Many years ago, animals helped me realize that informal, flexible forms of meditation can be equally as effective as traditional, formal meditation. Here’s a clip about this from a guest podcast I did a couple years ago.
Flexible Forms of Meditation Allow Us to Form Stronger Connections with Animals
Contrary to popular misconceptions, meditation doesn’t have to be still and formal, it can be flexible and fluid. It may seem counterintuitive to find ways to be flexible in our meditations, especially in a myriad of situations, but it’s really beneficial when working with animals.
Some people think they have to light a candle and sit on a cushion to meditate (and, don’t get me wrong, that often works well for many people), but that can be very limiting, especially when it comes to creating energetic connections with animals and doing animal energy work.
Meditation cultivates compassion, so the more ways we can learn how to meditate, the more compassionate we will be in our daily lives. Imagine how effective and life-changing it would be if everyone learned how to meditate in all types of situations and we were constantly bringing compassion to everything we do.
And, even though animals and nature can sometimes seem cruel and barbaric to our compassionate human hearts, animals carry a huge capacity for compassion in the animal kingdom. If you need any proof, have a look at this video of a lioness capturing a newly born wildebeest calf and then deciding NOT to eat it and allowing it to safely return to its mother.
That story is not unusual in the animal kingdom. There are plenty of others where people have been lost in the wilderness or injured and predators have befriended them and either sought help for them or led them to safety.
Animals are innately connected to the energy all around them and are tapped into compassion regularly, so what they teach us by their compassionate presence is very freeing—any moment in our lives can be a meditation. We can practice peaceful presence while sitting, walking or standing—cuddling our cat, walking the dog or standing in a pasture with our horse.
When it comes to connecting energetically with animals, we really never know what kind of environment or situation we’ll find ourselves in. When given the opportunity to be Reiki with animals, we can often end up in a stressful or loud environment, in extreme weather, in unfamiliar places, etc. It becomes imperative that we are able to be flexible about practicing our meditation sitting, standing or walking: whatever makes the animal–not necessarily us–most comfortable. We can’t rely upon verbal feedback, so we’ve got to learn to listen to what animals are telling us without words. We’ve also got to practice patience, as many animals take a lot of time (sometimes even multiple sessions) to fully relax and trust.
Sometimes it feels easier to “know what to do” with our hands, rather than to allow each animal to take charge in the moment, responding organically to what unfolds, often without any physical contact. Sometimes it feels easier to focus with other humans on what is “wrong” with the animal and what needs to be fixed, rather than to clear our minds and look with our hearts, focusing on the perfection and wholeness of the animal in this moment.
Our animals live this way already, and they can show us how to live this way too.
Movement during Meditation Cultivates Compassion—for Self and Others
Meditation is about bringing all of our energy here to this present moment—no matter what we’re doing—and opening our hearts to the peaceful power that exists in the now. Animals spend their lives practicing presence without judgement—exactly what we need to learn how to do, every day—and they do it while moving or still, in all situations.
With years of observing animals practicing presence every day, I have understood for years that animals are my best meditation teachers—mirrors reflecting to me how I should be and lights, guiding me along the path of inner healing.
When I’m not practicing presence, the animals sense it. They move away or turn their backs or show other physical signs of agitation and all those things remind me to come back to myself and the present moment.
Their behaviors also remind me to be compassionate by understanding how my energy is affecting theirs.
No matter what we are doing, the animals are going to show us the way. When we are fully aware and present and paying attention to the animals and how they are reacting, we will know immediately whether or not we are practicing compassion. If we are, they will be calm and receptive. If we are not, they will be agitated and mirroring our own energy.
Cultivating Compassion for Animals through Movement Meditation
When we work with animals and the Let Animals Lead® method of Animal Reiki, we have to learn how to adapt our Reiki practice to many different situations, including sitting, standing and walking meditations because animals aren’t always receptive to sitting still and holding space with us. The better we are able to adapt to their needs, the stronger our chances of creating those energetic connections becomes.
We’ve already talked about how movement in meditation cultivates compassion and how important it is to learn flexible forms of meditation when working with animals, which leads us to Pillar 4 of the Let Animals Lead® method of Animal Reiki: Meditation is a way of compassion
Pillar 4 of the Let Animals Lead® Method: Meditation as a Way of Compassion
In the Let Animals Lead® Method, only the first Pillar (based on Japanese Reiki techniques) is Reiki, the rest of the Pillars are all about offering animals agency to choose whether or not they want to step into the healing space we’re holding. And Pillar 4 shows us that, when working with animals and Reiki, we consider meditation to be a compassionate practice and way of life, not a physical body position.
When we work with animals, we end up in all sorts of environments and situations with them:
We might be in a barn with a horse.
We might be in a pasture with a cow or a sheep or a goat.
We might end up outside, under a tree with a bird.
We might be in a shelter environment where the public is walking in and out,.
We might be walking in a forest with our dog.
The point is that it’s possible to “be Reiki” in every place, in every situation when we understand that meditation is not a physical position, it’s a combination of our state of mind and heart and how we use them in the world.
Animals already understand this and they will very quickly alert us if we are not present.
Let’s imagine a scenario that will help illustrate animals’ innate understanding of energy and Reiki:
Ever taken a yoga class? You have your cute little outfit on, and they may have soft music playing, and everybody’s all shiny and looking good and supposed to be following their breath with the movements and positions. But, for all you know, everybody in the class is thinking about something else entirely, totally distracted, not even focused—they just appear to be. The teacher will look out and think everyone is doing great and you’ll look around and think how namaste everybody is. But really, nobody knows for sure.
Well, let me tell you, if you were standing in a pasture of horses and you look perfectly relaxed and zen and in the moment, but mentally you’re out to lunch and your heart is not in it, the animals will know immediately and they will not tolerate it. They’ll either leave (if they are able to) or they will visibly show signs of agitation. There’s nothing quite like a 1000 lb horse bearing its teeth at you and stomping its foot to snap you back into the moment and remind you to pay attention to your energy and sink back into a compassionate state of being.
Also a good reason to learn to meditate with your eyes open and your head on a swivel.
Again, meditation is our way of compassion; the physical position of our bodies is not. To truly cultivate a compassionate space of healing and connection with animals, we have to be as bendy and flexible as a yogi. We have to be willing to accept animals stepping into our meditative space on their terms—not ours.
My students at BrightHaven Center for Animal Rescue, Hospice, and Holistic Education used to go out to be Reiki with the goats and they would come back with their hair full of green slime because the goats loved to chew on their hair with mouths full of alfalfa.
Learning how to be flexible with meditation creates magical results!
Learning how to be flexible with our meditation practice is also a wonderful way to engage kinesthetic learners in the beautiful benefits meditation can bring to every aspect of your life. No matter if you’ve been a long-term fan of meditation or if you’re just starting out and new to the idea of meditation altogether, the true purpose of learning how to meditate using the Let Animals Lead® method of Animal Reiki is to live a kinder life.
Some people give up on meditation because they just can’t sit still. When they learn to stand or walk or move around while meditating, something magical happens and, suddenly, they create connections with people and animals that they never thought possible.
Learning how to change it up and be flexible in our meditations also teaches us how to let go of expectations and tackle obstacles in creative and positive ways. It’s especially helpful when working with animals because it reminds us to Let Animals Lead® each Animal Reiki session and accept that it may not go as expected. Flexibility of person and thinking helps us to embrace the uniqueness of each animal and each session and this causes us to become relaxed and open to whatever happens. It’s this relaxed, open-hearted state that attracts animals into the space we’re holding for them.
Even when facing difficult circumstances (with animals and in life), practicing flexible meditation techniques teaches us to solve problems with ease and deepens trust and bonds with our animals and our people.
And that’s really magical!
More Info on Growing Compassion through Flexible Meditation Practices
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