I’m sure you have heard the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.
My Reiki journey started about 25 years ago when I was a therapeutic recreation director in a nursing home for clients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I went to a workshop sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, which presented a program on Reiki. To my surprise, Reiki was effective.
While working with patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia I found that the patients often responded especially when they were sundowning and had anxiety. Reiki offered a hands-off approach to clients who did not like to be touched. I found most clients responded positively to Reiki in the evening time when sundowning usually occurred. Reiki offered a safe space and an opportunity for clients to relax.
In 2006, I adopted my second rescue dog, who became a therapy dog. I brought him to work with me. I noticed he would often sit while Reiki was being offered and was very calm and seemed to enjoy the positive space. My dog came to work with me for over 8 years. I continued to share reiki with my clients. I made a lot of notes referencing the positive effects on my clients, and I went on to become a certified Reiki master teacher.
In 2016, my world fell apart. My brother tragically died, and my mother suffered a severe stroke. I had just had my second son when all of this occurred. I was depressed, angry, grieving and not doing Reiki.
But as the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
My mom ended up in a Specialized Stroke Rehabilitation Center out on Long Island. I made the 4 hour commute every week to go spend the weekend with her. When I walked into her unit for the first time, across from the nurse’s station was a huge whiteboard with the weekly schedule. To my surprise, Reiki was listed.
It was like a light went back on in my brain. I ran to my mom’s room and was so excited to tell her. She knew I did Reiki, but it was something she was not fully sure of. I convinced her to let me bring her down to the activity room where the Reiki Practitioner was.
Together we sat and listened and participated in this Reiki session. To my surprise she tried to follow along through the meditation and the self-Reiki session.
I shared Reiki with my mom every day. When she was well enough to leave the center, I brought her home with me to continue her recovery under my care. I organized everything–a visiting nurse, speech therapist, OT/PT etc. I also had Reiki on her schedule every day!
I was also heavily involved in animal rescue, fostering numerous dogs with all different issues both behavioral and medical. While searching on the Internet I came across SARA (The Shelter Animal Reiki Association). As I began to explore SARA and all of the other courses that they offered I decided to take a course with Leah and was so excited to be part of the SARA community.
I was invited to present a Reiki class at a local therapeutic horse-riding center. The response was overwhelming. The class was completely sold out and all the funds were donated to the center.
I was on the board of directors at a local Humane Society where I brought Reiki to some of the animals there. I found an overwhelming positive effect on the shelter dogs. I then began volunteering at an animal sanctuary and found that Reiki was also helping the horses, goats, pigs, ducks, cats, and other numerous animals that they had at the sanctuary.
After taking Leah’s class I began fostering a special needs dog that was blind and paralyzed. He also had cerebral palsy and had little movement on his own. As if that wasn’t enough, he also had seizures and was on numerous medications and was totally reliant upon me for every aspect of his daily care. He was on a pureed diet because he could not drink regular water. He was in diapers and needed to be changed and cleaned numerous times a day. We used a wheelchair to help him get around. His name was Jack.
Although Jack was blind and paralyzed, Jack started to thrive. I had a ritual every night where I would meditate, and Jack was often present because he slept in my bed. Often after a seizure Jack was exhausted and I felt that Reiki was the perfect companion to the aftereffects of his seizures. Reiki offered a safe space for Jack, and it also enhanced our bond.
Jack could not see or move much on his own, I was skeptical about his recovery and what life was going to look like for him in the days, months, and years to come. Jack taught me that I could not treat him like a dog with a disability. Jack certainly didn’t act like a dog with disability. I know it sounds crazy, but Jack really was your typical dog. He wanted to play, he wanted to socialize, and he wanted to be loved.
It wasn’t until I stopped looking at Jack as a victim and feeling so sorry for him and his condition, that he really started to thrive. It was then that I made the connection with Animal Reiki and everything that I learned from SARA. I had to let go of my expectations for Jack and I had to let go of feeling sorry for him. I had to treat him just like my other dogs.
Jack began to learn how to play soccer with his nose. He now often moved his body and was able to play with my dogs on the floor where he flopped around and had a great time. I documented much of his progress in videos showing slight movements of his legs and him really trying to get around even though his limbs were of no use. I worked day and night doing physical therapy exercises with him, soaking his legs, doing gentle movements and most importantly Animal Reiki.
Now if you’re familiar with SARA, you’ll know that the Let Animals Lead® Method is a hands-off approach. We are not actually touching the animal and we don’t need to. Often when I would sit in meditation, Jack would come closer and closer to me until he was practically on my lap. He moved himself so that he could be connected to me. I called Jack the dog who lived because despite everything that had happened to him and all the setbacks, he was living, thriving, and having a wonderful life.
My family and I fell in love with him and decided that we were going to adopt him, and he was going to be our forever dog. We took Jack with us on vacation. We rented Airbnb homes which allowed pets. Jack was part of our everyday activities. I took him everywhere I could, including my son’s baseball games. I took him to see Santa Claus and we often had him out and about in his wheelchair where he was treated like a local celebrity.
I’ve had many dogs in my life. I’ve owned and fostered many dogs, but I must tell you there was no dog like Jack. Because Jack could not see and could not move much, it opened some type of intuition with him and a real connection mentally between us. Jack had no care or concern that he was different, he just wanted to be a dog. He just wanted to be treated like a dog.
Jack was incontinent and he had to wear a diaper and you also never quite knew when he was going to have a bowel movement which made lying with Jack kind of tricky. I must tell you, not once in the entire year that I had Jack did he ever have an accident in bed. Jack slept by my side every single night along with my cats.
When I look back at my time with Jack, I also realized that it took me to the next level in my animal Reiki practice. I had to let go of any expectations and any feelings like feeling sorry for him. Jack was just a regular dog to me, just one of the gang, one of our pack members. Although he did require a lot of specialized care because of his disability, I never treated him differently. I never looked at him again as a dog that was special needs. I just looked at him as Jack.
When it was time for us to let Jack go, it was quite unexpected, but I instantly shifted gears into my Reiki mode. As Jack laid on the table inside the vet’s office and all the fuss that was going on around us, I immediately just dove into that sacred space. That place where Jack and I were so familiar with one another. I wanted Jack to go in peace and happiness and light knowing that he was loved and that there was no expectation for him to stay behind just for me. I wanted Jack to go peacefully. I wanted Jack to know that even though he couldn’t see me, I knew he saw my heart. I knew Jack’s life was transitioning to another phase, I could feel his soul everywhere. Of course, I grieved, and of course it was a time of great sadness for me and my family. I also knew that the quality of Jack’s life had been so deeply enhanced by Reiki that I really felt that I did everything humanly possible for Jack.
Although my time with Jack was short and not as long as I would have liked, every moment he was here on this earth I was so grateful. I was so thankful for the opportunity to foster Jack and to adopt him. I was also so grateful that I got to share with Jack this deep connection that I’ve never had before with any animal. Jack taught me so much in my Reiki journey. At times I can be very quiet about my Reiki experience, I don’t fully think the world understands Reiki. When you try to explain it to some people, they think that you’re crazy or they give you a funny look or they just don’t get it, but Jack got it. The hundreds of animals that I’ve cared for and fostered have gotten it.
I’m now in a place where I am fostering another dog who is paralyzed. I was drawn to her case because of the absolute horror she had been through. I knew I was the right person to help her on her healing journey. I knew that although she had been through so much and her story is so sad, I would never look at her as that sad dog. I literally had Gloria for a week before she miraculously started healing. This was a dog who was on the verge of death. I’m not sure anybody expected Gloria to thrive the way that she did and continues to.
I knew from the moment I scooped her up in my arms from the vet’s office to take her home to foster, that she was going to be loved and Reiki was going to be part of our everyday routine. Gloria has some unique challenges. She is incontinent of both bowel and bladder. She has had a myriad of medical issues, but I still treat her like one of the gang, and don’t look at her with pity and sadness. I really believe the reason that she is healing so wonderfully is that I’m not letting myself look at her any differently.
When I set my intention for Reiki, it’s just for positivity. I feel like I’m doing Reiki for me to keep myself grounded. It also keeps me balanced so that I can tackle all these medical obstacles that Gloria has. I often find that when I’m sharing Animal Reiki, I am also benefiting immensely from this practice.
I have no expectations and that’s the hardest part to explain to people. I don’t offer this to heal her or to make her 100% better. Dogs have always taught me to live in the moment, to just be in the moment. When Gloria and I are in that sacred space of Reiki, we are just living in the moment, and we are just bathing ourselves in light and love. I feel that is when and where the healing occurs. While I’m just doing self-Reiki or meditating, she’s benefiting just by being right alongside me. The thing about Reiki is you’re sharing space, and you’re sharing this intention of love and unconditional acceptance.
I feel that Reiki really brings out the best in me and the best in my animals. When you work in rescue and you see all these horrific cases of abuse and neglect, it can be very overwhelming. It could make you very depressed and fatigued. What I feel Reiki gives the practitioner as well as the receiver is a chance to just be. A chance to flourish in light and love and positive energy. A place where everyone feels safe.
I’ve always been drawn to energy work. I’ve always believed deeply that energy never dies, it just continues over and over again. I don’t have any psychic abilities. I don’t talk to animals in that way. I communicate with them through Reiki, meaning I’m telling them that they’re safe, and that they are exactly where they are supposed to be. I tell them that I’m sitting right here with them and accompanying them on their journey. I don’t look at myself as a healer, I look at myself as a partner.
When I walk into a room and an animal is there, it’s an instant attraction. For me, their energy is so balanced and so deep and connected. They are connected to the earth and everything around them. It’s impossible to feel bad when you’re with animals. I’m excited to see where my Reiki journey will lead me next, but I can tell you I will have some BIG news to share in the next few months. I practice Reiki every day. I encourage you to set the time aside to do your meditations, know the Precepts by heart, and don’t get discouraged. When you don’t see what your ego is expecting to see, that is when the Reiki magic happens. Don’t become frustrated with the things that you don’t see with your eyes. Feel Reiki with your heart.
By SARA Practitioner Diane Donahue