A Meat-Eating Yogi Chickens Out
(Caution: This article contains some graphic details.)
An omnivore, actually, as—unlike some in the more hardcore vegan community may believe– I do enjoy other foods besides meat. And I haven’t been shy about sharing my views on why I choose a diet that includes animal protein.
As a yogi, especially one who is now entered the public eye, it’s even more important to me to provide a role model for those middle path folks; the ones who want to eat meat (or like me, require it to be vital and healthy), and have their yoga, too. Yeah, I said it. I positively know that the two can co-exist.
I’m not interested in debating veganism, vegetarianism or eating meat. They each have their merits and detriments, and you can do what feels best for you. But going polar is not my style. I don’t live in polarity, and I’m certainly not going to tell you to take an all-or-nothing approach to anything in your life.
What I do want, however, is to invite you along on a road trip I took recently. Though I’m sure to get the same, uninformed “you can’t be on the path of awareness and eat meat” comments (Oh yeah? Well helloooooo, Dalai!), what happened to me along the ride sparked a burning desire to re-visit this topic with myself, and with you.
I was driving from Texas to New York City, stopping along the way to teach my Core Strength yoga workshops at studios from Houston to Chattanooga. It was at a rest area in Virginia that I pulled into the parking lot beside a 12-wheeler, a semi carrying a load of live chickens to slaughter.
They were packed in there like, well, like chickens going to a factory farm. They were gross, and broken, and as I imagined as I heard their soft clucks and looked into their passive eyes, imploring me to get them out of there, without any real fight to do anything but sit there should they be let out. We abused them for a lifetime, and now—yum!—down the gullet.
The growing demand for processed meat, and cheap, fast foods at many American meals has led us to this: an extreme imbalance in our bodies, our waistlines, our medical bills and our environment.
Now, I grew up in the Midwest, in a town that was home not only to John Deere tractors and about a million family-owned farms, but also to the Rath Packing Plant, where they ‘processed’ poultry, beef, and pork for mass consumption.
I’ve seen the killing floors in action, walked through rooms flooded not with inches of water, but blood, and heard the screams of animals as they were dealt their final blows by electrocution, or the simpler but often more messy throat-cutting technique.
I’ve also walked through those same family farms and had the complete opposite experience: animals who roamed free, treated far better, and probably for far longer than they would have fared in the wild, then killed quickly, and yes, compassionately with the love only a farmer can have for the livestock they raised and bottle-fed from infants. If you’re not from the country, you can’t imagine how different this environment is from the factories that semi was driving to.
These are the people I want to support, and the animals I’m honored to take in as part of me to help fuel the life I lead teaching others principles of inner strength and centering.
I’ve seen it all on both sides of the fence, literally. And I’m still going to revel in an amazing duck rillette with prunes and cornichons at my local French bistro. Once a week, I require red meat for my constitution and my sanity—and all my highest-level Aryurvedic doctors agree. For some people, meat is not a deadening energy, but a grounding one. Some of us do very well with the inclusion of different types of meat, and very poorly on an all-vegetarian or vegan diet. I know, I wilted like a lettuce leaf for 6 years and never felt worse—all while ingesting a stellar vegetarian menu each day.
So, withholding information on how to live in consciousness should one choose to eat meat, and simply dismissing them, judging them or comparing them to “Nazis”, as one leader in the vegan movement says in her book, isn’t just unfortunate, it’s just plain irresponsible.
Just as there is no yoga pose that is perfect for every body, there is no one-size-fits-all way of eating. It’s the quality with which we eat that makes us yogis, not that we always or never eat this or that.
It’s up to each of us to claim what our body is asking for, and in addition, aim to be as aware of the consequences on others that ripple outward from the way we procure that food.
When it comes to eating meat, however, I’m under no illusion that the steak au-poivre I’m enjoying never had a face, or a family, or feelings. I’m French, Italian and Native American, three cultures that remain intimately interconnected and reverent towards everything that comes from the earth, and goes into our bodies. The relationship I have between me and my Sunday filet mignon borders on the worshipfully ecstatic.
As you can see from the photo, this is a ridiculously out of hand situation. There’s nothing free-range or humane about it.
I have decided, therefore, to hug in my carnivorous side even further. I will no longer eat the stuff—unless I know where it comes from, and that somewhere is a true, local farmer. Yes, that goes for the duck rillette and all.
I’m lucky in that I have a plethora of restaurants that boast slow-food, organic, small farmed menus. Still, there are many places like this one that deliver good meat and other mindfully produced goodies to your door.
Ask yourself if there are any ways, large or small, that you can do this, too. Anything helps, and you don’t have to make a radical shift to veganism to make a difference. When it comes to healing the planet and also helping yourself–to stay out of doctor’s offices and hospital beds due to obesity, toxicity, heart problems, diet-related diabetes, and all the other illnesses it brings to eat crap—take a good look around you.
This is not about eating organic as much as it is about not eating the feedlot-produced animals, or the mass-produced vegetables, fruits and grains that can be as destructive to you and the world as that big old semi full of misery you’ll find later as a $10 bucket of chicken straight from the Colonel to your table.
OK, so I ended up proselytizing you after all. But I hope it’s a bell-ringing, hand-waving, can-I-get-a-witness call not to evangelical, all-out behavior, but rather a sweet and heartfelt hymn leading you to look within, then strike your own balance around this issue. In this way, you will forge a personal path only you can walk towards more clarity and personal choice…not less.
Truckloads of creatures large and small depend on what you decide.