While many zoos do an exemplary job constructing habitats that closely mimic their animals’ natural environments, zoo animals basically live their lives in captivity to entertain and educate humans. Are these entertainment and educational benefits worth more than the animals’ stress from living in captivity and their constant exposure to humans?
Animal Reiki Wildlife Rescues
Despite the rain and the chill one late April morning, my husband and I headed over to our city zoo so I could meditate with the animals for the first time using the Let Animals Lead® Method of Animal Reiki. What’s a little rain? I’m a newbie to LAL and eager to develop my skills.
As 2020 comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the good that came to me during the difficult past months. What we focus on grows stronger so I have been choosing to turn my attention to my blessings instead of what I always felt that I lacked.
I’ve been practicing the Let Animals Lead® method of Animal Reiki for about 6 months and had the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the beauty of the practice in the wild. I recently visited two camps in South Africa and went on two safaris per day at each camp. As nervous as I was about the trip, it was soon replaced by the serenity of where we were. Our first camp was Nambu Camp, which is located in the big five Balule Private Game Reserve in the heart of the Greater Kruger, 16.2 km outside of Hoedspruit.
Every February SARA president Kathleen Prasad teaches Reiki III and Animal Reiki Training at the CARE Foundation in Apopka, FL. I enjoy seeing all the pictures from the classes and especially reading about the experiences the students share with the animals.
Sometimes the universe surprises. Out of the blue. No warning.
I was attending a yoga class the night before Thanksgiving when my teacher offered a deck of cards to me and told me to “pick one.” The card I chose evoked a little gasp of surprise.
“I see you.”
I was immediately transported back to the puppy house at Tree of Life for Animals (TOLFA) in India.
My first few days in India were spent at TOLFA with my colleague, Alison McKinnon. We were offering Reiki to the animals there. The animals are in various states of wellness, with the puppy house being the place where many animals were quite ill. Several were actively dying. So many, in fact, that I started referring to myself as a death doula.
Watching the obvious decline of some of the animals was daunting, and I began to wonder how much my presence there was really helping. How many times could I sit with a dying animal before I reached the point of no return?
This was the challenge, I knew–to hold the space with love and compassion, without judgment or expectation, and to remain grounded so as not to lose myself in my emotions. Releasing any hope for a specific outcome was critical. I confess, I didn’t get there on the first try.
I have been working with animals in shelters in the U.S. for many years. I was not inexperienced. I had also had several animal clients who were preparing to pass, as well as my own kitty companions. And I’m a hospice volunteer! So, sitting with a being who is transitioning is not a new experience for me. What was new was the manner in which I was witnessing these passings. These were not the rather quick and peaceful transitions of euthanasia. Euthanasia cannot be done at TOLFA. These animals might hold on for several days taking limited sustenance and being kept as comfortable as possible. Therefore, there was more time to connect with these beautiful souls on a deeper level. To see them as glowing light beings. To see them as whole and to bear witness to their last days on the earthly plane. To connect completely through the heart.
“I see you.”
This came to my mind as I worked with one of the sickest little pups. This sweetie would make little yipping sounds when we were near in order to get attention. I would open the door of his kennel and gently pet him as he lay there. “I see you,” I would tell him. “I see you.”
Isn’t this what we all want really–a chance to be seen on the deepest level–connected heart to heart? To be present on this level is so incredibly beautiful, so healing.
When I returned from India, I resumed my visits to Rutland County Humane Society. Shortly thereafter, I was asked by staff to offer Reiki to a cat who was brought in and was actively dying.
My puppy friends had prepared me for this moment. I stood by her kennel offering Reiki as she moved through the business of dying. Tears in my eyes, I felt our connection on a soul level. “I see you,” I whispered.
Make no mistake, my heart broke a little more every time I witnessed the death of a shelter animal. It gave me some comfort knowing they passed in the loving and compassionate embrace of Reiki. These words from the book “Animal Wisdom” by Linda Bender, DVM, also give me peace:
“What I saw, reflected back to me in the eyes of the dying squirrel was the power of my own presence in that moment. It was immensely more powerful than I had ever imagined. The reason for my presence was simply that–to be there at the moment of another’s death, to witness it and to care.”
A dream come true on our recent SARA trip to India was to share reiki with the elephants of Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Agra. The charity recently in the spotlight when it rescued Raju from 50 years of enslavement, a brutal life of captivity and cruelty after being taken from the wild as a calf – images of the midnight rescue touched hearts all over the world, they showed Raju crying.
Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre was established in 2010 in collaboration with Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and actively seeks out elephants in distress, the charity often having to fight through the courts to secure their release subsequent appeals by the ‘owners’, before ultimately bringing them to the centre where they will spend their retirement in natural surroundings, making friends, a simple pleasure that will have been denied most of their lives while receiving much needed medical care and individual attention. Common medical conditions caused by their captivity include malnutrition not only lack of food but many are fed junk food on the streets, arthritis and foot problems from injuries not allowed to heal and walking on burning tarmac, many have been blinded.
On my first trip to India in 2010 I had just arrived in Pushkar and going off to explore the town came across an elephant in the market square, I couldn’t believe my luck and was so excited to see one, painted and primped for the festivities (yes, that is a man standing on her head) but this is exactly what the charity are trying to raise awareness of, aimed at well-meaning foreigners and the general public highlighting the cruel practices and lack of basic welfare that these incredible, intelligent and gentle animals are subjected to when used for manual labour, festivals, processions, entertainment and street begging. Just think about it, how else would a 3-4 tonne giant be happy to submit to this demeaning, enforced behaviour?
I had arranged for myself and Kelly to spend time at Wildlife SOS as general volunteers, happy for the chance just to be around elephants and to find out more about the work that the charity does. However, we were thrilled to be asked to meditate and offer reiki with both the elephants and sloth bears during our time there. The volunteer programme is well organised and involves helping with day to day care, preparing food and helping with bath time, the highlight of the day for me being the morning walk through the beautiful countryside around the centre, accompanied by one of the resident dogs.
Wildlife SOS attracts volunteers from around the world and during our visit we meet Sarah and Andy who have been travelling in India, at home in Australia they are both active animal welfare campaigners. Also volunteering was Trish London a vet from the States who is spending several months at various centres across Asia studying elephant medicine. Trish testifies to the intelligence of elephants in general, she said at a recent conference she attended it was fascinating to listen, over a period of hours, to various elephant experts come up with solutions to specific issues of human/elephant conflict only to hear someone else say ‘nope tried that’! Unfortunately this is an ongoing problem as their habitat is replaced with agricultural land.
In the wild elephants will walk for many miles in family groups, they are very social, another basic right that has been denied them in captivity but they are more than making up for that under the care of the charity, firm friendships are being made such as between our walking companions Maya 42 yrs ( in Hindi her name means ‘illusion’ ) an ex circus elephant and Poolkali 60 yrs (‘blooming flower’ in Hindi) a rescued begging elephant, whose sensitive feet were too painful to stand on from years of walking on hot tarmac but now after living on natural ground her feet have healed and now she loves to create foot print impressions on canvas!
The morning walk. Well what can I say walking with elephants, what an experience!! We accompany Maya and Poolkali out into the countryside, they are gently coaxed along the route with bananas, I take advantage of the other volunteers on banana duty to really tune in and join with the ladies energy as we walk along, the gentle strength and grounding energy planted with every silent footstep is breathtaking – truly a walking meditation.
We walk towards the river overlooking beautiful countryside listening to peacocks calling.
A memorable moment for me is when we have stopped at the riverside to let the ladies graze I find myself standing level with Maya’s head just marvelling at the power, strength and peace emanating from her and don’t hear Poolkali move in beside me. As I stand between these two majestic heads, I have to admit to a moment of nervousness as everyone else is at the other side of Maya, but as they quietly consider me I get the definite sense that they are speaking to each other I just enjoy the moment in their presence.
Not expecting our day to get better than that, we are thrilled when the staff set up some chairs for us to meditate with a group known as the nut group in a quiet area next to the enclosure. Peanut is described as the naughty youngster The group surround Coconut on the ground in a tight circle to allow her to rest and protect her.
The inquisitive youngster Peanut comes over to investigate first and we can see where the naughty reputation comes from but almost immediately Suzy, an ex circus elephant and at 65 is the oldest resident at the centre (middle photo) moves him away as she comes close to see what is going on, it seems as if to check that it’s safe for the others.
She stands in front of us and goes into a deep trance state, totally accepting and becomes one with the reiki and us. I get quite emotional when I break to take the photo as I sense she is weary and sad for humans but has the emotional intelligence to forgive and trust individuals on their own merit, in an ideal world elephants like Suzy would never be captive but we cannot change the past and hopefully she will be a teacher for future generations.
Suzy moves back to the group and almost immediately they part from their tight knit circle opening up so that we can clearly see Coconut on the ground facing us, they all started to relax into the session. I feel so honoured to have shared a reiki space them.
We break for lunch and back at the volunteer cabin we give the other volunteers and staff members a reiki session, the group energy created when like minds come together is very special it reminds me of the positive energy of our SARA community. Together we can make a difference.
An unforgettable experience … that I can’t wait to do again!
Working with animal teachers is very rewarding. One of the places I offer Reiki is to the animal teachers at my local Wildlife Park. Maybe you’ve been there before, Two Rivers Wildlife Park, near Marion Bridge, Nova Scotia, Canada, or heard the famous folk song Allister McGillivray wrote, “Song for the Mira”, about this beautiful community nestled along both sides of the Mira River. The Park actually touches on two rivers, the Mira River and Salmon River, that surround most of the 500 acre Park. They have a very open and loving atmosphere at the Park. I do Reiki with the over 12 varieties of animals in their petting barn areas and the over 40 varieties of animals along the walking trail that stretches out and loops around for a leisurely walk in the beautiful natural surroundings. I always leave the Park feeling refreshed and longing for more time with the animals. They are all my favorite friends and offer me great healing power as I offer them Reiki.
Sometimes the animals talk to me, sometimes they accept from me and sometimes I dream about them. Last night I asked the Angels to send me messages in my dreams to help me with my animal journey and to let me know if I am on the right path with them. Sometimes we don’t remember our whole dream upon waking but this morning was different.
I was with a school of friends traveling and learning about animals, love and compassion. We had animals with us too, wild animals; tigers and leopards; our teachers. Along the way I got separated from the school with my mighty loving white tiger. As our journey unfolded I was stranded at the sea with my tiger friend hanging along a cliff overlooking the sea. Somehow magically I was able to get myself to safety and as I looked back over the cliff I saw my tiger and many other tigers. I didn’t realize we weren’t alone. They were all gripping onto large stone shards that gutted up toward the sky and were becoming weary of their plight. “Hang on, I’m coming”, I called to them all. As I desperately searched the sea for signs of help, I saw a ship come into port. The ship was severely weathered from a storm but was gliding in to shore. The tarps were wavering in the sea winds exposing several rows of crates the ship was carrying. It was an older “Tall Ship” style. Something about it seemed familiar to me as it drew my attention. Then I saw a man living on an island not far from the shore, a small bare island of dirt only with his animals, cooking a meal for them all to share.
I heard a sigh from one tiger who could hold no more and fell to the shores below. Then the sea caught my eyes again. As I looked into the sky a Phoenix rose from the sea in the distance straight up into the blue sky. “Moksha!” I called out to the Phoenix. As I looked below to the shore the tiger had disappeared into the ethers with the Phoenix; the tiger is free from this world, as I shed tears of compassion for his mighty walk on this earth.
As I reassured the tigers again, searching for signs of help, along came the man with a boy. As they got closer the man was a white leopard with black spots. The boy was a baby black leopard eager to help. I asked the man if he needed help, even though I was the one in desperate need of his. As the man spoke he changed from being an animal into a man and said to me, “We came for you”. I stopped and looked at him inquisitively. He asked which tiger I wanted to save and I replied, “The one that touches the earth, that lives and breathes here before us, even if to the last of their breath and then some, the one that touches the earth that touches us, the earth that spreads along the ground from speck of dust to speck of dust to every rock, tree and mountain and sea, touching each and every person, animal, mammal and living creature, plants and beings”. “That is all of them”, he replied of which I said, “Yes, we are all one and all touch the earth together at the same time.” He looked pleased with me and we both welled up and out came our tears of compassion. “That is why we came for you”, he said.
I sent the boy for bottles of fresh water and a long ball of string which he seemed to magically have in his pockets. Quickly we tied the string around the bottle cap area and then at the bottom of the bottles, I wrapped my hand around each bottle and prayed over them for the water to contain great strength and lowered them to each of the tigers to drink from, using the strings to tip and maneuver the bottle for water flow. “This will hydrate them and give them courage and strength when we need them to have it most as we rescue them,” I explained.
The man told me that my school of friends were looking for me. “That is good”, I said, “as I will need them all to help rescue these friend of ours”, having faith they would find us in time. “First we will help my tiger that walks with me everyday for I know she will help me and the others to safety and teach the others how it is done, then we will all be one again”. As I looked down at my tiger she appeared lighter than usual but with no time to spare we carried on in rescue mode.
As I searched the sea for rescue answers, a large floating pink device looking like a half deflated blow up boat bobbed up and down through the waves. I motioned for the man to see it as the waves crashed over parts of it making it disappear and reappear in the waves. “There is no boat,” he said, “that is the heart of the sea you see, beating for us all.” He looked around and eagerly asked, “How do you want to rescue them, the sea is rising fast and will sweep them and us all away before we can get to them all?” Being determined to succeed I explained, “We will have faith”, as I knelt and prayed for the answer which came to me. “Our tears of love for them will fill a pool around the tigers to allow them to swim up to us to save them before the great sea rushes in to sweep us all away. Allow the tears you flow to come from love, compassion and acceptance that all will be well.”
Just then the ship that sailed into port earlier unfolded my school mates who came like mighty dwarfs carrying ropes and tools to save the tigers. As the sea rose, the pink heart floated near enough that I was able to lower myself with rope to the sea and catch onto it. We wrapped it like a hammock and one by one we lifted it under each tiger and rose them up onto the safety of the flat of the land. Each one at that time was strong enough from the drinking of the water to help rescue the others as well.
As I turned to the tigers we had rescued, they had all became one. My tiger explained that he knew it was easier to rescue more of him than the weight of him all as one. I hugged him dearly and was sad that he lost a part of himself when the phoenix rose. He explained that part of him was ready for rebirth and that was the part of him that helped rescue me so I could in turn rescue him. I hugged him even more deeply. I thanked my school of friends who said they followed their feelings of Light and Love to find us. When I turned to thank the man and the boy, they had turned back into leopards and walked with us forever more. “You came for me but it is I who thank you my forever friends” as I humbly lowered to kneel to hug them too as we all watched the sea take back its pink heart and beat for us all.
I was so humbled upon waking up to have had such a wonderful dream. I quickly wrote the story down and thanked my Angel beings of Light for bringing it to me. I love dreams because they comes to us in ways to tell us what we need to know and focus on. I call upon what the animals taught me during this dream in my Reiki sessions now. Throughout our lives we learn new things and shed parts of ourselves that we no longer need. When we openly give of ourselves with love and compassion, we receive back true love; do not anger. There is no love greater on this earth than the love of animals. Allow yourself to be silent as your heart opens with each beat and accepts the love the animals have to offer you; do not worry. When your intentions are pure, the animals will come to you; be humble. Stay true to yourself as there are no substitutions with the animals. Animals see within you for the true you; be honest. Have courage and confidence and be loving on your journey. Although you won’t see tigers and leopards at Two Rivers Wildlife Park, you will see others animals of different colors, shapes and sizes. Inside each animal, as in humans, is a unique being with their own special gifts; be compassionate. Hold the space for animals and they will hold you in their forever heart.
Maria Lisa Polegatto
By: Char Jensen
Why giving back now is the key to your Reiki business’s future success.
Every entrepreneur knows that the early days of building a new business from the ground up are challenging, exhausting and even exhilarating. But in the wild rush to find new customers, get the word out and turn a profit, it’s easy for business owners to neglect one of the most critical strategies for success: giving back the community. Although doing so may seem to go against the conventional wisdom on your road to making sales (“How can I make money when I give things away for free?”), the reality is, it’s just smart business.
It’s a secret long known by uber-successful corporations—from American Express to Zappos.com. Companies such as these make corporate social responsibility a priority, lending a hand to the communities where their employees live and work. The move strengthens communities, sure, but also boosts their brand in the process.
You may be thinking that it’s easy for multimillion-dollar companies to give back, and that might be true. They’re not stuck in the trenches like you are, working 12-hour days just to secure the next paying client. But the reality is, giving back is not just for big companies. Small ones—especially those in the startup stage—that donate their time and services to a cause aligned with their business’s goals find it’s an invaluable way to broaden their network, raise their business’s profile and, yes, even make sales.
“Giving back is an essential part of establishing your startup’s brand,” says Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media in Costa Mesa, California, and a nationally recognized expert and speaker on entrepreneurship and small business. “Everyone prefers to do business with people they know. Showing up and taking part in local activities allows you to meet face to face, and establish actual relationships with potential and current customers. You can spend a lot of money and time on marketing and social media campaigns (and I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t invest in those), but nothing works better—or faster—than showing up and letting your community know you’re there and you care.”
Building Relationships, Building Trust
Support is at the heart of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association’s nonprofit business model: support for SARA teachers to pursue their work with their animal member organizations, and support for the animal shelters, sanctuaries and rescues dedicated to helping homeless animals. SARA is a pioneer in the field of holistic animal therapy and on the forefront of forward-thinking shelter/sanctuary/rescue wellness programs. A 501(c)3 corporation with members across the U.S. and in England, SARA has created a standardized program of animal Reiki (a Japanese system of energy healing) training and treatment programs to support the health and wellness of animals in shelters, sanctuaries and rescues as well as the caregivers at each animal organization. Through SARA’s ongoing professional development, training and evaluation program for members, SARA seeks also to promote the highest standards in animal Reiki practitioner and teacher excellence.
When you are first starting out, making yourself known at a particular shelter—that you are a trustworthy and professional business owner—is critically important. Kathleen Prasad, cofounder and president of SARA, found this to be true in the early days of her business, Animal Reiki Source, especially as she started volunteering at BrightHaven, a sanctuary for senior, disabled and special needs animals in Sonoma County, California.
“It’s really true that it’s all about relationships,” Prasad says. “When I first began, my business was struggling financially, and it was quite a risk to give so much freely. But I felt in my heart—seeing the amazing work that they do, knowing the caliber of people that Gail and Richard [owners of BrightHaven] are—that this was the right thing to do. The only way that I wanted build my business was through the integrity of a strong core of service. And so I stepped forward, not knowing how this would play out, and having no other person in whose footsteps to follow.” Today, she is able to support a viable animal Reiki business full time, and also give back to BrightHaven on a regular basis, both energetically (through Reiki) and financially.
When Joyce Leonard began Santa Cruz Reiki Works in Ben Lomond, California, she ran into a common obstacle many new Reiki businesses face. “A year ago, before SARA, I approached an organization about animal Reiki training. They turned me down,” she says. “They didn’t know me from Adam. So I became a good, reliable, consistent volunteer—and I only volunteer for a few hours a month, so it doesn’t take a lot of time. Now they are interested, and I’ve even received a referral from one of them, and the director hired me for a treatment.”
Building your Reiki business will take time, but as Kelly McDermott-Burns, founder of HeartSong Reiki and HeartSong for Animals in Stockbridge, Vermont, has found, giving back to animal organizations is time well spent. She works with the Rutland County Humane Society, the Central Vermont Humane Society and The Hooved Animal Sanctuary. “I have found service work—free clinics, speaking on Reiki—to be extremely rewarding and a great way to get your name out there. Any free services or discounts will give you exposure and give returns in the future.”
“The SARA suggestions to teach the staff for no charge and the volunteers for half price is a great idea,” says Jodie Brenner, who, as founder of Equushearts~Reiki for Animals and Humans in Bend, Oregon, works with a local animal hospice. “I have not had a problem doing this and find that everyone has been especially grateful. One of the volunteers insisted on paying the full price, as she felt she got so much from the workshop. Donating a portion to the nonprofit is well worth that to me. I have a place to teach, I am supported, and it is my offering to the community.”
Building positive relationships with local shelters and rescues has helped Janet Dobbs, founder of Animal Paradise Communication & Healing in Oak Hill, Virginia, build her business. “You can make wonderful contacts at a rescue or shelter,” she says. “Some of these people could become your best clients or students. They may refer their friends to you and spread the word about you and your work. Networking is one of the best ways to grow your business. Once the word is out, you are golden! You will have more than enough work and business and will be able to continue to give back to the animals.”
Animal Reiki is still just gaining traction in the United States and internationally. And unfortunately, it’s more difficult to grow a business when your customers don’t yet understand what you sell. But that’s why SARA’s philosophy of giving back is so empowering to the Reiki entrepreneur. Volunteering is your key to building a profitable business doing what you love: helping animals.
“For over a year, I ‘stuck to my guns’ and was reluctant to lower my prices or give away treatments or training. I felt that my prices were fair and that people needed to pay–it was a fair exchange,” says Leonard. “One day I had a huge insight. I realized that I wasn’t giving hardly any Reiki treatments and that I hadn’t taught any classes (I couldn’t fill them). It was difficult to even justify calling myself a Reiki teacher or practitioner since I was not engaged in doing either. I asked myself, ‘Do you want to do Reiki or do you want to hold out until people come and start paying?’” She wanted to do Reiki—so she reevaluated her payment structure. She started to offer some complimentary treatments, some on a sliding scale, donation-only Reiki Shares and free drop-in clinics. “Now I am giving it away, and suddenly, my phone is ringing with paying clients!” Leonard is happy to report she just taught her first class.
Evolving—As an Entrepreneur and Reiki Practitioner
Establishing alliances with local shelters, sanctuaries and rescues will benefit you in another very important way, one that you may not have considered. The volunteer experiences you have with animals and staff will teach you important Reiki lessons and help you grow as a practitioner.
“On a professional level, I have had the opportunity to work on many different animals: dogs, cats, goats, sheep, pigs, bunnies, birds, chickens, horses and hamsters,” says McDermott-Burns. “I have gained quite a bit of experience from the wonderful variety of creatures available at my shelters. Personally, I must say the most profound lesson I have learned is that the kindness of the human spirit far outweighs cruelty. On the days when I feel the burden of what some of these animals have endured, someone will come in and adopt an animal with health issues, or a crusty old dog near the end of his time on this plane–animals that seem to be unadoptable because of the special care they need. It lifts my heart to know these animals will finally have a loving home. It gives me the courage to stick it out when I just want to go home and cry.”
“My relationship with Animals In Distress has given me a great deal of experience in offering Reiki to animals and to their caretakers,” says John Sawyer of CritterReiki.com in Topton, Pennsylvania. “That experience has been valuable in working with animals and their people outside of AID. Volunteering there has shown me the power of a clear vision and purpose. I have also been blessed to learn from many animals in the time I’ve been involved there. Animals are such amazing teachers!” AID has yet to sign on as a SARA member organization, but Sawyer is working toward that goal.
Promoting Your Business Through Service
When you build relationships with local animal organizations, you gain access to valuable opportunities for promoting your business to the community at large. Your professional network will begin to widen, and you’ll get the chance to volunteer your time and expertise in numerous ways: speaking opportunities, fundraising events, trade shows, auctions and more. “Taking part in community events instantly telegraphs that you care about what’s going on in your neighborhood, and not just about making money,” says Lesonsky, who is also the bestselling author of Start Your Own Business.
As an entrepreneur, it’s vital you stay current on what’s happening and get involved every chance you get. “The most important lesson I have learned is that you have to get yourself out there in the community before you try to sell them on something,” says Leonard. “This means to volunteer in the organization. Help them out and get known. Join their online groups and forums. Participate, write in their newsletters, do high–profile volunteer work that will get you noticed by the right people. Help them out when they’re in a pinch.”
That’s what McDermott-Burns does. “When I participate in shelter fundraisers, I often get free advertising aimed at the people most likely to use my services,” she says. “I also enjoy educating people on the benefits of Reiki for themselves and their animal companions. In addition, I meet many people at shelter events who are interested in classes or sessions.”
The animal Reiki practitioners we spoke to for this article are SARA members. They follow SARA’s policy on donations and fees: free Reiki treatments at shelters, sanctuaries and rescues; free training for the staff of these organizations; teaching volunteers at these shelters for half price; and donating 20-50 percent of proceeds back to the shelter when animal Reiki classes for the general public are taught there.
Add it all up, and you are getting the word out, expanding your professional network, interacting with potential clients, honing your skills as an animal Reiki practitioner, boosting your brand and building a reputation—all for the price of time and a small portion of proceeds, both of which directly support the causes you care deeply about. As Prasad says, “When you are giving back to the animals, to people, to organizations who are lights in this world—it’s time well spent, and you are making the world a better place!”
By: Char Jensen, SARA Publicist
Recently one of our SARA members, Gay Fowler, was the subject of an article by Jackie Eichelberger, a local columnist who lives close to Gay in Texas. Jackie had visited Gay’s ranch and found the harmony between the domestic and wild animals was so unique it was worth sharing with her readers. Although the article below does not mention Reiki, when we spoke to Gail she said she uses the Hatsurei Ho meditation every morning to create the Reiki space. The story below is a beautiful testament to the power of her personal practice.
I spent the weekend down in the country at a friend’s ranch recently. My friend is one of those people that animals are drawn to. Besides having dozens of donkeys, scores of goats, fifteen horses, two dogs and one cat, there’s a mother raccoon with four babies and four possums that visit her twice a day on her upstairs balcony. Add to that the scores of hummingbirds who visit her feeders and local birds who assemble on her balcony rail for snacks during the day. She says she feels as if she’s running a restaurant whose menu consists of hay, alfalfa, cat food, dog food, sugar water and birdseed.
I was fascinated by the gentleness of this assorted menagerie. All of the donkeys, goats and horses wander up to you for a pat on the head or a scratch on the snout. I like the donkeys best because of their soulful eyes and gentle insistence on being as close to you as possible for an ear rub or a hug.
Goats, as my friend says, are Nature’s party animals. The young ones love climbing onto anything with a relatively flat surface no matter how precarious it may be. They bounce around stiff legged with playful abandon or jump from a perch with a fancy body twist in mid air…such fun to watch. They love to climb into wheelbarrows or empty feed pans for a quick nap. (Here is a cute video of the goats and donkey IMG_1371.)
The possums and raccoons come for a meal twice a day and have a dining order. Mom raccoon, Rosalita, comes first and daintily dips each morsel of cat food into the water dish as she eats. Cat food is her preferred dish. When she’s full, she rests in the corner while all four babes known as “the Rowdies” dig in with gusto, cat food pellets flying everywhere. Do you know why raccoons “wash” their food by dipping it in water? It’s because they have no salivary glands. Moisture aids their ability to eat and digest food.
If my friend is late in putting out the morning meal, Rosalita is often seen standing on two feet against the sliding glass door peering in searching for my friend as if to say“where’s our breakfast…you’re late.” When all her family is fed, Rosalita sometimes puts a paw against the glass door where my friend’s hand rests on the other side. That’s raccoon for “thank you” I think.
Next in the food line come the four possums…Baldy, Not-Baldy, Patches and Crash. They come one at a time and finish off the cat food in no time at all. My friend thinks that the critters are spreading the word to their friends and she will soon be overrun.
Her hummingbird feeders have turned into a regular rest haven for hummers as they make their journey from their winter grounds in Mexico and on their return trip in the fall. As many as twenty or more can be counted flying in and around the feeders several times a day jockeying for their turn to take a drink. A lot of territorial posturing goes on and skirmishes often break out among the swirling crowd of birds.
An incredible connection between the human species and the animal world goes on daily at this ranch and it’s a rare experience to be a part of it. My friend has favorites among the hoofed residents and has names for all the horses, a large number of the donkeys and many, many goats. It’s so relaxing to sit and watch all these critters going about doing the things critters do. It’s a lesson on how to coexist with Nature’s fauna and be rewarded with their gentle, trusting company.
“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.
“Just for today, I will not anger.” The first Reiki Precept. On first hearing, I transmuted the words to “… I will not anger others,” but then realized that no one can make anyone else angry. We (or someone else) can be the spark that ignites anger, but the emotion comes from within. The Precept is about maintaining the self as a clear conduit for the flow of healing Reiki energy.
Anger has cropped up a lot lately – in news reports, Facebook posts, other venues. Are people more open now about expressing anger, or is it one of the impacts of these times of change?
Do I have anger? I had to think about that. The anger that often calls our attention is the burning, violent kind. The punch-in-the-nose road rage anger. There are many varieties. Have you ever felt irritated, annoyed, resentful, mistreated, disrespected, even outraged or filled with righteous indignation? Those are all forms of anger.
In his lecture series, Nonviolent Communication,* Dr. Marshall Rosenberg says that anger is an emotional response triggered by an outside stimulus when a core need of ours is not being met. Core needs such as security, safety, love, nurturance, and yes, respect. When I feel resentment, what need or hurt within me has been disregarded, to trigger that feeling?
“Anger is one of my tricks. It distracts your energy and attention. That rush of emotion feels good, feels powerful. When you’re caught up in it, you don’t recognize that you’re being spun away from your purpose, whatever that is. I am the Trickster. I am a great teacher, who teaches you through your mistakes. When you learn to recognize the pull and eddies of my magic and see through them, you can stay on your true path. It is all a game, don’t you see? You can follow Coyote and get lost. Or you can say, ‘Hello Coyote, I recognize you,’ and not follow. That strengthens you. When you feel the anger, know it is my trickster magic at work. Enjoy the thrill of explosion if you wish. Or, this time, ask yourself why you are drawn to my magic. Remember, I teach backward lessons. When you’re turned around, I will bite you!”
Skunk came next, its parallel white stripes moving in rhythm as Skunk gently shuffled forward on delicate paws:
“My medicine is more about boundaries and respect. Skunk is respected, and respects others. We carry a formidable weapon, but are gentle. We give a warning when we are being encroached upon. We do not release our scent indiscriminately, for then we would be vulnerable for defense. Priorities are important – safety, respect, courage, being gentle. Get your point across without aggression toward self or others. Those we spray recover and learn from the experience to respect us. When you feel anger, learn from us to seek the boundary that is being encroached upon, and address it. Perhaps you will not need to spray at all.”
Condor (Turkey Vulture) flew into our conversation to add its message:
“Anger? Rise above it. We soar in the air, the home of spirit and intellect. Rise above the smelly turmoil of emotion. Air helps bring discernment, an ability to sort out cause and effect. Call on me. I will help pick away that which does not serve the highest good – that which doesn’t smell right.”
Instinctively, I knew that Whale also had a message, and asked. Whale said:
“Call on me to guide you through the deep waters of emotion. We withstand great pressure in the deep, and rise to the surface to expel old air and breathe in fresh air. Sing our song with us, move with grace and strength. Swim with us, and come up for air.”
Their messages remind me that the key is not to deny, bury or push away anger, but to reach into myself, locate what has been ignited within, and address that.
These wise teachers offer workable suggestions. Coyote reminds us that when our energy spins off in anger, we diminish our power and lose our focus. Skunk reminds us to respect, be respected, and hold our boundaries. Condor reminds us to rise above the smelly stuff and use discernment. Whale reminds us to come up out of the deep emotion and take a breath of fresh air. Thank you all.
Just for today [this hour, this moment], I will not anger. I will be a clear vessel for Reiki energy. It takes practice.
By: Rev. Nancy Schluntz
*Rosenberg, Marshall. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. PuddleDancer Press, 2003; recording available from Sounds True, P.O. Box 8010, Boulder, CO 80306, www.Soundstrue.com.
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.
Note: Subsequent articles will address the remaining four Precepts of Reiki: Worry, Humility/Gratitude, Honesty, and Compassion.
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. 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.
The following is a letter from one of the attendees at a recent Animal Reiki class conducted by Bill Stevens. Bill had posted earlier about the first visit to the Popcorn Zoo. This is an account of a return visit by the same two people.
Again I want to thank you for an amazing day at Popcorn Zoo and especially for asking that we be allowed to go into the enclosures to see Princess the camel and the mountain lions!
I know you tried to be with us as much as possible, but I wanted you to get the “inside” story according to me!!
Seeing Caesar the tiger strong and healthy’ still pacing, but chuffing and purring each time he reached the fence where we were standing. He seemed to rub his face against the fence to let us know how content he was. He did not mention feeling stressed about the noise of children to M at all this time;
The parrot in the cage at the office seemed sad, but he did not repeat his story about how someone “took” his wing, so he must have understood the last time we talked to him and explained to him that he was in an accident and it was injured and had to be removed;
There were 3 amazing highlights to our visit:
M and I were standing next to the indoor bird cages and she was giving Reiki to the small female white bird. She said she was not doing well and was taking in a lot of Reiki. One of the birds in that area was loudly squawking and we were telling him to be more quiet and that he was going to be ok. I walked around to the other side of the cages and one of the birds said “hello” – that was a shock because none of them were talking “out loud” before..then I walked around to see the squawking bird and he stopped and also said “hello” to me. Then I walked around to check on M and the sick bird and she was feeling much better and doing a little dance and also said “hello”. I was shocked! M said they talk when I am around.
When I went in with Carol to see Princess the Camel I was in awe of her size and a little intimidated! I have always loved camels and could not believe I was going to see one that close and with no fence! When Carol walked right up to her I was shocked because I had no idea she actually can touch her! Princess was lying down with her legs tucked under her and she still was the size of a car to me! Princess reached up her massive head and began to rub her huge head against Carol’s body while Carol rubbed her. I stood at a distance and was more than happy to just be there, but when Carol said I could come up to Princess and actually touch her I thought it was too good to be true! To actually have contact with such a huge, beautiful creature was humbling..that she would actually allow a stranger to touch her. I wondered if she remembered our animal communication session the last time I saw her! I told M that if she had stood up I would have passed out from sheer excitement of being that close to her!!!
Another highlight was when we were allowed to go into the inner cage of 2 of the mountain lions. The male (non dominant one) named Lance immediately ran up to the fence where M was kneeling down and began rubbing his face against the fence and making a lot of happy noises, He immediately began telling her how happy he was and how wonderful it was to be fed and that he is not hungry anymore, on and on..Then the dominant female Gwen came up – she had been hanging back as would be her dominant nature to check things out from a distance at first before approaching. When she came up to M she did the same face rubbing on the fence, but the male got a little possessive of his conversation he was having with M and slapped the dominant female a few times. It got a little tense and we backed away. It was amazing how the male was so happy to be able to find someone who could hear him talk that he was willing to show aggression against the dominant lion! He kept saying to M “oh, you can hear me?” and then told her how happy he was over and over.
And the 3rd treat of the day for me was Pixie the little monkey! When we saw her the last time she was shy and told us she did not like children and if we could please throw the peanuts on the top of the cage so they fall down into the cage instead of throwing them against the front of the cage, where they bounce off sometimes and fall to the ground and she can’t reach them! She was very cute and sweet when we saw her then. But this time she gave us an amazing gift! We walked up to her cage and M called her name. She came running over and really did seem to be thrilled to see us! So much so that she sat down right in front of us and began to “perform”! She would raise her eye brows up and down and with her flat top that alone was adorable!! But she added a little tongue wiggle and placed both of her arms across her chest and stood on her hind legs and did a little dance which included ducking her head and putting it to one side and made a cute little noise. This performance went on and on and it seemed the more we talked to her the more she played!
At one point I called Brother Bill and asked him to come over to see her and as soon as Pixie saw him, she stopped everything and turned into a very normal little money and walked to the back of the cage and started grooming herself. She would not make eye contact and stayed there while we walked away. Later before we left I walked up to her cage and there was a girl there who was also getting a “performance” and Pixie continued to perform when I walked up so we started talking and it turns out the girl used to work at the zoo and knows Pixie well and continues to visit her when she can. She said Pixie does her act for people she knows and trusts, so she much have remembered M and I and that was our reward!
There was a sad moment when we were in the kennel and a very sweet looking younger yellow lab with cuts on his face was trying to tell M that a door hit him in the face, but she told me he was actually hit in the face with the door by his owner.. It broke my heart that he did not even know that his owner caused his pain, but I guess that is better for his heart in the long run. I hope someone takes him home soon…
So again, thank you for allowing us to go with you and your animal Reiki class. It was a privilege and an honor to be there.
An Awakening to the True Essence of Reiki
Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.
— Anatole France
The animals at the C.A.R.E. Foundation in Apopka,Florida opened my eyes to a deeper meaning of this quote by AnatoleFrance. These sweet animals offered me the opportunity to experience a true connection with them, a heart-to-heart connection that was very powerful. When we truly connect or bond with an animal, we open or awaken our hearts and minds to the many teachings and lessons about life that the animals have for us. I have read this and heard this many times from my Animal Reiki teacher, Kathleen Prasad, but it was the animals at C.A.R.E. that offered me the opportunity to experience the power of this deep connection with the animals. I will be forever grateful to these animals (and to Kathleen) for helping me to understand the true essence of Reiki.
My Reiki journey has taken me down a path of growth which began in 2002 when I had my first Reiki treatment. This path has been like building a puzzle. After I completed my Reiki Master Teacher training in 2005, I lacked confidence and felt that I was missing some important pieces to this puzzle called Reiki. Many of these missing pieces became clearer to me when I began studying Animal Reiki with Kathleen in 2007, and again when I completed my Karuna Reiki© Master training in 2009. The puzzle began to fill in even more when I joined the Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA) in 2010, and learned the Japanese energy system and traditional Japanese Reiki meditations. But, I still felt that there were some missing pieces of the puzzle that I needed to be a more effective practitioner and teacher of Reiki for Animals.
One day, I received an email from Kathleen introducing her Shinpiden and Animal Reiki Teacher class at the C.A.R.E. Foundation. After some consideration, I was inspired that this class would be important for me to advance my Reiki journey. Not only would I have first-hand experience learning the traditional Japanese approach to Reiki, I would also have the opportunity to experience offering Reiki to wild animals. And my intention was that I would learn to be a better Animal Reiki teacher. I did experience all of these things as expected. But I gained so much more from this experience than I could ever have imagined; I finally understand Reiki. The animals at the C.A.R.E. Foundation taught me valuable lessons just by allowing me to share Reiki with them.
Lesson 1: Reiki is about creating a “connection” with the animal(s)
So often, I hear people ask “My animal has this or that issue going on; will you give him or her some Reiki?” I also hear many practitioners talk about “doing Reiki” on an animal (or a human). When I speak to a group about Animal Reiki, I am often asked if I will demonstrate Reiki on an animal. And for our Reiki Shares, we often talk about “Reiki trades”, where I give you some Reiki and then you give me some Reiki.
The lesson I experienced with the animals is that Reiki is so much more than these things. I have learned over the years that Reiki is not about “give” (practitioner) and “take” (client), and that we are not “doing Reiki” on an animal or human. Instead, we want to “Be Reiki” with the animal. As we sit with the animal, we are sharing a space of Reiki energy, a space of balance and harmony. This is not something we can demonstrate; it is something we must experience. It is like a two-way partnership. The more we invite animals in and connect with them, the more we can assist our animals and the more we can learn from them.
Amos is a fun and amusing Spider Monkey whose role is to provide entertainment at the sanctuary and at various shows. He shares an enclosure with another monkey named Rosie. Our exercise was to sit with the animals while doing one of the traditional Japanese meditations. So, I sat facing the enclosure with my chair at a slight angle. I invited both Amos and Rosie to join me in the space of Reiki energy. While Rosie did everything she could to disrupt what was happening, Amos expressed an intense curiosity in me and in the energy.
Amos started by coming to the front of the enclosure near where I sat, pushing himself into the fence and reaching out as if he was trying to touch me. After a few minutes he moved towards the back of the enclosure, and then moved forward again playing with his toys and showing off. He then moved back to the fence, leaning out and chattering at me. This ebb and flow of movement continued for 10 or 15 minutes. Towards the end of our time together, as I was sitting in meditation with my hands over my Hara, I suddenly felt a shift in the energy and looked up. There was Amos sitting on top of one of his toys with his legs crossed and his hands over his Hara staring intently at me. He was mirroring what I was doing. I looked at him, and felt this intense sense of warmth come over me, as we shared a space of harmony, of oneness, of Reiki. Amos created for me an amazing experience in connecting with an animal through Reiki. Thank you Amos!
Macaws and Cockatoos
Before C.A.R.E., I had not yet had an opportunity to share Reiki with birds. A grouping of macaws and cockatoos were most happy to provide me with this experience. I sat next to their enclosure with my chair pointed away at a slight angle, and then invited all of them to join me in a space of Reiki energy. My intention was to clear my mind, remove all expectations and just “Be Reiki” with these lovely macaws and cockatoos for 20-30 minutes. A couple of the cockatoos came forward right away and sat on the perch nearest me for the entire time while the other cockatoos moved forward and then flew back taking turns connecting with me and the energy.
At the same time, the green macaw Zazoo was climbing up and down the fence right beside me. Each time he was at about eye level with me, he would quietly say “hello” to get my attention. As I sat there “Being Reiki” with these sweet birds, the ebb and flow of their movement in the Reiki space was so peaceful; it felt like a well-choreographed dance. Their movements were so smooth and balanced; they were in perfect harmony. As we came to the end of our time together, I realized that all of the birds had settled into their chosen spot in the dance formation. We were all “Being Reiki” together, sharing a space of harmony and tranquility.
Lesson 2: Always invite the animals to join us in Reiki
When we experience Reiki I, we learn about the importance of self-treatments, and we learn to offer Reiki treatments to other humans. And those of us who experience Animal Reiki learn to offer Reiki treatments to animals. Self, humans, and animals – each treatment is distinct.
The lesson I experienced with the animals at C.A.R.E is that our daily meditations and practice and our treatments with other humans will be so much more powerful if we invite the animals to join us in Reiki. The animals are so much more deeply connected to the energy than we are, and they are so open to connecting with us and helping us. All we need to do is invite them in. If we sit with an animal and connect with an animal during our daily meditations, self-treatments and treatments with other people, the animals will help us to more deeply connect with the energy. When we regularly connect with animals by inviting them to join us in Reiki, we are not only assisting ourselves and/or another human, we are also supporting the animals in whatever they need. And to bring this full circle, the animals are helping us and teaching us valuable lessons. This really is a win-win-win!
One of our assignments was to pair up with another class member, sit with an animal and offer each other a head and shoulder Reiki treatment. My partner and I sat with Lola, a sweet North American Black Bear. As I began to offer Reiki to my partner, I invited Lola to join us in the energy. At first Lola sat back against a wood box in the middle of her enclosure checking us out and deciding if she wanted to be a part of what we were doing. Over the course of the treatment, as Lola slowly inched forward, I could feel her beginning to connect, the energy becoming warmer and warmer as the connection deepened. Lola eventually moved up closer and sat on a metal tube that was next to the fence in the corner. At some point, my partner and I traded places. As we continued, we could feel the energy becoming stronger and more intense. By the end of our time, Lola had climbed on the fence while sitting on the edge of her pool to get as close to us as possible. She was sprawled out almost as wide she could get and moving her head back and forth in delight. She had truly relaxed and let go; she was very content and at peace.
Thank you to Lola for this beautiful experience. By connecting with my classmate and me as we offered Reiki to each other, Lola helped us create a more open space of healing, of harmony, of balance that we were all sharing together. As our connection with Lola deepened so did our connection with the energy and with each other. By inviting Lola to join us in Reiki, we not only enhanced our human-human treatments, we also assisted Lola in whatever healing she needed at that moment.
I had so many similar experiences over the three days at C.A.R.E.; there were the tigers Pumpkin and Tigger, Sheene the cougar, Quinn the black bear, the red foxes Butch and Sundance, the tufted capuchins Andy and Dolly, the barnyard animals, the alligators, the pigeons, the tortoises and many others. My heart is filled with gratitude to all of these sweet creatures for being so open to connecting with me, and for teaching me the power of connection through Reiki. My heart and mind have awakened to the true essence of Reiki, and to the many ways that animals are our partners in our Reiki journeys.
Ann Noyce, Animal Reiki Teacher
Lions, giant tortoises, herds of wildebeest, eland, kudu & zebra as well as parades of elephants roam the dusty, semi-arid landscape of Addo National Elephant Park. Just an hour east of the coastal town of Port Elizabeth in the southeastern part of South Africa, it seems an unlikely place for any species to thrive. Indeed, it’s the home to the endangered dung beetle. During my visit I didn’t think to offer Reiki to the beetles, but I did have an opportunity to offer Reiki to one animal in need.
Throughout the Park are posted signs along the paved roads advising – “Do Not Leave Your Vehicle”. While there is one prey species that live in the Park (lions), the rule of not exiting your vehicle is more a case of respecting the wildlife in their home, not necessarily for your own safety. They are used to seeing cars and smelling exhaust, but these are wild animals that have not had encounters with our species. The Park isn’t a zoo or even game reserve – it’s the native habitat for animals that live there. We just happened to have a nice view via the network of paved roads through the Park.
So we were shocked early one morning when we saw three people standing in a wide open desolate area, with not even a shrub nearby. Surely they were Park Rangers we thought from a distance. But as we pulled closer, we saw that these people were not in the green Park Ranger uniform. And there were several parked vehicles in the nearby parking area that was marked as a “viewing site”. The people were splattered with mud and were huddled together talking to each other.
We pulled over and got out the binoculars to get a closer look. They went into action bending over and trying to work at something. They stood up to confer again. Now we could see the long neck of an ostrich, the only part of bird visible. The rest of her body was buried in a mud hole. Again they tried to get traction in the mud as they gripped the ostrich from underneath each giant wing, and it looked like they might succeed as part of the bird emerged, but then it slipped back into the mud.
This was repeated several times but to no avail. The woman in the group ran back to her car and then went back to the mud hole with something. It was a pair of pants, which they put at the base of the ostrich’s neck and then wrapped a leg over each wing.
Ostriches live in herds of 5 or more, so this one had clearly been abandoned. How long had he been stuck? A grown ostrich can weigh anywhere from 150 – 300 lbs. My friend and I debated leaving our vehicle to go help those who were struggling to free the ostrich. I had on sandals so wouldn’t be much help in the mud. I decided to offer Reiki to the situation for the highest outcome for all involved.
While my friend recorded the action with her camera, I closed my eyes and silently drew the symbols and repeated their names to help me go into a quiet space and focus on creating an energetic connection to the ostrich. I quieted my mind and tried to be open with no expectations, focusing just on the energy and not any desired outcome. I set the intention for the highest good for the ostrich (and the safety of the people) and let go.
After about 15 minutes, my friend shouted “They did it!” As I opened my eyes (and abruptly ended the Reiki session), I saw the stunned bird take her first steps. She took off running a bit awkwardly with her mud-covered wings weighing her down. She was free!
Back at the camp later, we shared the story and chatted with others who had also been watching from their cars. While there was agreement that what the people did was heroic, there was debate about whether it was the right thing to do. Comments about survival of the fittest, interfering with the pristine order of nature, human intrusion leaving no part of the animal world untouched, breaking Park rules, and leaving nature alone were tossed about in judgment.
Unlike this analytical discussion, offering Reiki had provided me a direct energetic experience of the situation where there wasn’t a need to intellectualize it. I realized that there is no separation between “us” as people and the rest of nature – humans are a species of the animal kingdom, we are mammals, we are nature, we are all connected, we are all one.
The experience showed me how the Five Precepts interrelate with one another. Just for today….the individuals who rescued the ostrich weren’t concerned about the consequences of their action (getting muddy, breaking Park rules, being attacked by animals), they were focused on one thing – getting the ostrich out of the mud hole. There was no need for anger at their breaking the rules. There was no need to worry for their safety. They were being true to their way as individuals by showing compassion for themselves (by following their hearts) and the ostrich.
I was reminded of the integration of the Three Diamonds –earth, heaven and heart energy centers. The people were being flexible (not bounded by the imposed rules about staying in your car), yet firm (being practical and using a pair of pants to aid the rescue) and compassionate (taking action on the behalf of another being in need).
I appreciated the opportunity to observe the unique situation and to share Reiki during the rescue. But even more interesting to me is that my gratitude continues to grow as I reflect on the experience. Animals and Reiki – the gifts that keep on giving!
I went to the zoo last week with two animal communicators who have extraordinary gifts. We visited Popcorn Zoo in Forked River, NJ spending time with an exceptionally compassionate man, John Bergman, who has been involved with the Humane Society for over thirty years and has helped create the zoo over this span of time as a variety of exotic and other animals came under his care.
I am completely indebted to the two animal communicators, who wish to be anonymous, for this brief submission and my sister, Agnes, who took pictures during our visit. I am going to let the conversations between the communicators and the animals tell their own story with an occasional picture. Enjoy!!
I am going to depict the conversations as received from Communicator M who is very attuned to what animals wish to communicate and Communicator K who has the gift to speak to the animal and be understood by them.
One of the first animals we met was the camel, Princess. It was a very hot and humid day and she had severe arthritis in her legs. She was just baking in the hot sun. And just looked totally thirsty
K: [Encouraging her to get some water] You must get some water for yourself. Get up and get some water!
M: You fetch me some water please.
K: No, I can’t get inside to fetch you water, you must get up yourself.
M: [Slight movement of the head looking over at the water.]
K: You need to do better than that. Go load up for the day. [All to no avail – effort just too much.]
An Emu was strutting up and down along the cage and we were wondering what she was up to.
M: I want the red box people. Where are the red box people? [No one in our party had any red box filled with popcorn.]
People eventually came with popcorn but she did not have an interest in them as they offered her popcorn.
M: Look at how pretty I am!!
As she continued to strut up and down along the fence.
M:Where are the red box people?
Seemingly she just wanted admiration from the Red Box People.
Next we visited a horse.
M: I want some carrots!!
K: I will go and find some carrots for you.
Later K told the manager about the horse’s wish for carrots who got in touch with one of his staff to get her some carrots.
M: My butt itches!
Bob the Macaw parrot was in a beautiful large cage at the office entrance and where the previous dedicated owner still visits him. He had often let him out of the cage when he was doing his work in the garden and one day the parrot had flown into a tool shed and somehow dislodged some tools which caused him serious injury and one of his wings needed to be amputated.
M: Things came crashing down. Things came crashing down. And they took my wing.
K: No one took your wing. When things came crashing down it injured your wing and it had to be amputated. This is what made you better.
Greta was a breeder who had all her puppies taken away from her and who escaped. She was brought to the attention of the Humane Society and John found it very difficult to catch her. It took many weeks and much patience. She was very distrustful of everyone. John kept her by his side in his office and she has become very attached to him.
M: She is afraid that you will leave her. When you go home at night she is very fearful that you will not return.
Later the Manager wrote us and told us Greta was feeling more comfortable every day. He had more staff walk her so that she would get use to others but still does not like to leave his side. But he did have her with another dog and she was able to keep her focus on that dog and-not where he was. Those things seem to be the key and-he thinks he has found her a forever home.
M: Where are the peanuts? [Looking for peanuts although it is making her feathers fall out.]
K: [Trying to give her popcorn.]
M: That’s popcorn. Where are the peanuts?
K: Referred to her as a rooster.
M: Quite insulted. [M tells K that she’s a chicken.]
K: Referred to her as a chicken
M: Still insulted. [Oops! She wants to be referred to as Miss Hen.]
K: Only when she was called Miss Hen, did she look at K.
Just three weeks previously the lioness, Nyla, had lost her companion, Porsche. She was seriously ill and when they decided to do X-rays and blood work to determine the extent of her illness and a possible way to treat her, she died in the process.
M: Porsche wants to thank you for letting her go.
M. Nyla just wants security and sameness – doesn’t want any changes right now. Does not want a new friend now.
Cesar is from the same family as Dante, another Tiger in the Zoo. He was in need of special care which he was able to receive at a sanctuary at Texas A & M before coming to the Popcorn Zoo where he continued to improve daily.
He is the youngest Tiger at the Zoo. Many kids were surrounding the fence where Cesar was and just being kids but Cesar was not happy with them. He began pacing up and down along the fence.
M: I don’t like things thrown at me. [Kids were throwing popcorn into the fence.]
M: Nervous at the loud, high voices of the children and was pacing because the noise stressed him out.
He began to eat the grass by the fence
M: I need to calm my nerves.
Another tiger nearby was inside on this hot humid day and we called for him to come out.
K: Come on out and take a a swim in the pool. There is a nice breeze out here.
M: It is cooler inside
At first we thought he had air-conditioning inside, but later found they had fans.
Later the manager John came out and called to him.
Amazingly he came right out and up to the fence.
M: You are on the wrong side.
There were two fences, an outside fence and an inside fence. John then took us between the two fences and Dante laid down and put his body right next to the fence where John could scratch his back and neck.
M: [He then purred.] Thank you very much.
After John left and we had come back out of the fence space between the fences some children began to mimic sounds of a tiger or lion roaring.
M: I don’t sound like that.
What a great day. We were all so grateful to all the animals and especially to John Bergmann, manager of the zoo. He was so helpful and gracious to us and wanted the e-mails of the animal communicators to keep in touch with them when needed. And what a validation of the wonderful work he has been doing in the zoo. No animals even hinted at any issues concerning their care.
I met Missy during my first month as a volunteer at Horse Haven of Tennessee. Following my volunteer shifts, I am able to do Reiki work with the horses that our barn manager feels would benefit. I had been primarily working with a Hackney pony, Napoleon, who had a severe mistrust of most people with the exception of our barn manager. He had been coming along nicely, so when a new group of rescue horses arrived, I began to work with them as well. The first horse I chose to work with was Missy. As I entered her stall, I realized that this was the type of moment I had most feared experiencing since starting my work at Horse Haven: she was severely emaciated, weak and blind in one eye. She openly welcomed me into her space. She had been munching on a large pile of hay, deeply contented. You could see some relief in her face to have clean water and probably what seemed to be a never ending supply of hay.
I began to let the Reiki flow from the corner of her stall. She stopped her munching to shift her stance in my direction, and as the minutes rolled by she began to lower her head into a relaxed position. After some time, she approached me and put her head right into my hands. This was a new experience for me, because Napoleon had exclusively preferred to experience Reiki without contact. Missy directed my hands to her blind side, clearly wanting to feel the Reiki near her blind eye and on this side of her head. After a while, she stepped forward and leaned into me so I could place my hands on her chest and shoulder. She gradually repositioned herself, even actually turning around, so I could place my hands on the sharp prominent bones of her spine and hind quarters. It was in this very moment, while working with such a trusting and beautiful though severely neglected soul, that I realized that the Reiki was lifting me up and far away from my fear and sorrow. The Reiki was allowing me to hold the light for Missy, creating the healing space that she desperately needed. It was even more amazing in that I felt almost a forgiveness pouring out of her heart toward human kind and to those that had abused her. She could see so far beyond this, even in her weakened condition, to allow another human to share her space, remaining fully open to the experience that unfolded between us.
I thanked Missy for giving me the privilege to create a healing space for her with Reiki and for the healing that I received as well. As I said good bye to her, I was already looking forward to our next session the following week. I did distant Reiki work with her on the following two days and felt a connection with her and acceptance of the Reiki treatments. The following Sunday when I arrived for my weekly shift, my heart dropped when I saw that her stall was empty. I frantically sought out my shift leader, who sadly informed me that Missy had colicked on Thursday night and despite all efforts to save her, she died around midnight that night. She was surrounded by the volunteers on duty that night that stayed on to assist the veterinary team. She died peacefully, surrounded with the love and caring that had been absent from her life for far too long. I still think of Missy to this day and feel so blessed to have known this beautiful spirit, even for such a short time. Her memory will remain with me always.
I received the most wonderful story from a Reiki colleague Martha Wewer, who volunteers regularly at Carolina Tiger Rescue in North Carolina. I am so pleased to present this story to all of you. It is an amazing lesson in animal awareness of the energy, and the connections and trust that can be created, even with wild animals. A big key to Martha’s success here, is her respectful approach, which all animals appreciate. Working with these incredible animals, Martha is also learning the important lesson in letting go of our expectations and learning to trust in the energy. Enjoy reading this heartwarming story!
With Animal Reiki Blessings,
Kathleen Prasad, SARA President
You Do Reiki on WHAT?!?
By Martha K. Wewer
I started volunteering at Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro, NC because my husband, Tim, took a position as an intern animal keeper at the facility. This wonderful non-profit sanctuary is dedicated to saving big and small cats while educating the public of the natural history and plight of these amazing animals. During his orientation the animal curator, Kathryn, had mentioned to my husband that there was a volunteer who did Reiki on the some of the cats. Tim was thrilled and told Kathryn, “my wife does Reiki and loves animals! Maybe she could help!” Of course I was beyond thrilled, I mean, who wouldn’t be? I would be spending time with tigers! Then nervousness, anxiousness and doubt set in. How would I approach this situation? (Carolina Tiger Rescue has a strict “hands-off” policy with the animals; even the ones who have been reared at the facility are not to be touched out of respect for the animal and the safety of the volunteer). What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I didn’t help the animals enough? What if it had been too long? What if I was too emotionally drained to be of any use?
About a year and a half ago, a personal tragedy in mine and my husband’s lives caused me to be angry, sad, anxious, and depressed. I lost faith in myself and the universe around me. I had even walked away from Reiki. Every new opportunity in my life now was colored by my intense grief. But I was so excited to spend even a minute at the Rescue that I swallowed my fears and trusted in myself and the Reiki.
Tim decided that the two animals who would benefit most from twice weekly Reiki sessions were Nitro Tiger and Reagandale Ocelot. Nitro Tiger (and his enclosure mate, Apache Tiger) came to the Rescue in April of this year from a junkyard in Kansas. Upon arriving at the Rescue, it became obvious to the keepers that Nitro was blind. Despite his rough start in life and his disability, he would “chuffle” (a tigers way of saying “hello” – sort of a low, quick purring noise) at the keepers. Nitro seemed to know he was safe but he was still fearful and anxious at times, particularly when the pickup trucks used to deliver the food would drive past his enclosure. He would begin to pace frantically and turn in circles, clearly in distress. The goal was to provide healing to Nitro in hopes that he would become more and more comfortable in his surroundings.
My second “client” was Reagandale Ocelot, who was born at the Rescue. She suffered an injury as a kitten that damaged her left front leg, causing her to limp and stumble while running, climbing and jumping – all things that ocelots do a lot of. The goal with Reagandale was to provide some relief to her arthritic leg and increase her quality of life.
I had read through The Animal Reiki Handbook and practiced on myself, Tim and our dogs but let me tell you, when the day came to head out to the Rescue, I was still nervous. As we approached Reagandale’s enclosure, I took a deep breath, placed my towel on the ground in front of her, sat down, and asked her permission to begin. I recited the 5 Reiki principles, placed my hands palms up on my knees and began the session. In a matter of a minute or so, my hands got so warm! I was tempted to open my eyes and see how Reagandale was reacting but I resisted. One of the most wonderful things about Reagandale is she purrs…loudly…and intensely. I could practically track her by the noise she was making and boy, she was active! She would sit in front of me at the fence, run up her ramp to her perch, climb onto her den box…
After 15 minutes or so, I didn’t hear her purring anymore so I opened my eyes. She had retreated to the back of the enclosure so I took that as a sign from her that she was done with her Reiki treatment. I thanked her and got up. Tim had been observing us and he was amazed. He had never seen Reagandale so active! In subsequent sessions, keepers and staff would observe my Reiki treatments with Reagandale and they would say the same thing, she was definitely livelier and more energetic then they had ever seen her.
We headed over to Nitro’s enclosure. I sat cross-legged on my towel in front of the enclosure and asked his permission begin. I could hear Nitro pacing back and forth in front of me. Like with Reagandale, I could track him with my ears. I was concentrating on his fear and anxiety and hoping that by sending him waves of love, he would settle down. I heard Nitro continue to pace and then he stopped. Nothing. No noise. I opened one eye and there he was, all 400 pounds, right in front of me, pawing at the ground. There was no aggression, just curiousness…I knew he couldn’t see me but he knew I was there (for the record, tigers don’t rely heavily on their sense of smell and I had been instructed not to wear anything scented so he wasn’t just smelling me). We continued that way for the rest of the session – Nitro would move in and out of my direct line of “sight,” stopping to paw at me occasionally. Finally, after about 20 minutes, he moved to the back of the enclosure and lay down. I took that as a sign that he was done and thanked him and got up. Tim looked at me in wonder and said he had never seen Nitro paw at the fence like that. I left the Rescue that day, just ecstatic.
Over the course of the past 3 months, I have been volunteering with Nitro and Reagandale twice a week. I would love to say that Nitro is no longer fearful of the trucks or that he has stopped pacing but that is not the case. There are days when Nitro wants nothing to do with me and the sessions are short. Other days, he will lie down in front of me during the session and it will last 25-30 minutes. I can report that an unexpected benefit of my sessions with Nitro is that shy and protective Apache, Nitro’s enclosure mate, has become more and more present in our sessions. He had been rarely seen outside of his den box with the exception of meal time, but during my sessions with Nitro he will often lie down several feet from us and watch me. Only 2 weeks ago, I sat down to begin work with Nitro and Apache stood up in his den box, looked directly at me and walked straight to where I sat, put his face right in front of mine, and began to “chuffle.” It was the most unbelievable experience to have a 400 pound tiger walk directly at you, staring you in the eyes.
My experiences have been the same with Reagandale as with Nitro. Some days my hands are so warm from the energy she is taking and other days, while she’s friendly and purring, she doesn’t seem to need the energy as much. My ego wants to “cure” them, to “fix” them both and I get frustrated that there is not some more obvious break though that I can point to and say, “I did that!” However, I’m trusting in myself again and trusting in the Reiki. I know both animals are taking from our sessions what they need, when they need it and using in whatever way they need to. While I struggle with my desire to make everything “perfect” for these cats, I remain unbelievably grateful to have the opportunity to try.