Veganism is an act of courage and rebellion

Image courtesy to Osho.com
The Rebel © Osho Zen Tarot

“The rebel: His very being is rebellious – not because he is fighting against anybody or anything, but because he has discovered his own true nature and is determined to live in accordance with it. (…) The rebel challenges us to be courageous enough to take responsibility for who we are and to live our truth.” (Osho Zen Tarot Cards, Rebel)

Will Tuttle describes veganism as one of the most rebellious acts we can take, because we break with our conditioning what it means to be human, to live in community. Veganism challenges the idea that we are omnivores, that we are born and meant to kill other living beings in order to be healthy and strong. Veganism challenges the idea that barbecuing, roasting, and stuffing slaughtered animals is an essential part of our culture of celebration. Veganism challenges our belief that doing what others are doing and going with the flow, ‘being easy’, is a condition for belonging, acceptance, and harmony.

I’m noticing I’m getting judgmental of anyone who rather buys cheap hamburgers than take the time to learn about the lives and deaths of their food. I ‘m getting judgmental of anyone who doesn’t have the guts to watch a documentary, go to the slaughterhouse, or kill their food themselves. I have the guts to cut off a tomato, dig up a potato, pluck an apple. You want to eat pork? Raise and kill the pigs yourselves.

Ten years ago I was judgmental of vegans. I remember when my friends and I went out for dinner. There were 12 of us, so it was a hassle to write down everyone’s order. When it was Paul’s turn, the whole process slowed down. “Do you have soup?” “Yes, we do.” “Is it made of animal products?” “Well, we can take out the meatballs, and you’ll never notice they were in it.” No, that didn’t work for Paul. “Well, we have cheese, that doesn’t require the killing of animals.” No, that doesn’t work either. It was made of the inner lining of calf stomach. Gosh, Paul, can’t you just order what we eat? No, Paul decided to stick with a salad. What a kill joy.

In retrospect, I admire Paul. He stood up for his principles and his truth, even though he must have heard my non-verbal criticism loud and clear. He wasn’t making a fuzz at all, he wasn’t proclaiming he was right, and we were wrong. He honored whom he was, and the natural choices that followed his being. A rebellion doesn’t fight anyone or anything. A rebellion decides that society has conditioned her long enough. Now it’s time to decide for herself whom to be and what to do. A rebel follows her own heart. That’s courage.

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Now that I’ve publicly declared I am committed to go vegan, I am noticing anxiety coming up. Thinking of my upcoming travels to family and friends in the Netherlands, and not eating slices of bread with Gouda cheese. Not eating pancakes with Jeroen, poffertjes with my mom. Not sneaking out of bed and eating ontbijtkoek with butter. Not now. Not ever.

All those moments of connection are history. And not only that, the easy strategies to comfort myself, when my social anxiety, shame, loneliness, confusion, and sadness come up, are history. No more stuffing myself up, so there is no space for them.

Image courtesy to merrillohana.blogspot.com100% Veganism requires me to be more conscious of what and how I’m eating, if I ever want my food choices to bring more compassion and mindfulness into this world. That includes animals. All the workers who brought this food to my table. Do the laborers get decently paid? Do the chauffeurs get enough breaks during their drive? Does the store treat it’s employees with respect? And myself. Am I willing to compassionately embrace all the shitty feelings that hit me once in a while?

Bang!

Rather not!

Rather I feel happy, clear, energized, calm, self-confident, than all the unpleasantry of feeling shame, upset, loneliness, confusion, you know the drill. And if I have to feel these feelings, because they are too loud to be ignored, I rather eat. Eating is such a perfect strategy to silence these feelings. Whether it is sweets, cheese, chips.

I practice five minutes of mindful eating each morning. I recite the five contemplations as offered by Thich Nhat Hanh, I thank G*d for my enoughness, and I chew consciously. Only recently have I started to bring awareness to how my food lands. And I notice how often I continue eating, even though I am full. I want to eat for the full five minutes. I want to finish my breakfast. I like the taste. And most importantly, I like having a bloated belly. Not the look of it, but the feel of being stuffed. Not feeling too much discomfort, but forcing myself to chunk along. The last two weeks I stop, as soon as I notice that feeling. And I realize how overeating is an easy strategy to silence my uncomfortable, unpleasant feelings. Or at least, stuff them. Just like we do with our animal properties. Stuff them.

Maybe my veganism is actually about deepening awareness. Expanding my willingness to embrace all of my experience. And thàt is something I’m willing to say ‘yes’ to.

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Food is one of the most primordial ways of connection. It connected us to our moms when we were in her womb. It connected us to our caregivers when we were little babies. And throughout the rest of our lives, eating and sharing food is a simple and direct way to experience connection, community, belonging and acceptance.

No wonder it is hard to change your food pattern to a diet that seems to exclude you, set you apart, and provoke misunderstanding, criticism, and judgment.

That’s why I encourage you to be gentle on yourself when you transition to a vegan diet.

Image courtesy to cidrap.umn.eduI invite you to support all needs on the table: your need to contribute, care, and expand your compassion to all living beings and your needs for acceptance, understanding, and belonging.

Some people shift to a vegan diet cold turkey (haha, forgive me the pun).

I didn’t.

I first stopped eating meat and birds, and continued eating everything else. I even made my vegetarian hamburger in the same pan in which my ex-husband made his steak. I continued eating fish, dairy, and eggs.

This was relatively easy to do. Most people knew how to make a vegetarian dish (or at least, leave the animals out) and it was simple to order something in a restaurant without raising eye brows. This phase also helped me to wean off meat and birds, and get used to my new food choices.

It’s not perfect compassionate eating, and then again, we’re not striving for perfection. We’re striving for growth, one step on the path of expanding compassion and empathy at a time.

Then another, then another. It’s okay to take a break once in a while. It’s even okay to fall back once in a while. We want to develop a habit that is enjoyable to continue, not a punishment and discipline we will finally give up on, because we’re failing our own standards of perfection.

You don’t want to decrease compassion by judging yourself that you’re not good enough. You want to increase compassion by embracing all your needs, feelings, and thoughts.

My path towards a vegan diet has cycled me through the fear of the thought that I am seen as crazy and abnormal, the loss of never using my grand mom’s cook book again or eating herring with my mother, the challenge of not eating all the stuff I ate most of my life. I stayed with all these feelings and worked on figuring out ways to nurture the underlying needs. What other strategies could I think of to support those same needs?

Vegan cook books help. Vegan communities help. Dialogue and expressing my experience help. Accepting and celebrating my choices help. What can you do to support all your needs?

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You want help to make choices that include the needs of all living beings? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

VegaNVC

Image courtesy to Flickr

One of the assumptions of Nonviolent Communication -as I understand it- is that when we connect to the universal needs underlying our differences, we can find solutions that work for everyone.

I like that. It paints a world in which we all can find happiness, peace, harmony, joy, and love. It speaks of a world of acceptance, understanding, and inclusion.

Do I believe this is possible?

Yeah! Duuh!

Even in the most challenging circumstances of disconnect, distrust, and despair, I’ve always found NVC opens connection with others and support for all needs on the table.

We have a natural tendency towards compassion and comradery, and I think there is nothing more fulfilling than to contribute to the well-being of others (and ourselves!).

I have a sadness about what I perceive to be the missing link: awareness of the needs of those living beings who cannot speak for themselves, such as future generations, those with less resources, and animals. I wished we would include the needs of those not in the dialogue, yet impacted by the outcomes of our solutions. If we brought more awareness to their needs, we probably would make different food-, work-, travel-, and social choices.

I, for one, stopped eating meat and birds when I found myself turning off the shower and making an effort to rescue a spider that was frantically trying not to drown. I was perplexed when I realized that I brought so much care and compassion to this creature, and ate my bacon beef hamburger happily a few hours later. Did I not think that the pig and the cow on my plate had been equally terrified when they were slaughtered for my appetite? Did I not care about the horrendous circumstances of their life and journey to death? How could I go to bed with a clear conscience, knowing I had contributed to suffering in unique creatures, whose names I didn’t even know?

It doesn’t take a genius to understand how much harm and torture we deliver to animals for our consumption. I’m pretty sure YouTube offers vivid footage of the keeping, maiming, and killing of our food. (I watched some years ago, and don’t have the stomach to do so again).

I stopped eating fish after I watched Finding Nemo. I had cried my eyes out over the terror of the fish being hunted down. I realized the cognitive dissonance I was creating by crying over a cartoon and enjoying my raw herring as a snack.

I’m not perfect. I still act in ways that are directly or indirectly harmful to other living beings. I just want to share my passion for compassion for all beings. Please, leave a response, so we can enter into a dialogue how to support all needs.

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You want help to make choices that include the needs of all living beings? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.