I am not a proud omnivore.
“I have stopped fighting the basic algebra of embodiment: For something to live, something else has to die. In that acceptance, with all its suffering and sorrow, is the ability to choose a different way- a better way.” – Lierre Keith
My mom started us out on macrobiotics when I was a wee one, though we were eating an array of meat at the time as well. Later it was Vaidya Raju’s Ayurvedic fare: simple daal, rice and veg. accompanied with whipped cream and honey as our pre-meal dessert and a shredded beet, carrot parsley salad/chutney with the main course. I loved these easy edible delights, and still do. I credit these early culinary experiences (among others) with my love of noshing. Food has always been a big deal in my family.
I made a solid leap to vegetarianism in high school and later went vegan. It was a clearly sensible thing to do for anyone with an iota of consciousness. That lasted well over fifteen years, until trouble set in. My health deteriorated, my energy levels were pitiful, my yoga practice was suffering. Life felt dreadful. Even being a serious foodie and making smart eating choices, I wasn’t able to sustain this extreme diet. I was told over and over again that I had to eat meat. I refused. I denied. I continued to get weaker.
Then my trusted Vaidya, Rama Kant Mishra, gave me some valuable advice: You need meat for your health and your spiritual practice. The Charak Samhita (the Ayurvedic Bible if you will) mentions eating meat and many other “yogic taboos” which helped me to start piecing things together. Life doesn’t make sense sometimes.
For the last four years, I have been on a psychological roller coaster with this phenomenon. I eat meat now (chicken, fish, turkey) and know that I need it. Am I a yogi? Am I a fraud? Am I subject to many more lives as a human because of these actions? How much fear, anger, and misery am I knowingly partaking in? And yadda yadda….
But some things are making sense now. First of all, there are no easy solutions or universal answers that fit everyone. Not even for yogis. Secondly, death is life. I’m not suggesting we kill like we kill now. That factory farming is acceptable. That massive slaughter can ever be sanctioned. I’m not even suggesting killing is ever wonderful. What I’m suggesting is that life happens and death happens. And death happens for life to happen. This is a universal truth. Something that I may ever be entirely o.k. with.
Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth, featured this month in Mother Jones, offers further explanation of these cycles and shares a similar story to my self. I identified with her values, her internal struggle and her reconciliation. She points to the wide-spread destruction that agriculture has had on our land for hundreds of years- ever since agricultural based societies surfaced (remember Ishmael?) This is also murder and the beginning of “living out of balance” with our earth.
“What’s looming in the shadows of our ignorance and denial is a critique of civilization itself. The starting point may be what we eat, but the end is an entire way of life, a global arrangement of power, and with no small measure of personal attachment to it.”
The only reality that I can come up with is that balance looks different for different individuals. Depending on the angle. Balance is different for a cow or a cat, a human or a beetle. Are these needs and desires any less than the other? No.
If we were all consciously involved with our own balance, we’d be keeping the Earth’s balance in check as well. The grass would get her needs met, so would the cow and so would the human. Maybe we are beyond ever finding this true sense of balance. Perhaps it’s impossible at this point. But as a spiritual Being, my balance looks different now then it did fifteen years ago. And I expect this change to continue. Which might very well be the only thing I can be certain about.