Chapter 1: A Brief Introduction to the System of Reiki
“From a traditional Japanese perspective we can say that Reiki means our True Self, and the system of Reiki (Usui Reiki Ryoho) is a system that helps us to remember our True Self/Reiki again.” – Frans Stiene
Ariel is a shy gray mare at BrightHaven Sanctuary in northern California. She was rescued from the Mexican rodeo circuit, and has many scars that bear testament to her difficult past. She is now living a peaceful life where humans require nothing from her, and she can just be a horse and live in her herd. Yet due to her history, she is extremely untrusting of humans. When she first arrived at the sanctuary, she would stand very far from my Reiki students when we would come out to the pasture to share meditation. Even though she wouldn’t physically approach, she would watch us very carefully, her ears pricked at attention, showing lots of interest in what we were “doing” while we were meditating.
One morning, I decided to go out to the pasture to meditate alone before my students arrived. The morning was warm, sunny, and quiet-the perfect meditation space. I stood outside the fence, closed my eyes, and began my Reiki meditation. I opened my heart to the horses in the pasture. After several minutes I felt as though someone was watching me. I opened my eyes, and sure enough, Ariel had walked all the way across the pasture and now stood just outside my reach, staring right at me. I placed my hands, palms up, just inside the fence and continued my meditative breathing. I could feel a beautiful, peaceful atmosphere all around us. Another of the horses, a paint named Mocha, walked up to my hands, touched them with her nose, looked at Ariel as if to say, “See how safe she is?” and walked away. I noticed several other horses in the pasture had come closer and stood in various poses of napping and relaxation. It seemed as though they had all come forward to show Ariel how to connect in this meditative space.
Ariel had watched Mocha’s approach very carefully, and was clearly keeping an eye on her herd members for direction. Slowly, Ariel took one step closer to me, then stopped and watched the other horses. Then she took another step: still her companions dozed and relaxed. Finally, she very slowly stretched her neck toward me, eventually touching her nose to my palm. She jerked her head upward as if she could not quite believe herself-she had actually approached this human for physical contact! I continued to breathe and meditate peacefully, and she returned her nose to my hand, this time resting it gently in my palm, her eyes slowly closing.
In that beautiful moment, I felt many things: I felt deep peace and contentment enveloping both of us and radiating out into the whole herd. I felt my heart opening so wide with love for Ariel, for the trust she was giving me. I felt immense gratitude for the support of her herd in bringing us together. I felt happiness that she had found her way to the safety of BrightHaven. I felt a bright hope and deep inner knowing that she would learn to trust humans again. There was so much in that moment, and yet there was no movement, no sound, and no words.
This experience was a true “equine Reiki moment.” In other words, it was a moment in which a lot was going on, and yet nothing was going on! It was a moment of being present with a horse, with an open, grateful heart and with compassion, but without judgment or worries about the past, without trying to do something to “fix” a problem. It was a time for potential, not a time to push Ariel into what I thought she “needed” to do. When we learn to share peace with our horses, rather than pushing our healing agenda onto them, amazing things can happen!
This is what the practice of Reiki will help you to do: to connect with your horses in a way that makes a deep and lasting healing possible. Ariel has continued to make incredible progress, and shows more and more joy in her life and trust in her human caretakers at BrightHaven. What a brave, bright spirit she is!
In order to help you to be able to create a similar “equine Reiki moment” with a horse you love, let’s take a moment to discuss what Reiki is and how practicing the system can enhance your own well being, as well as help horses to heal.
Reiki is a system, and Reiki is spiritual energy
The name Reiki, pronounced ray-key, comes from the Japanese words rei, meaning spirit, and ki, meaning energy. Another translation used by my Reiki teacher, Frans Stiene, is True Self. So we could say that the word has two meanings, referring both to a Japanese system of meditative techniques and to our True Self.
You can see both of these meanings reflected in Ariel’s story. The story starts with a specific state of mind and meditative practice that I have learned from the system of Reiki. In addition, the connection that occurred through this practice is one in which Ariel and I each were able to shine the light of our True Self, our inner essence, which contains so much love and compassion and peace that all healing possibility exists within it.
In this book, I will use the term Reiki to describe various meditative practices to help us to remember our True Self (which is comprised of spiritual energy and which I like to call our “true heart”) in order to achieve healing. I will share many stories of how these specific practices have helped to illuminate the true heart of both the practitioner and the horse. I have found over many years of practice that sharing these Reiki meditations with our animals brings profound peacefulness. Meditating with our horses is a simple path to achieving wellness for all.
As you can see from Ariel’s story, meditating with our horses helps us cultivate compassion through a profound depth of connection. When we connect heart to heart with another being, we remember the ultimate truth of existence-that we are all One. This is the place where healing starts. I like to call this “the Reiki Space.” It is a place we remember rather than something that is new to us, because our hearts already know that we are all connected on this planet. This kind of profound connection is a part of our ancient wisdom, although we may have forgotten it in our attempt to “civilize” ourselves. Our animals are often more in touch with this truth than we are, as they are still so connected to the earth and the laws of nature. Connecting heart to heart with our horses in meditation is a key that can help us open the door to experiencing our True Self or spiritual energy. Within this profound space of energetic heart connections, many wonderful miracles of healing can take place.
Reiki is healing touch
Two parts of the system of Reiki incorporate touch: self-healing and assistance in the healing of others. Reiki practitioners are taught formal hand positions to use when doing Reiki on themselves, as well as hand positions for sharing Reiki with other humans. Because we are very tactile creatures, we humans feel support and compassion in a very direct way through touch. Human clients often describe feelings of relaxation, harmony, and well being after a Reiki session. When sharing Reiki with horses, it’s best to consider touch optional, and use it only when horse-initiated. As in Ariel’s case, horses are generally very clear on whether, when, and where they like to be touched.
When our horses choose it, Reiki may involve direct physical contact in the form of light touch on areas of the body that our horses are comfortable with. Thus, each practice will look unique based upon the preferences of each horse. Although Reiki is just as effective without this direct contact, for many horses, the power of touch is a very strong way to convey compassion and care while nurturing a heart to heart connection.
Reiki starts with you
The practices of the system of Reiki help us, step by step, to learn how to hold a space of balance and peacefulness within ourselves, even in the midst of a chaotic or troublesome situation. At first we learn how to maintain an inner balance and calm while we meditate, sitting or standing quietly and undisturbed. In time and with practice we will see this calmness gradually spread out into other areas of our lives, when we aren’t formally “practicing.” In essence, the peaceful space that meditation creates will begin to follow us wherever we go. Our horses will sense this, and benefit from it also. I call it the “Reiki ripple effect”-when we practice sowing the seeds of openhearted compassion and peacefulness in ourselves, over time we see the fruits of healing, contentment, transformation, and renewal in our lives.
Reiki is compassion through mindfulness
The most common depictions of Reiki I have read and seen are focused on the surface practices of Reiki as a “hands-on healing” modality for helping others heal bumps and bruises, and indeed that is where I started in my own practice eighteen years ago. Over the years, however, the animals I have connected with have challenged me to let go of these more surface aspects of “curing” and focus instead on the deeper teachings of Reiki and the healing of the spirit. The heart of Reiki practice is about meeting our horses’ healing challenges with grace and surrender while we to learn to listen to and be present for them in this very moment, in a compassionate space. We must learn how to meditate with our horses for peace with whatever will be, instead of pushing onto our horses our own energy, intention and agenda for what we want. This is what I like to call “being Reiki”-experiencing an openhearted mindfulness with our horses-and it brings with it amazing healing responses.
Reiki is peacefulness
Because horses are so sensitive to our inner states, when we learn through meditation to create an inner state of balance, almost immediately we can see our horses respond by also becoming calmer and more peaceful. Self-healing can most easily happen when we are truly at peace, and we can see our horses heal themselves much more easily when they, too, are peaceful. In addition, learning to connect with our horses from this calm inner space will also help deepen our relationship with them. Species differences seem to melt away in the Reiki space of a peaceful heart. Peace is an energetic language beyond words, one that horses already understand. They are ready to speak it with us; we just have to remember to listen. The quieter we can become, the more we can hear. To practice Reiki with our horses is to learn how to “Be Peace” with them.
Reiki is meditation
Reiki is a system of spiritual meditation that utilizes practices such as:
- Contemplating the Reiki precepts “Just for today: Do not anger, do not worry, be humble, be honest, be compassionate”
- Practicing traditional breathing techniques
- Sharing healing sessions
- Visualizing and drawing symbols and chanting mantras
- Offering initiations to Reiki students
If we take a deeper look at each of these practices, we can see that at the heart is an intention to create a meditative state of mind:
When working with the precepts, the key is to contemplate them in a meditative way, so that we can go deeper into their meaning and purpose in our everyday lives, bringing change and healing to all that we do. It is very important to remember that the precepts are about a state of mind, not a set of actions. The heart of Reiki is this state of mind, for when we are living the precepts, we are connecting to our True Self, and healing will happen naturally.
When working with the breathing techniques, the key is to follow the breath into a meditative space where healing can happen. Breath is the bridge between the body and the spirit; therefore, we must learn to connect with our breath in order to begin the healing process at the deepest layers of our being.
Sharing healing sessions
As practitioners, if we want to share healing with a person or animal, the key is connecting heart to heart. To do this we must go deeper into a meditative state of mind, which can support the healing process. Often people use the word “treatment” for this experience, but I think this is a very loaded term, and perhaps not the best one to use. The term “treatment” creates a feeling of separation, implying that one being is now the “healer” who is giving something, and the other has something “wrong” or is lacking something. Thinking of the relation between spirits in these terms nurtures ego and negativity. The most effective Reiki healing happens when all of these judgments and separations disappear and we remember that we are all One: all perfect, beautiful bright lights in our true essence. I like to call this process “sharing Reiki,” for this invokes more of the sense of connection that is at the core of Reiki practice. Since everyone involved can experience the peacefulness, compassion, and love that Reiki brings (as well as the healing that follows), not just the “client,” this is a meditative experience that is experienced and participated in by all, not “given” by one to another.
Symbols and mantras
When practicing the system of Reiki with symbols and mantras, whether through visualization, contemplation, or chanting, we learn that they are tools to help us to release our busy minds and find our inner “still point,” or inner meditative space, to facilitate healing.
Reiki teachers learn to share a healing ritual when meeting with our students called an initiation. The intent of an initiation is to create a meditative space of openhearted connection, a peaceful, compassionate space that also will support the student’s healing process and spiritual journey.
Both teachers and practitioners of the system of Reiki often describe how their Reiki meditation practice has healed their lives-from the inside out-and made their world a better and more peaceful place. Our horses appreciate and are drawn to the peacefulness of the meditative state, and enjoy being our meditation partners. The more we practice, the stronger is this peaceful atmosphere we are able to create for ourselves and those around us.
The second part of this post on equine Reiki is here: Healing Horses With Reiki: Heart To Heart With Horses Part 2
Learn more about how to use Reiki with animals in Kathleen’s other articles here on AWG, and in her books: