Chicken Diaries; what a dollop of compassion can do


Rosey’s eyes are half closed and the sparkling green which normally twinkles at me looks a little hazel as she begins to doze off, occasionally catching herself and awakening. She reminds me of a person napping in an easy chair on a slow and sleepy Sunday afternoon. 

Her yellow-white feet are curled around her small roosting bar. It’s the only place she can really rest and get a little space from her six housemates. The roos have been relentless in their crowing and the smaller birds have been jumping and flying seemingly startled at every small noise.  As they grow, they grow more curious and the daily outings to the garden have made them happy and hyper. Rosey enjoys the outings as well but is more cautious by nature.  It takes something out of her worrying about the possibility of predatory birds and of course the dogs next door who glare through the cracks of her wooden fence.

She comes by wariness naturally.  Some eight thousand years ago when the first Red Junglefowl were captured in the hills of China and eventually bred into the modern chicken they never could have guessed how their ancestors would have fared. They were fast little birds who lived in small, highly social groups and could get pretty aggressive with a predator.  That’s been bred out of the Junglefowl’s modern ancestors so they’d be easier to farm.  But Rosey still has some of her ancestral wisdom and her loving nature is mixed with a wise skepticism. I’m fine with this because I love her and that means taking her how she comes to me.

Rosey and I have a routine now.  I go in and sit on the floor next to the aviary and focus on my breath.  As I slow down, as my mind begins to empty, I see Rosey doing the same.  Anyone who has meditated in a group or with another person knows the power of that mutual process.  When I first started this some six years ago I could not have imagined a chicken meditation partner, but then imagination often pales in comparison to what real life can bring you, doesn’t it?

I also could not have imagined having a four year old grand daughter at that time who would have brought me the chickens and this little room dressed in owls where her little bed and book shelf also reside. There is something about Kyra and her chickens which makes me both love life and fear it, fight for a better world and sometimes curl up in a ball and cry for the world as it is on a collision course with a cruel destiny for lack of one simple thing: compassion.

Because Kyra loves chickens and the bugs they eat, the ground they walk on, the worms under that ground and even the hawks over head with equanimity she is better equipped to also love the people on that same planet who sometimes hurt everything else she loves. It is an extraordinary balancing act to keep all that together and remain with love as the driving force. It is hard for the wisest and most experienced of humanity, never mind the task as a little one. But without that balance in all of our future leaders who will be left to clean up the mess they’ve inherited?  I think this sometimes as I try to clear my mind next to Rosey and slip out of judgment and into the mindfulness which meditation and blankness bring.

Opening my eyes and bowing toward Rosey and the gang I am reminded that the best of all of us can be found in stepping back.  The Tao Te Ching cautions; “Do not try to change the world, it is perfect as it is.” In my world there lives seven chickens who are beloved, one who is wary and a child who loves all.  That is the best of what can be on this day-the reality of what a dollop of compassion can do.

Rosey is now sound asleep as her feathers rustle gently with her breath. The stars are bright, the night is warm and we are here alive and in love. This is our work, and today it is done and done well.





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