We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.
This quote by Henry Beston illustrates an important point about animals which should be considered when discussing Reiki initiations/attunements/Reiju. (For the purposes of this article, I will use the terms initiation, attunement and Reiju interchangeably.) We must remember that their energetic sensitivities and abilities far exceed ours. This is not because they “practice” (as we must), but rather because it simply is WHO they are, in their bodies on this earth. They are tuned into the language of energy: comfortably fluent and fluid in its ebbs and flows, while we humans must struggle, focus and practice to sense this subtle layer of existence.
There exists lots of confusion surrounding Reiki and initiating animals. For example, I’ve heard some people describing their animals as Reiki Level 1 or 2, or even a “Reiki Master” based solely on receiving an initiation. It seems to me that Reiki levels and the ritual aspect of the system have no meaning or importance for animals. And yet animals do love to connect with us through Reiki and benefit from it as well. In this article, I’d like to share a little bit about the ways I believe animals connect with us in the Reiki space along with some considerations one should make before giving his/her animal a Reiki initiation.
Consideration 1: State of Mind—The Precepts
The most important element of Mikao Usui’s teachings is resting our mind on the precepts, so that we can lead a life without anger and worry, and therefore we can be humble, honest and compassionate. All the rest of the teachings, (hands on healing, meditations, symbols/mantras, Reiju) are tools to help us to be in that state of mind.
This quote by my teacher Frans Stiene is at the root of the discussion about Reiki initiations and animals. In my opinion, the most successful connections between animals and people within the Reiki space (whether we are talking about treatments, meditations, or Reiju) happen because we attain a correct state of mind. It is the precepts that serve as our guide and foundation. When we are in a peaceful, compassionate state, without anger, fear, ego or judgment, our energy rests. It becomes still, stable, calm. It radiates serenity. The animals sense this and are drawn forward to connect with us. On the other hand, animals also sense when our energy is disturbed (for example by anger, worry, judgment or ego) and may say “no” to connecting with us. So our state of mind will often determine whether or not an animal will choose to share Reiki (treatment, meditation, or Reiju) with us.
Consideration 2: Practice and Letting Go of Ego
When offering Reiki to animals, I would say that one of the most important qualities we should nurture in ourselves is a letting go of ego. As Frans says, “It is extremely difficult to completely step out of the way — our ego has such a strong grip on everything. This is why the system of Reiki is a spiritual and lifelong practice.”
One key point in this quote is that our personal practice is the real foundation of our work with the animals. It is what will give us the trust and courage that we need to stay stable, strong, grounded and calm no matter what issues we may face when supporting an animal and his family. The precepts, the symbols and mantras, the meditations, the Reiju: practicing all of these elements supports our ability to connect with the animals through treatments. Similarly, each element of the system of Reiki supports the other elements and helps them function successfully as tools for our self-development, like pieces of a perfect and clever puzzle.
The other key point in the quote regards ego; if we can practice letting go of our ego, than it no longer matters that “I am human, you are dog (cat, horse, etc.).” Connecting with animals and Reiki can help us to realize that our species differences are just on the surface, that at our essence we are all one. In this space of oneness we can realize that perhaps it is the animals who will teach us; perhaps it is they who will offer the healing space for us. If we are in a space of ego, (“I am the elevated human, you are the lowly animal. You need me!”) then we are not in a space of listening where we can hear what the animals are telling us about what they need and want from us during Reiki. In fact, we may receive resistance from the animals with whom we are trying to connect. And even worse, we might miss the most beautiful gifts of healing that they are willing to share with us because we just aren’t willing to listen.
Consideration 3: Movement (Ritual) vs. Stillness (State of Mind)
Here is a key difference in offering Reiki to animals versus people. People usually need the ritual of movement and touch to help them to connect with energy, while animals prefer connecting from a deeper place, more of a mind-to-mind or heart-to-heart connection. For example, when you visualize the human Reiki treatment, you can picture the client lying on a massage table, while the practitioner moves around him or her, using hand positions on or off the body. The overall dynamic here is that the client is basically still, while the practitioner moves, following a sort of physical ritual.
In an animal Reiki treatment, on the other hand, it’s best for the practitioner to sit or stand in the center of the space, remaining quiet, still and meditative while holding an open state of mind. Physical ritual can disturb an animal’s sensibilities, and so animal treatments are most successful when the practitioner can drop the ritual and turn his focus inward. While the practitioner holds this space, the animal will then move around the person, sometimes coming forward to receive hands-on contact, sometimes moving farther away. Occasionally the practitioner might move in sync with the animal, for example in horse treatments where a mirroring of movement is often seen, a Reiki “dance” of sorts. But even in this case, it is the animal who guides the movement, not the practitioner.
So we can say that while movement most often characterizes animal acceptance of Reiki, it is stillness that most often characterizes people’s acceptance of Reiki. And on the other hand, it is the ritual that is most often preferred as practitioner behavior in human treatment; it is the state of mind in the practitioner which helps animal treatment to succeed.
In both the cases of humans and animals, the Reiki practitioner will use intuition to determine where and whether hands-on contact will be used, however in a human treatment, the client wouldn’t usually come forward and guide this part of the treatment, mostly just because we humans are pretty unaware of the subtleties of energy. Animals on the other hand can sense the energy quite easily, moving into and out of its flow at will; in other words, animals know how to take charge of the treatment in their own way. Their deeper knowledge of energy guides us, the practitioners. They often show us just what to do, or more to the point, how to “be.”
Consideration 4: The Human Paradigm
Although the above description describes Reiki treatment, it is important to consider this difference in regards to initiating animals—whether and why we should or shouldn’t do it. On the one hand, you could say that a Reiju is simply a spiritual blessing, and so of course all beings would benefit from them for this reason. But then we need to look at the ritual aspect of this blessing. After all, wouldn’t the physical aspect of Reiju require the animal to be still, while the practitioner moved around them, following a specified pattern of movements? So asking an animal to sit still for an attunement is similar to asking them to hop onto a massage table while we “do” the treatment.
As in animal Reiki treatment, when if/when we are offering an initiation to an animal, it is our state of mind which will create that space. If we come from an egoistic state of “doing,” (focusing on the physical ritual) most animals will resist or walk away from connection. Even if we manage to hold an egoless state of mind, animals rarely conform to the paradigm of “animal motionless/practitioner moving.” And so, if we return to the example of treatment dynamic we can see that simply by performing physical ritual “on” the animal, we are asking them to submit to a situation that is not naturally preferred. And so therein lies the problem.
Frans says, “Reiju, hands on healing, distance healing, initiation, symbols, mantras, meditation, life, the precepts, attunement, you name it, are all one and the same when we start to tap into our true nature, no difference at all.” Why would we perform the ritual of Reiju, asking the animals to conform to our human paradigm, when in essence, if we are in the right space, the right state of mind, we could create just as healing of a space for them as if we simply offered them a Reiki treatment. So the key here really is, as Frans illuminates, to tap into our true nature; and when we do this, species differences melt away and profound interspecies connections are forged.
Wouldn’t it be better to meet the animal on his or her own terms, to allow them to move, to keep our physical body calm and in a non-dominant pose, simply sitting quietly in an open and connected state of mind? Then we can simply invite them to share the healing space. In reality, this is the true Reiju we can give to the animals: being present, flexible, open and accepting of their unique ways of being while dropping all separateness and becoming one.
Consideration 5: Who is Teaching Who?
One of the principles of a Reiju, is that the teacher offering it, presumably has more experience than the student. Well, in the case of animals, clearly the animals are more at home in the world of energy, more attuned to its finer points, more aware of its healing properties. So then I wonder—if we have a human and an animal in the room, and someone should be giving an initiation, perhaps it should be the animal giving it to the person Of course I am saying this tongue in cheek (since these kinds of rituals have no meaning for animals) however the principle still I think is important. The more that we can come from a place of humility in our approach with animals, the better our Reiki responses from them will be. In addition, although personally I’ve never been drawn to offer the ritual of Reiju to an animal, I’ve experienced many times that beautiful space of openness and oneness with the animals, something that, yes, I would describe as a spiritual blessing (without the ritual). Even more, I have had the beautiful privilege of having animals come forward and assist me when I am offering or teaching Reiju to people.
Recently I was teaching a Level 3 Reiki class, and the students were practicing initiations on each other. As I stood there, guiding the students and holding the space, one of the resident cats at BrightHaven, Rosie, ran into the room, jumped onto the table beside me and meowed plaintively. Clearly she wanted me to pick her up immediately! I lifted her into my arms and held her for the duration of the initiation practice as she cuddled against my chest. It’s difficult to describe the wonderful feeling of communion, her feline purring heart against my quiet human heart, while I held an open space for the students. Connecting with her during the sacred ritual of Reiju created within me a feeling of spiritual expansion and connectedness to the whole, yet at the same time being totally physical in my body, grounded and present. She was supporting me to be a better facilitator for my students at that moment!
In fact, not only in Reiju, but also in all the elements of Reiki, I believe animals help us to be in a better, more open and receptive place to receive the benefits of our practice and to go deeper into the space of connection. Contemplating the precepts, meditating, chanting, doing treatments and performing Reiju are all, in my opinion, practices that can be even more beneficial and enjoyable when done in the presence of an animal.
So in conclusion, if you are feeling the urge to perform the physical ritual of Reiju on your animal, be sure to ask yourself—is this really for your animal or is it for you?