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The magic between species

April 6, 2009

Ruth Ostrow, ruth@ruthostrow.com
The Australian
April 4, 2009

IT is regal, magnificent, soaring in the air, and then it's down.

One of the most beautiful baby birds I have ever
seen. I rescue it from my concrete path where
it's lying legs-up, thrashing about in despair. I
put it back on its legs but it wobbles and falls,
badly injured. So I carry it inside and put it in
a washing basket, on some towels.

Instinctively, I put my hand over the body. Chi
Gung masters have allowed me to witness the power
of our energy. Unseen, it can still give a
black-belt the ability to karate chop concrete
blocks. It can make people around react with
anger, or it can soothe and calm if we allow
ourselves to drop out of agitation, go into a
meditative state and breathe. I sit with the
creature breathing, breathing and feel its heart
slow down. It stops thrashing and lies calmly in
the tub, looking up at me with trust.

There’s nothing as wonderful or as powerful as
the love of an animal. When animals allow
themselves to stop being in fear and open up to a
human, something magical and transformative takes place within us.

We sit for a while looking at each other. He
allows me to stroke his head and I think about
how many birds like this are slaughtered
unthinkingly every day for human consumption. I
think about the businessman, Channel Ten director
and finance doyen Brian Sherman, who had an
epiphany patting doomed piglets in an abattoir.
He told me he could see and feel their fear,
their despair, their panic, but also – more
tragically – their need for affection, having
been isolated from their mothers. Pigs are now
known to be cleverer than dogs, and their
suffering was acute. For it isn’t just that we
kill animals, but how uncaring is our breeding
and slaughtering of them. It was a profound
experience that forced him into animal rights
activism, and to establishing the animal welfare
group Voiceless with his daughter, Ondine.

I’m about to call the vet, but I can see my
friend is fading. All weekend I’ve been on a
Buddhist retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche, author of
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. “Things
die, nothing lasts … all is impermanent, we must
learn to let go.” Yes, I know. And still it’s
hard. We sit together a while longer, breathing
deeply. Then the bird lets go for both of us. I
put my head down and cry – for all the letting-go
that is so difficult for us to do: of friends,
family, homes, jobs, pets and ultimately our own
bodies. But I stop crying, knowing how lucky I’ve
been to have been able to give this creature a
gift. If not life, then a compassionate and dignified death.

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