The Bloomington Animal Shelter celebrated World Animal Reiki Day Tuesday evening by inviting animal reiki teacher Kat Forgacs and some of her students to practice reiki meditations on animals staying at the shelter.
Reiki is a form of meditation and mindfulness practices that originated in Japan more than 100 years ago. The practice can trace some of its roots to ancient spiritual traditions like Buddhism, Forgacs said.
“We work on ourselves in this practice," Forgacs said. "We practice the meditation practices and the mindset practices for our own development and well-being. Then we can also practice those meditations around others, whether human or non-human.”
World Animal Reiki day was created by animal reiki teacher Kathleen Prasad, who is a world renowned expert on animal reiki. She chose Feb. 5 as the day for the event in honor of her dog’s birthday after he died, according to the Shelter Animal Reiki Association’s website.
Generally, when reiki is taught between humans, it is a hands-on practice. Whoever is receiving treatment lies down or sits while the reiki practitioner either gently touches the body or hovers gently over the person they are treating, Forgacs said.
“When Kathleen Prasad would try and practice those techniques with animals, often they didn’t want to be apart of that,” Forgacs said. “She was observing this and then developed some adaptations of these techniques to the unique situation of working with animals.”
In one of the cat rooms of the shelter, Forgacs sat down in a corner of the space with several of the cats she was practicing with. She sat upright on the edge of her seat and placed her hands on her knees. She wanted to let the animals know she was a safe and peaceful person entering their space, she said.
Pointing to one of the cats laying down, Forgacs said she had practiced with him earlier when he was moving around and being active. As soon as she went to sit down for that session, the cat found a spot to lay down and relax.
“Kat started offering the reiki here on Tuesday nights and I started following her, watching her and I really saw reiki save lives in this building,” said Jenny Gibson, the shelter’s volunteer program director.
Animals are good at reading people and responding to the energy humans give out from their emotions. The reiki practice is meant to calm and center the practitioner peacefully so they can be that way around the animal, Forgacs said.
Gibson, a reiki student, said she will sometimes stay after shifts at the shelter to practice reiki with the animals in order to connect with them and herself.
“For us it’s super helpful because it is something you can do that is not a medicine, it’s not invasive,” Gibson said. “I like to do it where there are multiple kennels because everyone seems to do something different, some eat, some play, some lay down. Today was really cool.”
Besides volunteering for regular shifts at the animal shelter, the shelter also offers opportunities for reiki practitioners to volunteer their services throughout the week.
“We can just be around the animals knowing that they’re going to meet us there if they want to,” Forgacs said.