Reminder that the summer sessions for Level 1, 2 and 3 certifications in the Let Animals Lead® certification classes start next week! You can find the schedule to sign up HERE. Hope to see you there 🙂
This week I’d like to consider a popular question among Animal Reiki students:
How long should an Animal Reiki session last?
First off, I would say to let the animals lead on this. Every animal is unique, and even the same animal on different occasions can give a different response time. It’s important to listen when animals say, “No, thank you,” or “That’s enough, please.” However in addition to making sure we are not forcing a session on an animal when they are not open to connecting, we want to make sure that our human interpretations of animal behavior don’t cause us to walk away too soon!
The best rule of thumb is to allow 30-60 minutes for each Animal Reiki session. New and beginning students (in the first 5 years of your daily practice) should try, as much as is possible, to sit in 60-minute sessions. This may seem like a lot, but here are 5 reasons why I recommend you take your time – a long time – when offering Animal Reiki sessions:
1) Giving time for the animal to settle
When beginning an Animal Reiki session, we want to consider the environment and physical/emotional feelings of the animal when we approach them. There are many reasons why an animal may take quite a bit of time to settle into calm and connection with us, and here are just a few:
- Dogs often need to explore their environment before they can relax, if they are in a new room or space for the session.
- Shelter animals such as dogs or captive wild animals such as tigers may be stressed and pacing in their environments, and may take 15 minutes or more for them just to be able to tune into your presence and relax.
- Sometimes there is noise or activity in an animal’s home environment, and the animal may want to stay alert and focused until things quiet down. Choosing a time of day that is quiet for the family can help avoid this situation, but if that’s not possible, allow that extra time to help the animal settle in.
- Sometimes there are outside stressors, such as fireworks or thunder, that create a high amount of stress and can cause the animal difficulty in connecting.
- Staying calm and focused on your meditation can help the animal begin to focus on your energy, rather than the outside stressors, however this may take some time. Your patience is key.
2) Allowing ourselves time for our minds and energy to settle
As the facilitator and meditator for the Animal Reiki session, our presence of mind and heart, as well as our emotional state has a big effect on the sensitive animals we are connecting with. As big-hearted, busy, multi-tasking and emotional human beings, there are many reasons why we may take 15-20 minutes or more just to quiet ourselves, and no judgment here: we love animals and it’s hard sometimes to remember, “All is well.” There are many reasons it may take a while to hold a strong space of peace and positivity for animals, including:
- We may be dealing with difficult emotional stressors in our own lives and families, and feel very distracted and torn in different directions as we begin our meditation. In this case, the grounding effects of the meditation may take longer than usual to settle us.
- We may find meditating difficult (which is very common, especially for beginners), and so we want to allow ourselves time to repeat the meditative practice enough that our mind settles into the quiet space the practice itself creates. Being flexible to do our meditation practice while standing or walking can help!
- We may be connecting with our own animals, and be very worried about them if they are ill. Our meditations are powerful tools to transform the worry of our emotions into the calm space of compassion, but this can be challenging and take diligent practice (and time.)
- We may be working with very traumatized or abused animals (as in the case of shelter or sanctuary animals), and so at first we may be focusing on their past “story.” Our meditations can help us to let go of what is “wrong” so that we can see deeper into their perfect light, but this can take time and repetition in our meditation.
3) Learning to listen to animals, their choices and preferences
In the Let Animals Lead® method, when we begin an Animal Reiki session, we never place our hands on the animal to begin; this can result in an animal saying, “No!” right off the bat. However in the beginning of sessions, it can be difficult to decipher exactly what an animal is telling us. Are they saying yes or maybe? (The aggravation of a “no” is easier to see!) Are they saying they are finished with a session, or just settling into one? Only through listening, observing and “waiting it out” can we truly learn the subtle and unique language that each animal wants to share with us. Here are a few types of situations that can often be misinterpreted, if the practitioner only attempts sessions for short periods of time:
- An animal is lying by your side, resting. After several minutes they get up and leave the room. It’s only been ten minutes, but you think they are finished and you stop the session. As you leave, you peek into the hallway, just beyond the room you are in, and see the animal in a deep Reiki nap. They actually just moved to be farther away to be “in private” so they could fully relax into the session. A longer session could have been of even more support for them.
- You are in a horse’s paddock and they are standing facing you for the first five minutes of the session. After several minutes, they turn away and face the corner and fall into a deep sleep. If you stop the session and leave, they may wake up and follow you as if to say, “Where are you going?” If you continue the session, you will most likely see a deepening of their relaxation.
- You walk into a pasture of sheep, and they are very shy and all run into the barn. You begin your session, but after five minutes they are still in the barn so you assume they don’t want to connect, so you stop. Had you continued the session, settled into the peace of it and waited patiently, you would most likely see the sheep begin to come out and stand around you, in their own time.
4) Letting go of your expectations about what is happening or not happening during the session, as well as outcomes
A big part of an Animal Reiki practitioner’s journey is learning to trust, and letting go of control of the process, the animal’s response and the results of the session. Only through meditating with diligence and patience, can we break through these expectations, such as:
- An elderly cat is sleeping as you enter the space, and sit down ten feet away to begin the session. After five minutes, you don’t see any change, so you assume they don’t want to take part in the session and stop. Animals will always show aggravation if they don’t want to connect – had you “hung in there” and continued the session, and not worried about what they were or were not doing, you would have been able to watch subtle signs of Reiki’s effects: a slowing and deepening of breathing patterns, big yawns or sighs, or perhaps dreaming.
- Your friend asks you to come “do Reiki” for their dog. When you get there, you feel self-conscious about what your friend thinks about what you are doing, and you worry the dog won’t show enough response. You want something “amazing” to happen so your friend really “gets it” about what you do. As you set your intention and begin your meditation, these worries and concerns can really dominate your thoughts, and you must allow the meditation time to quiet your mind so that you are actually providing a peaceful space for the animal to connect to. The dog may not settle until you let go of these worries, so if you give up after five to ten minutes, you may miss a really incredible connection that is waiting to happen!
- You are sharing Animal Reiki with a rescued horse and are worried about their adoption situation. Will they find a safe family to live with? Even though these worries come from a place of caring and wanting to help, they can really interfere with the horse’s ability to connect with you. If you don’t allow yourself enough time in the session to be able to let go into the peacefulness of the meditation (even if you can partly do it, this can be a great help!), you may think the horse doesn’t want to connect. After five minutes, you may not see any effects and give up. But really, they are just waiting for your energy to shift into a safer, more comfortable space for connection.
5) Learning about the ebb and flow of a typical Animal Reiki session
Animals don’t connect to Reiki the way humans do. In a typical human session, the person will sit or lie motionless (for the most part) for the duration of the session. Movement only comes from the practitioner, and when the person gets up from the chair (or massage table), this indicates that the session is over.
Animals, on the other hand, utilize movement as a way to connect with you and the Reiki space you are creating. It is better for you, as the practitioner, to move less (or only in response to an animal’s movement), and allow the animal to lead any movement that happens. Typically, animals move closer to you, then farther away, settle and then become more active, and then settle again and so on. This can happen several times during one 30 or 60 minute session.
Here are some common misinterpretations that can happen when we don’t allow for longer sessions.
- A dog who is lying down next to us, relaxed in a session, gets up after a few minutes to drink water, eat food, or investigate a noise. We immediately stop the session, even if it’s only been five or ten minutes. If we would have waited, and continued our meditation (without worrying about the behavior change), we would have most likely seen the dog come back and settle next to us again after eating, drinking, or investigating. This kind of activity might happen more than once. Usually it’s after a longer period of time, for example, 45 minutes, that the dog might really be finished. They would show this to you by possibly saying, “thank you” through a lick or acknowledgment of some kind, and then trotting away to play.
- A horse is eating his dinner. We start the session and he ignores us for five to ten minutes. We decide he doesn’t want Reiki and stop the session. What we would have probably seen, had we been patient and continued the session, is a gradual relaxation during his feeding. He may stop feeding periodically to touch his nose to our hand, then continue eating. He may even begin to eat with his eyes closed. Or he may even take breaks from eating to rest. Only if we have the patience to stay with him for an hour or so, will we see these subtle ways he is showing connection over time.
- A fearful cat has been trapped and neutered and is awaiting return, while he heals, to his colony. When we sit down to share a session with him, he runs to the back of his cage and hides. We can see big, black eyes staring at us in fear. We make sure to allow lots of physical distance, and do not face the cage as we begin the session. After five or ten minutes, we don’t see any response, so we give up and stop the session. Had we hung in there for an hour or so, we would have probably seen him slowly coming closer to investigate us. There have been so many times, that when I finish after an hour of meditation, I have watched these cats coming in and out of hiding, several times, testing me and gradually getting closer. Often, they’ll end up at the very closest part of the cage to me, and will fall asleep, pressed up against the bars. Yes, even the ones that do not trust humans! Especially these fearful ones really need the extra time to learn to trust the Reiki space, and that we aren’t forcing anything on them.
I hope these examples have helped provide a strong reasoning for you to develop patience in your Animal Reiki practice. There are so many things the animals want to show us and teach us, if we just stay with them long enough 🙂 Resist the urge to give up after just 5 or 10 minutes 🙂 Plus, animals can only truly believe us, when we tell them they can lead, if we give them the space (and time) to do so!
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Stay safe, be well and may the animals light your way,