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Friday, September 17, 2010

Animal Reiki Friday:Part One of a series - Common Sense, Animal Sense, Reiki Sense

By Beth Lowell, Senior Editor

I’ve been talking to a lot of Reiki practitioners lately and the subject of animals always seems to pop up. Hearing about the variety of experiences and questions among practitioners is always fascinating. Working with animals is vastly rewarding but it can pose particular challenges, too, for those accustomed to working only with humans. The reason is simple – animals are different from humans.

Anyone who’s gone to obedience training with a dog has probably been told not to anthropomorphize – that is, to attribute human qualities to dogs. We’re told things like “treat a dog like a human and he’ll treat you like a dog”, or that our precious little pooch is not really using the carpet for a bathroom out of spite. (While I agree with the bathroom issue, intriguing studies are coming out every day that confirm what some already intuitively know - that animals are far more like humans when it comes to cognitive thinking and emotions than science has ever admitted in the past, but that’s another topic altogether.)

While it’s true that animals have their own codes of behavior and justice that are very different from our own, and that we need to try to understand and take them into consideration in order to live harmoniously with them, it doesn’t really change how we approach Reiki with them in many ways. Here’s where it helps to anthropomorphize when treating animals with Reiki.


You always need to have permission from a person before offering Reiki – the same is true for animals. But how do you get permission?

Well, first, ask. You can ask out loud, or silently, with the intention that your animal will understand what you are asking. I like to ask out loud. Since animals can understand human language, they can learn what you’re asking if you happen to be working with them over an extended period of time. Most dogs and more than a few cats I know understand the words “sit” and “treats”, so why not “Reiki”? But even without using the word, animals you’ve treated before quickly realize why you have come to see them, and if they enjoy receiving a Reiki treatment will often automatically go to the place they like to receive it, whether that be on a favorite chair, mat, or wherever you happen to be standing. You can think of asking permission as a ritual, whether you think the animals can understand you or not. It's a good reminder that the decision is not up to you.

Recently a student worried that the animal would not know what Reiki is. “Do I need to explain it?” she asked. Many people who come for treatment don’t know exactly what Reiki is either, so no, you don’t need to explain it to them. They will understand what it is by feeling it, and if they choose to accept the treatment it will become apparent pretty quickly through the animal’s behavior.

If you’re offering a Reiki treatment to a person for the first time, you usually ask them if they are familiar with Reiki, or if they’ve had a treatment before. If they haven’t experienced a treatment before, you usually explain what the treatment will entail so they know what to expect. Since you can’t really do that with an animal, you start as you would if you were trying to communicate with someone who speaks a different language – human, or otherwise. To parallel dog training, you start by showing what you’re doing.

When you begin a treatment, start by offering Reiki in the purest sense – as an offering. Animals may feel threatened or unsure if you place your hands directly on them too quickly, or at all. Simply open your hands.

If you are standing this may mean you simply turn your palms outward. If you’re sitting, you can place them face up, on your knees. If hand motion disturbs the animal, don’t worry about using your hands at all – after all you don’t need to rely on your hands to practice Reiki.

Watch closely to see if the animal is receptive. Animal body language is usually very clear.

Hands-on Reiki is possible, if the animal is comfortable. Some schools of Reiki incorporate the chakra system. I’ve read that the chakra system of animals closely resembles that of humans, with the exception of an additional one that animals possess because of their tails. Chakras notwithstanding, the anatomy of animals does not allow them to lie on a table in the same way that humans do very easily. And because most animals will not lie still and in the position that humans do, it would be silly to try to replicate a human Reiki treatment on an animal, therefore, the ritual of hand placements is much less rigid when you work with animals than it usually is when you are working on people.

One Reiki practitioner I spoke to told me that a friend asked her to treat her cat, who seemed unwell. “I didn’t understand it,” she related, “The cat was squirming and wouldn’t keep still. I’d never seen anything like it. I held her and just kept going. The next morning, the cat passed away. I guess it was just her time.”

Indeed, it was probably the cat’s time. But clearly, the cat was not happy to receive a Reiki treatment. In this instance, it would have been best to stop the treatment, or allow the cat to find a comfortable position of her own choice instead of restraining the cat.

Offering Reiki to an animal, like offering it to a person, can often be done in a more casual environment than in a formal Reiki session, for instance, while watching TV in the evening. But just because the conditions are more casual doesn’t mean that you can bend the rules. One rainy day when I had some unexpected downtime I decided it would be a good time to offer Reiki to my own dog, Dasher. I settled on the floor next to her and placed my hands on her, as usual. I was startled when she turned and snarled at me. It was a not so gentle reminder that the practitioner is never really in charge and that Reiki cannot be imposed on anyone.

Next in this series: Expectations, Reiki’s effectiveness on animal issues, and when not to anthropomorphize

If you have an animal Reiki article you'd like to share, please email it to and include the words, "Animal Reiki Friday" in the subject line.


Blogger Tor Hershman said...

..[___]..---{Reiki & Lucy?}

9:53 PM  

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