“Open your heart to all these blessings, and let them flow through you, so that everyone you meet on the street will be blessed by you.”
Yesterday I had a series of conversations with former strangers (by which I mean, once we’d chatted for a while they transformed into new friends). Inexplicably, and not brought up by me, the topic of vegetarian vs. meat eating kept surfacing. It surprised me because I had watched this video yesterday morning and couldn’t stop thinking about it all day long. It’s just delightful. A herd of cows are released into a field instead of being taken to the slaughterhouse. They jump and dance with joy. So sweet.
I’ve been vegetarian on and off in my life, always for reasons of compassion for other living beings. Quite simply, I believe it is terrible what human beings do to themselves and other animals in this world. Even still, these days I choose to eat a lazy version of ‘paleo’ because my body functions better this way. (Grains, in particular, are a terrible storm of inflammation for me.) And also, I eat meat because, when I reason it out, suffering is happening, it’s the very nature of things. Unavoidable. Samsara. That which is born, dies. I kill when I brush my teeth. I can’t drive down a summer road without killing thousands of insects, crushed against the windsheild. It breaks my heart, truly.
I bought chicken breasts again from that super-friendly guy at the market this morning. And I still can’t stop thinking about these lovely, happy frolicking cows. It makes me wonder about all the things I can and can’t control. And leads me to ask, how can I be more compassionate today, with myself and with others?
Last week Reddit hosted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Allena Hansen, who in 2008 was savagely attacked by a bear while walking alone with her dogs on her ranch in Kern County, California. With her face torn apart and believing she would not likely survive, she drove herself 4 miles to a mountain fire station and was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center. She retells the story with gripping detail and a refreshing offhand humour — answering questions from and holding her own with curious Redditors.
After it had gnawed my head awhile, I decided to open my eyes and look at what was killing me. It’s expression was so bland and businesslike it enraged me so I managed to jab my thumb into its piggy little eye and it let go of my face long enough for me to yell for my dogs. Once the dogs came running, it was diverted long enough for me to get up and try to escape down the creekbed.
Allena has recently written a book about her experience, Chomp, Chomp, Chomp; How I Survived a Bear Attack and Other Harrowing Tales. She also has a Facebook page. Hopefully, the sale of her book and general publicity around her story will bring in enough money for her to cover her outstanding medical bills.
Apparently, the cosmetic and dental portions weren’t covered by her insurance, and a great amount of the damage was done to her face and mouth (WARNING this next quote is not for the faint of heart):
Basically what happened is that the bear charged, grabbed me by the ears and bit into my face. In doing so, it destroyed the bridge of my nose, tore off my ears, chewed out fourteen teeth and much of my upper gums and palate. It also ripped off my lips and tore apart my face and scalp.
Of course, as you would expect from someone with this much courage and moxy, Allena had already lived quite a life before the attack. Raised in the 60s, according to the description given with her book, she had a “stint as Playboy’s token intellectual bimbo.”
Why my morbid interest? Haven’t you ever wondered what it’s going to be like when you’re staring your own death in the face?
I also very much enjoyed and laughed heartily when I clicked through on the link contributed by /u/PasswordLost, who pipes up not too far into the Reddit thread, and tells Allena:
You made it to the end of this chart!
10: I am actively being mauled by a bear.
Grief is big. Like an ocean. It is wet. Heavy and soaking wet. It soaks my fiery heart. Damp air rises from it and fills my mind. Over time, over weeks and months and years, grief erodes hardness, bitterness resentment. Its waves soften jagged rocks into smooth pebbles then silken sand.
When the grief is quiet and low down, I sometimes barely notice and carry the day with an airy, open heart. But loss, even the simplest feeling that something has gone missing, can bring in the tide.
I’ve learned to welcome it. And when the water is high enough, tears flow from my eyes. Sweet and salty relief. Like Rumi and his guesthouse, when I feel grief arriving, I open the door, smiling, and say, “Hello loss, do come in, you are very welcome here.”
I’ve noticed that without words, if I drop the story, grief is not an unpleasant feeling, just a feeling. And as I sit with it, compassion arises and the sensation is a quiet and low down joy.