Animal Wise: How a Reiki session works

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The first lesson of animal Reiki? The animal is always at least one step ahead … and that’s OK.

If you are considering Reiki to support a beloved animal’s well-being, it may help to know more about what actually happens during a typical session.

Getting there

For in-person appointments in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area, which last about an hour, I come to your home, barn, or clinic. When I arrive, we can get acquainted and talk about whatever concerns you may have. Then I’ll find a comfortable place to sit or stand near the animal. After I say a silent prayer and gain the animal’s permission to share energy, I will enter a peaceful, meditative state. The animal is free to lie still, stand, move around, eat, get a drink of water, go out for a pit stop, etc. The Reiki energy — the life force that animates all living things — will go right to work, wherever it is needed, regardless.

Why it works

It works for two reasons. First, the energy comes not from me but from a higher power: God, the Universe, All That Is. There are many names. I’m the conduit, not the source. Reiki is a stress relief and relaxation modality and not affiliated with any particular religious tradition, but at the same time, it is based on the notion that the energy comes from a safe, loving place where all living beings are connected.

Second, I am sharing the energy with the animals rather than doing something to them. During a session, cats or dogs will often come closer, curl up next to me, or settle in my lap, but they sometimes prefer to be a few feet away or even leave the room. That’s OK; I won’t chase after them. However they want to participate in a Reiki session, or not, is up to them. It’s really not the same model of the Reiki client lying on the table and the practitioner moving around him or her using the hand positions.

That’s why it works. More often than not, we don’t know how, and that can be hard to get our heads around. I’m a skeptical journalist who never expected to be doing anything like this, and I wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t see the benefits.

A peaceful presence

An animal Reiki session is not about fixing the animal or getting rid of what’s wrong. Reiki, which never harms, is about creating and sharing a peaceful space that promotes whatever healing needs to happen. The animals often have a better sense of that than we do, which is all the more reason to let them lead.

You and any other humans or animals present are welcome to be present and may also benefit from the session, but I generally keep conversation to a minimum during the meditation. After about 30 minutes, I will gently bring the meditation to a close and we can talk about any feelings, questions, or impressions that arose. I may share intuitive information I received during the session that might be helpful to you, but I am not a medical professional and do not diagnose. Most animals (and humans) feel relaxed and rejuvenated after a Reiki session.

We can then discuss and/or make an appointment for further treatment. The benefits of Reiki are cumulative and it helps the animal to get to know me over multiple visits, so I generally recommend a series of three sessions over 10 days to three weeks, depending on the animal’s circumstances and needs. Then I’ll be on my way, and you are encouraged to call or email me with any questions or concerns.

Animal Reiki and animal communication

Animal Reiki may involve communication, and I often send distant Reiki energy as part of an animal communication session. However, a Reiki session is a time of meditation and quiet healing, and an animal communication session is about gathering information and insight. So, while there is some overlap between the two, the objectives are different enough that I handle them separately. Please see my animal communication page for more information.

Unpacking a code of ethics

51GcazjWWaLAlthough a shared code of ethics is important for any profession, that code carries much more weight when we explore what it means for us each day. Kathleen Prasad‘s latest book, Healing Virtues: Transforming Your Practice Through the Animal Reiki Practitioner Code of Ethics, does this succinctly and wisely. A review copy of this book was provided to me by the author, with whom I have been blessed to study.

Readers of her previous books will find more of a new context — the Animal Reiki Practitioner Code of Ethics, which she developed — than new content. However, this is a valuable review and unpacking of the code of ethics, to which I as a practitioner subscribe.

The book covers the basic principles of letting the animal lead the treatment, “being” instead of “doing” Reiki, and never diagnosing — but also the nuts and bolts of setting treatment times and communicating with the humans involved. Plenty of real-life examples are included. I loved that our Animal Reiki III and Teacher Training weekend at The Devoted Barn animal sanctuary, and the “before and after” effect Kathleen talks about in the book, was among them.

Also discussed are confidentiality, what to do with intuitive information received, and working in conjunction with veterinarians and other animal care professionals in the community. Kathleen does not shy away from the very real and difficult issues of animal suffering, compassion fatigue, and misunderstanding about what it is we actually do. This book helps us access the code of ethics to effectively and compassionately address these concerns.

Healing Virtues is great for working practitioners, but if you are new to the topic, I recommend Kathleen’s Animal Reiki: Using Energy to Heal the Animals in Your Life, co-authored with Elizabeth Fulton; and the more recent Heart to Heart with Horses: The Equine Lover’s Guide to Reiki.

Animal Wise: Showing up

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Boo at Summit Equestrian Center. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

A sad stillness enveloped the barn and pastures at Summit Equestrian Center on a damp, fall-is-coming morning a week after Whinnie died. The animals were grieving, and as I arrived for my weekly animal Reiki rounds, so was I.  In fact, I wondered if my own sadness would taint the energy I wanted to share.

No other humans were about, but horses Dante, Geronimo, and Blackjack were waiting by the fence. They weren’t waiting to be fed, saddled, or loaded, but for something that made sense. Whinnie, Summit’s thriving-with-disabilities spokeshorse, was a dwarf miniature horse with a giant presence, and that presence was glaringly absent now.

This equine trio felt not only that but the sadness of the other animals and humans who had worked with, cared for, or hung out with Whinnie. They had all taken turns visiting with her before she passed. They knew she had been struggling, especially during those last two days of her life on earth. When animals grieve, whether for a human or another animal, it’s not that they don’t understand what’s going on. They do understand, probably better than the humans do, but they feel even more acutely the disorientation that comes with loss.

I was unsure anything I could offer would make sense, but surrendering the outcome is essential when sharing Reiki energy with animals or communicating with them. So I set an intention for their highest good and put it all in God’s hands.

Then, because rain was starting to fall, I put my umbrella up. Bad idea. All three of them pulled back, startled.

“Sorry, guys.” I folded the umbrella. They relaxed, and I shared Reiki energy with the three horses in front of me and with the other horses, ponies, and a donkey, who all stood, still and mindful, in the pasture.

I offered a variation on the earth and sky meditation my animal Reiki teacher, Kathleen Prasad, taught, calling forth the grounding power of the earth and the divine inspiration of the sky. I reminded the crew that support is always there for them, no matter where they are, no matter what the circumstances.

A chilly breeze cut through my jacket as I finished up. The perfectionist in me still wondered if I’d done enough.

Then Boo, a beautiful 14-year-old black cat with white whiskers and a delicate white star on her chest, strolled up. I had not seen Boo in quite a while, as she usually hides out in the barn. Now here she was, meowing and rubbing against my legs.

Boo had been dropped off at Summit a couple of years before and was terrified of people. Now she’s “selectively social,” as executive director Allison Wheaton put it.

Being well-trained by cats, I know when a feline is demanding food, a lap, an opened door, a quick head rub, or the ever-popular butt skritch just above the tail. Today, Boo wanted healing energy: Come on, let’s see what you’ve got.

I sat on a bench in the garden while Boo continued to wind around me, occasionally putting her front paws on my knee but never quite jumping into my lap. As she took in the energy, she kept up a running commentary of meows and purrs. This, I felt her tell me, was just what she needed. Of course, it was just what I needed, too.

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“Whinnie’s Silver Bells” at the 2017 Embassy Festival of Trees, with Whinnie’s photo and halter at the top. Sponsored by Cookie Cottage; decorated by Brandy Pulley and Amber Archer. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

One of Whinnie’s most important lessons was that it doesn’t matter what you can’t do or don’t have. If you show up as you are and put what you do have out there, chances are it will be exactly what is needed.

During the holiday season, when we miss those who are no longer physically present and don’t always know how to respond to those who are still here, that lesson is something to treasure.