep into the earth. Invite the earth’s energy to flow through with each breath you take, and open your heart. The worry will dissipate. Call on the animals. They are always willing to help.
Just for today, I will not worry.
By: Rev. Nancy Schluntz
Rev. Nancy Schluntz is a SARA practitioner member and animal communicator. As an Animal Chaplain, she offers pet loss bereavement counseling and facilitates a support group. She offers for Reiki for animals (and their people) who are approaching the end of life and as part of her intuitive communication readings. Nancy also offers Reiki to animals at the wildlife rehabilitation center where she volunteers.
Kathleen has just been to Remus teaching Animal Reiki, whilst there she gave an amazing talk to the public. She asked the truly powerful question ‘What is Reiki’? As I listened intently to the answer she said that Reiki was ‘Compassion and Wisdom!’ The response was contemplated as to what it meant to us collectively and individually. What could be more powerful than compassion? How easy is it to be compassionate? What does compassion mean to me? It sounded very simple but on a deeper level there are many layers to finding true compassion, which I was later going to find out.
I attended Kathleen’s Animal Reiki teaching workshop, where I found Kathleen’s teaching profoundly moving. We were able to offer many animal treatments to the Remus animals intermingled with many Reiki lessons. On the second day we were urgently called to work with Davey; a donkey that had recently had major surgery and was now showing signs of being ill. The vet was on the way, so we all stood and offered Reiki, he was off his food and paced the stable as we all stood outside. After a while he calmed and had a wee and a poo, which was very positive. As we carried on offering Reiki Davey started to back up to us with his bottom, then he moved forward and lifted his left hind hoof to show us where the pain was. It was so amazing that he was able to show us his discomfort and we were able to share in this experience.
As we finished offering Reiki, I began to talk about Davey and the operation he had just had. Almost instantly Davey became agitated and unsettled. At this point Kathleen said that we were there to hold the Reiki space for him with ‘no judgement and that we needed to see Davey with our hearts and not with our eyes. It was a huge light bulb moment for me and I immediately felt sadness and embarrassment that I had been looking at Davey with sympathy and talking about him without any consideration that he could be listening. I could not see the sunny soul that was still shining brightly beneath. Davey was not defined by his illness or condition but by his ‘spirit’. As we returned to class it immediately dawned on me what the meaning of ‘Compassion’ truly meant. I returned to Davey a few more times to offer Reiki, firstly to apologise and secondly to offer a Reiki space where he had the opportunity to just ‘be’ Davey on any level.
Looking with your heart can be a difficult thing to do, as humans we are conditioned to only see what is on the surface. This experience shifted something inside of me and really made me think about the Reiki precepts in depth and my whole Reiki Practice. I have a lot to work on and am very grateful that Davey was able to teach me the meaning of Compassion.
The lessons that I learnt from Davey helped me in my own personal life, as not long after the workshop with Kathleen. My father took a turn for the worse and I had to rush back to Ireland. He was dying, his kidneys were failing and as he lay there hooked up to a drip, his life force energy was slowly dripping away. His skin was grey and his eyes were lifeless, I just knew I had to be calm. In that moment I chanted the 4th symbol in my head and just held the Reiki space for him. I saw his soul sparkle even though his body was weak. For the next few days I held the Reiki space for him, letting go of any expectation or outcome. What happened was that a different Dr came and offered him a different kind of treatment, which allowed his life force energy to strengthen. Seeing with your heart and not with your eyes and holding the Reiki space was a huge lesson from Davey. My father is so much better now, although it is still a day at a time. I am so grateful to Davey for teaching me to ‘see with my heart’ <3
Kathleen’s reiki Class’s are always thought provoking, always mindful and always about the animal. She is able to teach in a way, that you are able to find your own Reiki journey but also to learn your own Reiki lessons in your own time. The class’s are always life changing and sometimes the mat from under your feet will be shaken so hard that you have to reflect on your own life. The biggest lesson is to let the animals teach, be humble and to just ‘be’. Easier said than done, so that is why I have a daily Reiki Practice and literally Practice, Practice, Practice.
I have always been a huge animal lover. I had many unusual pets such as skunks and a pot belly pig. For over 20 years I had Great Danes and Maltese and showed them in confirmation dog shows. I also owned a pet grooming salon. My eyes for beautiful animals fell in the wrong direction. I was focusing my attention on the outside. One day I was jolted to awaken when a vet tech told me that a particular Maltese I was showing, who was staying with my professional dog handler, was “not happy” and she warned me to get her home as soon as possible. At that time, I was so wrapped up in all the reasons why I loved dog shows and failed to see that this little dog did not. Fortunately, she finished her Championship that very same weekend. I took her home, cut off all of her beautiful, long luxurious coat and made an appointment to have her spade. I wanted no chances to have a change of heart and breed her for more puppies. I never sold a puppy. I kept each and every one of them and showed only the best. My friends in the business thought that I had lost my mind. I did not lose anything. I found at that moment in time so much more…my true love of animals. It is not about me at all. It came to me at that moment that the animals are so giving of themselves that they would do anything for us. Go to shows that are loud and scary, have strangers place their hands on them while they stood perfectly still, be dressed in silly clothes like dolls and yes, they are so loyal they would die for us.
So, in my search I started to find something to do for them. To give back the love to these devoted beings. In January of 2010, I began my journey into Reiki. Reiki is a Japanese technique that results in deep relaxation so the body can heal on a cellular level. A technique designed for people. After completing my studies, I started practicing on myself, friends, family and eventually clients. It came to me: This was how I could give back to my precious animals, through Reiki. I started giving Reiki to my beautiful cat, Veronica when she became ill and I was giving Reiki to her as she made her transcendence. I experienced this wonderful connection to her and it was extremely peaceful. It assisted her along with me with her transcendence. I started offering Reiki to my other pets as well. They sat on my lap and seemed to enjoy the process. I wanted to find out more about offering Reiki to animals. After all, they were not willing to lay on the massage table for one hour. After many books and videos, I came across an organization called SARA (Shelter Animal Reiki Association). Wow! Offering this wonderful Reiki to shelter animals, what great way to give back. I started taking courses with two very accomplished ladies Kathleen Prasad and Leah D’Ambrosio from SARA. I can say no less than working with the animals has been a profound experience. I have now studied the traditional Japanese method of Reiki and have been certified in these techniques.
I am also a member and teacher with this organization. My highest honor was to work with two very special clients a Siberian Tiger named Balh-Shoy and a Bengal Tiger named Tigger. I went to the CARE Foundation to give them something but truly it was I who received the gifts. To have a connection with these beautiful beings in such a deep manner is something I will never forget. I will always hold these “teachers” in high regard as true Masters. People call themselves “masters” without doing the work. They take a few classes and certify themselves as a master. It takes a tremendous amount of work, love and dedication to be a master. I myself am a work in progress.
This connection is available to all of us if we take the time to be still and listen with our hearts. You, also, can give this gift of love to your animals. Schedule a session for your animal friend or better yet learn these wonderful, life changing techniques so you can share this special connection with your beloved pet.
By Michele Santom
Michele Santom is a SARA Animal Reiki Teacher and owner of her own yoga studio based in Delray Beach, Florida.
Note: If you would like to learn more about Animal Reiki, please visit our website www.shelteranimalreikiassociation.org. Kathleen Prasad will be teaching the Animal Reiki Teacher Training Course at the CARE Foundation in February 2014. You can learn more about this class at http://animalreikisource.com/reiki-classes/reiki-iii-care. To find out more about the CARE Foundation, please visit www.thecarefoundation.org.
Every February for the past three years I have had the most incredible opportunity to visit a wildlife sanctuary in Apopka, Florida, The C.A.R.E. Wildlife Sanctuary. It is located on a beautiful piece of property tucked away in the middle of rural Florida amongst the trees. C.A.R.E. houses two bears, two black leopards, three tigers, venomous snakes, raccoons, foxes, monkeys, a cougar, a panther, even a variety of barnyard animals. They are all cared for by an amazing woman named Christin who founded CARE back in 1998. Of course she has staff and volunteers that help her but when she walks around, the property, the animals only have eyes for her. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting her you will be as drawn to her as they are. She is like meeting a powerful warrior princess. This incredible woman has scars from being bit by every animal imaginable and when sharing her war stories, she will humbly tell you how it was her fault she was bit. She takes amazing care of each and every animal housed on her property and knows every small detail of their personality. They all exude health and happiness which is a rarity for many sanctuaries and a testament to her love and care.
What brings me here each year is my business partner Kathleen Prasad of Animal Reiki Source. Kathleen teaches a three-day animal Reiki teacher training class once a year at the sanctuary. I have the incredible honor and job of being her assistant during class and educating the students of the benefits of joining our non-profit, the Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA). CARE is an official SARA shelter which means they are open to animal Reiki and happily allow it to be offered to the animals by SARA members.
Although each of the animals at CARE is amazing in their special way, for me the two Bengal tigers, Tigger and Punkin, are the draw. As soon as I arrive I run to the back of the property to sit with them and enjoy their overwhelmingly powerful energy. There is simply nothing better in life than those moments I share with the tigers. I am not really a cat person but these cats are an exception. They have a strength and beauty you can’t help but admire, respect and fear. All you have to do is be around them at feeding time to realize they can switch from calm to fierce in the blink of an eye, reminding you that as cute as they are, they are still wild animals. If you still don’t get it after witnessing the fierceness at feeding, Christin will be sure to give you a lecture on all the reasons wild animals do not make good pets. Unfortunately some of the animals at CARE are there because they were being raised as pets and the owners quickly realized they were in over their heads. Luckily for them, their stories ended well by being rehomed at CARE.
During my first visit to CARE, I was immediately drawn to Tigger and Punkin. On the first day of class I couldn’t wait to get up to their area and practice Reiki on them. As a Reiki practitioner I sometimes find myself in the mindset of “I’m going to offer Reiki and make you feel better” which is my ego getting the better of me. The tigers who are masters at sensing bullshit, immediately corrected me and said “No! You’re going to let go, stop doing, stop feeling sorry for us and see what true Reiki feels like!” And once I let go of all thoughts of doing and all thoughts of “oh you poor caged tigers”, I was able to connect with them and feel their energy wash over me. In that space of connection it was like riding a wave and feeling completely loved and free. The strength of it was overwhelming yet it was at the same time calm and peaceful. If I had to paint of a picture of the feeling it would be of a beautiful sunset with the sky bathed in deep orange, red and pink. The kind of sunset that takes your breath away and you hope never ends. As I sat with them in the Reiki space, I let go of all worries, all thoughts of doing and immediately was in a place of just being. They reminded me that this is what the true nature of Reiki is – being without thought or expectation. For a control freak like me, on my own this is a very hard concept to grasp but in their presence it was easy and natural.
Their energy is addictive and impossible to leave but eventually leave you must and it is with a very heavy heart when you do. Luckily with Reiki I found I could easily tap back into that energy and bring them into my meditations to help guide me back to the place of just being. During the year between our first and second visits, I practiced with them on a regular basis. I felt so blessed and thankful to have such amazing Reiki teachers. Frans Stiene and Kathleen are my two human teachers and I don’t want to sell them short because they are both beyond anyone out there, but Tigger and Punkin are masters on the level of Buddha. Actually, I can’t help but think he would fall short too!
The year between my first visit and second visit seemed like a lifetime but finally, February 2012 arrived and Kathleen and I were back at CARE! We were both excited and anxious to see if the animals would have any memory of us at all. Although our hopes were high our expectations were low. As great as we might think we are, we know from personal experience animals will be the first to pop your ego and let you know you’re really not!
Our first visit was to Makoto, a beautiful black leopard who just happened to be a man-eater. Yes, a true, “I would just as soon as eat you as look at you” kind of a leopard. No one could believe Christin took this boy on but she did and in her care he was at least manageable for her. But for the rest of us lowly people, he only had contempt. The year before, Makoto had made a very special connection with Kathleen which had been surprising given his nature and history. During the year between our visits, Kathleen had been connecting with Makoto through Reiki to help her find the strength to not only beat cancer but to live and thrive. For her, this first visit was unique because she wanted to thank him for all he had done to get her through the darkest moments of her life.
Quietly we walked up to his cage where he sat still, looking at us out of the corner of his eye. Kathleen started talking to him sweetly and thanking him for all he had done. Makoto turned and looked into her eyes and then started sniffing the air. He tried to stick his nose out of the cage to get a better smell. And then the most amazing thing happened. He started purring and rubbing his head on the cage like a domestic cat happy to see his partner! Wait, isn’t this the man-eating leopard that tolerates no one? To say we were shocked at his response to her is a huge understatement.
After some much needed Makoto love for Kathleen, we were off to the tigers. I could barely contain myself! As we walked up the path to their area we started talking to them. They immediately jumped off their perches and came to the fence where they started chuffing – a sound they make when they see a friend – and rubbing their bodies on the fences close to us. What a wonderful hello and welcome back! It was such an amazing feeling to know these beautiful beings remembered us and were so happy to be seeing us again!
That visit and our most recent visit with them made me realize that when I let go and connect with my heart to the tigers’ hearts in the meditation space, they are really truly feeling it as much as I am. Of course this is something I always tried to believe, wanted to believe, but my ego always had reasons why it may not be possible. Their response to me removed any and all doubt. They let me know they felt the connection as deeply as I did. It was such an amazing lesson to know that in the space of connection, there really doesn’t exist any time or space. In that space of heart connection, you are truly together. So profound yet so simple. It was this lesson that made me realize Tigger and Punkin were the real teachers and that I was just a student who had a lot to learn.
Looking into the eyes of a tiger is an incredibly humbling experience. There is no hiding your insecurities, weaknesses and dishonesty. They see you for exactly who you are and if you come to them with an agenda, they will quickly let you know they are playing no part of that. Like true masters, they teach you to be mindful of the precepts. Do not come to us with anger or worry. Be humble, honest and compassionate to yourself and others. If you are anything but, the tigers will show you their backs and insist you do not bother them again until you can sit in their space without ego. I wish I could say I have never been reprimanded by Tigger and Punkin or felt their cold disconnect, but I am human and needy and in practicing the honesty precept I will share that I have once or twice gone to them with an agenda expecting them to look at me and do their cute chuffing sound and make me feel special. Unfortunately, tigers, much like homies, don’t play that game. They give you a disdainful look for a quick second before they turn and pretend you are nothing but a pesky fly. If you have never been dissed by a tiger, be glad. It is a very humiliating feeling!
A few months have passed since my last visit but every day I am with them in my meditations. When I close my eyes and let go of the day’s worries, I connect to them with my heart and feel their powerful energy bring me to a quiet place where my body and heart start to heal. They generously offer this beautiful space where I can connect and experience, if only for a moment, what it feels like to really live in the precepts. A human teacher may be able to offer this too, but the animals bring it to you in a way that allows you to experience this lesson with every cell in your being.
If you ever have a chance to get to CARE (and really you have no excuse not to since Kathleen offers a class there every year!), be sure to take a moment and sit with Tigger and Punkin. You will find yourself in the presence of two beautiful Buddhas whose looks fill you with a sense of peace and love you never knew existed.
If you were inspired by this story and would like to help Tigger and Punkin and the other animals at CARE, please visit www.carefoundation.org.
Kathleen Prasad of Animal Reiki Source will be offering another Shinpiden Animal Reiki Teacher Training course in February 2014. For more information, please visit www.animalreikisource.com.
About the author: Leah is the Vice President of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA). She has taught animal Reiki classes at the Humane Society Silicon Valley, the Homeless Cat Network, Rabbit Haven and offers regular classes at Pregnant Mare Rescue in Aptos, California. She is currently teaching the SARA Animal Reiki for Reiki Practitioners teleclass. Leah is available for in person animal Reiki treatments.
I remember as if it was yesterday, sitting in a room listening to Frans Steine talk about the city of Paris. This may seem strange to you but what he said was so profound and life changing. He said there is a huge difference between going to Paris and describing Paris. What he meant is that there are lots of information in books on the internet about Paris, which of course you could share but unless you actually went to Paris and experienced it, you would be describing something second hand. Now you may be thinking what can this have to do with Reiki? It is the same for Reiki as there are many books out there but unless you experience Reiki, your description will only be judged on someone else’s experience. This is so important when you teach Reiki, as you need to use your own experiences to explain. Last September, when Kathleen came to the UK and spoke about Animal Reiki. It was by using her own experience’s that made her teaching come alive. She was able to draw on all of the amazing understandings she had learnt from the animals and to share it with us.
Recently I taught Reiki at two SARA Sanctuary’s, the first at Remus Horse Sanctuary. For over 7 years I have been offering Reiki to the animals there. I learnt from Kathleen last September, the importance of being in the Reiki space for longer, to allow the animals who were nervous to come into the Reiki space. This had a huge shift in my own Reiki practice. It really made me reflect on the discipline of Reiki and how by being in that space for longer. Of course my ‘ego’ had said that there is nothing happening, so I should move on. In fact when nothing is happening everything is happening. By allowing the animals to come into the space in their own time, it allowed animals who had never had Reiki to come forward. We offered Reiki to the horses, goats and sheep. What happened in the workshop was that we were able to work with the cows at Remus,
Remus Level 1 Students
Hector’s Gate Level 1 Students
Blossom and Amber. This is the first time ever that I had been able to work with them. Due to the cold weather, they had been brought into the barn in the evening. I spoke to Vicky and asked her, if there was anything that I should know about working with the cows. She said it was important that we did not get in between them, as they do not like to be separated. I took the students into the barn and we stood in the middle. What happened next was totally amazing, as Amber left Blossom and came around the back of us. We were sandwiched in the middle of them. It was almost as if they had heard the conversation that I had with Vicky. Standing in the middle and being in the space was very powerful. It was such an honour that they could teach my students. As we had our photograph taken by Vicky, Amber came to have her photo taken too.
Just a few days later, I was teaching at Hector’s Gate, this is a new SARA Sanctuary. I arrived on the Friday morning and just had a ‘knowing’ feeling that the animals would come forward to teach these new students. As I taught, Lottie who was a Hector’s Gate Rescue dog had been circling in the field outside the barn where I was teaching. She jumped over the gate and sat on my feet pushed her whole body into me and showed the Hector’s Gate students what animal Reiki was all about. I offered her Reiki and everyone was totally amazed, as she had never before gone to someone that she had never met before. It was an insightful moment for both me as a teacher and for the students. We worked with the horses, dogs and then worked with the chickens. As we entered the chicken pen, it was very noisy. We stood in our own Reiki space and I taught them about not judging but ‘being’. In that space, there was total quietness, the chickens just became silent, as they, for the first time experienced Reiki. Afterwards they all gathered together and slept. Again the students watched on astounded.
What I learnt is that it is the animals that are the teachers and by letting it unfold and not worrying the animals were able to come forward and to show what Animal Reiki truly is. It is also important to teach from experience as you can let go of any worry and ‘just know’.
8 years have passed since I rescued my beloved dog, named Deeds, from the Tulsa Animal Shelter. Inspired by him, and the benefits of offering Reiki to shelter animals, this time I returned to teach my very first SARA Level I Reiki & Animal Reiki class.
It was the end of the second day of our class. Here I stood outside with my 7 students circled around me. This group of open and compassionate people included the Shelter Director, Veterinarian, a Vet Tech, the Adoption Coordinator, a Shelter Volunteer and 2 of my dear friends who have supported through my own Reiki journey.
The sun was setting; my student’s eyes were closed in meditation, as I was performing my 4th initiation with them. One by one, I peered into their faces. Something had changed, shifted. There was a visible peace and calm about them, about me, in the midst of the sounds of barking dogs playing outside beyond the chain link. Along with the muffled sounds of dogs barking in the shelter building, I was reminded of where I was and of so many homeless animals in need. I depended on all the Reiki breathing techniques, symbols and mantras I had learned and practiced to keep me focused and grounded. Calm and balanced, we all had created a space to allow healing to occur in this moment and we were holding it for one another. I experienced a beautiful connection with my students, despite the distractions.
Our faithful class dog, named Nolan, was resting on his bed in the center of the circle. A recent pit bull stray, brought in with a broken leg, his ribs were visible and his face was scratched. Yet, in this Reiki healing circle, I only felt his balanced state of being as he rested there among us. His blue cast was decorated by a green heart, which had lovingly been taped on by the staff. His grateful presence and loving spirit humbled me. He had soaked up all the Reiki love and healing created by our group during both days of our class. In return he was opening up our hearts for healing and supporting me as a “newbie” teacher!
Nolan was truly my co-teacher this weekend, showing the students on day 1 the peaceful effects that Reiki had on him. He took in Reiki like a sponge and showed them what a “Reiki nap” truly looks like. My teacher, Kathleen Prasad has continued to tell me, “ The animals will come to you, Karren. “ Nolan was another validation for this truth…
Now that the Reiki seeds of hope have been planted, I trust that these seeds will bloom and grow in me, the staff, volunteers at the Tulsa Animal Shelter and people of our community. As one of my students wrote to me after our class, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going!” Reiki to the Rescue!
Shelter Animal Reiki Association Teacher
Reiki has taken centre stage at Remus this month, as Kathleen teaches her first ever UK Animal Reiki Class. She has taught over 30 students, over 5 days, with people travelling from literally all over the world; Portugal, USA and a vet from Japan. Kathleen has transformed people’s lives and left us all with a true feeling of optimism and hope.
Kathleen’s visit to Remus had firstly been a dream, a thought, a vision and then finally it became a reality. I had spent the last two years, talking to Sue and my students about how brilliant Kathleen was. At each of my Reiki SARA group meetings at Remus, I would day dream about actually meeting her and drift off into my dreamy world. Now that the day had truly arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement and was so nervous. Meeting Kathleen, I was also blessed to meet Leah too and yes! they looked exactly like their photo and how I expected them to be. ‘Just lovely’. We shared some precious girlie moments and had a good giggle. Below, I have shared some of my highlights from Kathleen’s visit although there were, many, many more.
Arriving at Remus, they too could see what I have always seen. This beautiful Animal Sanctuary, at that very moment I was so proud of Remus and felt a deep wave of emotion pass over me. Sue showed us around Remus, where we were able to meet all of the animals. The sun was shining and the animals opened up their hearts to Kathleen. It was almost as if they too had been waiting for her to come, so they could help her to teach.
Kathleen taught Level 1 Animal Reiki on the first day, she took the lesson in the big Remus field. I have worked with the horses there often offering Reiki to them and I watched intently as Kathleen taught her students. One of the Remus horses Sally made straight for one of the students and started to push her around in circles. This is something she has never done before and it was not aggressive, it was just a definite push. Kathleen, spoke to the student and said “It is OK to have boundaries and to say no” with that Sally trotted off, as her message had been understood and the effect on the student was life changing as this was an issue she had been dealing with all her life.
The next day on the Equine class, again we were standing in the field and there were 18 students standing in a line. It was so funny to watch, as Stanley, one of the horses came to stand with the students to listen to what Kathleen was going to say. Then Thomas another horse walked up to Kathleen, placed himself next to her and allowed her to show us Reiki Hand positions, if an animal so chooses. I have to say, watching Kathleen with the animals, was so special. She lived up to everything I thought she would be and much more. She was able to put up with my ‘ditsyness’ as on one day I actually managed to lose all of the Shinpiden students, yes! that is true.
Kathleen finished with her 3 day Animal Reiki Teacher workshop and it was here that Apollo the head of the herd came to teach the students. As they meditated in the middle of the field, she came over to be part of the Reiki energy and to show that she was definitely the Matriarch . She taught many of the students about what Animal Reiki truly is, it is not about placing hands on the animals but it is about the animal having the choice. For me this class was by far, the most life changing for me, as a student and a SARA teacher. I have still, so much to practice on a daily basis and cannot wait for her return next year. The Remus animals will be ready and waiting to help Kathleen to teach, they so enjoyed teaching us so many lessons, if we would just listen.
For anyone wishing to do Animal Shinpiden Level 3 Reiki, my advice would be to start saving now, as Kathleen is light years ahead of truly understanding how to offer Reiki to animals. I myself, have been so inspired to take my SARA group to the next level and have lots of wonderful ideas for for supporting SARA/Kathleen’s students here in the UK.
I recently had the pleasure of spending a weekend doing Reiki with rescued horses at BrightHaven Animal Rescue. Located in the Northern California town of Santa Rosa, BrightHaven is an amazing place, and I find myself wanting to tell everyone about it. First and foremost, it is a home for senior, disabled and terminally ill animals. All the animals there are at least 16 years old; the horses are all over the age of 26. Founded by Gail and Richard Pope in 1990, BrightHaven is their home also. Indoors you will see many senior cats and dogs – some partially paralyzed. Some of the dogs can be seen tearing around the back yard on their “wheels,” almost as fast as any dog you’ve ever seen.
There are over 25 horses at BrightHaven. Some are direct BrightHaven rescues. Others were rescued by Sadie’s Haven, a nonprofit horse rescue and sanctuary. All would have ended up sold for slaughter if it weren’t for Sadie’s Haven and BrightHaven. Instead, they will live out their natural lives in this wonderful haven, surrounded with peace and love.
A goat also makes her home at BrightHaven, as well as some ducks, geese, and I just don’t even know who else. It is truly a safe haven for all.
All animals at BrightHaven are provided with a natural diet and holistic health care…including Reiki! As a result, animals tend to have unusually long life spans – up to 30 years for cats and 23 years for dogs.
In addition to a home for the animals, BrightHaven is also a healing arts center and is an amazing resource for those of us interested in holistic and natural animal care. They offer seminars, consulting services and educational events on the subject of holistic and natural care for animals. Their website includes an extensive library of articles on an amazing variety of subjects around holistic healthcare, alternative healing therapies, and hospice care for animals. They even have holistic healthcare products for sale.
As someone who has been struggling with health issues of my aging cats for the last several years, I am amazed and humbled by the efforts of Gail and Richard. I know first hand how difficult it is when your animals get older and have special needs. I’m sure many of you do, too. How they care for so many “special needs” animals through the end of life transition is beyond my capacity to imagine. And the care and love that the animals at BrightHaven receive is beyond description.
I encourage you all to visit the BrightHaven website for more information on their sanctuary, their educational programs, and the vast array of information available there. (Website information given below.) If you are interested in visiting, they are having an Open House on Sunday, September 23 from 1-4 p.m. I also encourage you, if you are so inclined, to make a donation to BrightHaven and/or Sadie’s Haven. They are doing amazing work that is only possible through the generosity of people like you and me.
By the way, if you are interested in learning Reiki for Animals, my teacher, Kathleen Prasad, teaches classes at BrightHaven. I guarantee you this will be an experience you will not forget.
For more information:
Sadie’s Haven: www.sadieshaven.com
SARA Reiki Practitioner
A lovely, beautiful tanned coloured American Pit Bull had just been delivered to the shelter where I volunteered. She had been found wandering the streets, and the person who found her, delivered her to us. She was named Chloe and it was obvious “Chloe” had recently had pups but she was in excellent condition.
Unfortunately that week I was too busy to have a Reiki session with her but I worked with her the following week and during this Reiki session I discovered she hated the name Chloe and was, in fact, refusing all attempts at interacting with the shelter staff due to this. I picked up that her name started with the letter “R” and said this to a lovely New Zealand vet who worked at the shelter then. She renamed Chloe “Riri”, which was a New Zealand name. Riri loved her new name and began to interact with the shelter staff.
I had also picked up that Riri had been used as a breeding dog and had continually had her pups taken from her. The last litter was taken away at birth and disposed of due to the bad publicity American Pit Bulls were receiving in Australia (the breed was being illegally imported into Australia for dog fighting and also a number of children had been badly savaged by them). Riri was devastated by the loss of her puppies and had been looking for them when found and delivered to the shelter.
I continued to work with Riri and found her to be a beautiful, intelligent dog but she could not stop looking for her puppies. There was also another, horrible problem. Riri did not get on with any of the other shelter dogs, in fact, whenever Riri was walked passed the dogs, the other dogs would lunge and bark profusely at her and of course Riri would retaliate. This was not a good sign and it continued to get worse. Riri began to lose weight and would sometimes be aggressive to some shelter staff but Riri was always the perfect lady with me as well as the New Zealand vet.
After a couple of months of working with Riri, unfortunately due to her aggressiveness with other dogs/shelter staff and because of her breed, it was decided Riri had to be PTS (Put To Sleep). This decision is not taken lightly as we try very hard to rehabilitate all animals that come to us.
I was asked to assist in putting Riri to sleep and this I did readily. Riri was brought from her pen into the clinic and she behaved in such a lady-like manner. As the injection was prepared, I held Riri and told her what a beautiful girl she was and what a privilege it was to know her as I gave her Reiki one last time. Very gently she fell asleep while receiving her Reiki, which she loved, and then I “saw” a small, darkish, male puppy come to her. He was the same colour as her ears and I knew it was one of the puppies she had so longingly looked for. At last Riri was reunited with at least one of her pups, which is all she ever wanted. I knew she was finally at peace. Although Reiki was unable to rehabilitate Riri into a new home, it gave Riri the most important thing to her, her beloved puppy.