Editor’s note: This story is adapted from the book My Teachers Wear Fur Coats (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2007), by Susan Mack and Natalia Krawetz.
My life revolves around animals because I am a practitioner of pet-oriented Reiki, a gentle form of healing touch. Each Reiki session is not only about healing, but also about encountering spirit, transforming the pet-person relationship to one of partnership and intimacy. This deeper relationship with animals keeps putting me in touch with the larger truths or precepts that are the foundation of a Reiki-based life.
One such precept is about living in the present moment. I summarize it like this: Don’t concern yourself with the future or worry about the past. Live in the present, a day at a time. A precept like this one is deceptively simple and truly sophisticated; easy to grasp on the surface, it can take more than a lifetime to master. Fortunately I have a good teacher for this precept: a handsome orange and white cat named Ginger.
For four years, we worked together using Reiki to support both his kidneys, which were diseased, and his mouth, which had a nasty cancer. In spite of these challenges, Ginger enjoyed life. He spent his days taunting his cat companion, supervising the grooming of the resident dogs, and displaying his prowess at catching gophers. We’d often sit outside in the sun during our sessions and then my mind would drift to thinking about my future without him.
Lost in such thoughts, I’d become aware of a very annoyed-looking Ginger gazing intently at me. It was as though he was saying, "Susan, I’m still here. Let’s enjoy the here-and-now, and let the future take care of itself." Then I would smile at him and tell him I was sorry. He’d accept my apology with purrs, rubbing up against me, signaling me to follow him so he could show me something of interest.
Now that he no longer has physical form, I miss him.
In reflecting on our time together, I am grateful for his strong desires to live in the moment and to keep me there, as well, for he enabled me to have a deeper understanding of the Reiki precept on present-centeredness. He drank in every experience and trusted that the future would take care of itself. By following his example I was able to share his delight in life, leaving me with more wonderful memories than would otherwise have been possible. Ginger taught me to stay in the here-and-now, enjoy the abundance that life has to offer, and not waste my time focusing on things over which I have no control. And while I know this lesson, I am prone to lapses from time to time. So whenever I start to worry about the future, a picture of Ginger wafts through my mind calling me back to the present moment.
Learning to embody Reiki is a life-long challenge. Goals based on its precepts are eminently reachable and completely elusive. Sometimes I get an intuitive understanding of a precept, like the one on present-centeredness, and feel that it is sitting just right with me. But as soon as I think I have mastered it, another lesson comes along to open that precept back up for deeper, more thorough examination. Like any growth process, it is always a matter of becoming.
I am grateful for teachers like Ginger, even though their teaching methods are less than orthodox from a human point of view. For example, in the course of their teaching they have run away from me, jumped with pleasure at my arrival, insisted on a play session, bit and scratched my hands, purred deeply, shifted their bodies into position under my hands, filled the room with snores, swatted me when I put my hands where they didn’t want them, and vomited, urinated and defecated on me.
Most importantly, they have made sure that I pay close attention to the life lessons that I have to learn.