After a recent and powerful storm, an exotic bird arrived at our back door slider. It was beautiful with a bluish-grey neck, white and tan body the size of a juvenile wild turkey and a delicate feather crown on its head. It exhibited signs of trauma with flickering-eye expressions and nervous pacing.
For days, the bird hung around. It jumped up our recycle bins to look in our kitchen window. We fed it, concerned it would starve to death, because it was not engaged in food searching behavior. It also didn’t show much interest in our offerings.The bird did not exhibit any physical injuries. At some point, we had to give it tough love, put chicken screen around to protect our entrance from poop, and to keep the bird from damaging the glass door.
Returning from a hike I saw the bird obsessively walking back and forth again; I noticed it seemed to recognize its own image in the glass. Ah, I thought, it sees a fellow bird not understanding the concept of reflection. Later that day, on the meditation path, I saw evidence of a coyote kill. The remnants had the same coloration as our distraught visitor.
Sorrow hit my heart. The bird was in mourning for its companion, I decided. We wondered how to help it survive, recognizing the bird’s current behavior would be life threatening if it did not leave the place where another of its kind had been killed. We hung up a sheet in front of the sliding glass door. The reflection was gone and so was the visitor pacing at our door.
T., at some point, saw the bird was more relaxed, and we hoped, perhaps, it was ready to move on. The next morning, the bird was nowhere to be seen.
We wished him/her well. It was not in our hands, ultimately, what was to come. At least, we were no longer responsible for the false perception created by our door; but I asked myself, how does one handle suffering of the other?
The same way, I think, we handle our own suffering–recognize, acknowledge, feel it, and then, look for ways to embrace the best possible solution. Furthermore, the yogi seeks to understand how what we perceive is no more real than our reflection in a mirror. Also, perceptions, my teacher would often tell me, are not accurate if the mirror of the mind is distorted.
Days later, I found, on an off-the-trail site, the same kind of remains I had seen on the meditation path. Heartbroken, I remembered a quote from Jack Kornfield: “Our hearts are meant to be broken,” and the memory of these words helped me understand. In his recent Super Soul Sunday conversation with Oprah, Jack spoke about how compassion sometimes comes through the tears we carry, and we need to honor that.