If you have ever owned an anxious pet, like my sweet Doberman Nina, you know that animals are extremely susceptible to the energy around them. Nina can always sense when I am nervous and she responds with her own form of anxiety. However, animals do not necessarily need a medication to calm their anxiety. In fact, animals who are anxious can be calmed through touch and reiki just like humans. But what is reiki and how does it work?
What is reiki?
“Reiki is a Japanese meditation system to help cultivate a more peaceful, kinder life,” says Kathleen Prasad, a pioneer of animal Reiki and creator of the Let Animals Lead method. “Specifically, I work with animals because they key off of our presence, our emotions, and the space we create… Reiki is really spiritually energy. It is like your true self, your inner essence, inner light, or your soul. The system of reiki is a system of meditation practices to help you uncover that beautiful soul inside of you.”
Prasad first learned reiki in 1998 as a way to treat her own panic and anxiety disorders. She felt peaceful and light after her first reiki session and knew it was going to become an important part of her life. Her dog at the time, an Australian Sheppard mix named Dakota, was always with her and when she practiced reiki with her Dakota nearby, he relaxed and laid on top of her feet. She realized that Dakota was also feeling the same level of peace that she was feeling. She knew that animals already understood this kind of peace and that Dakota was attracted to it, so she decided to experiment with the idea that dogs could benefit from reiki. Prasad volunteered walking dogs at a shelter in San Francisco at the time, and practiced reiki on the dogs in the shelter.
“As you know if you have been to a shelter, there is so much stress there,” says Prasad. “But when I practiced reiki, the dogs would just immediately trust me. They were happy to see me because I would take them for walks of course, but [with reiki] they behaved in this amazing peaceful, sleepy, calm way.”
How do you do reiki with animals?
It all starts with calmness and clarity with your intentions with any animal (or person). The way that Prasad practices reiki with animals involves meditating and bringing a calm energy into an interaction. She allows the animal to lead the interaction. Even when an animal is facing a stressful surgery or a potentially nerve-wracking interaction, you must clear your mind and enter the space of the animal with an overall aura of peace.
“I knew how these animals felt because that’s was how I lived my whole life,” says Prasad. “It is all about holding space and the power of presence. That is your soul shining — your best self shining when you can bring that kind of presence to a stressful situation. At our worst, we bring anger, frustration, fear, or anxiety. Reiki helps us to bring the good. It is a practice. And I realize it is the horses, dogs, and cats who are teaching me about healing, being resilient, letting go of the past, patience, gratitude, love – they are showing me. The least I could do is hold a place of patience and compassion for them.”
For example, a horse had bladder stones and needed surgery. The caregiver was very anxious about the surgery and turned to animal reiki for help. Prasad entered the space and breathed, did meditation, and held the space calmly and the horse walked in and put his nose on her chest. But then, her mind started moving. She started worrying about the horse’s surgery and panicking. As soon as she did that, the horse turned around and left. This happened several times until Prasad surrendered to her worries and cleared her mind. Only then was the horse able to enter and find rest.
“Horses and shelter dogs are so good at teaching you when your mind isn’t right,” says Prasad. “They can tell when your outer space and inner space do not match. When those two worlds match and are full of peace, animals will be drawn to that congruence. Humans might say one thing but mean another thing, but animals don’t have all of this complexity. They just are. So in animal reiki, I try to radiate my best self, create a space that is safe, compassionate, and that the animals can trust, and then then animals respond to it.”
The key is to surrender to different moments of fear by being present and suffering without trying to fix it. This is something taught in many natural labor and birthing methods, but the goal is to ride the waves of anxiety or fear without fighting it and to acknowledge that it will pass. This will allow you to clear your mind completely and enter into a state of calm, which radiates to the animal.
“I believe that we all are put on the earth to be of service,” says Prasad. “Reiki helps you become your best self so that you can do that for animals.”
To learn more about reiki and other holistic approaches to anxiety, visit www.angelaardolino.com.
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years, and operates a rescue farm in Lutz, Florida. She is also the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, she founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. Angela has five dogs, plus 4-10 at any time that she is fostering or boarding; visit www.angelaardolino.com for more information.
Kathleen Prasad is internationally known for her pioneering work in the field of Animal Reiki. She is the creator of the Let Animals Lead method. A Reiki practitioner since 1998, she founded Animal Reiki Source (ARS) in 2004, which has grown from a small Animal Reiki private practice into a world-renowned teaching academy and the foremost center for Animal Reiki information in the world. She is also the president and co-founder of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA). SARA is a non-profit organization that teaches and promotes the Let Animals Lead method which uses meditation practices to bring peace and wellness to shelter animals.