Two years before I became vegetarian (later vegan) I experienced a spark of consciousness within – something beautiful beginning to dawn in my awareness. It was an important – though subtle – step in my journey towards living a consciously compassionate life.
I was sitting at the dinner table one night with my family and I was eating steak. All of a sudden my mind became quiet, and the conversation that flowed around me became nothing but a blur in my ears. I was becoming aware of who I was eating.
Of course I had always known that ‘steak’ comes from a cow, but up until that moment I’d never deeply contemplated the fact that I ate animals who were once living, breathing, sentient beings. On this night, for the first time, I opened up to the reality that the ‘meat’ on the end of my fork was actually an animal.
I remember feeling softly stunned by the reality that this cow had been living and breathing only one or two days before. I wondered what he must have looked like – the colour of his hair and the shape of his eyes. I wondered what he had seen with those eyes.
I didn’t feel much emotion as these thoughts passed through my mind, and I never let myself think about how this cow must have died, but it was a profound moment for me – to suddenly see this piece of ‘meat’ as a being rather than just an inanimate object for me to eat.
I now look back on it this moment as a defining moment – a moment when I began to awaken to the light that exists within all beings. It took a little more time for me to fully realise the darkness of the situation for so many animals in this world, and how we are collectively responsible for this darkness. But now that I do know, now that I do understand, it is always my intention to bring light to this darkness.
We have wild strawberries growing in the backyard. They’re much smaller than common variety strawberries, but they’re very sweet and flavourful when ripe. I managed to snap this one before it was eaten by a creature of some kind…not me (I’m sure whoever ate it enjoyed it a lot though ).
Every year, during the festive season, many of us come together to consciously give thanks, and to celebrate all the blessings that we are grateful for. When I reflect on what I’m grateful for, I think of the film Baraka.
Baraka offers the most breathtaking images of beauty manifest. It also ‘lays bare’ images that are frightening, but it does this in a way that hints at the hidden beauty that exists beneath the surface – it points to a painful beauty that cannot easily been seen, a beauty that is either, unable or yet to manifest.
‘Baraka’ is a Hebrew word for ‘blessing’. It is also a Sufi word meaning ‘breath of life’. I think these two meanings yoke together very beautifully – as surely the ‘breath of life’ really is the ultimate blessing.
Both in name and in content, Baraka reminds me that the deepest blessing I have to be grateful for is the ‘breath of life’ that holds me here experiencing this world. But it’s also the courage that comes with consciously choosing to accept this blessing as my own.
The courage that comes with this blessing is what allows us to embrace the world just as it is – the sublime as well as the disturbing. It allows us to look at the suffering of this world rather than avoid it. It allows us to feel and witness this suffering with frankness, compassion and a desire to respond with love.
With ‘baraka’ as our blessing we can look at the world and see the miracle that it truly is rather than the disaster humans have created.
Even though I often find myself looking upon this world with sorrow, I also look upon it with reverence, appreciation and hope for all of its beauty – latent and manifest. I look upon this world with a knowing that despite how things may appear on the surface, humanity is awakening to the ‘breath of life’ within, and that it blesses and flows through all of us as One.