002 Food Choices
I know I promised a different subject for my second blog post, and that one is still coming, but in the meantime I felt moved to say something on this subject. Enjoy!
I’m not a vegan. In fact I’d rather not be called anything, because I know circumstances can change, and I aim to be adaptable to situations. But I get it, I get why people own the vegan label, as well as the practicality of labels… and I also get why people immediately want to roll their eyes when we talk about veganism.
Preaching has helped little to no-one. But where does one draw the line between ‘raising awareness’ and ‘preaching’. I think that can be largely subjective, especially when it’s via the written word where you can’t hear tone, or empathise with intention.
And perhaps it’s because of my aversion to preaching, because I actively want to avoid feeling like I judge others (because I secretly, or not so secretly know I can be judgmental with my knee-jerk reactions) that I don’t really discuss my food choices in detail - unless you’ve asked me in person.
Having spent about 6 months or so reflecting on my food choices in a different light, I now feel able to talk about them in a way that feels comfortable and clear. This may interest some of you, probably a minority, and for most of you this is probably more like pissing in the ocean. Move on, or respond, or throw abuse, it’s all good whatever you feel… I’m safe behind my keyboard… I think.
Anyway, so story goes I’ve been loosely vegetarian pretty much my entire adult life. Think I stopped eating meat around 17/18 years old. And before that I only ever ate white meat due to my upbringing. It was my choice to go veggie, and the choice was completely personal in nature. I was your kinda typical melancholic teenager (when I was sober… and sometimes also when I was not), and I was obsessed with big ideas like ‘truth’, ‘death’, ‘purity’,and ‘actions & consequences’. Yeah, super fun. So the reason I stopped eating meat was because I knew that I couldn’t marry up my actions and my consequences if I ate it. I knew I didn’t want to kill chickens, that I didn’t have the balls to do that, so I logicality couldn’t reap the consequences of that action which would be eating the chicken. Hope you’re still following my amazing teenage logic. This is also the reason why I’ve had some periods where I went back to eating fish when I felt like I “needed” it… I reckoned I had the balls to kill a fish.
This was a somewhat refreshing outlook to some of my more carnivorous friends. Because essentially I didn’t think there was anything wrong with eating meat, and I would still say that I hold that belief to some degree, and placed in the right context. I just always had way more respect for the meat-eaters who hunted, gutted, and prepared the animal for consumption themselves. This also remains true to this day. On the other hand - warning here’s my judgement side coming out - I perceived people who didn’t like the head of the fish on their plate, or squirmed at the sight of blood in their meat etc, but wanted to eat meat regardless, as very weak-minded individuals.
Fast forwards a few years and yoga was starting to radically change my life. I was changing from a moody teenager to a slightly less moody adult. Healthy living in all areas of my life started to become a priority. My diet now was taking into account my constitution, and what I should eat according to Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine). Not much changed or challenged my principles here in terms of meat-eating. There is a misconceptions that being a yoga teacher means that you should be vegetarian. Actually food is seen as medicine, and this includes meat. There are situations where red meat may be prescribed to an out of balance individual as a way of helping them get better. Equally, some constitutions may just fair better with some meat in their diet. However, essentially meat is seen as food with a not so great energetic quality, as it is seen as “dead food”.
So I was in this sweet spot for a few years, happily consuming dairy and eggs, happily not really caring about other people’s food choices, and chalking it all up to personal choice / path / responsibility - whatever you want to call it. And then in about the last year or so I started hearing some things, reading some things, having certain conversations, and all these things set me off on my awesome ‘truth’, ‘death, ‘purity’, and ‘actions and consequences’ thought spiral. The theme that kept coming up for me was ‘duty’ - I know, another really fun word. The reason I thought about ‘duty’ was because there are some undeniable facts out there about the cattle & dairy industry, and about our use of plastics. I’m not going to present these facts to you, because they’re very easily available now, and I’m not here to talk about these facts as a way to convince anyone of anything. Facts aren’t bad or good, again that kind of value judgement is subjective.
So back to the idea ‘duty’. Yay. Yoga is all about self-empowerment. And a key place that this empowerment comes from is us, as individuals, stepping up and taking full responsibility for ourselves. It’s about us reaching the point where things don’t ‘just happen’ to us, we don’t look for anyone else to blame, and we also have some tools at our disposal to help us get out of trouble when life doesn’t seem to be going our way. For me, that’s a no brainer, and I’m very happy to take that kind of individual responsibility. But responsibility for the planet? For global animal suffering? Or for future generations? Yikes, that felt like a different ball game. And I’m not going to lie, I definitely felt some resistance to all of that. I had some thoughts like, “well, I’m taking responsibility for myself, surely that’s just up to other people to do. I try to help people through yoga, and I can only do so much on my small scale” etc.
The truth is, is that the facts felt overwhelming. As my close friends know, I can be a bit sensitive, and am partial to a good cry, so the huge implications these facts about our food choices had carried the potential to make me feel a lot of really uncomfortable emotions; sadness, anger, despair, guilt etc. Luckily yoga has gotten me pretty comfortable at feeling uncomfortable, so I let myself feel all these things without judging myself too harshly. And all these feelings taught me things in this reflective process I was embarking on. They sure as hell taught me that I needed to change some stuff. Despite being partial to grumpiness, I don’t actually enjoy wallowing in emotions for too long, or giving anything power over me. And so I started seeking for a solution so that my food choices didn’t make me feel anything but content. It’s a process I feel I’m still going through. And I think it’s a process that a lot of us, including vegans, are still going through.
It’s hard, because I think our own stuff stops us from being able to see clearly. It stops us from being able to really understand messages from vegans etc who are desperately trying to raise awareness. We feel accused, or we dismiss, or we make fun, and sometimes we start getting angry. All I would say, from a yoga “take responsibility for yourself” perspective, is if it does make you have a reaction maybe you should ask yourself why it makes you have a one at all? A reaction inherently means we’ve been triggered by something, and that it’s actually our own baggage we’re dealing with.
And don’t get me wrong, there sure as hell are a lot of crazy vegans out there… just like there are crazies everywhere. But if this touches you at all, and you truly consider yourself / want to be a rational, emotionally mature human being - NB human being, not “perfect” - then maybe it’s time for you to go on a fun ‘truth’, ‘death’, ‘duty’ thought adventure yourself. The best any of us can do is try.