Lessons From a Moose

Living where I do I have many opportunities to get out in nature.  I like to walk late in the day in hopes of catching the deer or a fox. Every once in a while, the wildlife comes to me.

The MooseBack in the fall I was in my kitchen preparing to go out for the day. When I turned toward the window I was startled to see a full grown moose staring in at me! He was beautiful against the autumn leaves, sporting a full rack and looking for all the world like he belonged there.  My kitchen window is half a floor up so you can get an idea of his height.

Thrilled, I called for my husband then ran furiously around the house trying to locate my camera or cell phone. It’s been my experience that these things are never handy in such a situation.  I have missed photographing a bear and a bobcat looking for that elusive camera!

Meanwhile, my husband was standing at the kitchen window, keeping an eye on our visitor. He was totally enjoying the moment. That’s because he doesn’t have a Facebook page.  As I ran past the window going up the stairs I could see him turning away.  It is my belief that he felt the chaotic energy coming from the house.  In my defense, I did have the presence of mind to thank him for coming.

In the days following the moose’s visit to our dooryard, I have thought a lot about how often I miss the moment. Perhaps I am thinking about the perfect quote that will go with the picture I am about to take, or how pretty this view will look on my website. Whatever plan I have for the thing that has captured my attention, more and more it seems to be about social network sharing.  It’s impossible to be present while doing this.

This wayward moose taught me some valuable lessons:

  • Be in the moment.
  • Enjoy what you have while it’s still here.
  • Having the experience is far better than having the picture.
  • When a moose comes to visit honor his presence by being present.

I never did get the picture. He was heading up the mountain when I finally found the camera. At least my husband had the full experience. Guess I learned something from my husband too.

The irony is not lost on me that this article will appear on a blog.  The photo is a stock photo.

Kelly McDermott-Burns

Fun With Labs

For ten days I have been hired to be the lead dog.  The other dogs in question are two big, black labs named Auggie and Oslo.  They are in my care whilst their people are basking in the sunshine on the sunny beaches of Florida.  In the course of our time together I am engaging in an un-scientific experiment to see what changes ten days of Reiki might bring to two goofy dogs.  I have the blessing of their people with the suggestion that Auggie may be beyond help.

Being a cat person, I am observing very interesting canine behavior.  They love to play fetch, for instance.  Even when my cats want to play, “fetch” is not in their repertoire.  Neither is “come here” for that matter.  Basically, I do the fetching (food, treats and such).  I also have to go to them if I want to give them attention.  Dogs are just the opposite.

Anyway, I embarked on my experiment with evening sessions of Reiki and little short sessions when appropriate.  One can never have too much Reiki and, in my estimation, these guys can certainly benefit. No judgment here, just observation.

On the first night I sat in a chair near their beds and set my intention.  I let them know they could have as much Reiki as they would like.  I told them they didn’t have to have it if they didn’t want to.  Then, I began my Joshin Kokyu Ho breathing.

Oslo, the older dog, was curious right away while Auggie, the bigger dog moved farther away.  As the energy flowed, Oslo came over and checked out my hands.  Then, he went to his bed and rolled over, showing his belly and wagging his tail.  Auggie stayed away.

Day 2

Auggie won’t let Oslo near me, though he comes over and smells my hands and abdomen.  He engages Oslo in wrestling and the session ends so they can go outside before they break something.

Day 3

While I am throwing the ball (outside) endlessly for Auggie, Oslo sits at my feet.  I crouch down and put my hands on his shoulders and feel the heat right away.  I stay with him like that for a while, tossing the ball for Auggie.  Eventually, Oslo runs off to join his buddy.

That night I sat in the chair again and Oslo was immediately asleep.  Auggie kept trying to get him to play but he wasn’t having it.  Auggie roamed around then came over to me.  He sniffed at my hands and then began to snap at the air in front of me.  He swung his big old head like a polar bear, back and forth, back and forth.  Clearly he was noticing something.  Then he left the room.

Day 4

A repeat of day 3.

Days  5 through 10

I begin my breathing and Auggie immediately drops to the floor and is out like a light.  Finally!!

Each evening from then on both Auggie and Oslo settle down right away for their Reiki session.  Auggie gets up in the middle of it to have a big dose of water, then lays right down again.  They are so quiet!

When I see my friend a couple of days after his return he asks, “What did you do to my dogs???!”  He tells me Auggie was perfectly calm when they came home. No jumping.  Completely out of character!

Auggie and Oslo post-Reiki


Kelly McDermott-Burns

Lead With the Hara

I love twilight! No, not the movie…that time of day when the sun meets the moon and everything is bathed in muted colors. It often feels to be a very mystical time of day and so is my favorite time for walking on the mountain. Secretive wildlife is often found at this time a day and I am always on the lookout. I have had the good fortune to see a den of fox kits, pileated woodpeckers, owls, grouse, baby porcupines and of course, deer. Currently, we have three deer roaming the mountain. I’m thrilled to see they made it through hunting season and they look nice and healthy for the upcoming winter.

One thing I like to practice as I walk is what I call, “Leading with the Hara”. As I begin my walk I set my intention to be open to everything. I begin Joshin Kokyu Ho breathing, imagining Reiki flowing from my hara, expanding into the environment around me. Many times on my walks I feel that I am not alone and that many little eyes are watching my every step. Leading with the hara keeps me mindful of the life around me. It also sends the message, “I come in peace.”

Deer are skittish creatures, and as such, often scare me as often as I do them. This happened the other day as I strolled up the lane on my evening walk. I heard them before I saw them, crashing through the woods, big white tails flashing me as they ran off. I saw two of them. I immediately stopped to focus on them, offering Reiki to make amends for startling them. As I stood there quietly expanding the energy I heard a noise to my left. I turned very slowly and saw the third deer walking toward me. She stopped and looked at me for a few seconds, then turned and ran off into the woods! I believe she was curious about the Reiki. It was the most thrilling experience!

We never know what we are going to encounter in our daily activities. Why not lead with the hara in the woods or at the grocery store?

Kelly McDermott-Burns

At One With The Fly

If you’ve been to a farm recently chances are you have encountered a fly. In my work with Joy, a young Morgan horse, I certainly did! I observed Joy in the pasture swishing her tail and stomping her hooves to shake them off. I saw myself: impatient with the fly, irritated by the never ending buzz in my ear, swatting at it, just trying to get a little peace. I could insert many different words for “fly”, of course.

AbeActually, I began thinking about the fly factor one day while sitting outside with Abe, a little terrier, new to Rutland County Humane Society. As I was holding the Reiki space for Abe I was being dive bombed by a fly. Abe didn’t seem to notice, but I was getting more and more irritated as the fly buzzed around my head. I found it difficult to concentrate and to refrain from swatting at the intruder.

Something I stress when teaching a class is the importance of focus. When we are focused, the energy flows freely and we are completely present for our client, be it person or animal. We become the energy and move with it. Irritation and constant movement (i.e. swatting) disturbs the session and creates a less than ideal situation. We are not honoring the animal when we are distracted.

When I was with Abe I began using the precepts to bring myself back into the space…

  • Do not anger-the fly is simply being a fly.
  • Do not worry-the fly won’t hurt you.
  • Be humble-honoring all creatures includes the fly.
  • Be compassionate to yourself and others-use this opportunity to deepen your focus, include the fly in the session and remember: the fly is just being a fly.

Approaching the situation with the precepts freed me to allow the fly into the space. Following that with Joshin Kokyu Ho breathing calmed me and removed my irritation. Abe was provided with a much better treatment.

Coming next: At One With The Mosquito.

Just kidding. That’s impossible.

Kelly McDermott-Burns
SARA Teacher

Reiki in the Cat Intake Room

My favorite places at Rutland County Humane Society (RCHS) are the cat rooms. I truly enjoy watching the comings and goings, the different personalities, and the fights and love fests as boundaries are tested and friends are made. Offering Reiki in a room with many cats can be challenging with these distractions and it is important to maintain focus during a session.

Before cats get to the cat room at RCHS they are held in kennels in the intake room. Here they are kept from the general population as their health is checked out or they await spay/neuter appointments. The cats in this room are both surrenders and strays. Usually, there is a mix with a maximum of about 15 cats. Cats are in varying degrees of stress in this room; many times they are hiding in a box or behind a towel draped over the front of the cage.

As much as I enjoy the cat rooms with their freedom to move around, I love offering Reiki in the intake room! Often, these cats are very frightened and Reiki is very soothing for them. It is also soothing for me. I find that I can go to a deeper place in this room as I don’t have cats jumping on and off my lap or worse–a cat fight!

Recently, I sat in the intake room. All the kennels were full. One had a towel over the door and I couldn’t see inside. One kennel had a box which appeared to hold a cat. Several cats were meowing and moving around in agitation. One was pushing against the cage front creating a loud rattling noise.

I like to visit each cat individually to say hello if they aren’t shy. After doing that, I sat on the other side of the room and began breathing deeply. When I felt centered, I spoke quietly without looking directly at any of the cats. After letting them know what I was up to and telling them they didn’t have to participate, I began.

Almost immediately, the room began to settle down. I waited a bit and then checked in discreetly. Some cats had gone to the back of their kennel; some came up front and were staring at me; others were dozing. The sound of many cats purring has a sedative effect on me and I found myself going deeper into my meditation. After about twenty minutes I looked up. I could see two cats were behind the towel. They were peeking around the edge. I could see one eye and one ear on each! Next door, the cat from the box had come out and was eating!

Most likely, I will meet these cats again in the general population. Often, cats who received Reiki in intake come right over and jump in my lap in the cat room.

Kelly McDermott-Burns

You Want Reiki Where?

Recently, I had the honor of working with a lovely little Chihuahua named Billy. He had been brought to Rutland County Humane Society after roaming the streets for a while. The staff thought he was around 8 years old. When I met him he was lying in a little bed on the floor of the front office recovering from surgery. He had been to the vet to be neutered and he also had dental work done.

I started off in a chair across the room from him. I wanted to be sure he had plenty of space and wasn’t threatened by me. He looked weary. With his little head on his paws, he kept an eye on me. I spoke softly to him, letting him know about Reiki and what I was offering. I also told him he could choose not to have Reiki if he wished. I set the intention and began Joshin Kokyu Ho. I felt Reiki expanding from my hara almost immediately. Apparently, so did Billy. He looked up at me then gingerly got to his feet and slowly came over. He put his paws on my leg, stretching up to get a better look at me. I felt it would be okay to sit on the floor with him, so I slid out of the chair and sat on the floor in lotus position. Billy immediately got in my lap. We sat quietly together with the Reiki flowing. I was touched by his big eyes and trusting heart. Billy sat happily in my lap for more than a half an hour enjoying his session. Eventually, I had to end the session as I had others waiting for Reiki. I told Billy we had to stop, thanked him and praised him for being so open. Then, gently, I lifted him and put him on the floor beside me. Before I could get up Billy backed up to me, put his hind legs on my thigh and pointed his butt up at me as if to say, “I need Reiki here too!” I chuckled at his insistence and agreed to continue Reiki for the area of his neuter surgery.

The following week Billy was still at RCHS when I arrived. He was again in the front office with the resident pit bull, Tsunami. Billy was happy as can be and not the least bit intimidated by Tsunami whose head is about the size of Billy. Tsunami gave Billy a big lick nearly knocking him off his feet! It was entertaining to watch! When I began with Billy’s session he came right over and sat in my lap for most of the time. When I arrived the next week I discovered Billy had found his forever home!

Kelly McDermott-Burns

Reiki and Hair Loss in Cats

There are two cat rooms at Rutland County Humane Society where I volunteer every week. Each room has ten or more cats in it. They have all kinds of climbing places and hiding spots and a window to a nice little screened in porch. When I go into the cat room, I take a seat and announce to all the little lovelies that it is Reiki time and that they are welcome to receive as much or as little as they want. I then set the intention that the session is for the highest good of all of us and that whoever needs Reiki gets what they need. I breathe deeply into my hara and imagine the energy expanding out into every corner of the room.

Daisy was a funny little tortoiseshell kitty. When she arrived at RCHS she was missing fur from her lower body due to a severe flea infestation. It was unclear whether Daisy’s fur would grow back.
Every time I sat in the one of the cat rooms offering Reiki, Daisy would come over. She would just hover around my feet, looking up at me. After three sessions like this she got in my lap. While I gave her Reiki she rolled over so her bare back was in my hands. When she was done with her session she would give me a little nip on my hand. The next two times I came to the room Daisy was waiting for me. She got in my lap immediately and settled in for Reiki. I noticed her fur was coming back.

On subsequent visits she would come by, but she stopped getting in my lap. I continued to see a change in her fur. It was interesting that she seemed to be done with her hands-on treatments, although she continued to get better. Daisy took complete charge of her treatment! Not long after, she found her forever home.

I have seen the effects of Reiki on my own cat, Murphy, and his excessive grooming. When we met him, stress had caused him to lick and chew the fur off his lower belly and the inside of his back legs. We hoped he would stop now that he was in his forever home. He did stop licking his legs, but his lower belly stayed bare and sometimes had red spots on it.

About four years after we adopted Murphy I learned Reiki. He took an interest in it right away, always coming in the room when I was practicing. When I started working with him directly his fur eventually started to fill back in a little at a time. After some time, he was down to a little patch on his lower belly. Now, his belly and legs are completely covered with fur and have been for a couple of years. I believe Reiki relieved Murphy of the stress that was causing his excessive grooming behavior.

Kelly McDermott-Burns

When Illness Hits Home

MurphyRecently, after a busy period of traveling, I returned to find that Murphy our 16 year old kitty had lost a surprising amount of weight. In addition to the weight loss, he seemed lethargic. He wasn’t coming into the kitchen to beg for treats and he wasn’t interested in having his daily Reiki session. In fact, he rarely moved from his little bed in front of the woodstove. We have seen this behavior with him to a lesser degree but usually it would only last for a day and just as we would be discussing making the vet appointment he would return to his old self. This time we made the appointment and I took him in.

Murphy gets terribly stressed when we go to the vet. On the suggestion of vet and SARA member Bernie Fischer I gave him a dose of the flower essence Rescue Remedy®. Normally Murphy would cry the entire way and lose control of his bowels. I always chant the jumon to help keep him calm. The combination of flower essences and Reiki worked like magic. He was quiet for the majority of the trip and we arrived with a clean carrier.

Our vet is very open to letting me stay with Murphy during procedures so I can comfort him and offer him Reiki. On this visit we needed to get a blood sample. He’s very strong for his age and invariably needs to be knocked out to extract the blood. As I stood there watching my little guy struggle, they slipped a mask over his face to give him gas. My heart was in my throat and I felt panic rise as he fought the gas then lay there unconscious.

“Go back to the breathe. Breathe into your hara!” This is the message I heard as I struggled to keep calm watching my little buddy go under. Although Murphy wasn’t in any danger, I felt helpless watching him struggle. In retrospect, I believe I felt I was seeing our future and it scared me. “Just for today”, I thought. “Do not worry”. The lessons I have learned in Reiki kicked in and I began to settle down, offering Reiki in a clear and present way.

Staying calm and even detached is imperative when I work in the shelter environment. It certainly was harder to practice in a personal situation. Being face to face with Murphy’s mortality was another reminder that the precepts are a powerful tool to deal with the unknown.

Happily, Murphy has been improving wonderfully from what our vet believes was an infection. He continues to come for his regular Reiki treatments, chases the girls around the house and has forgiven me for taking him to the vet. He is a great teacher in my life.

Kelly McDermott-Burns

Loud Noises and Border Collies

Sessan is a lovely 12 year old border collie. Her companion, Kinna, asked me to work with her this past summer for several reasons. For most of her life, Sessan suffered from skin allergies and, like many of her breed, fear of loud or unexpected noises such as thunder and gunfire. In addition, she had parasites in her throat when she was younger. Kinna has kept her on a special diet to ease her allergy symptoms, but needed help with Sessan’s fear of noises. When Sessan was startled, she would bark, escalating to a point where it appeared she could not stop herself. When a thunderstorm was brewing Kinna would have to sit in the hallway, away from windows and hold Sessan. Often, Sessan would seek refuge in the tub.

Our first session together was interesting. When I arrived Sessan came right up to me and looked me in the eyes as though she knew I was there for her. We had already discussed Kinna’s concerns about Sessan over the phone, so we got right to work.
I settled in to create the healing space by offering Reiki to Sessan, letting her know she was in charge. I then set the intention and began breathing into my hara. Kinna sat quietly in the room with us, guarding the gate she put up so Laddy, the other border collie, stayed out. After a couple of minutes, Sessan put her paw on the gate to get out. Then, she went and lay down in the other room where I couldn’t see her. Laddy, however, stretched out on the other side of the gate with his head on his paws. Of course, when Sessan left, my ego tried to move in. I started to worry about what Kinna would think now that Sessan had walked out. Keeping the precepts in mind, I returned to breathing deeply, bringing in the first symbol and reminding myself that everything was just as it should be. After all, the session was about Sessan, not me. This has happened before in my practice with animals and has taught me to let go of the outcome and trust Reiki.

During the session, a chipmunk distracted Sessan and she demonstrated the frantic barking Kinna told me about. Finally, Kinna got her settled down and we continued working. She remained quiet for the rest of the session. I felt the energy shift after about 30 minutes and closed the session. Sessan immediately came into the room and sat in front of me. I thanked her and Reiki. I also thanked Laddy, who sat fascinated at the gate the whole time. His occasional long yawn and rapt attention let me know he was also receiving.

We set up a schedule for Sessan of four consecutive sessions. Each time I came to work with her she spent less time in the other room. During our second session the sound of a gunshot came from a farm nearby. Sessan lifted her head but did not bark. The chipmunks no longer tormented her. She offered her throat for Reiki during one session. All of our sessions were approximately thirty minutes.

Our fourth and final session together held a surprise for me. Sessan spent the majority of the time in the room with me. As I sat quietly offering Reiki to this lovely dog I had an image of a vast snowy field. When we finished I mentioned this to Kinna. She told me that winter was Sessan’s favorite time of year. She found relief from her skin allergies and there were no thunderstorms!
A couple of weeks after our last session I received a call from Kinna. A severe thunderstorm had passed through the night before. Sessan had remained calm throughout the entire storm!

Kelly McDermott-Burns

Jared – How Reiki Helped A Rescued Cat

One day in early spring, I walked into RCHS and noticed a cage on a table with a towel over it. Jess, the manager, told me there was a cat under the towel. He had been trapped and brought to the shelter. He was traumatized by the event and the towel was to help him feel secure. He was a long-haired orange boy whose fur was all matted and dirty.

My first session with Jared took place before I even got a look at him. I sat outside the cage wanting to lift the towel a bit and take a peek. I resisted and began offering him Reiki sitting quietly in meditation and focusing on the flow of the energy. I found it a little difficult at first, not being able to see him, but I felt the Reiki moving through my hands and relaxed into the session.

JaredThe next time I came in, the towel was lifted on the front end and I got a look at Jared. Because of the condition of his fur he had been shaved and he looked like a little lion! He huddled in the back corner of the cage. The staff thought he was a little embarrassed by his new do. I settled down for the session, careful not to face him directly. I offered him Reiki, letting him know he was in charge of how much he would receive, set the intention and began. I checked in with him periodically, taking quick sidelong peeks. He never took his eyes off of me and seemed to relax a bit.

I was looking forward to working with him again and checked on him first when I arrived at the shelter. To my surprise, he was dressed in little blue sweater. The staff was concerned that without all his fur he might be cold and they put him in a cat sweater. He was adorable! I began the session as before, only this time I sat facing him. He was very receptive to the Reiki and seemed to be coming out of his shell. He came forward, curious about the energy.

We worked together every week, continuing after he had been integrated into the cat room. Naturally, the introduction caused him some stress and he continued to be shy with the other cats. He enjoyed Reiki when I offered it for a few weeks, although unlike other cats, Jared wasn’t likely to get in my lap in those sessions. His hair was growing back nicely and he seemed to be gaining confidence. Then one day he declined my offer of Reiki.

The next week I was told he had been moved next door to the office where he was free to roam the building with another cat. This suited his loner personality, I think. Shortly thereafter Jared was adopted and found his forever home!

Kelly McDermott-Burns