“Your hands are on fire,” my Reiki teacher said during the attunement, or initiation, to Reiki II a decade ago.
How ironic. Usually I heard, “Good God, your hands are freezing!”
I had noticed my hands were warmer after being attuned to Reiki I earlier that year. One of my classmates, who was also a palm reader, had hands so hot they almost burned. Obviously, this was powerful stuff.
It’s not unusual for those who practice Reiki — or for those receiving the energy — to feel heat flowing through our hands. And it makes sense. Our hands are how we take action, take responsibility, and get things done. Reiki has a long and important tradition as a hands-on healing modality.
Yet how much of the practice of Reiki is actually in our hands, literally or figuratively?
Kathleen Prasad, who taught my Animal Reiki III class this spring, emphasizes that Reiki is something to be shared with, not done to, animals. Her own practice evolved from hands-on treatment to one largely of meditation, letting the animal initiate physical contact.
In many cases, such as with shelter or zoo animals, the practitioner remains outside the kennel or enclosure and never touches the animal, sharing the energy instead through meditation. This is necessary for safety with wild animals, or with domesticated animals who are fearful or aggressive.
It can also be an unprecedented gesture of respect. When you approach an animal with the attitude of “Come here, sit still; you need Reiki,” or “Please let me fix you,” he will likely run away, look away, or even growl or hiss. This is especially true if you put your hands on him, even if your intention is purely to help.
Letting the animal decide to accept the energy or not, and whether it will be hands-on or hands-off, respects a fellow sentient being in a way that opens the door to healing. Having had a number of animals place their heads, hips, or shoulders up against me or into my hands during treatment, I can tell you they know what they need. They’re also quick to recognize when someone can or cannot provide it.
It’s about being Reiki, Kathleen says, not doing Reiki.
At times, I’ve tried doing Reiki with my own animal companions, and they humor me by sitting still for a few minutes. Then a squirrel belches three yards down and they’re off. But when I am meditating, and focused not on fixing but creating a healing presence, at least one will come into the room and lie down next to me or climb into my lap.
That’s when I remember that I am only part of the equation. When I am sharing Reiki with an animal or person, I pray first to be a conduit for whatever healing is needed, whether or not I have any clue what that might be. Then I do my best to get out of the way.
And at the end of the session, I place him or her gently but solidly in God’s hands.