As a child growing up in a dysfunctional family I took refuge in the company of animals. We understood each other and I could always trust them. I could usually be found under the table with the family dogs, or curled up with a cat companion. And wherever I went animals would naturally gravitate to me because I listened to them and treated them like equals, which sometimes freaked people out.
Fortunately my mother shared my love of animals and encouraged me, so some of my happiest memories were our visits to the Philadelphia Zoo. To me the animals were not zoological specimens behind bars, but my friends. My mother told me that a visit to the zoo was a day-long event because I insisted on visiting them all and that even at a young age I knew exactly where each of them were located.
When I became a teenager I hit some really rough times emotionally, and I shut down my developing intuitive abilities. I lost faith in everything and everyone—except the animals. Through the many traumatic years that followed a succession of animal friends stayed by my side and lovingly supported me.
One such friend came along unexpectedly one day while I was playing with a group of 25 kittens at a local pet food store. Since I already had a full crew of my own I had resolved to be strong and not adopt anyone else. I was having a wonderful time experiencing each of their personalities when I picked up this cute black and white tuxedo kitten. He rolled over in my hands so that he could look me in the eyes, and when he did I felt an actual click, like a puzzle piece had snapped into place, and I knew that we were meant for each other. So much for my resolution, he went home with me. Because he would often react to something I could not see, I felt he was seeing spirits so I named him Shaman (Shay-men). I had no formal training in what I do now, so I did not even realize that his name should have been pronounced Shah-men.
By 1995 I had reached a point in my life where I felt that my life had no meaning or purpose. Each day I felt that I was only gritting my teeth and putting one foot in front of the other. I considered, and rejected, many avenues. Then one day I read an article, written by someone I knew, recounting her experiences taking Reiki classes. I felt drawn to seek out training, and showed up at class with an open mind, but no expectations. During the attunement process I suddenly could feel the energy running through my hands and realized that this was real (something I had not thought about) and in that exact moment I also knew, to the core of my being, that I was a healer, that was my purpose, and that I would work with animals. And in that moment Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing was born.
I set up my practice as soon as I finished Reiki II, and a funny thing happened. My first client, a very elderly collie who came with his young woman companion, told me that he was dying and worried about her. She needed healing, could I help her, too?
So my practice shifted to include people, and when my first human client laid on my healing table, my cat Shaman (who had been Reiki-attuned by me at his request) surprised me by joining her. He looked at me, and very deliberately stretched himself out from her root chakra to her throat chakra, and began to offer her Reiki. Uncertainly I followed suit, and for the rest of the session we worked together. And for the next 15 or so years Shaman continued to work with my human clients and students, focusing on certain areas, guiding me, and teaching me.
And he guided my steps through the many years of my training in shamanism, participating in the ceremonies and helping to lay the foundation for yearly events like A Walk on the Wild Side: Answering the Call of the Wild and Animals As Healers and Teachers.
On the evening before Shaman was scheduled to depart into Spirit he requested that we do a special Peruvian shamanic despacho ceremony together; one just for us. When I rolled the red mat out on top of the stand to begin preparation, Shaman stepped onto it. Looking at me to make sure I was watching, he stretched out both of his front legs, and with the paws that had helped heal so many over the years, he scent-marked the mat, telling me that even in spirit he would continue to be part of the ceremonies and my life.
Shaman, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your patience and your wisdom. By building a bridge between people and animals, you not only assisted me in offering healing to others—you also helped me heal myself.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.
Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.