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3 lessons in inspiration from the Celebration for the Turkeys

In the middle of a crowded Saturday afternoon in San Francisco’s Mission district, I found the wisdom of the farm: peace, compassion, presence.

I decided to participate in Farm Sanctuary’s Celebration for the Turkeys—a beautiful gathering of animal lovers, a delicious vegan feast and a live video feed of the sanctuary’s turkeys eating delicious platters of lovingly prepared food. Thanksgiving feasts “for” turkeys, instead of “of” turkeys—what a concept!

I was deeply touched and honored to meet two of my personal heroes: Gene Baur and Susie Coston of Farm Sanctuary. Gene gave an amazing speech about compassion, and Susie shared photos and stories of some of the many turkeys she cares for at Farm Sanctuary in New York.

The gathering was given at Citizen Fox, a new vegan restaurant in San Francisco. I arranged to meet one of my animal-loving Reiki students Gabrielle, and we both just loved brunch, which was absolutely delicious and healthy! My favorite was the polenta stew with kale, mushrooms and beans, yum!

I sat across from Colleen Holland, the publisher and co-founder of VegNews magazine, whose motto is “Vegan. Think. Eat. Thrive.” Having followed VegNews on Twitter for some time, it was exciting to meet the creative force behind this forward-thinking magazine! She is such a wonderful woman with a very contagious smile.

This was the first actively “vegan” gathering I have attended since college—when I marched with the Berkeley Animal Liberation Front to protest animal experimentation on campus, where we almost got arrested. This was a much calmer affair, yet Susie reminded all of us of the difficult circumstances turkeys find themselves in, in the modern “product”-driven marketplace of factory farming.

Having spent time in meditation with so many animals of so many different species over the past 17 years, my journey to “mostly vegan” has been a long road of spiritual awakening with many twists and turns. But I have to say that it is people like Gene, Susie and Colleen who help guide and inspire me to keep going in that direction, even when it isn’t easy.

There were so many touching, profound and heart-opening moments I experienced at this celebration. I am so thankful for each and every person who contributed to the day. I’d like to share three tidbits of wisdom that I am taking away from this beautiful afternoon.

1. Kindness: What the world needs is kindness. The day before the Celebration for the Turkeys was November 13, “World Kindness Day.” It was a bit of a difficult day for me in light of the tragedy in Paris earlier in the day; however, I had the opportunity to read a book about kindness to my daughter’s 3rd grade class. The excitement and enthusiasm of the students made me extremely hopeful about the next generation bringing kindness into the future. In Gene’s speech at the luncheon, he shared that what the world needs is a lighter footprint and a kinder view of the world. Making conscious choices in our treatment of animals is a strong way to live with kindness. Kids and animals really get it about kindness, don’t they? Yes, there is hope!

2. Compassion: Gene’s speech was beautiful and eloquent. He talked about building bridges and finding common ground with all people, not just vegans. For those of us that work with animals who have been traumatized or abused, it can be so difficult to extend the compassion we give to animals to people as well, especially those who harm animals. But the best way to help others to understand compassion is by being a role model of it for all beings. Gene pointed out that we are all on our own unique journey, and we need to honor each person’s process.

3. Gratitude: It was a very emotional experience for me, being around like-minded people who want to do good for the animals of the world, who want to work on creating a lighter footprint on the earth, and whose hearts are as soft and sensitive as mine! To be in a large group of people who gave a giant round of applause when the live video feed of the turkeys was shown—it made me full of hope for the future and gratitude for each and every person who took time out of their day to support these adorable birds. I am so thankful for organizations like Farm Sanctuary (and BrightHaven, where I offer monthly Reiki classes).

Although sometimes it might feel that the world is a cruel place, my special time at the Celebration for the Turkeys helped me to remember that it is all in your perspective. In many ways, this world is a very wonderful place full of kindness, compassion and gratitude.

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