When I started my animal Reiki business out of my living room 11 years ago, one of my biggest challenges to building my new business was finding shelters willing to allow me in so I could bring Reiki to the animals. Back then, no one had even heard of Reiki! So imagine how difficult it was to open those doors and make those connections. But with a lot of perseverance, one by one I found people with open hearts and minds willing to take a chance on me.
Since then, I’ve been able to work with animals and bring Reiki programs to BrightHaven Sanctuary, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the San Francisco SPCA in California; Best Friends Animal Society in Utah; Animal Haven in New York City; Chenoa Manor Farm Sanctuary in Pennsylvania; The CARE Foundation in Florida; and even to sanctuaries worldwide—like Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary in the UK. Today my nonprofit SARA, which I co-founded with Leah D’Ambrosio to bring Reiki programs to shelters around the world, has more than 400 members worldwide and Reiki programs in shelters and sanctuaries across the U.S., Canada, England and Australia.
None of that could have happened without some amazing transformations—of skeptics into believers. Here are my best tips, based on years of experience encountering plenty of pushback. Try these tactics for staying strong, outlasting the critics and doing what you do best: bringing Reiki to shelter animals in need.
1. Meditate daily. This step is very important, so don’t neglect it. When you meditate every day, you feel more calm and balanced, which helps you keep your cool if people criticize your life’s passion. However, a daily meditation practice also makes it easier to connect quickly with that healing space of love and compassion that’s so essential to helping shelter animals. And when you face distractions like loud, barking dogs or interference from concerned staff who don’t know what to think of Reiki (maybe it’s their first time seeing it in action), tapping into the energy quickly and effectively allows you to get down to business without wasting time on feeling anxious or unsure.
2. Listen with an open heart. Reiki skeptics are often fearful the modality is just woo-woo, hippy-dippy thinking. Of course, we know the opposite to be true! But the key is to establish a friendly connection, listen with a smile and not be easily offended. Establish your common ground: You both want to help animals, and animal meditation is another way to help them. In my experience, most shelters want any help they can get, and once they understand what Reiki is—and how it is both gentle and holistic—they are happy to accommodate you on some level.
3. Understand the science behind Reiki. Many people who discount Reiki simply don’t realize how mainstream it has become. In fact, Reiki is now used as a complementary therapy in cancer centers nationwide because the results are so effective. And mindfulness meditation, an important component of Reiki, is being used in hospitals, schools and corporations worldwide, thanks to studies suggesting it reduces stress and anxiety, eases pain, lowers blood pressure, boosts feelings of compassion and more. This recent shift in mainstream acceptance will definitely help new shelters feel more comfortable giving you a chance.
4. Let your work speak for itself. Animals don’t pretend—what you see is what you get. And this is actually what helps so many people open up to accepting Reiki! I can’t tell you how many times shelter workers have said to me (following a Reiki treatment), “Wow, that feral cat has never let anyone pet him before” or “Amazing, that dog has not stopped barking for hours.” These powerful healing responses are your closest allies. We’ve all experienced life-affirming moments such as these. Check out this special video of me offering Reiki to a kennel full of stressed-out dogs, and the peaceful calm that falls over them:
5. Don’t give up. Not everyone will want to hear about Reiki or help the animals with Reiki, and that’s OK—because there will always be others who are open. So never give up trying. I can’t promise it will be easy, but it will get easier. And the purrs and tail wags sure to follow will be more than worth it.
How do you deal with skepticism when bringing Reiki to animals in a shelter setting?
18 thoughts on “How to transform skeptics into believers”
When a small group of us went to the animal shelter in Philadelphia to volunteer giving reiki the staff was less than enthusiastic. This was back in 2006 when reiki still hadn’t gone mainstream. The shelter was overflowing with 200+ dogs alone and it was unfortunately a kill shelter. Initially they were upset at the idea as they need volunteers to clean the cages and walk as many dogs as possible so we drafted our significant others/family members to help. They cleaned the poop from the cages while we took the dogs to the yard to give them fresh air and reiki. Once the shelter workers knew work was getting done they became more open to us coming. Then eventually they wanted us to come every day due to the results they were seeing. For instance, after we left the animals were calm and quiet all night. The animals were relaxing more and showing their true personalities which increased adoption rates. Their adoption rate went from 49% to 87% in just a month. They went from complete skeptics to reiki practitioners! We offered to train all shelter staff to administer reiki for free and they all signed up! When I left Philly 10 years ago the shelter had a full reiki team.
Scepticism, to me is the same as lacking belief basically in something, thought this could also be applicable to people as well.
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Ross Galán, Ph. D
NLP Spiritual Life Coach
at Life CoachTructing
Thanks Ross 🙂
Love the video with the dogs. How about one with cats?
Thanks Nancy! Have you seen this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9WEfB1dBQc Blessings 🙂
Thanks! It would be great if you could show a freaked-out cat getting Reiki.
I used to go to their old shelter, into the back area of the cat room, and give Reiki to the sick and scared cats at BACS. Cats would come up to the front of the crates (from scrunching down in the back of the crate) to get Reiki. Even when I worked on one that was sick, others would come to the front doors of the crates to participate. Do they have a similar room at the new shelter? It would be great to have you do a video that shows that you don’t have to do Reiki hands on.
Here it is :
I do this at zoos at the time. I go when it isn’t too busy, and offer Reiki to animals that seem bored or understimulated. The staff doesn’t seem to notice –if they do they don’t say anything to me. The animals definitely respond, though.
Wonderful when the animals respond 🙂
Thank you for this Beautiful video! “Speaks” volumes! <3
You are welcome Rickie 🙂
I would love to see you add a social media share button at the end of your posts ::-)
Hi Michelle! I’m Kathleen’s sister and I help her manage this blog. I wanted to let you know, we do have social share buttons. 🙂 If you scroll up to the photo on this article, there are some green boxes/buttons to the right of the photo. One is a “thumbs up” sign. If you hover over that, it will give you your choice for Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Thanks for wanting to share the love!!
When I first started volunteering Reiki in the Grass Valley animal shelter, I wasn’t so sure how one of the animal control officer’s felt about my being there. It was a quick hello and goodbye from him at first, but as time went on he got to see the healing taking place with the animals. He now asks me at the end of my day with the animals “How did it go?” Love it! I never know what to expect when I go there, I just let Reiki and the animals guide me.
I get asked quite often “Aren’t you exhausted at the end of the day at the shelter?” or “Don’t you get sad?” My answer is I have a bag of tools I use to be the grounding force for the animals for their healing and for those times when I feel the sadness. The animals are little tricksters though, because they are my grounding force. There have been many times when one dog has helped me lead the way for the others, so amazing! When that dog gets adopted it starts all over and another dog helps me and so on. Very funny, but so heartwarming….our very own spiritual teachers!
Beautiful, thanks for sharing Maureen. Yes isn’t it amazing when the animals we “think” we are helping, end up teaching us and healing us! 🙂 So happy you are sharing Reiki in your local shelter – keep up the great work!
Thanks for the pointers Kathleen. Good ones.
My pleasure, Frans 🙂