All Reiki sessions are unique in some way and always a privilege to share with another being but one of my most memorable has to be with the bears at Wildlife SOS in India.
During our SARA trip to India in October 2016 we spent some time at Wildlife SOS in Agra, a charity that not only rescues wildlife from conflict with man as people invade their habitat but actively campaigns to end the abuse of wild animals in captivity such as elephants and the so called ‘dancing’ bears.
As a reiki practitioner I just love working with different types of animal sensing their energy for the first time and, as I always find, when we connect and go deeper into the meditation or reiki session the feeling that we are separate species dissapears as we share our energy – I was overwhelmed with the sensitivity of the bears, to the reiki energy, to their environment, to us – making it difficult to hear of the lives they had endured before rescue.
For centuaries going back to the time of the Mughal emperors the ‘dancing bears’ have been a traditional way of earning a living for the people of the Kalendar tribe, in more recent times this has taken the form of entertainment in villages and for tourists. The cubs are taken from their mothers at a very young age, in the wild they would be carried around on their mother’s back learning from her and remaining in the family group until fully grown. They go from a natural diet of mainly insects, fruits, plants and honey to a totally unsuitable diet in captivity, a rope is inserted through their sensitive muzzle – tugging on this rope is how they are made to ‘dance’. Even when rescued they have many physical and psychological wounds to be healed.
Wildlife SOS have rescued over 600 of these bears and put in place an education programme to compensate owners rather than prosecute them simply for following their traditional way of life, it’s the only way they know to support their families but when given the chance to earn a living in the modern world they can see it’s a win /win situation, breaking the cycle of poverty and ignorance. In fact many staff employed at the centre are from the Kalendar tribe. The last Indian dancing bear was handed over to the charity in 2009, but they continue to work to stamp out poaching from the wild which still goes on in remote areas, particularly to supply the trade in folk medicine to Asia.
We offered to teach fellow volunteers Sarah and Andy some basic techniques and meditations to continue working with the animals after we had left, they had already experienced a reiki session the previous day and were keen to learn for themselves.
I went off with Sarah to work with one of the bears, Johnny. Although rescued several years ago he was showing the stereotypical stress induced behaviour of many of the bears. They now have the space and natural habitat to move around as they please however, when the stress response kicks in they pace the enclosure fence. In captivity they would have been kept on a 4-6 foot rope from an early age and it is exactly that distance that they pace, wearing a smooth path that can be clearly seen in some of the photos, the staff make daily enrichment and interaction with the bears a priority to try and alleviate this problem.
It is distressing to witness and honestly my first thought ? okay no pressure !! A new animal, a new volunteer and people watching but I know better than to dwell on such thoughts and as Johnny paced the fence I took Sarah through Joshin Kokyu Ho which we continued to practice as he paced in front of us. After around 15 minutes, I could sense him taking notice of the connection we offered and Johnny started to slow his pace and then right in the middle of his path stepped off it and lay down in front of us, he went into the deepest reiki nap I have seen, we carried on with the session and despite others joining us at this point to take photographs he remained in our reiki space. The member of Wildlife SOS staff accompanying us commented that he had never seen this bear relax and afterwards told me that one of the other bears in an adjacent enclosure was in a deep sleep also.
Johnny steps off his well worn path for a deep reiki nap
It was such a privilege to be allowed to work with these beautiful animals, I continue to keep them and all at Wildlife SOS in my thoughts.
Alison McKinnon SARA Teacher
It has been a busy few weeks with lots of courses and workshops going on ( both facilitating and attending) but one of the highlights has been getting to sign up Glendrick Roost - an amazing animal rescue centre - as one of our SARA members. SARA The Shelter Animal Reiki Association is a registered charity that takes Reiki out to where it is most needed, to the animals and staff on the front line of animal rescue. For shelters, being a member organisation means that staff are trained in Reiki, free of charge and get to receive treatments when Reiki practitioners visit to treat the animals. SARA offers advice and methods to alleviate compassion fatigue and some of the difficult emotional aspects of working with animals. Some shelters will hold training programmes that are open to the public with a percentage of the training fees automatically donated to the shelter. I am proud to be a teacher and board member of SARA and look forward to holding classes at this very special welfare centre. www.glendrickroost.org.uk
Wow ! I can't believe it's over 2 years since I started my blog and promised to update it regularly !! Although I have been teaching Reiki and practising therapies part time most of my time has been taken up being a carer for my wee mum who has alzheimers and was living with me at home. She is now settling into her new (care)home and I am getting back to work full time, updating my sadly neglected website and blog. I did manage a trip to India last year and Im happy to report that Mouse was well. Daisy and Bailey Russell are now getting my undivided attention and some long overdue therapy, without doubt animals are healers too and I am so grateful to my special wee dogs for their love and support during a very stressful time, they are however missing my mum so lots of Reiki on the way for them to help them adjust.
Tolfa is home to 'retired' donkeys who have been injured and can no longer work or after a life spent hauling heavy loads, are just abandoned when old and no longer healthy. Rachel explains that they will spend the rest of their days at here, they cannot be rehomed as there would always be someone who would try to get that last little bit of work out of them.
I am happy to hear this, they will spend the rest of their days in the peace and tranquility of Tolfa receiving a constant supply of food and water and medical attention if needed. It would be easy to feel pity and anger at their treatment at the hands of their owners but when I connect with each one they are keen to relate how proud they are of their 'service' to humans, one even gives me a vivid image of himself in his younger days.
This was the first time I had really had the chance to work closely with donkeys and I can't believe how receptive to therapies , any therapies, they are. Whatever was on offer they were keen to try, so it wasn't long before they were on essential oils, macerates, supplements and massage. As always when offering Reiki I allow the animal to guide it's own treatment, it is their decision whether to accept the Reiki or not. The donkeys know exactly what they want and are very direct their requests, moving into my hands, the heat generated is incredible - they definately prefer a hands on treatment.
I am a little behind in starting and consequently updating my new blog !
I blamed the wifi connection or lack of it while in India, on top of being so busy with the animals while there but have basically just run out of time as usual. So here goes, I will be updating the account of my recent trip to India on behalf of The Shelter Animal Reiki Association as well as posting updates about my practice and training courses here in Glasgow Scotland.
Please scroll down to the bottom of this page for my first post.
Author and Journalist Jo Carnegie is spending three months at Tolfa and decided to find out more about Reiki by joining our level I class.
Jo is embracing all things Indian, follow her exploits in India (not necessarily Reiki related) at Trail of Carnage
The precepts are such an important part of Reiki practice no matter what level you are at and, as a guide us by meditating on or reciting daily, they can change our attitude to life's ups and downs. Personally I look at Reiki as a lifestyle choice, a path that I chose to follow and I use the precepts to guide the choices I make and how I react to life in general.
''Just for today, do not worry''
The distraction of fear is probably the most common emotion that shelter staff and animals have to deal with the world over. Live in the moment day by day and small miracles can happen ! India seems to bring that message home to many people with it's grounding, humbling energy. Tolfa embodies this precept, I watch the staff going about their business giving medical treatment, feeding and caring, just being in the moment with the animals - some in conditions that we would demand that something be done now ! We live in a 'quick fix' society and through fear don't listen to what is really being said, learn to listen to ourselves are we speaking or acting from fear. Listen to your animal friend they can let us know so much about what they are going through, are they in a place of fear ? we can help to calm and dispel that fearful energy by offering them sanctuary in the 'Reiki space'.
It is always an honour to introduce people to the system of Reiki and hopefully start students off on what will be their lifelong Reiki journey. I used to feel nervous that I would miss something out or that everyone will get what Reiki is and what it isn't, with experience and meditation to prepare for each individual class, I know that each person will recieve exactly what they need to learn at this moment in time.
Teaching in a shelter situation is quite different to a class where people have chosen to learn animal reiki for their own pets or as a career and different to teaching reiki for humans where most students will have researched what Reiki or healing/ energy work is about. In the shelter situation it can be seen as another tool in a volunteers box of tricks and most are desperate to start working with the animals right away, so introducing the concept of self healing and Level I being about yourself first, in order to create a solid foundation that then enable you to then offer Reiki to other beings - animal or human is a new idea, but everyone acknowledges how emotional this work can be and anything that helps us cope and at the end of the day be able do more for the animals, is welcomed.
What everyone generally has in common is that they acknowledge there is more to an animal than just the physical body , they have emotions, feelings and personalities just like us and this is a good palce to start with introducing Reiki and energy work.
For me it means going back to basics and is always illuminating in some way, you just never know what questions will crop up : isn't this just my imagination ? how can this work ? how can you stand there and do Reiki when this animal is ill !! ?
It also lets me check in with how my own practice is developing, teaching the meditations (and in level II the symbols) I realise that I REALLY understand the concept of 'Being Reiki' it comes naturally now, the system of Reiki provides powerful tools, to train our mind, body and energy to BE Reiki. To sit in a Reiki space where there is no giving or taking just an ebb and flow of this divine universal energy we are all part of is an amazing life enhancing experience ......
Our opening meditation is a powerful way of demonstrating that 'Reiki energy' is natural that we all have access to it, you can call it LOVE, we already are Reiki we just forget when going about our day to day lives. We feel it when we care for another being and show them compassion and it can cross the boundaries of time and space, when we bring loved ones or those in need of healing into our 'Reiki space' - there is no separation we are all one. For some it can be very emotional to come to this realisation and when we chat afterwards this is when I introduce The SYSTEM of Reiki and self practice, just imagine being able to connect to that feeling of pure love and compassion from an inexhaustable source, that you can tune into at any time you wish.
Emotions can overwhelm us particularly when beginning to work in a shelter situation and Tolfa is certainly a great place to learn to deal with the 'overwhelm' that can stop us in our tracks. This is the first open class I have taught at Tolfa previously teaching shelter staff who are used to the various physical and psychological conditions that the animals are in. It always is interesting to see how quickly connecting to Earth Ki and Hara breathing can help students to see beyond the physical appearance of some the animals, so that we can focus on being be the purest channel possible for the Reiki energy.
I love the part of the day when we talk about the energy present in all things and you can see some students have never thought of the world around them in these terms opening up a world of possibilities.
The Tree of Life for Animals (TOLFA) is one of my favourite places in the world !
It is a special place. You can feel the love as you walk through the gates.
Animal hospital and rescue centre TOLFA saves thousands of animal lives a year while supporting the local community. Founded by Rachel Wright a vet nurse (awarded the CEVA Welfare Veterinary Nurse of the Year for her tireless work and creation of Tolfa ) is also a deeply spiritual person seeing not just the physical body but the soul of each individual animal that passes through the gates of Tolfa, many animals who would have been deemed unsaveable have been given a second chance by being lucky enough to arrive here instead of facing an uncertain future on the streets. As well as receiving the best medical care available they are nurtured back to full health, with complementary therapies playing an increasingly important part in their rehabilitation. My first visit to Tolfa was in 2010 and I have to say it was lifechanging - I now teach on 'The Healing Paws Retreats' run by Tolfa and last year 2013 Tolfa became an official SARA Shelter. I would strongly encourage animal professionals ; Behaviourists, Therapists, Reiki Practitioners, Communicators, to pay a visit to these amazing animal teachers - they are so open to interacting and communicating with us you will never look at an animal the same way again. The street animals of India are waiting for you .....
Here are just some of the permanent residents at Tolfa
Dave Bella Shantaram
We arrive at Ratan Haveli Hotel in Pushkar to a warm welcome from owner Sunil, who kindly has put me in my favourite room, I just love to wake up to this view, perfect for morning meditation ........
The street is a hive of activity which you can watch from the balcony and rooftop. Street dogs, monkeys, cows and pigs (there is a local legend of the monkey that rides a pig down our street click here ). Local herders pass by with goats, camels and horses (stunning Marwari horses) whose stables are found further along the street.
Arriving in at Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi we have come to teach Reiki to students and staff at a charity, The Tree of Life for Animals (TOLFA), a shelter and hospital situated between the holy town of Pushkar and Ajmer in Rajasthan - which means we now have an approximately 8 hour taxi journey ahead of us. I love India. I actually enjoy the taxi journey. Seeing the countryside, and ok lots of traffic, stopping for chai at roadside stalls (always seems to taste the best), watching the chaos unfold. It occurs to me, 'I really hope Tina likes it too'. India is often described as an assault on the senses' which just about sums it up !
Luckily she does. describing it as ' the most bonkers place she has ever seen'.