Animal Wise: Before and after

Anyone who works with animals might well ask what difference it could possibly make to meditate with them. That’s not feeding them, stitching up their wounds, or getting them out of whatever circumstances they’re in. It’s not really doing anything, right?

That’s a fair question, one I can address with this pair of video clips taken by my teacher, Kathleen Prasad, during our Animal Reiki 3 class at The Devoted Barn animal sanctuary in Newport, Michigan. The first was taken when our group of 14 practitioners had just arrived at the barn and were doing our initial treatments. There’s a fair bit of barking and other noise in the background; it was even noisier when we were making our introductory tour).

Kathleen took the second video clip later in the class, after we’d done a few more treatments. The difference is striking.

Since I was there, I can tell you the “after” was not without ripples. Occasionally a rat would scurry by (it’s a barn; it happens) and set off a chain of barks. But then the calm returned.

With financial giving, every little bit helps, and I guess it’s the same with peaceful presence. Watch and listen for yourself.

One who went before

Helen Deiss - Ky Kernel

Helen Deiss, editor, checked The Kentucky Kernel with head pressman Karl Davis in the old printing plant in 1948. (Photo courtesy University of Kentucky)

This photo in my spouse’s University of Kentucky alumni magazine — celebrating the university’s 150th anniversary —  caught my eye. The young woman, Helen Deiss, was the editor of the campus newspaper in 1948, and here she was checking an issue just off the press. She looks younger than a traditional college student, and yet she exudes calm and confidence at a time when women in editorial positions were few.

Helen Deiss Irvin passed away in 2015 at 86, but according to her obituary, she went on to become a reporter for what was then the Lexington Leader, receive a Ph.D. from UK and teach in Transylvania University’s division of humanities. She later attended Harvard Law School and practiced in Washington, DC, until she was 83. Along the way, she authored a book, Women in Kentucky. “She loved animals, books and sports,” the obit reads.

Helen sounds like a lady who sought and found a variety of outlets for her gifts and interests. It wasn’t “just” journalism, teaching, or law … she did them all. Many, if not most, of the women who followed her in journalism would also weave teaching, law, public relations, nursing, occupational therapy, or any number of other disciplines into their working lives. It’s a pluralism that has become a reality of 21st-century life and a time when journalism is struggling to retain the best of what it was and morph into its future self.

The Kentucky Kernel became an independent newspaper in 1971, operating without university funding, and it’s still going today.

But look at young Helen giving that newspaper the once-over in 1948. She knew what she was doing and would find many more ways to do it. So can we.

Animal Wise: An introduction

dancing in wading pool

The Devoted Barn, Newport, Michigan, May 2017. (Photo by Nancy Crowe

It turns out you can improvise on the advice about dancing in the rain rather than waiting for the storm to pass. After days of rain, this resident of The Devoted Barn in Newport, Michigan — where I recently completed Animal Reiki III and Teacher Training with Kathleen Prasad — danced in a kiddie pool. It’s one of many examples of joy and grace from these wonderful animals.

And it’s a way to introduce this news: In addition to my work as a writer and editor, I’m happy to be expanding my animal Reiki practice.

Reiki (RAY-key) is a stress reduction and relaxation technique that also promotes healing. It’s traditionally administered through gentle touch, although it can work from a distance — from the other side of a fence or cage to across the world. “Rei” means spirit, Source, or higher wisdom; and “ki” (sometimes spelled “chi”) is life force energy. So it’s “spiritual energy,” though it is not associated with any particular religious tradition.

As a complementary healing modality, Reiki is used in massage clinics, hospitals, hospice homes, spas, and other places where humans heal. It is gaining ground in animal shelters, sanctuaries, and veterinary facilities as well. That’s because animals understand energy, and especially healing energy, way better than we do.

Idgie in cat bed

Idgie in 2007. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

In fact, it was an animal who inspired me to begin learning Reiki more than a decade ago. My tiger cat, Idgie, was about 10 years old and dealing with inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism, and anxiety. Our vet was doing all he could. So was I, but I knew there was more to all of this … and something more I could do for her.

Of course, any time we set out to heal another, we must learn to heal ourselves — so Idgie and I had our work cut out for us. I am grateful for our 16 years together.

I have practiced Reiki regularly over the years, mostly with my own animal companions and those of friends and family. Now, having recently left my corporate job and undergone some additional training in animal Reiki, I’m ready to take it further. As a practitioner member of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association, I’m also doing some pro bono work.

Do I know exactly where this will lead? No. But I trust God and the animals to show me the next step. Then the next. Then the one after that.

You can learn more about Reiki, my background, and how to schedule a session for your animal companion here. Also, please watch for my series of Animal Wise blog posts about how Reiki helps animals — with examples from the animals I’ve met and the amazing things they’ve taught me. Questions and comments are welcome!