The following story inspired me to extend my Reiki training and become an Animal Reiki practitioner. The story highlights how Kathleen Prasad’s Let Animals Lead® Method nurtures the agency and autonomy of the “neighborhood cat,” particularly in the heart of the 6th Pillar. Here’s the scoop from Snoop.
When I was a high school teacher, a student of mine illustrated a children’s book I wrote. When she showed me her drawings, she asked, “Are these good enough?” I responded, “I will never answer that question. What do you think?” This was an invitation for her to look inward, to trust the inner authority and validation of her spirit. To me, this is the essence of teaching, healing and love. The student is the teacher and the teacher is the student, a perpetual rhythm of reciprocity. And to me, this is exactly what the Let Animals Lead® Animal Reiki Method is founded on. Every being — human, animal, plants … all of nature — is a spiritual teacher and healer. It is when we listen to, observe and receive in the glow of Oneness that we embody healing and love. It is flow vs. force. It is grace vs. grunt. It is the sacredness of ease and connection.
So, what does it look like when an animal simultaneously teaches and heals both themselves and us? And how do we know when it is happening?
One late frigid February night a couple of years ago, the “neighborhood cat,” everyone called her, was meowing at our front door. We knew her name was Pumpkin. And Smokey. And Princess. I suppose being the “neighborhood cat” entitled her to the royalty of being crowned with various names.
I was a new resident of the house, having moved here to be with my now husband and stepchildren. I had often noticed the “neighborhood cat” poking around, prancing along fence rims, taunting dogs in their yards, ritualistically following one five year old child halfway to the bus stop every morning, and overall, emanating a spiritual aroma of primal adventure and rustic wonder. She wore her tuxedo colors splendidly, a touch of crimson red peppering her black and her white as vibrant as sunlit snow. Her green eyes pierced me with intrigue when we wallowed in a synchronous gaze from afar. My love for her flickered radiantly in my heart. The first lesson she taught me was love requires no initial touch or formal introductions. It is an energetic frequency that fills you up and then overflows at the brim of your being.
I remember the first hypnotic moment when I was watching her feline-frolic in our neighbor’s garden and thinking about author Ernest Hemingway’s comment, something like, “If you want to know where your dog has been today, smell its paws.” I wondered where she’d been. At the time I didn’t dare attempt to smell her paws. She was the “neighborhood cat,” practically feral. Plus, I’d been allergic to cats my whole life. But, I wondered. And that sense of wonder was the second lesson she taught me. There I was watching her and thinking, “I am new here. It’s simultaneously exciting and daunting, having left my roots in my former home state and starting a new life with a new family here. But, I’m full of wonder, adventure and love just like this cat.” I scanned her black and white coloring, perfectly parallel in proportion, the same front white paws, the same rear white legs, the symmetrical white river running from between her eyes down into her whisker realm, and then cascading like an estuary of expansion into her neck and underside. A metaphor for the polarization of black and white and also for my feelings of “exciting and daunting,” she reminded me that life, especially during transitions, is full of opportunities for new adventures in the full spectrum of here and there, black and white, and in the river of wonder in the in-betweens. In my hypnotic moment watching this cat, all of this came to me. I felt ease and connection enshrouded by love and healing. I also felt humility. “I will be humble,” one of the Reiki precepts.
Thus far, I had watched her from afar. And so, back to the late frigid February night. Her meowing was incessant. My husband and I opened the door and the darkness and cold wind swept in with the “neighborhood cat” in tow. We closed the door and the three of us paused in stillness. A new presence and situation had presented itself to us. I didn’t want to get too close, as an allergy-preventative measure. But, what was at the forefront of my head and heart, more than the fear of a few sneezes and some itchy eyes, was care for this cat. It was a wintry chilly mess out there! My husband and I knew she lived five houses down the street. So we bundled up and walked to her family’s house. Knocked. No answer. Knocked. Waited. Waited. We left a note saying to call us and that we had their cat with us for the night.
Upon our return home, we witnessed her meowing and exploring our house with wild-eyed wonder sprinkled with reluctance, and ears pricked up like a Great Horned Owl’s. I made her a nest on the rocking chair. I carefully picked her up and placed her in there, and then she hopped down. The third lesson she taught me: the will of the cat, the will of the spirit. She would determine her means of comfort within the environment we provided for her. And she did. She slept on the living room rug.
We heard from her family the next day. They had recently adopted a dog and their cat was not interested in befriending the new family member. The third lesson presented itself again: the will of the cat, the will of the spirit. To be honored indeed. Let the animal decide what it likes and doesn’t like. Isn’t this celebration of free will important for every being?
The “neighborhood cat” frequented our house more and more. Our family started calling her Snoopy, because she looked like Snoopy, the cartoon dog, AND because she played fetch with the play mice we bought for her. Of recent, her name has become Snoop, said with a high-pitched bird call. Snoop! Upon hearing this name, she pricks up her ears in her owl-style way and runs toward us. Sometimes we call her Snoop Dog, because of her “fetch, doggy, fetch!” tendencies, but also because when she’s excited she harmonizes a trill-like purr that is analogous to the beat of a rap song.
The dilemma here is quite obvious to you, I am sure. With “your cat is at our house again” communicated openly with her family and no responses actualized, over time it became apparent to the entire neighborhood that Snoop had adopted us. With no allergies, a new cat door installed to honor her comings and goings, homemade cat nests we coined the Tuffet (a puffy blanket for cat queenship), the Igluffet (a kitty igloo with a tuffet inside) and the Cluffet (a secret tuffet in the closet), our bed adorned every night with her black ‘n white donut-shaped furball-ness at our feet or on top of us, and paw-taps on our foreheads in the wee hours of the night as a gesture of “Feed me now, please!”, maybe it’s not a dilemma after all.
Snoop continued to strut her scoop on Animal Reiki in various ways. During my online Animal Reiki classes with my teacher, Kelly McDermott-Burns, Snoop would find her way into our Reiki space by either curling up on my lap, staring at the screen or sitting on the keyboard. In all those moments, her purr felt like the echo of Oneness.
When we took her to the vet for an abscess she received as a result of a late night cat fight, she showed signs of fear, but her resilience in the aftermath showed greater signs of ease. Snoop took good care of herself, a fourth lesson for us: the innate is a blueprint for healing. Trust it. When I recognized my own exasperated fear of her infection getting worse or that I wasn’t doing enough to help her, she would walk away from me. I knew that was the power of Reiki teaching me that healing thrives when we do not worry. “I will not worry,” one of the Reiki precepts. When I focused on Snoop’s light and love, she approached me. When she was in the thick of her own healing, she even approached me one day when I had a strange ache in my heart center and was resting on the couch. She lay down on my chest and winked gentle sleepy eyes at me as if to say, “We’re here for each other. That is Reiki.” The perpetual rhythm of reciprocity.
If Snoop was able to talk and asked me, “Am I enough?” I’d say, “What do you think?” But she’d never ask that question if she could talk, because she knows. She is Reiki, just as we all are. She arrived in our lives a month before COVID impacted the planet, and she has snuggled into our spirits ever since. The fifth lesson, and the one she shows us every day, is that love and presence is the resonance of healing and connection. My husband said recently, “All we have to do is be around Snoop and everyone is relaxed.” She has taught us this. And we have received this wisdom and awareness because she models how to fully embody the will of spirit and how to be fully present with love. How do I really know this? She lets me smell her paws.
I leave you with this: What is your Animal Reiki story with your animal(s)? How are you present with your animal(s)? What lessons are you learning from them about healing and love? What does your “perpetual rhythm of reciprocity” look like and feel like with your animal(s)?
By SARA Practitioner Jessica Amber Barnum