Animal Reiki: Discover the superpower of Rev. Barbara Thorngren

Join us for this Q&A interview with BeInkandescent magazine publisher Hope Katz Gibbs and Rev. Barbara Thorngren — from the Avalon Healing Arts Barn Studio and Sanctuary, PeaceWorks New Hampshire

A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher BeInkandescentIt is an honor to introduce you to the Rev. Barbara Thorngren. I met this truly amazing woman in 2016 when we were studying for our 200-hour Kundalini Yoga teacher training. In the years since, Barbara has gone on to be an ordained Interfaith Interspiritual Minister.

Barbara has been practicing Reiki since 1995 and as a Reiki master teacher since 2005. She is also a teacher of Fire Reiki (Levels 1, 2, and Master) and teaches a specialty class called Animal Reiki for two full days from her homestead in the Monadnock Region of Southern New Hampshire. Indeed, one of Barbara’s superpowers is her ability to be with nature and the creatures roaming her Farm, and she helps animal lovers everywhere do the same. Peace, she explains, is at the center of everything she does.

Scroll down to read our Q&A — and to learn more about the healing power of Reiki, read all of the articles in the Winter 2023 issue of BeInkandescent Health & Wellness magazine:

Notes from the Farm

Barbara Thorngren shares with us Sermons on Peace, Reiki for Animals and People, Nature Art, and Love from PeaceWorks New Hampshire

Hope: Tell us what inspired you to get into the peace business?

Barbara: Like many, my childhood was filled with challenges. I found peace outside my house in nature and with animals from an early age. We needed no conversation or explanation; being in each other’s presence was peaceful. I became a reader by reading books in the trees. My two favorite books were Black Beauty and Florence Nightingale!

Much to my mother’s horror, I often brought home stray or injured creatures that needed help. These beloved pets included field mice, an injured baby wild rabbit, a baby crow, a squirrel, a stray dog, and a horse on his way to the slaughterhouse. I found peace in working to heal these little creatures, and not realizing it at the time, they helped heal me by trusting me. Together we created a healing bond through trust, patience, and love.

Hope: You also shared that deep love with people, and out of college, you went on to become a nurse, a volunteer firefighter, and EMT. What did you learn from these experiences?

BarbaraAs an extension of healing with the animals, I discovered I was comfortable helping friends who were sick or injured. When I was 14, I was on an overnight school trip.   Some of us snuck out at night and went swimming in a wild, muddy pond.  As we were leaving the pond, my friend Mandy cut her foot badly on a sharp object. When we returned to the house where we were staying, I washed out her cut and carefully put it together with pieces of tape and a big bandage. In the morning, when we finally decided to confess to our chaperones that we had been out swimming without permission and Mandy injured her foot, she was instantly taken to the doctor.  We were seriously reprimanded. Later, I was told that the doctor was impressed with the nurse (me) who did the bandaging. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. what I would do with my life!

Hope: You studied in England and worked there before returning to the US, where you were born?

BarbaraI was born in the US, but moved to England when I was a teenager. I had the good fortune to attend a Waldorf high school in England.  I went on to complete my nursing training in London.  After graduation, I worked in the emergency department, where I felt surprisingly comfortable.  Recognizing how disorienting and distressing it was for people involved in accidents or suffering from an illness, I was grateful to be in a place to help make a difference. I also thrived in the collective teamwork of people working on behalf of others. Most of the time, our patients never knew our names, but they knew how we helped them feel.  Unfortunately, sometimes they died. I learned that a kind gesture or a few words of support significantly impacted another person’s life. In that space, I learned how fragile and fleeting life can be and how everything can change in a moment.

Hope: You didn’t stay working as a nurse, though. 

Barbara: Right. I returned to the US and worked as a nurse at Miles Health Care Center in Damariscotta, Maine, for many years. It was the 1980s, and after working in the ICU and witnessing people dying from smoking-related diseases, I created the Community Health Education Department with the administration’s support.

Through education, we were able to help people in our community understand the importance of self-care and encourage people to look after their bodies to reduce chronic disease. Through education and awareness campaigns, I witnessed how the country successfully shifted from smoking everywhere to smoking almost nowhere. It took grassroots campaigns, political action, and connections with the CDC to provide statistical information to create programs like freedom from smoking workshops.

Unfortunately, I also witnessed the horrors of the AIDS crisis and the lack of a proper government and local response and support that left waves of suffering and deaths throughout our communities for years. This is when I learned the importance of community and political action. I heard about Reiki at this time, but it was frowned upon at our hospital.

Hope: It was at this time you learned about Reiki.

BarbaraAs I transitioned into health education, I could see the potential for promoting positive changes in the world through building healthy relationships with ourselves and each other. I knew the practice of Reiki was powerful, and I wanted to learn all about it. But there were no teachers in my area in Maine at that time.  When I came to NH, I finally found a Reiki Master, and in 1994 I was trained in Usui Reiki Level I and Level II. In 2005 I became a Reiki Master/Teacher. I felt blessed to have had the opportunity to use this healing energy with my family and on the Farm with my horses, chickens, goats, ducks, cats, and farm dogs.

Sometimes I used Reiki to help heal a sick or injured chicken or ease my beloved pet’s passing. I use Reiki in the garden when planting and watering, especially when the garden is young. And there are many times when I am simply sharing Reiki with myself and my beloved animals, and I feel they are sharing their energy with me. I enjoyed reading about other Reiki teachers in the International Center for Reiki Training (ICRT) magazines, especially the articles about offering Reiki to Animals.

Hope: You also have spent much of your career as a teacher. Tell us about the traumatic experience that encouraged you to stay connected with emergency work.

BarbaraAfter receiving my Master’s degree in Education from Antioch New England Graduate School, I became a teacher for many years and traveled through elementary, middle, high school, and college educational systems.  Whenever possible, I integrated conflict resolution and peace education at every level. Although I loved working in education, I missed my work in the emergency department.

On a chilly day one January, while in the car with my husband and son, we were hit by another car head-on. It was a terrible accident. The woman who hit us died at the scene, and it took the EMTs and firefighters more than an hour to cut us out of our car. Throughout our physical and emotional recovery, I invited the Reiki energy to be part of our healing journey. For years, I also felt spiritually connected to the young woman who died at the scene.(delete?)

We learned later that most of the EMTs and firefighters who arrived on the scene to help us during the accident were volunteers. Once we recovered fully, we joined our small town’s local volunteer EMT/Firefighter unit. For many years, as a family, we responded to others in need; it was an excellent opportunity to give back to our community. We all practiced Reiki in our family, encouraging self-care and looking out for others, often involving distance Reiki.  Our son joined us as an EMT/Firefighter and, after high school, joined the United States Coast Guard.

Through many more of life’s joys and sorrows, I learned to practice Reiki on myself and others for the highest healing good of all. In the first letter from my son after he entered Boot Camp, he described how he used Reiki to help him get through the tough endless days of physical training.

Hope: There are so many ways Reiki has helped enhance and contribute to the healing in your life. Share some of those experiences with our readers, please.

Barbara: In 2013, I learned about another program started by William Rand called Holy Fire Reiki. I became a Usui Holy Fire Reiki III Master/Teacher with a World Peace update.

In 2013, I learned about another program started by William Rand called Holy Fire Reiki. I became a Usui Holy Fire Reiki III Master/Teacher with a World Peace update.

My husband was also a Reiki Master. When he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and lung cancer later that year, Reiki became part of his healing regime, and I also used it to help keep me centered and grounded through three difficult years. Since my husband’s death, it has become increasingly clear that I wanted to offer more spiritual support to others, especially widows. I started a support group, Widows with Wings, which was born when a wonderful group of women came together to support each other after losing their spouses.

During the years that followed, I worked tirelessly on transforming our working farm into a simple homestead and Healing Arts Barn Studio and Sanctuary I call Avalon. In this place, we foster the art of communication and healing.  I offer healing sessions with Reiki and the Expressive Arts, a powerful combination. Blessed with the Holy Fire Reiki upgrade and the ability to provide Reiki from a distance and over Zoom during the height of covid, I was able to continue working locally and globally.

Hope: In 2021, you became an Ordained Minister. What inspired you to expand your work this way?

BarbaraIn 2021, I graduated from One Spirit Seminary as an ordained Interfaith Interspiritual minister.  I feel my studies/work as a minister has helped my Reiki come now from a deeper well.  I have offered Reiki classes to fellow ministers.  In every field, self-care is essential.

A few years ago, I was invited to participate in the pilot ICRT Animal Reiki Master class. I am delighted to teach the new Animal Reiki classes honoring the animals with a glorious Tree of a Life crystal grid. My non-traditional ministry finds me outside in nature with our wild animals, my farm animals, and our beloved domestic animals. I invite everyone to attend one of our online Sermons from the Farm. Click here to learn more.

Hope: You practice an Earth-based spirituality, which you believe is mutually supportive of Reiki. And, you do it in your Yurt!

BarbaraYes, I consider myself a Christian and a Druid, practicing an Earth-based Spirituality.  I could not be more thrilled to be the proud owner of an authentic 22-foot Mongolian Yurt. She sits at the end of the field, nestled under the trees. In this space, I offer Reiki meditations during training and individual sessions focusing on Spiritual Guidance and support for those spiritually seeking on their life’s journey. I have tremendous respect for the ancient traditions that created our magical space, Together with our labyrinth and Healing Arts Barn Studio, we call our place Avalon.  We say, PeaceWorks at Avalon.  We offer small, personalized workshops and retreats with Reiki, art, music, mediations, and silence. Reiki classes are scheduled both in-person and on Zoom. We are part of the Green Tent Circle network for Women and girls:

Hope: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the powerful work you do in the lineage of the Circle Way. Tell us about that powerful practice. 

BarbaraOh, I love the Circle Process! Indeed, I believe the Circle is foundational to creating a robust and healthy community where everyone is seen and every voice can be heard.  Like peace, the circle way is efficient and effective and resonates happily with our “human-beingness.” I believe that when we sit in circle we invite Spirit into our sacred space, and our DNA recognizes this ancient structure as home, as it should be. Here at Avalon, we welcome you back home to yourself with love.

Click here to participate in one of Barbara’s sessions, and learn more about PeaceWorks New Hampshire.