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.

Animal Wise: Midnight and getting it right

Midnight at Devoted Barn

Midnight at The Devoted Barn in Newport, Michigan. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

On the first day of Animal Reiki III, I wasn’t sure I’d get it right.

Sure, I’d been practicing for 10 years, mostly with animals I knew. I’d taken all three levels of “people Reiki.” But I wondered if I really had my “stuff” together enough to be of any use to the animals at The Devoted Barn, a volunteer-run animal sanctuary just south of Detroit.

There’s nothing like starting something new to bring old “who the hell am I to think I can do this?” chickens home to roost. I’d just left my corporate job to devote more time to my independent writing and editing projects, and to expand my animal Reiki practice as well. Even though I knew it was the right move, change is fertile ground for doubt.

That first day in the Devoted Barn, a cold rain on the roof drowned out the voice of the tour guide sharing snippets of each animal’s story. Perhaps it was just as well. Our teacher, Kathleen Prasad, had emphasized earlier in the day that the animals are not the circumstances that brought them here. They are not the rage, the cruelty, the indifference. To see them as victims diminishes them (and us) and gets in the way of healing. Learning to create a healing space for the animals — not fixing them — was why we were there.

We dispersed for our first treatment session, and I looked for Midnight, the black cat I’d seen strutting along the back wall of the stables. I found him — or he found me — near the front of the barn. He stretched, looked at me, and meowed pointedly.  Accustomed to obeying cats, I sat on a picnic table, and he settled immediately into my lap.

I remembered to ask Midnight’s permission and to tell him to take only the energy he wanted or needed, that it was really up to him. I remembered the Reiki Precepts — for today only: do not anger, do not worry, be humble, be honest, and have compassion for all living things — and to ask him to help teach them to me. I remembered the breathing techniques we’d practiced that morning in the hotel conference room. What was I missing?

Midnight just kneaded and purred, and as the minutes went by I began to shift out of “doing” Reiki and into “being” Reiki, and being present for my new feline friend and teacher. I filled up my heart and being with the energy I have known since before my birth — that unconditional, unwavering love of Source — and let it flow through me for whatever Midnight needed in that moment. That’s it, I remembered as the rain, the cold, the mud, and the “should” storm receded.

The next time I looked up, my fellow students were gathering in the middle of the barn for instructions on the next treatment session. Then I looked at Midnight, and he calmly met my gaze with a “You’re not going anywhere for a while” look. He stayed in my lap through another treatment session. After listening to Kathleen’s instructions, I tried some quiet chanting … but he was just as happy without it. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a horse watching with interest. You’re next, I told him silently.

When the time was up, I thanked Midnight, stood up, gave him one more chin scratch, and gently set him on the table. I hadn’t missed a thing.

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!