Animal Wise: Before and after

Anyone who works with animals might well ask what difference it could possibly make to meditate with them. That’s not feeding them, stitching up their wounds, or getting them out of whatever circumstances they’re in. It’s not really doing anything, right?

That’s a fair question, one I can address with this pair of video clips taken by my teacher, Kathleen Prasad, during our Animal Reiki 3 class at The Devoted Barn animal sanctuary in Newport, Michigan. The first was taken when our group of 14 practitioners had just arrived at the barn and were doing our initial treatments. There’s a fair bit of barking and other noise in the background; it was even noisier when we were making our introductory tour).

Kathleen took the second video clip later in the class, after we’d done a few more treatments. The difference is striking.

Since I was there, I can tell you the “after” was not without ripples. Occasionally a rat would scurry by (it’s a barn; it happens) and set off a chain of barks. But then the calm returned.

With financial giving, every little bit helps, and I guess it’s the same with peaceful presence. Watch and listen for yourself.

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Animal Wise: Midnight and getting it right

Midnight at Devoted Barn

Midnight at The Devoted Barn in Newport, Michigan. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

On the first day of Animal Reiki III, I wasn’t sure I’d get it right.

Sure, I’d been practicing for 10 years, mostly with animals I knew. I’d taken all three levels of “people Reiki.” But I wondered if I really had my “stuff” together enough to be of any use to the animals at The Devoted Barn, a volunteer-run animal sanctuary just south of Detroit.

There’s nothing like starting something new to bring old “who the hell am I to think I can do this?” chickens home to roost. I’d just left my corporate job to devote more time to my independent writing and editing projects, and to expand my animal Reiki practice as well. Even though I knew it was the right move, change is fertile ground for doubt.

That first day in the Devoted Barn, a cold rain on the roof drowned out the voice of the tour guide sharing snippets of each animal’s story. Perhaps it was just as well. Our teacher, Kathleen Prasad, had emphasized earlier in the day that the animals are not the circumstances that brought them here. They are not the rage, the cruelty, the indifference. To see them as victims diminishes them (and us) and gets in the way of healing. Learning to create a healing space for the animals — not fixing them — was why we were there.

We dispersed for our first treatment session, and I looked for Midnight, the black cat I’d seen strutting along the back wall of the stables. I found him — or he found me — near the front of the barn. He stretched, looked at me, and meowed pointedly.  Accustomed to obeying cats, I sat on a picnic table, and he settled immediately into my lap.

I remembered to ask Midnight’s permission and to tell him to take only the energy he wanted or needed, that it was really up to him. I remembered the Reiki Precepts — for today only: do not anger, do not worry, be humble, be honest, and have compassion for all living things — and to ask him to help teach them to me. I remembered the breathing techniques we’d practiced that morning in the hotel conference room. What was I missing?

Midnight just kneaded and purred, and as the minutes went by I began to shift out of “doing” Reiki and into “being” Reiki, and being present for my new feline friend and teacher. I filled up my heart and being with the energy I have known since before my birth — that unconditional, unwavering love of Source — and let it flow through me for whatever Midnight needed in that moment. That’s it, I remembered as the rain, the cold, the mud, and the “should” storm receded.

The next time I looked up, my fellow students were gathering in the middle of the barn for instructions on the next treatment session. Then I looked at Midnight, and he calmly met my gaze with a “You’re not going anywhere for a while” look. He stayed in my lap through another treatment session. After listening to Kathleen’s instructions, I tried some quiet chanting … but he was just as happy without it. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a horse watching with interest. You’re next, I told him silently.

When the time was up, I thanked Midnight, stood up, gave him one more chin scratch, and gently set him on the table. I hadn’t missed a thing.

One who went before

Helen Deiss - Ky Kernel

Helen Deiss, editor, checked The Kentucky Kernel with head pressman Karl Davis in the old printing plant in 1948. (Photo courtesy University of Kentucky)

This photo in my spouse’s University of Kentucky alumni magazine — celebrating the university’s 150th anniversary —  caught my eye. The young woman, Helen Deiss, was the editor of the campus newspaper in 1948, and here she was checking an issue just off the press. She looks younger than a traditional college student, and yet she exudes calm and confidence at a time when women in editorial positions were few.

Helen Deiss Irvin passed away in 2015 at 86, but according to her obituary, she went on to become a reporter for what was then the Lexington Leader, receive a Ph.D. from UK and teach in Transylvania University’s division of humanities. She later attended Harvard Law School and practiced in Washington, DC, until she was 83. Along the way, she authored a book, Women in Kentucky. “She loved animals, books and sports,” the obit reads.

Helen sounds like a lady who sought and found a variety of outlets for her gifts and interests. It wasn’t “just” journalism, teaching, or law … she did them all. Many, if not most, of the women who followed her in journalism would also weave teaching, law, public relations, nursing, occupational therapy, or any number of other disciplines into their working lives. It’s a pluralism that has become a reality of 21st-century life and a time when journalism is struggling to retain the best of what it was and morph into its future self.

The Kentucky Kernel became an independent newspaper in 1971, operating without university funding, and it’s still going today.

But look at young Helen giving that newspaper the once-over in 1948. She knew what she was doing and would find many more ways to do it. So can we.