The Road Into the Woods - 1988

An Introductory Talk

Delivered to the Streaming Consciousness workshop held at the East West Bookshop in Seattle, Washington on April 17, 2015.

I practice Animal Reiki, an energy healing method that compliments both traditional and alternative medicine. The name of my professional practice is Tess For Pets Animal Reiki and the strong energy connection I have with my very beloved cat, Tess, now in spirit, inspires its ongoing development.

So, energy is energy. And Reiki utilizes the same energy conduit as that of streaming consciousness. Tonight I’ll briefly tell you how I got here. Tomorrow, we’ll do a little experiment with Animal Reiki energy that you can all take part in, whether you’ve had any Reiki training or not.

First, I want to say that all animals are natural healers. Humans are natural healers, but they have let aspects of being human get in the way. Notably, the aspect of (in a collective sense) separating themselves from nature—that which is natural.

Animals are “wired” to heal. You don’t find them setting up Primary Care Provider networks. And yet they have survived for eons. And they share healing with species outside their own, including humans. It’s like they inherently know that healing is an important part of what they are here to do, part of what gives them meaning.

Years ago, during grad school days, I lived in a tent in the New England woods for three seasons out of four, for two years—and I’m not talking those 20-something years; I was in my 40’s. I wrote a little poem on a post-it note years later, when thinking of that time. “The way the sun goes through a wicker chair reminds me of New England in the very early fall.”

But at one point during this time, I got very sick and the animals all around me brought me through it. I’ve come to see that this was a key turning point leading up to my practicing Animal Reiki today. Little did I know then that it was inevitable that I would practice Reiki.

I’ve never felt more a part of a whole than I have with the animals in those New England woods, in that white birch grove, up a hemlock glen. I was working on a Masters thesis during this time that essentially examined the bridges between indigenous ways of knowing and quantum energy dynamics, as they applied to ecological sustainability. This was the early 1990’s. I didn’t think of it in terms studying “healing,” per se, at the time. But, of course, that is what it was all about, all along.

So, I lived in the woods in a wonderful two-room wall tent, pitched on a platform made of 4×8 sheets of plywood, that sheathed a frame of 2×4’s, that rested on great huge rocks, that had been rolled into place to level the tent’s landing. It was one of the best things I’ve done in this life to date—walking the land to find that site, building the platform, and living in those woods in that tent in the white birch grove up the hemlock glen.

I was in the tent one day when I heard a crashing through the woods, coming fast down the ravine in back of me, from higher up. I should say that by this time I’d been in the woods some months and the animals had come to accept me as one of their own—not just a peaceful transient from another region passing through (which they will offer every respect to)—but a member of their locale, one who is a fellow part of the balance that sustains that area. There’s a big difference, and you feel it.

I heard the crashing and without a thought, from some instinct, I ran out from the tent (bare feet) to listen and look. Four deer crashed past the tent, pummeling down the ravine. It happened all in an instant, and in that instant I heard a single animal that was chasing them from up the forested ravine, but I didn’t see it. I heard its trajectory and immediately ran perpendicular to that, straight into its path. I can’t say that I consciously knew what I was doing; I just knew I was doing the right thing, and doing it fast.

It was a wild dog, possibly a wolf. By propelling myself into the line of its path I’d thrown off its whole game. It immediately veered off course and shot into the woods away from me, and away from the deer that were now long gone.

Exciting. There I was, standing in the midst of low thickets, bare feet, catching my breath in the now silent forest. I remember being thrilled to discover that when your intent is strong, and your action really swift; bare feet on a forest floor don’t suffer a single scratch!

But that discovery paled in comparison to what the forest of creatures did for me in return. It was some time after that, as I said, I got very sick. The tent was on land where I had access to the luxuries of plumbing and power for a computer. At this time the person extending those amenities was away and I was alone in the woods. And I loved it.

It was during this time that I came down with a fever like I’d never had before or since. I remember lying in my pineapple post bed (you bet I set that up out there, along with a bookshelf braced between trees to hold my china and pantry of jarred goods). I was lying in bed delirious, burning up and dripping with sweat, not sure whether it was day or night. I can remember quietly repeating out loud, like a mantra, “Help me, I need help,” as I drifted off to sleep.

The next thing I knew, I was waking very slowly to the pleasant sound of rain dripping all around me from the trees. With my eyes still closed, I realized I could think more clearly and became curious about what I was hearing. It was a lot like rain dripping through leaves, but it sounded like it was just in a circle around the tent, not throughout the woods. And when my eyes opened I could see it was a bright sunny morning.

Now up and out on the front deck of the platform, everything became silent. There was no rain, it was bright, and all was bone dry. A  gorgeous morning! In a minute or two, my eyes were caught by the sight of a trailing line of small birch twigs on the forest floor in front of me, enough-piled to form a slight but discernible mound.

The line kept going. I walked to the side of the deck to follow it, scrambled along the narrow edge at the side of the tent, around the back of the tent, around the other side, and back to where the line had started at the front, completing a circle. The tent was ringed with a discernible  circle of tiny white birch twigs. Amazing.

Sitting down on a log to enjoy this, a chipmunk came up and sat down next to me, about an inch away. He wasn’t poised to run off, but settled in to stuff his little cheeks with a seed he held in both paws. Then, what sounded like dozens of birds started to go all chirpy, nearby. I looked directly overhead, up in the birch tree branches, and there they all were in a ring around the tent and me, directly above the ring of twigs on the forest floor.

It was like an instantaneous zap of Love, straight from my heart to theirs, from theirs to mine. It was both, all in the same instant. I know now that it was Rei-Ki… Life Source Energy.

Energy connects. A fundamental characteristic of energy is to emanate. Animals share healing through energy connection that they can clearly read. In turn, they are infinitely receptive to the emanating healing energy of others.

Tomorrow, I have the opportunity to share a little bit about Animal Reiki, how that energy “happens,” and how it can be channeled. Reiki shares the same river of energy that buoys the stream of consciousness Louise refers to.

Energy is energy. It really is no mystery anymore, thanks to the growing understanding of quantum physics. But it definitely is magic!

Epilogue: The Meaning of Berkana

It wasn’t until after living in those woods, having pitched my tent in the white birch grove up the hemlock glen, that I learned the meaning of the rune “Berkana,” which translates as “birch tree.” It’s the rune of Becoming — Growth and Rebirth. The symbol represents safety, sanctuary, protection and healing. It embodies the concept of “home.”

Just up the forest’s slope from that tent home of mine, deep into the dark part of the woods, was a curious place of huge boulders encircling two ancient oaks. It’s known that oghams, or rune symbols, were carved into stones such as those ones, by original Norsemen landed in New England. I never discovered any on what was then visible of those boulders, though dreamed they might be safely biding time, beneath a certain depth of forest litter.

This comment from one source on the Internet further reflects a great deal of what Reiki with animals is all about:

“Berkana is a life giving rune, so is best used to assist life, to heal and to protect. It will enhance efforts to give oneself, and others, the time and space they need to grow on their own. The creation of time and space is a magical act done consciously through restraint and silence, even concealment of one’s hand in the affair altogether.”