Reiki versus dogs just being dogs

Let me start right here by repeating yet again my oft-repeated assessment of reiki. Reiki is clearly nothing more than faith healing that substitutes Eastern mysticism for Christianity. Think of it this way. In faith healing, the faith healer claims to channel the healing power of God into the person being healed. In reiki, the reiki master claims to be able to channel “life energy” from what they refer to as the “universal source.” Big difference, right?

Wrong. It’s the same thing.

Let me also point out that, as much as I detest quackery, I’m particularly not a big fan of subjecting innocent animals to quackery. That’s why I’ve been particularly critical of subjecting animals to acupuncture, the way Cesar Milan does sometimes on his show The Dog Whisperer. I also haven’t been much of a fan of reiki masters subjecting animals to reiki. As large animal veterinarian David Ramey puts it, the use of such therapies as acupuncture is a triumph of style over substance. The only good thing I can say about subjecting animals to reiki is that at least it doesn’t involve sticking needles into the poor creatures. The other thing I can say is that frequently it involves some hilarity on the part of reiki masters, particularly “reiki animal shamans.” I found yet another example of this not too long ago at the About.com Guide to Holistic Healing in the form of an article by someone named Phylameana lila Desy, who describes herself thusly:

Phylameana is certified in Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki and the Science of Intuition from the Holos Institutes of Health. She is an energy medicine practitioner, clairvoyant, intuitive counselor, flower essence consultant, and owner of Spiral Visions. Her lifework includes writing, web-publishing, and healing work. Author of The Everything Guide to Reiki, (January 2012). Phylameana’s writing resume includes contributed content published in a variety of healing texts including: The Meditation Sourcebook, Living Well with Autoimmune Disease, and Sacred Stones. Her Chakracises were referenced in an article published in Body and Soul Magazine (March 2006).

As you can see, Phylameana is not exactly what you would call a skeptical person. She embraces all manner of non-science-based woo, as befits a reiki master. This embrace produces hilarious results in an article by her, What if My Dog Prefers Petting Over Reiki?, in which she solicits a response to this very question from Rose De Dan. We’ve met Rose before when she counseled another reiki practitioner who tried to heal a dog who had been hit by a car and a cat with a fatal viral infection. Unsurprisingly, neither worked. The best Rose could answer was to blithely tell this hapless reiki master that “the practitioner does not always get what they want, but the recipient always gets what they need.” Mick Jagger analogies aside, Rose took the hilarity one step further by suggesting that the reiki master “consider sending Reiki back in time for yourself, to the point of origin of your need to make a difference or ‘heal'” and “send Reiki back in time to the situation, the occasion of the passing of each animal, for the highest good of all, thereby opening possibilities for them.”

As I put it at the time, where’s The Doctor when you need him?

But back to the problem at hand. Why would a dog prefer petting to reiki? Heck, why would a dog prefer treats to reiki? Any dog owner would know the answer to that: Dogs love food, and most dogs are pretty food-driven. Most of them also love to be petted. As for reiki itself, in case you don’t know what reiki actually involves, I’ll tell you. Basically, in order to channel the “life energy” from the “universial source” reiki masters sometimes do do an elaborate series of hand gestures. Sometimes they simply hold their hands over the person who is to receive their “healing,” much as practitioners of “therapeutic touch” do, which is not surprising given that, if anything, therapeutic touch resembles various “energy healing” modalities like—you guessed it—reiki. Oh, you’ll sometimes see arguments over whether touching is permitted or whether the woo works if there’s actual skin-to-skin contact, but in the end it’s all basically the same thing: Magic healing based on wishful thinking.

So let’s get to the question:

Is there a right/wrong way, or suggestions how to do Reiki on my dogs? I have been attuned in Reiki 1 (a few years ago) & Reiki 2 (in March). It occurred to me I hadn’t done Reiki with my 2 dogs so I tried to do it. They don’t want me to just hold my hands over them or in one spot as they want to be petted by my hands (of course — they are dogs). So while stroking my dog, I made the master symbol just intended for the higher good; one itches a lot so I’m going to see if Reiki can help with that. But, my hands have to keep moving or he gets annoyed/confused. Any right or wrong way about this (in terms of keeping the movement versus stationary)? Or would it be more effective to do a distance healing?

I’m going to surprise you by saying that “distance healing” would be at least as effective as doing standard reiki. Well, maybe it’s not such a surprise. The reason that both are equally effective is that neither are effective. It is, however, rather amusing, this reiki woo-meister’s dilemma. In a way, dogs are smarter than humans in that they don’t fool themselves into believing that hand motions are anything more than hand motions. They’d much prefer to be petted than to have some silly human making pointless hand symbols over them. I know what my dog would probably do if I were to try to make these hand symbols over him in order to “heal” him. He’d probably think I was playing with him and get very excited. My dog and I sometimes wrestle, and there are few things my dog likes better; he even likes this better than chasing a ball. Of course, big doofus that my dog is, wrestling often results in accidental scratches—to me on my hands and arms. The same thing used to happen with the last dog I had who liked to play this way back when I was a teenager. Alternatively, he might become confused or annoyed (like the hapless reiki master’s dog in the letter) and try to escape, particularly if he’s not in the mood to play or if there’s a distracting squirrel or bird in the yard.

So what is Rose’s advice? This:

I would suggest asking your dog to help you practice your new skills. Approach the session by stating (to yourself), “I ask that this Reiki be offered for your highest healing good, and that if you do not wish to receive it, I respect your desire.” This enlists his support, shifts focus from your need to his, and releases your focus on “fixing” the issue.

Next I would tell him the steps that you intend to take. Imagine yourself going through the steps in your mind, with your hands being still–this will give your dog information about what to expect and how he could cooperate.

Yeah, I’m sure that’ll work, just as it’ll work if you ask your dog “permission” to do anything. Of course, this whole “asking permission” thing is the perfect out if the animal doesn’t get better. Obviously, if the dog (or whatever animal) stays the same, he must not have wanted to be healed! Of course, humans frequently perceive their dogs’ behavior in terms of their own wishful thinking rather than on the more—shall we say?—basic motivations that drive dogs, in essence anthropomorphizing their dog’s behavior and perceived motivations. Reiki is perfect for driving this misinterpretation. You can bet that virtually anything the dog does will be perceived as “giving permission.” Well, anything perhaps, except dying, as the dog unfortunately did in my previous deconstruction of this nonsense.

Rose then suggests:

It sounds like you were trained to do Reiki hand positions above the body rather than making contact as I do. If that is so I would suggest placing your hands directly on your dog since he will understand that better. However, it is not necessary to keep both hands still during a session for it to be effective. One hand can stay in the intended hand position while the other is involved with the expected petting.

In other words, Rose is advising this hapless reiki master simply to pet her dog with one hand. Of course the dog will like it! Dogs love to be petted. Sure, the dog would probably prefer to be petted with both hands, but dogs are adaptable. They’ll take what they can get from their owners. Looking at the hand positions described, I’m even more convinced that, were I to try this with my dog, he’d think it was time to wrestle, particularly because several of the hand gestures shown involve covering the face.

Rose then concludes with advice regarding the dog’s itchy skin, suggesting both reiki, dietary modifications, and “detoxification” (of course!) in order to alleviate the dog’s symptoms.

I must admit that I find this particular article a lot less disturbing than the last foray into animal reiki by Rose that I discussed, not because reiki is any less pure quackery, but because at least in this case the animal getting the reiki is not dying, as the dog hit by a car was. At least in this case, although reiki isn’t doing the dog any good, at least it’s not causing harm by delaying definitive treatment—or at least palliation—of painful injuries. On one level, the owner’s expressed frustration that her dog is in essence just being a dog is highly amusing, but at least the dog isn’t suffering. The danger is that, should her dog develop a real health issue that requires real medical treatment, she might be slow to seek real medical treatment because she wants to try magical faith healing first.