Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. —Anais Nin

Some of my most difficult sleepless nights have been spent attempting to follow the Reiki precept “do not worry.” But as I have since discovered, this Reiki precept actually inspires us to find our courage.

It’s not easy to let go of worry when something is wrong with an animal we love. But fear does not serve animals well at all. When we live in fear, life becomes very small, as our thoughts focus on what is “wrong” It’s like a microscope that focuses in on worst-case scenarios and what might happen. And then we start going through many negative possibilities in our minds. Animals will often mirror our fear, becoming fearful or taking on neurotic habits. We all want to help our animals, but our fear gets in the way.

When we are afraid, it’s hard to connect to our animals because we build a wall around ourselves. Sometimes this wall is the fear itself causing us to withdraw, but sometimes this wall has a different label. We try to justify our fear by surrounding ourselves with “protection”—but in reality we are simply highlighting and nurturing our separation from the very animals we want to help. How can we truly connect if we are putting all of our energy into walls?

On the other hand, when we practice courage, we can expand beyond the limitations of fear. I find meditating with the Reiki precept “do not worry” to be very helpful with this. In meditating on this precept, I find my thoughts coming to rest in the space of courage. With courage, we face and walk through our fears to the space beyond them. Practicing courage doesn’t mean that we aren’t afraid; it just means that we are going to “lean into” our fear, rather than try to avoid it.

Practicing courage doesn’t mean that we aren’t afraid.

Let’s take the example of volunteering Reiki with shelter or sanctuary animals. We might be afraid to do this for many reasons. We might be afraid that we may see and/or hear an animal suffering. Maybe we are afraid we will want to take every single animal home with us. These fears may cause us to avoid shelter volunteering altogether. If we stay in that space of fear, then the shelter itself can become a monster in our minds.

On the other hand, if we push through that fear and go into the shelter, we can see many positive benefits: We can support animals to find stress relief and healing through our Reiki sessions; we can support the staff and other human caretakers through Reiki as well, so they can help the animals from a much better space (as we know, caregiver burnout is so high in shelters); we can also meet the animals one on one. In making personal connections with each animal, we will see courage in action: an abandoned cat that still loves people, an abused dog that is gentle and trusting, or a traumatized horse that seeks out human kindness.

In seeing the gratitude and peaceful responses of the animals, we can experience the healing power of love and compassion firsthand. By acting with courage, even when we are afraid, the shelter or sanctuary becomes a healing place that we look forward to going to, and fear loses its power.

What fears have you faced to help animals?

7 thoughts on “Can something as simple as courage aid animal healing?”

  1. Kathleen talks about the shelter becoming a healing place. I’d certainly agree. Going back to the shelter where I volunteer after time away because of a bereavement, meditating alongside the animals gave me calm and peace where I could forget my problems because I was focuing on them, enjoy their company and live in the moment. The delight at seeing me again shown by a couple of long term residents was also a real tonic. We gain just as much as the animals do, it’s not a one way street.

    1. Sharon L Burton

      Carolyn, I too have found healing visiting shelters. Three years ago my daughter, only child, dies and then 2 months later my elderly cat also dies. It look about a year before I was ready for a bond with cats again. I wasn’t planning on adopting. My mindset was I can help more cats by just socializing with them. I found that I have a gift. In turn I met my first Reiki instructor – Marcus. He adopted me. I started to learn ways to connect with scared cats. But I still had problems connecting with the aggressive cats. So I started researching online and came across SARA. I was stunned. Reiki sounded so close to what i have been doing. So at the beginning of this year i have taken Reiki I and II and have registered for an animal Reiki course. I am excited and scared but I’m not going to let it stop me.

  2. This time last year I was faced with a life changing diagnosis of a cat that I took in because she was without a home. I was going to foster her until she was emotionally ready to go to the humane society. A few months later I realized she was ill and received a diagnosis of diabetes. I have never dealt with anything like this before but deep down in my heart I knew I had to give her a chance. Well after about 2 months on intense treatment she went into remission and have kept her there though her diet. With all that the two of us have been through and the bond we have developed I will be keeping her. I did not find Reiki until this past fall so I didn’t have that to get me through. But I did know not to stop long enough to allow the fear of the unknown (all the things involved in the treatment of diabetes) get its ugly grip into me. This was right before the two year anniversary of my daughter’s death and I had a mission. The year before that I adopted Marcus who turned out to have asthma. Marcus was the beginning of my path to Reiki. I currently am stepping out of my comfort zone and have taken Reiki I and II. Practicing on cats won’t be hard to do but I also feel I need to do more with people. This is where the anxiety comes in and where I am at right now. But looking to the future and the possibilities that might come is what keeps me moving forward.

    1. This is beautiful and inspiring, Sharon! I really needed to read your words today. Thank you for sharing. <3

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