The deep effect that BrightHaven has had and continues to have on me was somewhat unexpected. I had dreamt for 3.5 years of training with Kathleen Prasad, ever since I first learned of her dedication to Animal Reiki via an Internet search. In August 2013 that dream finally came true and I travelled to California with my husband, eagerly anticipating the course (which was more wonderful than I could ever have imagined)!
While I knew that the classes were to be held at an animal sanctuary named BrightHaven, when I arrived for the first day I was largely unaware of the unique nature of this retreat/ hospice for elderly and special needs animals.
At first, I found the sight of some of the animals- currently cats, dogs, birds and horses- somewhat unsettling. Some are disabled, with the use of only two of their four legs, and they have all been diagnosed with an array of health issues. The majority are old for example cats, if not special needs, must be at least 16 years old to be accepted at BrightHaven. Or as I am sure BrightHaven co-founder Gail would agree, 16 years young! (I was amazed to learn their oldest cat lived to the spritely age of 34).
For these animals may look old or deformed to the naked eye but they have so much life and love to give. Just one look into their sparkling eyes and I realised that instead of feeling sorry for them, I should feel so happy, so grateful, that they had found their way to such a nurturing, loving and peaceful environment as BrightHaven.
I became aware that it was largely my discomfort; my own interpretation of pain and suffering that had caused my initial reaction to these beautifully radiant animals. Once I acknowledged this and looked deeper… I saw something completely different.
I saw strength. I saw courage. I saw animals with such peace, such happiness, all co-existing. I saw volunteers who work tirelessly to provide these precious animals with the life they deserve no matter what circumstance they may have come from or the level of care they may need. I saw dedication in the way that Gail and Richard Pope have transformed their home and their resources to create this pioneering non profit organisation. Most of all I saw and felt love.
As I left I realised how apt the name BrightHaven is for this special, one of a kind animal sanctuary. It is a haven for these animals no doubt, but the love, care, hope and dedication shines a light so bright that it could not help but move my heart and affect me in a profound way. As I continue to learn more about BrightHaven, its forward vision and the stories of the animal residents I feel truly blessed I was able to visit such an inspiring, thought provoking institution.