When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there? ~Thich Naht Hahn
At the core of the system of Reiki is love and compassion, connecting with another in a space of balance and harmony, a space where healing is possible. To offer this love and compassion to another, to invite them to connect with us, we need to be present and we need to attain an open, peaceful and balanced state of mind. This is especially true when we work with animals and especially animals who may not be balanced. If our minds and energy are disturbed or agitated – full of anger, fears, ego or judgment – the animals may not want to connect with us and be with us.
The good news is that Mikao Usui brought to us a system of Reiki with a tool box of tools to help us. The most fundamental of these tools are the Reiki precepts.
Do not bear ANGER
For anger is Illusion
Do not be WORRIED
For fear is Distraction
Be true to your WAY
And your BEING
Show COMPASSION to Yourself and Others
Because this is the center of BUDDHAHOOD
Learning to live by and ultimately embrace these precepts is a key step in creating a life of balance and harmony for ourselves and in successfully connecting with and offering a space of healing to others, both animals and humans. Our animals can help us; we just need to sit and observe them. Our animals are like humans in many ways as they experience varying degrees of fear and anger depending on their life situation. We humans can, however, learn so much from them; they are powerful examples of how to live by and embody the precepts. Let’s explore five lessons we can learn from our animals.
Lesson 1: Be Present
Life is only available in the present moment. ~Thich Naht Hanh
A first step to living a life of balance, love and compassion is to focus our minds on this very moment. We cannot be stuck in the past wishing things had been different. And we cannot be so focused on what we want for the future that we cannot enjoy today. We cannot change the past; and we are not ensured of what the future will bring. As such, the past and the future are only distractions that prevent us from living in peace and harmony today. So why not focus our minds on and live in the present moment – this is the only moment we have any control over!
Our animals are masters at living in the present. They only concern themselves with what is happening right this very moment. Most do not dwell on the past or worry about what might happen in the future. Our Boston Terrier/Beagle Amber becomes anxious whenever she hears high pitched sounds. When she hears a timer, specifically the one on the smart phone, go off in our pet bakery, she runs and hides under a desk. She does the same with a vacuum cleaner. In that moment when she hears the sound, she feels a need to protect herself. However, once the sound ends, it is forgotten and she is right back doing whatever she was doing prior to the sound. She does not worry that it will happen again, until it actually does. Amber’s lesson for us is to just deal with whatever is happening at the moment and let everything else go, which takes us to the second lesson from our animals which is to Let Go.
Lesson 2: Let Go
Let go of offense. Let go of fear. Let go of revenge. Don’t live angry, let go now! ~Joel Osteen
Closely related to focusing our minds on the present moment is also learning to Let Go. So often, we react to things that happen to us in ways that add stress to our lives. We often exhibit emotions such as anger towards another person and worry or fear about something that might happen. We are human so there will be times that we do get angry or worried or fearful; this is natural. The issue arises when we hang on to these emotions.
When we remain angry at someone for a period of time, typically that anger elevates and could get out of control similar to a fire. And who gets burned, it’s not the other person, it’s you! Worry and fear are similar. Worrying about something does not stop it from happening or make the issue resolve itself. It is you that experiences the stress and has trouble sleeping. We cannot be in a space of balance and harmony when we are angry or worrying about something; so we need to just let it go!
We can look to our animals to show us how to let go. Our animals do experience anger and fears but they tend to not let it bother them for long. Our cat Asia recently figured out how to climb up and walk on the water pipes along the ceiling in our basement. She did not like it when we got up there and pulled her down. She screamed and hissed and ran and hid. But, it wasn’t long before she came out and sat behind me on the couch rubbing against my neck and purring. She did not stay angry for long; it was like the incident never happened!
Amber is extremely fearful of young children. When a young child comes into our store and wants to pet her, Amber will run the other way and may growl a bit. Once the child leaves, Amber is right back up front to greet people (adults). She is on guard when she sees a child, but the fear is gone once the child is gone.
Both Asia and Amber teach us that we will experience anger, worry and fears, but that we should not hold on to it, let it go and get on with our life.
Lesson 3: Be Yourself
To thine own self be true. ~ William Shakespeare
The meaning of Reiki is True Self, and the purpose of the system of Reiki is to help us re-discover our True Self. So many of us have lost our way as we have grown up in society. Our families and schools and jobs have taught us that we must do this and be that in order to be successful. Many of us always consider what others will think before we do something or pursue a path. And we often will forgo something when others discourage us. And over time, we may forget who we truly are; we cover up our true selves. We go through life doing what we are “supposed to do” instead of being true to who we are, being who we were meant to be. The result is that we may not be truly happy with and passionate about the life path we have chosen.
We only need to look to our animals to learn how to just be yourself; to help us uncover the layers to finding our True Self. Our animals will usually learn how to be good citizens in society since we teach them that. But if we look beyond the surface, we see how our animals do not try to be someone they are not. They don’t worry about what others think of them. They don’t worry about what they look like. If they want to sleep, they sleep. If they want to play, they play. They follow their natural instincts.
Amber loves to run. When we had our large back yard, Amber would run and run and run – and every few yards she would roll over in the grass and then continue running. She was being a free spirit and enjoying every second. She, of course, liked it better when we would throw a Frisbee for her to run and catch, but she will just entertain herself and play with her toys alone if no one is able to play with her. Then when she is done, she finds the softest spot and takes a nap.
Our black and white tuxedo cat, April, is usually laying on the bed – that is her comfort zone. But every so often, we find her laying in the middle of the floor; she is on her back showing off her white belly with not a care in the world. She is just being herself, calm and cool. It’s almost like she showing us how to just chill out, calm down and relax.
Amber and April teach us that we need to relax and set ourselves free. We just need to be ourselves, and life will be so much more enjoyable.
Lesson 4: Show Compassion Instinctively
Fear grows out of the things we think; it lives in our minds. Compassion grows out of the things we are; it lives in our hearts. ~Barbara Garrison
When we think of compassion, we often think about what we can do to help others that may be less fortunate than we are. We shovel snow or mow the lawn for an elderly neighbor. We make a meal for a friend that is ill. We volunteer or give money to a charitable organization. We volunteer at an animal shelter. There are many opportunities to “give back” to those in need. And doing these acts of kindness for others makes us feel good; and it is good!
When we look to our animals, we can learn that compassion really emanates from our True Self; it comes from our hearts; it is who we are. We don’t need to think about it. We don’t need to judge that someone needs something that we have to give. We really don’t need to do anything; we just need to open our hearts and be who we are instinctively. Getting to this place is a journey for many of us; and our animals can help us.
My first dog as an adult, Amanda, taught me and others so many things by just being part of our lives. When a new neighbor moved next door, she made it clear to us that she did not want Amanda in their yard; that she was not fond of dogs. One evening, I hosted a home party and invited all of the neighbors. Jane came and sat on Amanda’s couch. Amanda jumped up and sat next to her the entire evening. A few months later, Jane told us that they were planning to adopt a retired Greyhound. It wasn’t long before they had three retired Greyhounds and became active in the retired Greyhound rescue group. Jane has credited Amanda for helping her open her heart to dogs and showing her the love that dogs bring to our lives.
A couple weeks ago, Alan was taking Annie and Amber out for their final evening walk before bedtime. As they were walking down the street, a dog that was visiting one of our neighbors came running toward them growling. Amber became frightened and tried to get away. Annie, the 14 year-old Black Lab, just stood there and remained calm. She didn’t judge what was happening; she just opened her heart and the dog stopped; she diffused the situation by just being still and peaceful
There are so many examples of animals showing compassion to others – and they do it instinctively by just being themselves with an open heart.
Lesson 5: Be Reiki
When you let your inner light shine, you create rainbows in other people’s lives. ~Amy McNaughton
Our ultimate goal on this Reiki journey is to Be Reiki, to just Be that state of harmony and balance and healing – and share it with others. If Reiki means our True Self and our True Self is our inner light, then Being Reiki means to allow our inner light to shine brightly and to share our inner light of compassion with others. To Be Reiki requires the integration of the first 4 lessons; they all work together, to have one, you need all of the others. To allow our bright light to shine, we need an open and balanced state of mind which means we need to be present; we need to let go of anger, worries, fears and judgement; we need to find and be ourselves; we need to instinctively show compassion. And when our bright light shines, it is easier to be present, to let go, to be ourselves and to be compassionate.
Why are we so attracted to animals? Why do we have less stress when we are around animals? Why do people take animals to visit people in hospitals and nursing homes? It is because animals bring a state of balance and harmony; they shine their inner bright light and share it with others. And they do this without thinking about it.
At our store when people come in, they often ask “where is Amber?” Amber has a glow about her that people want to see and experience. Amanda also had this glow when she was still with us. People are attracted to this glow – it makes them happy and “creates rainbows” for them.
As Jennifer Gayle says, You are Awesome. Beautiful. Loved. Valuable, and more than Enough. Let Your Light Shine!
The Reiki Precepts are but one tool to help us on this journey towards Being Reiki and letting our bright light shine. And our animals provide us with daily examples for how to achieve this open and balanced state of mind; the very state of mind that will attract them to connecting with us when we offer Reiki to them. Through their love for us, they really show us how to love them back. We are One!