Many animal communicators are trained in the system of Reiki and find the two go hand-in-hand, but too often the lines get blurred. What is the difference between an Animal Communication (AC) session and an Animal Reiki (AR) session, and why does this matter in a professional context?
WOW! It has been 10 years since Leah and Kathleen sat in the kitchen at Brighthaven and talked about starting SARA. It was May of 2008 and Leah was taking a Level 2 class from Kathleen. At lunch they started talking about Kathleen’s dreams for the future. She shared how she would love to have a community that was bringing Animal Reiki to shelters and rescues all around the world. At the time Leah was a legal assistant and said, “I can help you with that!” So they pulled together some of Kathleen’s students to help create the foundation for this amazing organization! Some of the very first SARA members, Bill Stevens, Kelly McDermott-Burns and Sheryl Schlameuss are still with us today helping to grow SARA.
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
Harley, BrightHaven’s beautiful 800-lb. black and white pig, passed away on July 11, 2012. He will be so missed by everyone at BrightHaven, by me, and also by so many of my students. My sincere sympathy and love to Gail, Richard, Fray and all the BrightHaven family. He was such an amazing soul; I wanted to write a little about him for those of you who didn’t get the opportunity to meet him in person.
You may remember Harley from his appearance in my first book Animal Reiki. When I first met Harley, in 2005, he was still up and walking around, but a bit unstable on his feet. For the last few years he has been a paraplegic. So many students would come to work with him and think, “Oh that poor pig can’t walk.” But over and over again after sitting with him for a Reiki treatment they would come back and say, “Oh this may sound a bit strange but I feel so happy after sitting with that pig. Something about him, he is just so joyful.” Yes so many people felt so happy after being with Harley. This was one of his biggest gifts to this world, I think.
I’ll never forget the day when I brought my daughter Indigo to visit Harley (she was then about 2 and ½). We went out into his pasture, and of course when he saw us he began his series of welcoming oinks and snorts. He was always so social and happy to have visitors! Indigo was just enthralled! She immediately sat down a few feet away from him and began singing. I had never heard her do this before—she just made up a long song with lovely lyrics such as, “I love you Harley,” “You are such a nice pig,” “It’s fun to sit here with you Harley.” She would sing her lyrics and then take a break—and Harley would oink back to her appreciatively, as if he too were singing to her some special pig lyrics. We sat there for over an hour together with him that day; it is such a beautiful memory, I will never forget it. To see his beautiful heart touch a child so much; what an amazing pig!
I have been offering Harley Reiki treatments since we met (oh he just LOVED Reiki treatments!), and I have to say that each time I came away wondering who offered whom the healing??!! Sitting with Harley was like sitting in a joyful space with a good friend who showers you with gratitude, who laughs at all your jokes, who listens to all your concerns and who is never in a hurry.
Another fond memory I have is of watching BrightHaven staff member Fray with Harley. Feeding time was something else! Harley ate a healthier diet than most people, I think—the variety of fruits, veggies and other healthy foods he ate was quite impressive, and, I admit, looked delicious even to me! His favorite treat, though, was red apples, and every morning Gail would go out and feed him one for the day.
Over the past few years, Harley has slowed down very gradually. In early June I sat and offered Reiki to Harley and felt him saying goodbye to me. Felt that he was ready to let go. Although it was another 6 weeks before he passed, I think he was beginning the journey to transition already back then. But even in that weakened state, his energy was so peaceful, so gentle, so loving. Ready for whatever challenges the future held.
Countless Reiki students over the years have practiced Reiki with Harley—for some students it might have been their first Reiki treatment ever, or at least their first ever with a pig. And over and over again they would describe the feeling of joy and happiness that they experienced while connecting with him.
For this pig, whose energy was bigger than life—it’s amazing how far he came from being a simple 4-H project meant for slaughter at age 1, to becoming an 11 yr. old Reiki teacher who touched so many lives, an animal friend to so many.
Thank you Harley for serving as a model for love and joy in this world. It’s my wish that pigs and humans all over the world can share love, joy and compassion with each other. Let’s create a new vision for the future—pigs as friends and teachers, how about that?
The day started out as any other with me grooming my paint horse Kodiak. I grabbed his right hind hoof to clean it out and suddenly noticed a really big pointed rock stuck between his shoe and his hoof. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself. This didn’t look good.
Sure enough, by the next day Kodiak was head-bobbing lame. Really, really sore. My trainer palpated his hoof with her hoof tester, and sure enough, he was extremely painful in the area where the rock had been stuck as well as the whole bulb and back part of his hoof. He officially had a stone bruise. Having worked with many horses over the years I knew what that meant—weeks or perhaps months of soreness—in other words, a long road to healing.
As I soaked his hoof in warm water and epsom salts I stood several feet away and offered him Reiki. After a few minutes he relaxed his hind leg, turned to look at me, and cocked his foot so that I could see the bottom of the hoof where he was so sore. Clearly he was asking for hands-on Reiki directly on the sole of his foot. So I pulled up a stool and sat down, with the fingertips of my left hand on the bottom of his hoof and my other hand resting on his fetlock.
Over the space of about ten minutes, I could slowly feel the Reiki energy and the connection between us deepen. I could feel his pain radiating up my fingers and forearm and into my elbow. Then all the sudden, my hand felt as if it “became” part of his hoof, “merging” so to speak with it so that there seemed to be no separation between us. Over the course of another ten minutes or so I could feel our connection to each other’s whole being, not just my hand and his foot. Suddenly, I felt it heal. I can’t describe it other to say that I just knew it happened at that instant.
I stood up, said, “Good job Kodi,” and as I led him back to his pasture I hoped for the best. I knew that these kinds of injuries are long to heal, and although I had thought I felt the healing happen, I wondered if perhaps it was wishful thinking on my part.
The next morning my trainer came out first thing in the morning to check on Kodiak. Amazingly, he was not lame at all! She even used her hoof tester to check for any remnant of soreness, but there was no sensitivity, no pain at all. In fact, he was clearly ready to go and do something fun, so she rode him. He was 110% perfect, spirited and sound! As my trainer was relating this to me, she was in total amazement. She said she has NEVER seen a stone bruise heal that quickly: never!
Thank you Reiki! For me, this is a lesson in hope, in letting go of our expectations and in allowing our animals to show us the way. With Reiki, truly anything is possible!
Three of us used to meet at Guide Dogs for the Blind once a month and offer Reiki to the dogs in training. The dogs that the organization selected for Reiki treatments would have a particular issue, physical, behavioral, or emotional.
I was fairly new to Reiki—still feeling my way with the energy. I was happy just being able to feel the Reiki energy flowing, hoping somewhere along the line to get more of an intuitive feeling about an animal’s actual situation. I knew something was happening, however, by the reactions of the animals during the sessions.
The other person in our trio, I’ll call Bea, had more experience working with Reiki and with animals than I. The third person, Kathleen Prasad, had much more experience. She was, in fact, my animal Reiki teacher.
On this one particular day, a dog was brought in to us because he was exhibiting a lot of stress during mealtimes. When most of the dogs were barking and dancing about in anticipation of their coming meals, this dog was whimpering in a corner. The dog would eat once all the noise and chaos of mealtime had passed. We were asked to offer Reiki to the situation.
At the end of the Reiki session with the dog, the three of us shared what we had felt or experienced. I reported out that I felt tightness in my chest. I felt that the dog was very anxious around mealtimes. This, of course, was already a known fact. I was just happy to have felt it! Bea reported that she felt his anxiousness was around all the barking at mealtimes only. All other times he was a happy camper. Kathleen, our experienced teacher, said, “It’s his ears! All the barking is hurting his ears, that’s why he’s in the corner whimpering.”
Oh my gosh! It was amazing to me how much clearer my teacher’s vision was of what was going on with the dog. Here I was, new to Reiki and to opening up my intuition and all I felt was the anxiousness. Bea, with more experience than I, but not as much as my teacher, narrowed the anxiousness down to the barking. Our teacher nailed it precisely. This experience brought home to me the real need to keep doing my personal meditation practice, keep opening, and keep offering Reiki to others. This combination, I knew, would gradually help me be more effective in helping animals heal.
Post script: the dog was put in a quiet room with earplugs during mealtime and the problem was completely solved! Thank you Kathleen Prasad for your dedication to the animals and your awesome teachings, and thank you Reiki!
©2010 Joyce Leonard – All rights reserved
Posted with permission
Dear SARA Members and Friends,
Thank you for a wonderful year of 2009, offering Reiki to shelter and sanctuary animals around the world! This has been a year of growth, change, new projects, new animal organization members, and the sharing of many wonderful shelter and sanctuary Reiki stories! Some dear friends gave me the wonderful book, Animal Blessings, by June Cotner, for Christmas. I’d like to share with all of you a quote from this book that I feel echoes the heart experiences we often encounter in our Reiki offerings for homeless animals:
I Will Always Remember
I will always remember the olive-eyed tabby who taught me that not all relationships are meant to last a lifetime. Sometimes just an hour is enough to touch your heart. –Barbara L. Diamond
May the memories of the Reiki relationships that you create with the many amazing animals you meet uphold your heart and spirit as you forge ahead in this courageous work. And a Happy New Year to everyone!
With Animal Reiki Blessings,
By Kathleen Prasad
Feline Wellness Magazine, December 2009
If you are looking for a gentle and noninvasive technique for supporting feline wellness, look no further than Reiki. Reiki can create relaxation and peace in even the most stressed-out cases-thus it is ideal for cats living in loving homes, as well as shelter and rescued cats. Reiki can help to speed healing after surgery or illness, reduce side-effects of medicine and other treatments, relieve pain, improve behavior problems, heal anxiety-related problems and, when physical healing isn’t possible, ease the transition to death.
The system of Reiki is Japanese in origin. “Rei” means “spirit,” and “Ki” means “energy,” so the word “Reiki” literally translates to “spiritual energy.” Reiki is also a spiritual practice, albeit one without dogma and beliefs, so it is compatible with any religious philosophy. Your intention and commitment to the “doing” of Reiki (meditation and opening to the flow of energy) is important to your own development and healing, as well as your ability to connect with animals successfully. On a personal level, practicing Reiki can deepen your intuition and cause tremendous internal healing on all levels.
Since the way and flow of Reiki is toward perfect energetic balance, it always finds the origin of the problem (since all health problems are “dis-ease” or imbalance) and supports energetic harmony (rebalancing and clearing the energy “flow”). Its harmonic nature also makes Reiki completely safe and ideal for use with other modalities, both conventional and holistic.
Cats are especially sensitive to Reiki energy and will benefit greatly from the approach of treating from a distance, meditatively and respectfully “offering” rather than physically and actively “giving” Reiki with physical contact (as is often done in human Reiki treatments). Incorporating this philosophy with all cats, even those comfortable and familiar with humans, results in a greater openness from the animals and thus greater successes in their treatments. Recently, I experienced this firsthand when working with some feral kittens.
I placed the chair about 10 feet from their cage. Inside, the two feral kittens, one gray and one black, stared at me, terrified. The black one stood in front of the gray, clearly protecting her little brother. They had been rescued the previous day from a hillside just off the freeway. My friend Janet, who feeds several feral colonies throughout San Francisco and also frequently rescues and gives aid to these kitties, had taken the two kittens into her home until the SPCA could evaluate their adoption potential. Thus far, Janet had been scratched and bitten, and had to wear gloves when reaching into the cage to feed or clean.
The other members of her cat family were also very interested in the new arrivals, sitting near the window where the cage was located. One of these cats, Honeydew, had been previously rescued and adopted by Janet from the same colony. Still quite feral, she had hidden herself in another room when I arrived.
Before I began the Reiki treatment, I set my intention to offer them some healing, but let go of my expectations about what might happen, understanding that they need only take what they were comfortable with-which may be nothing at all. I visualized myself several feet away from them and not breaching this space. In addition, I avoided eye contact so as not to push any kind of physical connection with them. I closed my eyes, rested my hands on my lap and began to offer Reiki.
As I began the treatment, which involves simply connecting with the energy and then “holding a healing space” for the cats, I focused on a feeling of peace and tranquility inside myself. It was obvious that the cats were tremendously fearful and stressed, and I knew Reiki would help them relax. I also visualized Janet and what a safe, good person she was. They were in a good place where they would have food and shelter.
Although I didn’t open my eyes for nearly a half an hour, I felt the energy flow strongly through me as sensations of heat and buzzing through my hands, arms and body. The best description of what it feels like to offer Reiki is what it feels like to be in a deep and peaceful meditation. I knew, because of the strong flow and relaxation I felt, that the kittens were accepting the treatment.
At the end of the treatment, when I began to feel the energy dissipate and my mind return from the deep meditation I had entered, I opened my eyes. The two kittens had moved to the front of the cage, closest to me, and fallen fast asleep. In addition, Janet’s timid cat Honeydew came out of her place of hiding and was curiously watching me from just a few feet away. As I met eyes with her, she held my gaze quizzically for a long moment, then looked at the kittens, and then back to me. Then she disappeared as silently as she had come. It was as if she was telling me, “I felt the energy, too. Thank you for helping them.” Janet had been quietly watching Honeydew’s visit from the next room. She smiled wide-eyed at me, amazed at her cat’s uncharacteristic behavior, as well as the kittens’ relaxed demeanors.
In just one treatment, the kittens showed good improvement. As early as the next day, Janet was able to reach into the cage and hold and pet the gray kitten. The black, although still fearful, refrained from attacking her hands.
Soon, with continued Reiki, combined with patient work and lots of love from cat socializers, the kittens learned to trust people. Within a few months, “Cody” and “Millie” were adopted into good homes.
As this story illustrates, Reiki is safe, gentle and noninvasive. For those of you unfamiliar with energetic therapies, let your cats be your guides: Our feline friends are so much more aware of this subtle energetic communication. See what they think of Reiki, and you never know-you just might find yourself trying a treatment, too!