I've seen these containers before, from a distance, when we've been driving along the countryside. Never before, however, had I seen one so close.
If you're naive, like I was when I first moved to Switzerland, you may not appreciate the significance of these containers. If I was to say to you, however, that a national Swiss dish, called Zürcher Geschnetzelte, is a veal-based dish then your eyes might be opened a bit wider.
In order for veal to be tender, the calves are kept in containers, just like the ones in my photo here, where they have minimal space to move. They do not get to run in the fields as that would develop muscle and would spoil the flavour and tenderness of the meat.
As I walked past these containers, I stopped to take this photo because, quite honestly, it shocked me and broke my heart to see these sentient beings locked in these man-made confined spaces.
But what happened next is where I failed, personally, as a sentient being.
As I looked across at the calf you see standing here, we made eye contact. And, intuitively, I knew in my heart that the little calf was asking me to go over and show him/her some comfort; to show him/her that humans can be sentient, kind and loving beings.
But I didn't.
I've been racking my brain why, ever since. And I've been viciously beating myself up as a result ever since, thanks to the heaviness and ever-present guilt I've felt.
When I re-play the situation and search inwardly to try to decipher why I did not take a couple of steps towards this beautiful creature and offer it the little bit of love that I knew in my heart it craved, I realised that I was acting out of purely seflish and fearful reasons.
My mind had jumped to: "What will people think of me if they walk by? Some crazy woman talking to and giving affection to a calf...". The feeling of embarrassment, the feeling of being judged by fellow-walkers I didn't know and would never see again, far out-weighed the desire to do something so small that would mean so much to another sentient being.
And then there was the fear: "What if the farmer sees me and comes shouting at me?" So what? Why does the possibility of being shouted at by a stranger rate so much higher than offering a little love to another sentient being who craved the acknowledgement and the basic need of love it was clearly missing in its life?
I didn't act on what my heart was encouraging me to do; I didn't come from a place of love. Instead I operated from a place of fear, a much lower vibration.
It didn't matter that as I walked by, I asked the angels to surround the little calf, and the other calves, with love, support, comfort and kindness. To me, looking back, that was a cop out; an attempt to feel I had done some good when, in fact, fear had been my driving force.
It's been a few days since my encounter with this beautiful calf and, still, I find it difficult to talk and write about it as I'm crippled by shame and guilt. However, I know that everything in life happens for a reason and I'm always keen to seek out the lessons to be learned so I can evolve into a better human being.
And the lesson I learned from this experience is that I'm not a perfect sentient/human being. I talk about living your life from a place of love, not fear, and, yet, I still have a long way to go along my journey to living a truly love-based life.
I learned that I'm not a perfect sentient/human being filled with self-love, a concept and way of life I also talk about and encourage you and others to embrace, because when you truly are filled with self-love, that love extends outwards. That love encourages you to do things that come from your heart and not to give in to the heaviness of fear.
I learned that I'm not a perfect sentient/human being because I have struggled to forgive myself for walking past another sentient being, not giving it such a small and yet great gift of tenderness and love. And if you cannot forgive yourself, you are unable to truly love yourself.
What I've discovered on my journey of self-love and living from a place of love is that, as I walk further along my path, the love I give to myself extends beyond my immediate needs; I make more loving choices about how I live my life, what foods I put in my body, how I treat and speak to others around me as well as how I speak to myself (the mean girls are not quite as chatty as they used to be). I've also learned, however, that I still have a very long path ahead of me and, indeed, don't ever expect to achieve and live in a state of pure and total love in this lifetime. But what's important is that every day I take another step forward, from every experience I learn a little more, and from every lesson I can better become a more loving and sentient human being.