Are your animals feeling anxious or stressed? Try meditating with them
Kathleen Prasad of Animal Reiki Source and SARA encourages us to step into a "peaceful, healing space"
Do you have pets? I do.
I don’t know about you, but my dogs helped me get through 2020.
Actually, they’ve gotten me through pretty much everything.
“For me personally, I’ve really appreciated my time with my dog and horse, even more during the pandemic,” shares Kathleen Prasad, a leading animal reiki practitioner, author and teacher who’s based in California.
Kathleen has over 22 years of experience working with many animal species, and is the president of Animal Reiki Source.
“They help me keep a ‘normal’ schedule, and make my days feel positive and fun, even amidst all the turmoil the world is going through,” she adds. “I’m so grateful to have been able to be with my animals and out in nature through all of this!”
How about her fellow animal lovers?
And shelter volunteers? Together with animal reiki teacher Leah D’Ambrosio, Kathleen also co-founded Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA) – a non-profit organisation that promotes her Let Animals Lead® method of animal reiki, educating volunteers and caregivers in its uses to help animals in shelters, sanctuaries and rescues.
She’s seen how tough it’s been for SARA members. (For herself, too, as she couldn’t go to the sanctuaries to teach.)
“Probably the biggest difference during the pandemic for our SARA members is that many of us weren’t able to volunteer or get out into the community as we usually do,” Kathleen laments. “Thankfully, things are starting to open up, but we really miss being out in the shelters and sanctuaries!”
But there’s good news. “Something good that SARA members have reported to me is that many shelters placed most or all of their animals in foster homes due to the lockdown measures,” she reveals.
“Since foster homes are a less stressful environment for animals, this was actually a wonderful improvement for many organisations. The community support for shelter animals has really been overwhelming!”
So how do we “let animals lead”?
Our animals have done so much for us, and I for one would love to do so much for them too. Which is why I got interested in animal reiki, and in Kathleen’s work.
We mentioned that Kathleen has been involved in animal reiki for over two decades. So what is animal reiki? And what’s Let Animals Lead®?
As Kathleen sees it, animal reiki is inspired and based on Japanese reiki techniques and principles of meditation. Her Let Animals Lead® method uses an animal-guided, meditative and respectful approach to healing that encourages a meaningful connection and relationship between animal and human. It also helps to nurture compassion, peace, being present in the moment, and letting go of any worries, especially with animals that are going through a tough time.
It’s about creating a “peaceful space”– a “healing space” – for ourselves together with our animals.
“For me, ‘peaceful’ means (the) present, here and now. Letting go of our anger and worries and distracted thoughts. Just being here now with an open heart and sitting with what is, without judgment,” she echoes.
“For me, ‘healing’ means to ‘become whole’, and this is something we can always do, even in difficult moments, even when we are sick. Finding wholeness is about remembering the essence of our true being, deeper than everything that might be ‘wrong’ in this moment. It takes practice and an open mind, and that’s where meditation comes in.”
The best part? She believes our animals know this too. “Animals respond very deeply to our energy and presence,” Kathleen explains. “When we can learn to be calm, peaceful and present, without worrying or trying to ‘fix’ this and that issue, they respond by showing signs of relaxation and stress relief.”
So it’s up to us to marshal our thoughts and energies for their sake. “This is the essence of our meditation practice with animals,” she relates. “We must be able to find peace and wholeness inside of us, no matter what the external circumstances may be. This is how we truly hold space for animals.
“I like to say that we can ‘be a rock’ for the animals, or ‘be the mountain’ for our animals,” she goes on. “They are drawn to our peaceful, calm energy, and can join us there for comfort and stress relief.”
Be mindful of our energy – check
I’m going to write this down as my first step, since we now know how much our meditative practice with animals depends on it.
Would you like to join me? (Your animals too, of course. And by “join”, I mean together but separately, because of the current restrictions.) I asked Kathleen to provide a few tips to help us recognise, build and maintain our energy levels.
#1 Consider the animal’s energy
“We can observe their behaviour and also their response to our presence,” she points out.
“How does this affect their behaviour? In time, we can see that animals often mirror our own inner emotional state – and that’s why if an animal seems nervous around us, we should check in with ourselves and see what kind of energy we are feeling and perhaps giving off, without realising it.
“Just sitting with animals, not ‘doing’ anything but just being with them, is the best way to be more sensitive and aware of their energy and how they are responding to us.”
#2 Think about your mindset and intentions
“First, we must take stock of our own emotional state and any disturbing thoughts we may be focusing on (such as an animal’s past abuse or ‘sad story’). Then we need to be honest about our own agenda with the animal: What are we expecting from them in this interaction? Am I wishing for something specific to be changed or healed?
“Then we need to consciously let go of these worries, wishes and agendas. They are all just obstacles to connecting with the animals. How can we do this? Through meditation.”
#3 Look on the bright side
“We need to stay positive by remembering that to be truly compassionate (and not just having pity), we must see the animal as not ‘less than’ us or ‘damaged’ – but rather see more deeply than ‘what is wrong’, and see the beautiful bright light that is the animal’s essence,” Kathleen urges.
“We must see this light and reflect it back to them in our energy. This is where meditation comes in.
“We all know how bad it feels to be judged by our limitations or by our illnesses,” she continues. “No trauma or illness can ever diminish who we are – so by reflecting on this for ourselves, it is easier to see the animal with an open heart.”
Part 2: Go out and do it
It all sounds challenging, but Kathleen once again comes to our aid by divulging her three personal favourite ways to achieve a “peaceful, healing space” for our animals, so that we can also move forward. They’ve enabled her to power on for herself, her animals, and her work in animal reiki.
They’re worth a try.
#1 Sitting meditation in nature
#2 Walking meditation in the forest
#3 Standing meditation in a pasture
(No forests or pastures nearby? Living in the middle of a concrete jungle? Yikes. It’s difficult, but see if you can still make it work with any pocket of greenery or open space in your area.)
Here are a few guides that could go with the above three strategies: Healing Space Meditation, Animal Reiki Meditation: Connecting With Trees, and Animal Reiki Meditation: Sharing Peace For All Affected By The Pandemic.
The key words here are “sitting”, “walking”, “standing” and “meditation”. And, of course, “nature”.
“The combination of animals and nature is very supportive for us to remember our inner grounding, presence in the moment, and gratitude for life and this moment,” Kathleen observes.
“When we find ourselves in nature and with our animals, we can come very close to understanding what ‘heart to heart’ means. Our bond with animals, the trust that we have for one another, can go to a very deep level. Over the years, I’ve seen fearful animals, such as wild captive rescued animals, be able to relax and trust the peace we offer through our meditation.”
Meditation in action
In fact, Kathleen recounts a particularly memorable experience that shows just how helpful meditation can be.
“One of my favourite stories is when I first met Makoto, a black leopard rescued from terrible abuse by The CARE Foundation in Florida,” she discloses.
“He was not fond of people, and often snarled or turned his back on people who walked by his enclosure. Yet when I would sit with him in meditation, he would slowly relax (until he would) finally lie down; and always by the end of the meditation, he would brace his legs on the side of the enclosure, belly up and completely relaxed. This is a very common way the rescued tigers of The CARE Foundation respond to meditation too.”
Kathleen also has a “ritual”. “Often at the end of my classes, I take my students on a walking meditation around the sanctuary, so that we can say goodbye and thank the animals who taught us during the class,” she says.
“It’s so amazing to see the animals stop what they are doing as we walk by and turn their full attention to us. It’s as if they are saying thank you, and it’s so heartwarming.”
Remember: “There’s no greater healing power than our mindful, compassionate presence”
Kathleen said this herself. But: “We very much underestimate this,” she stresses. Which is why it bears repeating.
“As ‘doers’ and ‘problem solvers’, we are accustomed to fixing problems. There are, of course, times and places where this is good. However, when we are holding space for animals, we must let go of the ‘doing’ and remember what it means to be a human ‘being’.
“Most of the time our energy is so scattered in a million directions with all of our multi-tasking and busy thoughts,” she ponders. “By quieting our thoughts and remembering to just be here now, our energy gathers and settles and creates a radiance that animals sense. They can step into this radiance and share with us the peace. It is such an honour when they choose to do so!
“This perspective also reminds us that animals should lead this process of peace, trust and connection,” she maintains. “It is never something that can be forced onto another being. Therefore, we must learn to be patient and just ‘be’.”
Lastly, don’t forget to breathe. “I’ve seen this past year as a time to focus on my meditation practice and personal spiritual growth, and take a lot of quiet time with my animals. I’ve felt much less rushed in my life, and I’ve really appreciated the extra time I’ve had to be in nature with my dog and horse.”
Let me know if your pets feel this newfound energy – and benefit from this practice? (I’m looking forward to it and hope that my pets do, too.) And while you’re at it, why not explore animal reiki? Good luck!
“Meditating with animals is a way to cultivate not only peace but also listening. We are quiet enough to notice them and to really see them and appreciate them for all of their depth, wisdom and beauty. I think most humans never take the time to do that, and it would be a great way to heal the human/animal relationship in the world if we all do!”
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