How Let Animals Lead® is Different From Other Animal Reiki Approaches
ARS’ Reiki method, Let Animals Lead® is different from other Animal Reiki approaches. It’s a very unique approach to sharing Reiki with animals that doesn’t involve using our hands or “forcing healing” on animals as all other Animal Reiki methods do.
What makes the Let Animals Lead® different from other Animal Reiki modalities?
I often tell new students they will be learning an approach that is completely different —often the opposite—of what they’ve learned for human Reiki. All the unique techniques and practices we learn in this method follow a clear ethic that puts animals first. In short, what makes the Let Animals Lead® method different is that it encourages animal agency within Animal Reiki sessions.
What is animal agency with respect to Animal Reiki?
In sociology, agency is usually spoken of about humans and means the capacity of individuals to have the power and resources to fulfill their potential.
In our modern world, animals do not have much power and, thus, don’t have much opportunity to express their agency. Much of their lives are constrained by the limitations that living with and/or among humans creates. Yet more and more, people are opening their eyes to the fact that animals are sentient beings who have intelligence, emotions and a natural wisdom that should be explored. Encouraging animals to act with agency is being tried in some positive training methods, by giving choice to animals who are in service and educational roles, and even in veterinary offices that use the “Force Free, Fear Free” approach. Some conservationists are even suggesting an “animal agency approach” to help solve wildlife conservation issues.
How does animal agency relate to Animal Reiki practice?
Reiki around the world is a very human-oriented, touch-based practice. Over time, as people began to share Reiki with their animals, this human-centric approach has continued. In fact, this is how I initially began sharing Reiki when I first learned. After all, as their caretakers, don’t we know best? In many cases in our animals’ lives we might answer this question with a “Yes!” but in the case of Animal Reiki, I beg to differ.
Amazing healing possibilities open up when we create a Reiki space for animals where they can act with agency, express preferences and show us who they truly are.
Since animals sense energy differently than humans do, Animal Reiki must be practiced differently than we practice it on humans.
People who practice Reiki on humans often notice that when they are doing a Reiki session for a person, their animal often comes into the room, but if they then try to “do” the session on the animal, the animal will suddenly leave. Why is this? Animals sense and understand the healing power of Reiki much better than we do, which is what brought them into the room in the first place. We often underestimate them in this understanding. When we decide they “need Reiki,” we try to control what the session looks like and use touch because it’s easier and familiar to us. We focus on their ailments and try to “fix” them. Although we mean well, this is uncomfortable to them and that’s why they often leave before we can even begin.
This is a good time for each of us to stop and contemplate our own approach with Reiki and animals. I believe that whatever approach we use, we always mean well, but good intentions are not enough; we need to make sure we are empowering animals during Reiki, not subjecting them to our will.
The difference between animal agency and animal submission in Animal Reiki sessions
One of the concepts not often discussed regarding animals and Reiki, is the difference between agency and submission.
Submission during Animal Reiki sessions means that animals must be compliant and acquiesce to human rituals. There are constraints to their movements, and they are expected to inhibit their natural instincts in order to comply with the progression of the practitioner’s formal “rules” of the session.
The success of the Reiki session would not be focused on the practitioner’s ability to go through hand positions, for example, but rather be centered on making sure the animal is empowered and free to be themselves and make independent choices while the practitioner holds space to support them.
There are three ways to approach Reiki with animals
In my opinion, there are only three ways to “do” Reiki with animals, and if you are sharing Reiki with animals, you are (whether you realize it or not) using one of these three approaches and when laid out, it makes it really apparent why Let Animals Lead® sessions are so different from other Animal Reiki sessions.
- The “Zero Options” Approach: The practitioner directs the session, focusing on hand positions on or just off the body around the “areas that need healing.” There is no choice given to animals at all; animals will be leashed, cross-tied or kept in a small area with the practitioner so they can’t get away. There are many issues with this approach, and the results will, at best, only cause animals to submit, and, at worst, cause animals to be traumatized by the dominant approach.
- The “My Way or the Highway” Approach: The practitioner directs the session but gives the animal a choice to walk away. The practitioner focuses on hands positions on or just off the body around the “areas that need healing.” Although this option is better than #1 because there is an opportunity for animal to say, “No,” it still offers no room for the animal to give a variety of natural responses to the session. Animals are expected to stay close to the practitioner and, for the most part, remain physically still. Depending on the animal, this choice can result in an animal choosing to stay only briefly before leaving, or it can cause a submissive animal to “give in” to the session. As in #1, this is a dominant approach towards animals.
- The “Freedom of Expression” Approach (the approach we use with Let Animals Lead® Reiki sessions): The practitioner listens to and honors the animal’s preferences and choices. The practitioner focuses on creating a calm and peaceful space through meditation and simply invites the animal in, if they wish to share the space. The practitioner focuses on a non-judgmental, All is Well state of mind, without focusing on the areas that need “fixing.” The animal now has the choice to say “No” and leave, to say “Maybe” and stay in the vicinity and observe until they feel trusting, or to say “Yes” and participate in the ways that make them feel comfortable. In this method, there is no “right way to behave.” The animal can move, can explore their environment, can take breaks from the space, and can choose whether or not to make physical contact. In this approach, the practitioner drops Reiki rituals and focuses instead on using Reiki meditation to help them be present and listen to the animal. This is the only approach where the practitioner trusts the animal to lead their own session.
In my own journey with Animal Reiki, I started at approach 1, rapidly evolved to approach 2, and am now deeply committed to approach 3. This is the approach we always use with Let Animals Lead® and this is why it’s so different than any other form of Animal Reiki. We allow a space for animals to make their own decisions and healing choices, not us.
I find myself continuing to learn ways to make the animals’ Reiki experience even freer and more inviting through continued practice and, perhaps one day I’ll have evolved to a 4th approach that is even more honoring of animals!
5 Ways to Support Agency in Animal Reiki
Create more choice and decision-making during Reiki:
Give them a voice in their healing journey.
Give them many options: They can come closer or move farther away; they can leave (or I will leave, if needed); they can relax and then wake up and explore; they can move or be still; they can come over to seek touch or keep a comfortable distance. They can stay in their “safe place” and do whatever relaxes them – grazing, chewing on a bone, curling up under a blanket, staying close to their best friend, etc.
Think Beyond Reiki:
Give them a chance to make their own decisions when it’s possible to do so; seeing them express themselves will inspire you to find more ways to encourage agency in other areas of their lives!
I might have in my mind—due to my own personal experience with a Reiki session—what a “good” session looks like (physical touch, focusing on the areas where I have discomfort). So, I might then put that agenda onto an animal, but what if we let animals define Reiki sessions for themselves? What would it look like? How would they wish to connect (if at all?) Do we have the patience to let them figure it out on their own, in their own time, and within their own comfort level? Or are we rushing them to get to the “healing part?” If we set up the right conditions, animals can feel safe enough to connect with us energetically and explore how they feel within that connected space. We must give them the time and space they need to truly relax and benefit from Reiki healing.
Keep an Open Intention:
Animals sense our intentions and they learn very quickly—if they know we are gentle and noninvasive with our thoughts and physical touch, they will more easily connect with us each time we return to invite them into the space. Show them that you are not taking over and leading the session—give them time and opportunity to lead it themselves. Be sure to keep your thoughts positive and not focused on what is “wrong” or what you want them to “do” or how you want the session to unfold.
Watch carefully and respond to their preferences as quickly as you can: perhaps you can move farther away, turn your body away, sit down so you are lower to the ground. If they come forward, acknowledge them with touch (if they initiate it). Notice if they are more comfortable if your hands are lightly petting them as opposed to still (some animals feel stressed if you touch them with still hands.)
An Example of Animal Reiki Agency: An Empowered Flock of Sheep
Several years ago, I was visiting one of my favorite sanctuaries, Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary in Essex, England. Remus has over 200 animals of many kinds: horses and ponies, donkeys, cows, goats, sheep, cats and dogs. One day I decided to sit outside the sheep pasture and offer a Reiki meditation to anyone in the flock who might be interested. On the whole, sheep are very shy and it’s common for the whole group to run into the barn or out of sight, only coming back after some time has passed and they’ve determined I’m not “forcing” anything on them.
This day, most of the flock was standing outside the barn, near the fence where I sat on the ground to begin my meditation. They stayed quietly in place near me as I invited them to share the Reiki space with me. After several minutes, I noticed a very old and fragile-looking sheep making his way out of the barn and towards the flock. He had difficulty walking and was very off-balance as he stiffly made his way toward me. As he neared the flock, they parted straight down the middle to make way for him. It reminded me of the Bible story, the parting of the Red Sea, 😂.
Down the center he came, painfully slow and bumping into one side of the flock and then the other as he doddered slowly towards me. When he finally made it to the fence right in front of me, he stopped and faced me, lowered his head and chewed his cud in a relaxed manner. The flock closed their gap and stood around him. After a few minutes, he carefully turned one side to me and relaxed a few more minutes. Then he turned his backside to me and relaxed. Finally, he faced his other side to me, lowered his head and looked as though he was sleeping while standing, for several minutes. Finally, he lifted his head, gave me a look as if to say, “Thanks!” and turned to make his way back to the barn.
Again, as if by magic, the flock parted in half, so he had room to move as easily as possible. As he doddered and bumped into this sheep and that sheep, the sheep were so polite and simply made more room for him to move. It was truly a beautiful sight to see how kind and considerate the flock was to him! As he disappeared back into the barn, the sheep moved together again into one flock, and it was as if his visit had never happened!
I love remembering this experience because it not only shows the power of gentleness and compassion that sheep exhibit, but also it is a wonderful example of what can happen when we, as Animal Reiki practitioners, release our expectations and just “be” with animals. It shows that amazing things can happen when we create enough space for animals to feel safe to express themselves and freedom to share space with us in the ways that they wish.
Encouraging animal agency as a new and different way to share Reiki with animals.
Because Let Animals Lead® takes such a different approach to Animal Reiki than other Animal Reiki approaches by encouraging animal agency, it creates a larger potential for successful Animal Reiki sessions. Just as successfully practicing any kind of holistic healing in humans requires that the human be open to the session for the session to be effective, the same goes for animals. Animals are much more receptive to the Animal Reiki practitioner when they are given the choice to participate in their own healing and that’s something proprietary to Let Animals Lead®.
Want to learn more about giving agency to animals during Reiki sessions? Join us on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 for our Animal Reiki Talk Podcast: How Let Animals Lead® is different from other Animal Reiki Methods.
More ways to learn about the Let Animals Lead® Method:
Join our next podcast! October’s is How Let Animals Lead® is different than other Animal Reiki Approaches.
Train with us at our Animal Reiki Source Academy (in-person classes beginning again in November).
Come to one of our interactive online monthly workshops: October’s is The 3 Qualities you Need to Radiate for Successful Animal Reiki Sessions.
Read some of our Animal Reiki blogs! We’ve written many of them.
Watch some of our YouTube videos!