Cowboy and friend
Now whenever I spend a day at Animal Acres something within me opens up.
It used to be much more common for me that I would experience myself shutting down after being there.
Especially on that 50 minute drive back to Los Angeles where I would seem to focus on the fact that this beautiful safe haven for animals was a bit of a delusion and not the reality for which the vast majority of farmed animals live their lives.
The reality is that there are nearly 12 billion farmed animals killed every year for food in the United States. The reality is that the modern farmed chicken industry today will confine up to a quarter million birds in one building alone. The reality is that an industrial hog producer in America will kill nearly 80,000 animals in one single day. The reality is there are about 400 rescued farmed animals living peacefully at the sanctuary here at Animal Acres.
This massive imbalance of killing and cruelty versus kindness and protection is heart wrenching to say the least. One can't help but feel the weight of this reality bearing down and literally crushing any positive feeling, either about the sanctuary itself or what we as individuals might be able to contribute in helping bring an end to this violent and oppressive injustice our society calls, food production.
Yet now, after the end of each day and after having spent more time with the chosen few non humans at Animal Acres, I leave the sanctuary with more awareness about these thoughts.
I now leave with a much deeper acceptance of this reality and of the positive aspects of living vegan.
It's not just about the obvious connection to the animals and seeing them living happily and in peace. It's not just about recognizing their wisdom, humor, insights and how brilliantly they appear to live in the endless present that makes being around them so perfect and so rewarding. No, that's only a part of it all.
For me now, it's also the understanding that providing sanctuary for even one life matters immensely. Especially to that one life who has been given refuge.
I know this sounds quite obvious but sometimes it's the easily recognized and obvious things that are the big lessons and the ones which hit us the hardest when we seriously acknowledge them for the first time.
When we pause and think about the actions we take everyday for instance to protect our own lives or to increase our own well being we may also recognize that our life too is only just one life and yet worthy of sanctuary.
We do what needs to be done everyday for our own lives and it never seems meaningless or unimportant. So why would it be any less important to save or vastly improve another life?
When someone adopts one dog or one cat from a kill shelter it makes a huge difference to that one animal. It's never an unimportant or insignificant event for the life saved , especially on a personal level for that being.
And in this exact context the lessons I've learned and have found to be so moving about my time at Animal Acres is the awakening to what living vegan means when wrapped up in this specific sentiment.
Living vegan makes a huge difference in this context and understanding it as having meaning and importance has served as new inspiration for making it the foundation of a different reality than the one I used to stand on.
Although I've been living vegan for many years I never fully grasped that my being vegan was something that happened from my inner life and not something that came about from outside myself.
When we are able to discover it and sense it directly from within, it deepens.
When we find those places, those inner acres of meaningful terrain they can be the strongest ground we have to stand on.
This new foundation for me is one constructed on appreciation, contemplation and compassion.
And from this also comes the insight that living vegan is simple and not in any way at all very remarkable.
Being vegan is also not at all even the slightest bit challenging .
This to me, gives veganism a truth that cannot be denied.
In a world that's so brutal and seems so dismal it's not always what we do or who we are that means anything but rather how we connect those experiences to our inner life that can make a difference.
When we stop worrying about how nothing we ever do will actually make a difference and live with the knowledge that everything we do matters, we not only gain strength from our choices but we are able to notice that what we do... we can do quite well.
If in that moment whatever we are doing is actually our main focus and inspiration then everything else disappears and this becomes who we are and gains much more meaning.
Cleaning out one barn stall, carrying one bag of pig feed, feeding an apple to a goat resident all makes a difference.
The importance and meaning of whatever we do comes about when that activity is cared for and respected.
Nearly everything we do are just tiny activities but they can all add up. The same is true for every life that is given sanctuary.
The same is true about living vegan and in remembering the lessons we've learned when we're inspired by what is important to us. It's in those lessons that something important arises and something meaningful can be given back.
Living vegan is the most important step we can take when we open up to the idea of living compassionately.
When something is important and has meaning it's because we found that something in ourselves and then opened up to it.
Be a Sanctuary for someone,
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