Animal Reiki and ‘people’ Reiki: key differences

Animals speak energy like a Ph.D. We speak energy like a kindergartner.

Kathleen Prasad

“You practice Reiki with animals? How does that work?”

Great question! Reiki is a Japanese stress relief modality, and relaxation helps the two-legged and four-legged alike feel and function better. While the benefits are the same, the methods of animal Reiki are different from the Reiki you’ll experience in human offices, hospitals, and spas.

I don’t invite the animal to hop up on a massage table (cats leave and horses laugh). The hand positions I learned in my “people” Reiki classes don’t apply, and that’s not because of different anatomies. Animals are much more sensitive to physical space and presence. Touch is unnecessary, even invasive, for them. A person can feel energy from the practitioner’s hands, but a horse can feel energy from a person standing across a pasture.

When I began studying animal Reiki years ago, I used the hand positions with my dog Ellie as I sat with her on the floor. If she had a hot spot on her foot, I lightly held her foot. More often than not, she’d get up and leave. I now understand that was too much for her. When I sat quietly and meditated — and better yet, ditched any expectation about the “problem” or what should happen — Ellie was more likely to come and lie down nearby.

My teacher, Kathleen Prasad, had a similar experience. That’s how she developed the Let Animals Lead® method I now practice. It puts the animals completely in charge of whether and how they participate in a Reiki session. They are free to decline. They can come closer, move away, sit, walk around, eat, sleep, etc. while the practitioner holds space in quiet meditation. Letting animals lead is important for a couple of reasons.

First, it respects the animals. They may have been abused, neglected, moved around, treated by veterinarians, or had their hooves worked on for the first time in years. Mind you — rescue efforts and veterinary treatment may be for their best and highest. So is the chance to choose.

That’s why I always ask for the animal’s permission before I begin. If I get a no, either telepathically or through body language, I thank the animal for letting me know and move on.

Second, how much more can animals relax when doing so is up to them? (Raise your hand if you relax on command. Didn’t think so.)

Every animal is different. Some will immediately come and lean on me or want to be petted; others soak in the energy from a distance. It works regardless.

I’ve worked with rescued horses who have rarely, if ever, had a chance to choose or say no to anything. One day a retired draft horse, recovering from trauma, decided he’d had enough Reiki and walked back into the shed. I thanked him and moved on to the chickens a few yards away. A short time later, he stuck his big head out of the shed and asked: “You got any more of that?” (I did.)

Another horse, recently rescued from a kill pen, declined the energy and moved away. A few minutes later, she came back to where I stood at the pasture fence and asked for more. This happened several times in the course of half an hour or so. She was astonished that interacting was her choice. The next time I saw her, I tentatively held up my hands, telling her I’d lower them or step away if she preferred. She placed her head in my hands and stood perfectly still. (The photo above is of her drifting into a post-session nap.)

Animals understand energy better than we do. A horse senses the presence of a predator in the distance. A cat curls up next to someone who is sick. The kids’ new puppy stays away from Mom because he’s the only one in the house who knows how angry she is.

Just don’t ask that puppy to stay still for the Reiki practitioner. He doesn’t have to … and Mom is welcome to join in.

The horse deserves a heads up

Image by Bee Iyata from Pixabay 

The horse didn’t know he was moving that day, let alone why. He didn’t know what awaited him at the end of that trailer ride.

With each attempt to coax him down the ramp, he panicked more. Once the humans finally got him off the trailer and into a pen, he ran back and forth, stopping every so often to whinny.

Change may be for the best, even life-saving. The horse still deserves to know what’s happening.

Here are two things to consider if you are moving, re-homing, selling, or rescuing a horse:

1. You set the tone.

Your horse already knows something’s up. How you handle it matters more than you think.

Tell the animals you’re all moving to a great new home. Let the horse know she’s going to live with someone who can care for her better than you can right now, or where you think she’ll be happier. Picture the trailer ride, the new home, the new owner and friends, even the temporary safe space. Tell the animals who will stay behind what’s happening, too.

If you are moving a horse for rescue or evacuation, stay as calm as possible. Let him know his safety is your priority and he can help by trusting you … even just a tiny bit.

2. Help is available.

Fellow horse owners can be great sources of support whether you need to borrow something or you’re dealing with some major manure.

I can help by communicating the situation to your horse and listening to what he needs. I can support him, you, and the other animals with Reiki, a wonderful stress reduction modality. Both of these also work from a distance and can bring greater peace of mind to even the hardest transitions. Visit www.njcrowe.com for more information.

Most importantly: If you are having trouble caring for your animals, please reach out to your vet or a reputable rescue or animal welfare agency. They’d rather help you now than deal with a more serious situation down the road.

Letting animals choose lets them be their best

(Photo by Nancy Crowe)

The massive draft horse was one of the saddest, checked-out animals I have met. He’d spent years on at least one Amish farm, was isolated and probably abused, and had given up. After he was rescued, his new owner wanted to find out what he needed.

The first thing I did was ask if it was OK to communicate with him. Surprised but skeptical, he agreed. The notion that he could choose anything was foreign to him.

Within a week or so, he told me what he wished to be called: Duke.

When I offered to share Reiki with Duke, I made it clear that opting out was absolutely fine. As we worked together during those first months, sometimes it was a yes and sometimes a no. How long the session lasted was also up to him.

That is the core of the Let Animals Lead method I practice. It’s all meditation and no hands unless the animal initiates contact, or the practitioner knows the animal well enough to gauge whether that would be welcome.

One day Duke decided he’d had enough Reiki and walked back into the barn. I thanked him and moved on to a pig a few feet away.

A few minutes later, Duke stuck his big head out the barn door and looked straight at me. “Got any more of that?” I heard. I assured him I did, but he’d have to wait until the pig and I were done. When I returned, he was waiting at the fence. I met his eyes and saw hope.

His owner, veterinarians, equine bodyworkers, clients, and I all worked to help Duke heal from the effects of his past, giving him choices whenever possible. Two years later, he still struggles mightily with triggers. But he has friends in the herd. He connects with veterans who also live with PTSD. He even let kids dress him up for the Fourth of July. Being a therapy horse would have been an unthinkable job a couple of years ago.

While we can’t let our animals choose to play in traffic or opt out of a vet visit, there are many other options we can offer. We can give them a choice of toys, blankets, or litter boxes. We can hold out two different treats and see which gets gobbled up first. We can let cats come to us rather than picking them up. We can suggest a walk or a ride and pay attention to the dog’s body language for a “let’s go” or a “not today.”

Choice frees us all to engage honestly, be our best selves, and create our “better than before.”