Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gentle Energy with Val at BARC Shelter

Val is a beautiful cat at BARC Shelter, who I have been working with even more attention, focus and sensitivity, as she can flip from being affectionate to swiping and scratching. I feel she wants the attention so badly, but can get over-stimulated with too much contact.
I am working with her very gently, and with short sessions, to help her become more and more accustomed to the experience of pleasant contact, stopping before she gets to the point of overstimulation, when she is likely to scratch someone
Before I start to work with Val, it is very important for me to center myself, as she will pick up on my energy. So I focus on grounding myself, and beginning to let Reiki energy flow through my body. Before I move towards Val to touch her, I stand outside her cage with my body sideways to the cage (much less threatening position than straight-on) and begin to send her Reiki energy from there. She will usually either go lie on her bed or come up to the front of the cage and settle there.
The two pictures below are from a session in which she settled right at the front of the cage. After she settled there, I reached through the bars of the cage and did little raccoon TTouches around the base of the ear, which is a very calming place to work as it connects with the triple heater meridian, which has to do with respiration, digestion, and distribution of energy through the body. I kept giving her breaks as I did this, to avoid her getting over-stimulated and so I could pay attention to her body language to see what would be best to do next. By this I mean that I did the TTouch circles for a few seconds up to a minute or so, following my intuition, give about a half minute break or longer, then start again. She settled into these TTouches very well, but I didn't want to push it so after a bit I gave her another break and tried something else.

The next thing I did was some TTouches on her forehead using the back of the tip of a finger or two. There's no official name for this TTouch, but I was doing the clockwise circle and a quarter movement with perhaps just my fingernail, or at other times a bit more of the back surface of my finger. The forehead can also be a very calming area to work for many cats.
I was using very light pressure, as is usual with cats, as they are so sensitive, just enough to move the skin around in a circle and a quarter. She calmed quite a lot as I did this, relaxing and closing her eyes. After a few minutes, I gave her a longer break, then later in the day went back to work with her again.

A few days after I took these pictures, I had another very interesting session with her, which surprised me even further. This time after I sent her Reiki energy for a few minutes, she settled on her bed in the back of the cage.

I opened the cage, still with my body sideways to the cage, and began to do TTouches on Val's forehead with the back of my fingers. But this time, to calm her (and, I think, to calm myself), I found myself softly and slowly saying "b-r-e-a-t-h-e". As I did this, I felt a calm bubble of energy around us, "b-r-e-a-t-h-e", and Val's eyes began to close. She looked very relaxed in this moment. We stayed in this floating feeling with the TTouches and occasionally saying "b-r-e-a-t-h-e" again for a while, hard to know whether it was five minutes, ten minutes. But as one of our TTouch sayings goes, "It's moments, not minutes" that matter. So when I felt it was enough, I told her how good she was, thanked her, and then backed away to let her rest.

I realize that I was taking a risk putting my arm and hand inside her cage, and but sometimes I just have to follow my heart and go forward when I feel it is right. It is important though to remember that when you do that, you need to acknowledge that you are taking a risk and are responsible for that.

That being said, I am very excited to start to see a shift in Val's behavior with me and hopefully soon with other people, and would love to see a shift the way people see Val (because of her past behavior). I keep visualizing her in a positive way. Look forward to seeing you soon, Val!

TTouch and Reiki with Feral Cats: Griffin and Samantha

Griffin and Samantha are two young feral cats who I have been working with for a few months at BARC Shelter in Brooklyn. They arrived hissing and absolutely terrified, and over time they have become more and more receptive to contact. Griffin is the more frightened of the two, so my blog posts up til now have focused on her, but I will discuss Samantha here as well.
For a while Griffin seemed in a little bit of an in-between place where she wasn't sure whether she wanted to use an approaching hand as a toy or to settle into being touched. She has grown much more used to the concept of being touched very gently, so now will just be a bit startled for a moment when I first make contact, but once she feels my hands begin to make the gentle circular motions of the TTouches, she settles into it and relaxes. I first touch her forehead with the back of my fingers, do a few TTouches with the backs of my fingers, then usually turn my hand over for some Raccoon TTouches.

I do Raccoon TTouches (circular TTouches using the tips of the fingers) around her forehead area, as this is a place she is accustomed to and she soon closes her eyes and settles in. And now I have been able to work in TTouches around the outside of the mouth area, which is a wonderful area to work, especially with a frightened animal, as it connects with the limbic system, which affects the emotions.
The catch-22 about the mouth work is that it is a risky area to work if you are in danger of being bitten, so you have to use common sense about what is appropriate for the animal at any particular time. It may be useful to TTouch the outside of the mouth area first with a tool, something with a smaller surface like a small paintbrush or even a toothbrush.

However, I have worked with Griffin enough, and have TTouched her close to this area, so it was not a shock for her to feel my hand touching her mouth area.
Depending on how I am positioned, it is often convenient to do the TTouches using my thumb, while my fingers are in a more stabilized position on her head, rather than the other way around. So this is the way I have been doing the mouth TTouches with Griffin. I started out by sliding my thumb outside of the mouth, then doing connected TTouches going along the outside of the mouth.
As you can see by the photos, she settled right into the TTouches, and I could feel and see the rest of her become more relaxed as a result as well. One can work inside the mouth, on the gums etc but I rarely do this with fearful cats since that can be a bit too close for comfort to the teeth!

Next I worked with Samantha. Samantha is quite fearful as well, but tends to react to people by shutting down rather than swatting, so she has been quicker to be receptive to TTouches. I also began by doing raccoon TTouches on her forehead, then began to do little slides on the outside of her mouth area, then transitioning to doing connected TTouches around her mouth area.

She was very receptive to all this, and began to relax the rest of her body little by little as I did these. I could hear and feel her doing a very quiet little purr! At times recently I have heard little Griffin purr as well.

Samantha is receptive to being touched on her body as well as her head area. Two of the types of TTouches that are comforting to her are the Lying Leopard TTouch, which is a circular TTouch done with the hand very flattened out, which most of the surface of the fingers in contact with her body, and the zigzag TTouch, in which I am opening and closing my hand at the same time that I am moving my hand in a zigzag pattern. Here is a youtube clip of part of my TTouch/Reiki session with Samantha:

I do the Lying Leopard TTouches going down one side of her body then the other, doing a circle and a quarter, sliding my hand a little further down her back, then doing another TTouch, etc. The zigzag TTouches I do going from one side of her back to the other, while going from her neck area down towards her tail. Zigzags can be done going down one side of the body at a time, if you prefer. Please check my youtube site: for demos of many of the TTouches.

At times I would pause and just feel the Reiki energy, which was constantly flowing, be absorbed into her body. I could also see her relaxing on an even deeper level when I would do this, closing her eyes. Her body stretched out more and more as I worked with her.

I make sure to maintain an especially quiet energy with both Griffin and Samantha, as they can become startled so easily. It is also important to make sure your breath is not held, that it is constantly flowing.

It is such a pleasure to see both of these cats becoming more comfortable. Before they would always remain at the back of the cage until we left for the night but now they will come right to the front to eat, etc.

Much love to you Griffin and Samantha - look forward to seeing you soon! xo

TTouch and Reiki with Jinx: Relax and Energize

Above: Reiki with Jinx (photo is a bit hard to make out but I have one hand about six inches in front of his chest, near where his hind feet were, and the other a few inches away from his back.

I went to work with Jordyn's ( cat Jinx today, who has been losing mobility in his back legs, either due to an injury or a tumor. He has been continuing to lose mobility but TTouch and Reiki (combined with a lot of love and contact with Jordyn of course) have been helping him to keep in as optimum balance as he can, given his condition.

I had made a Bach Flower remedy for Jinx, and Jordyn gave it to him right before I came over, so he was in a relaxed mode when I got there. He was resting on his bed, so I sat down near him and started out by sending him Reiki energy from a short distance away. Many, actually probably most cats prefer to have Reiki energy offered a bit off their body as opposed to directly hands-on, as they are very sensitive and the energy can be too intense for them with direct contact. So after a few minutes I did move a bit closer, but remained about 3 to 6 inches away from his body during most of the session. I had one hand near his hind legs and feet, the other hand above the center of his back. As these are two areas which are compromised, I felt guided there and he responded, relaxing more and more, eventually taking a little nap. At one point I put my left hand very gently around one hind leg and then the other, offering warm energy there, as he appears to often have very little sensation. And with my other hand, as I felt guided, I moved my hand over the various chakras on the back, feeling the energy grow stronger as I worked.

When I felt he had enough, I quietly closed the Reiki session and spoke to Jordyn for a few minutes. She felt she had benefited from the session as well - she said initially she felt sleepy but by the end of the session she felt clear and energized, which is great. And as we spoke, we saw Jinx cleaning one of his hind legs and his hind paw, which was wonderful to see.

Then Jinx got up and started to move around a bit. His hind feet can flip over so he is dragging them, but if you help adjust him so they are on the ground, he can start to use them a bit. I also found that, as I have done several times, with my hand gently around his tail (I am not holding the tail at all, my hand is just in a cupped shape around the fur of his tail, barely touching the end of the fur), and moving the tail in gentle, slow circle and a quarter movements, he starts to get a better sense of balance. Connected clouded leopard TTouches going down either side of his spine seem to be helpful as well.

Love you and see you soon, Jinx!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Less is More with Val

Val is a beautiful grey tabby who I've been working with at BARC Shelter in Brooklyn. She has been returned a couple of times. She can be very affectionate, but in the middle of being affectionate she can suddenly flip and scratch a person very hard.

I have dealt with quite a few cats that have tendencies in this direction, and it is most helpful to work with them just a very little bit at a time, with frequent breaks. Usually after quietly and diligently working in this way, the cat can little by little have contact for longer periods of time, but it is always important to stay in the moment with them and watch their body language and to stop and give them a break the minute you even start to see a movement which shows they are getting overstimulated (tail twitching, head pulling back, eyes getting big, etc).

To be on the very safe side, I have been primarily working with Val through the bars of her cage. I wait for her to come to me, then do a few slow zigzag TTouches, chimp TTouches or llama TTouches as she rubs against the bars of the cage, or some raccoon TTouches on her head when her head is close to the bars. The chimp and llama TTouches use the back surfaces of the fingers, so those are less stimulating types of TTouches.

I have also been offering her Reiki from just outside her cage, and this is extremely calming to her . Often I will start out by doing this, as this can help to get her in a calmer mode, but other times I start out with some TTouches. I follow my intuition as to what feels right at that time. It is so important not to get stuck in any one approach with an animal, but to really be in the moment with them and get a sense of what feels right for them.

I keep the contact very short with Val for now. I just do a few TTouches, wait a minute for her to come back to me, then try a little more, then maybe stop and just send her Reiki for a little bit, maybe speaking to her very gently. I have found she is especially responsive to little raccoon TTouches on her forehead area. This is an area that I have often found to be extremely calming for cats who are ramped up or nervous. And little by little she has started to recognize these TTouches on her head, and will lay down and settle into them more and more, so I have been able to work with her in this way for longer and longer periods (reaching my fingers through the bars of the cage to do this).

Most recently, I have been opening her cage very slightly, doing a few TTouches with her there, then closing the cage again, always keeping this period short, just a few seconds at a time for now.

I have been making Bach Flower remedies for her, and the remedies seem to be helping. At the moment, to be on the safe side, only a limited number of other experienced people are working with her, including long-time BARC volunteer Betty, who recently took a TTouch workshop with Edie Jane (which I assisted). Betty has been having good sessions with Val using a long-handled paintbrush to make contact with her.

Another thing which I think is of vast importance is positive visualization. If an animal has exhibited aggressive behavior, sometimes it is hard for people to get out of their head the negative pictures that they have about the animal. So it is really important to start putting in your head images of the animal behaving in a positive way - of the animal being calm, of the animal responding positively to touch, maybe pushing their head into your hand, etc.

So here's to you Val, sending you much love and light, and look forward to seeing you soon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

TTouch and Reiki with the Picasso Cats: Quick Breakthrough with Cinder

I work with some of the cats from the Mayor's Alliance Picasso Veterinary Fund through Tavi and Friends' TTouch-in-Rescue program.
Working with TTouch with a frightened animal can be a gradual process, but sometimes the effect can be immediate and dramatic.
Today when I arrived, there was a new cat named Cinder. He was in a tight ball in the back of the cage, staring at me, and when I opened the cage, he growled. As I usually do when working with a new cat, I started out using a tool, in this case a back scratcher, to first make contact with him.
When I began to do little strokes and circles on his head with the back scratcher, he began to lean into it and roll on his side and then his back. The growls continued at the same time for a moment but then subsided as he became more and more comfortable.

I gave him frequent breaks, so he wouldn't get too overstimulated, then I would start again. He rubbed himself against the back scratcher, and once in a while I would slide my hand down the handle to do some TTouches on him directly with my hand, then I went back to using the back scratcher.
He got extremely cozy, and when I closed his cage to give him a longer break, if I was near where his cage was, he came to the front of his cage, looking at what I would do next.

I worked with him several times during my day there, the same thing happening each time, and he more and more easily came up to the front of the cage. One time he did get overstimulated and meow at me, but other than that, he just seemed to get more and more comfortable. I did circular TTouches and strokes first around his head, then began to work down his body a bit, then went back to the head, sometimes workking in some TTouches with my hand as well.

I took these pictures last week, and when I went to see him this week, again at first he was in the back of the cage, but when I opened his cage and he saw the back scratcher, he again rubbed into it, and very quickly I was able to transition to doing TTouch on him directly with my hands. When I was working with other cats in the room, he often was standing up at the front of his cage, as though he wanted me to come back there. He was curious of the other cats around him, instead of being frozen in fear.

Thank you Cinder, for being brave enough to trust me so quickly. xo

Sunday, March 4, 2012

TTouch and Reiki with Jinx: March 4, 2012

I've been working for a while with Jinx, one of my friend Jordyn Thiessen's ( animals. He has been losing mobility in his hind legs, either due to an injury or tumor. Through TTouch and Reiki I have been working to keep him in as optimum balance as is possible. Though he is continuing to gradually lose mobility and, it seems, sensation in his lower back and legs, these modalities can help him to at least be as comfortable as possible and to help keep as much connection as is possible. TTouch influences the nervous system, and Reiki can help to bring relaxation and optimize his potential for physical and emotional balance, at least to help maximize what is possible given his condition. Recently I made a bach flower remedy for Jinx too, which should help him to feel more comfortable.

When I began today, he was very cozy in one of his cat beds so I began with Reiki. As he usually does, he shifted his position so that my hands would be where he wanted the energy to go. Another thing he often does which he did today was to connect with me by touching my hand or my arm with one of his paws.

Today I spent a lot of time with my hand on the lower half of his body and at the base of his tail, but during the session I did have my hands over the chakras on the upper part of the back as well. He was very receptive to the energy and became very relaxed, stretching out and he had a dream at one point. At various points I did some TTouch as well, connected TTouches down either side of the back and some raccoon TTouches on his hind paws and his legs.

During the session, the other pets in the apartment became relaxed as well and took a nap. Petey, one of the two dogs, snuggled up right next to me.

After the Reiki session he was interested in moving around a bit. He is having increased trouble feeling his hind feet on the ground and will often knuckle over and be dragging one or both hind feet and legs. As he walked, I followed him, lifting him a bit to put him more on his feet, then doing some TTouches on his hind feet and strokes down his legs and some strokes and TTouches down his body as well, to help remind him of whatever connection he can feel. After a minute he did start to use his feet a bit more. Another thing I did that seemed to help keep him on track was to gently influence him by having a hand on either side of his hips about an inch or so away, kind of guiding him to stay in a narrower path so that he would be less wobbly. This seemed to be useful for him as well.

Jinx had worked up an appetite by this point, so he had some food and water, then laid down again. I did some Reiki with him about a foot or so away, directing the energy to the room as well to Jinx, and the energy in the room became very calm. Jinx began to close his eyes and look very cozy. I closed the session and very quietly got up, thanking them and saying goodbye.

Much love to you all and see you soon! Will be sending extra Reiki to Jinx distantly as well.....