May All Beings Have Happiness and the Causes of Happiness

MAY ALL BEINGS HAVE HAPPINESS AND THE CAUSES OF HAPPINESS.

MAY ALL BEINGS BE FREE FROM SUFFERING AND THE CAUSES OF SUFFERING.

MAY ALL BEINGS DWELL IN EQUANIMITY, FREE FROM ATTACHMENT AND AVERSION.

MAY ALL BEINGS NEVER BE PARTED FROM FREEDOM’S TRUE JOY.”

~from David Nichtern’s “In Praise of…”  lyrics based on Metta practice in the Buddhist tradition

These words that form the practice of Metta also known as Lovingkindness practice in the Buddhist tradition are a great comfort to many when focused on as part of a daily practice of training the mind.

I was thinking of how much suffering I put myself through by worrying and stressing about all the ills of my life and in the lives of animals and the environment. While meditation on Metta is a great way to release some of that worry, I think another great thing is when we can turn worrying into action, and then let go of the results.

I recently heard a conversation about one of the more sensational and horrifying news stories here in the US, and the people I was with assuring each other that it was the karma of the people involved to be part of this horrific act of torture and violence. While I trust that the people speaking were well-meaning and kind people, I have to disagree with this outlook, or at least the result it seems to have, which is to then dismiss the entire situation as out of our hands and not our responsibility.  Instead of the tendency to generalize pain out of our awareness, because it hurts too much to think about, we do have a responsibility to look at suffering and see what we each can change in our lives or ways we can help in individual ways to relieve this suffering. This is one reason I went to Thailand and volunteered with the Elephants, why I contribute to environmental and animal rescue groups, why I admire people who walk their talk every day in their work and personal life. I wondered if the only way that people who abuse animals for instance can do so, is to see them not as individuals, but as objects or groups over which people  have control. So would it help to see some individuals in the animal world? I’m going to include a few pictures of individuals at Elephant Nature Park, which I find very beautiful, and I hope you do too. These have been saved from a life of suffering and are some of the lucky ones. Each of us can take small and big actions to help more individuals become free of suffering, especially ourselves. Because would you ever hurt another unless you were suffering yourself? Each time we help heal another, we help heal ourselves. And if you are now in too much pain to help another, hopefully someone will reach out to help you out of your darkness.  This is what we can do to make the world a better place, one step at a time. We help each other, even when we don’t understand why the world is the way it is. In this way we help ourselves out of our own pain and misery.

blueelewater elephanteye DSCN1183Iwalkingele

babyeleNew life, new hopes, new dreams in this little one, baby Dok Mai was born a week before I arrived at Elephant Nature Park, born into a free life.

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.

May all beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all beings dwell in equanimity, free of attachment and aversion.

May all beings never be parted from freedoms true joy.

Kindnesses

I spent last month in Thailand, fulfilling a lifelong dream of being close to elephants. ImageThe trip was about re-finding what is really important in life, and about new beginnings. It came at the heels of a number of job experiences that left me completely wondering where the sanity of this world is – because it certainly wasn’t in my recent work situation. My whole life I have felt it was important to do work that improved the world, helped to protect the environment, or helped animals in some way. How to do that exactly is open to interpretation. But given recent experiences, I have to admit that I had become disillusioned about my ability to make a difference in the world today.  Recently It all seemed futile and pointless, and I wondered if it was even worth trying anymore.

So I decided to take a trip to the other side of this great planet we live on, and see other ways of living. My major goal was to go volunteer with and be close to elephants, and so I ended up at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There  I met Lek Chailert, the founder of ENP. She was generous enough to let me tag along as she spent time with her elephant friends. What a thrill!Image Watching Lek know just how to delight a first time visitor,  to care for her elephant friends in any number of ways – nuzzling with an uncertain baby elephant, singing to a grown one who’s trust she had gained,Image

or watching her speak to a crowd of people with just the right blend of humility, knowledge and integrity in order to educate and help people remember why we were put on this earth – to live in cooperation with the natural world that nourishes us every day,  to be kind to those weaker than us, to heal those who are broken of spirit and body, these are just a few ideas worth emulating.Image

I heard it said while I was there, and later noticed a saying inscribed over one of the lecture rooms that read “The Power of One”. This was a powerful idea and I thought about it while I was there.  I was familiar with the thought that a few concerned people gathered together can change the world (via Margaret Mead) or the Bible’s “when two or more are gathered in my name” but really in my experience it is sometimes impossible to find even one more person who is committed to the uplifting and healing of the planet and to our true role as human beings and caretakers of the planet. But as I watch Lek in action,  and her handling of everyday people and elephants, I think of how we really all are in need of healing, whether we are animals or humans. Isn’t the pain we as a species wreak upon other species and the earth herself often a reflection of the wounds and unhealed places inside each person or  their race or species as a whole? I believe part of helping animals is helping people find a place of peace inside themselves, however that is often much harder to do with a person than with animals, who will return to that centered place just by removing the basic needs’ barriers like pain and hunger.

The park is home to about 35 elephants. It is maxed out right  now until they can afford to purchase more land next door, which has doubled in price once the owner found out that Lek wanted it for her elephant friends. It also houses a joyous raucous 400+ dogs which have been rescued over the last few years from places like the flooded streets of Bangkok and the illegal dog meat trade – ugh! These dogs have spacious quarters and all their food and medical needs taken care of by the Park and its volunteers. Most of these dogs are ready for adoption and if you are ever in Thailand and want a companion dog – check out Elephant Nature Park!

There is so much to say about my time there that I can’t possibly fit it all in one blog post. But what I will start with is that the theme of traveling for me was Kindness. The one thing that got me through each rough patch I was in (like getting lost – twice! on the streets of Bangkok – scary!) and the one thing I saw in Lek that impressed me the most – was the power of  certain kindnesses, often from total strangers, sometimes from old friends.
During one of the rare moments I was lucky enough to be alone with Lek and the elephants, I asked her – what is the one most important thing you’d want me to write about in my blog when I get back home? She talked about (and I couldn’t record an exact quote because we were standing in a river throwing water on elephant’s backs to help them bathe at the time) Image

that all animals, not even just elephants, deserve a life free of cruelty and full of kindness. She described what I would call a Basic Bill of Rights for All Animals. All animals need to be treated with kindness and decency, to have good living conditions including things like clean water, nourishing food, room to exercise and to express yourself naturally. This seems like such a simple truth but one that obviously still needs to be stated and promoted until there really exists a Basic Bill of Rights for All Living Beings. I believe it can be so, especially as more people become aware of what goes into that chicken in your Buffalo Wings.

I would imagine that this is why all the delicious food at the ENP is vegetarian. Because supporting the meat industry today by buying meat or chicken or pork in a supermarket or restaurant automatically means you are supporting extreme animal cruelty. And is that really where you want to put your dollars, your vote for the industry to keep doing what they‘ve been doing? Every purchase you make supports what you are buying. Why not support kindness instead of extreme cruelty? There are many videos out there that will show you exactly the inhumane conditions in meat factories and poultry farms, watch them if you need proof. But if you don’t need proof, start voting now with your $’s for what you believe in.

The entire Elephant Nature Park and Save Elephants Foundation was built on one person’s idea of the power of kindness. That these elephants whom no one cared about are now living lives free of abuse, able to socialize as they wish, where they get to be, well, elephants, and it all came about because one person had the kind thought that every species whether they be human or animal, each deserved a decent life free of abuse where they are able to live out their lives in peaceful existence – and isn’t that what we all want?

Check out ENP at http://www.saveelephant.orgImage