Confessions of a Meat-Eating Yogi. ~Suzanne VanGilder

Via elephant journal
on Aug 4, 2011
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Photo: A God’s Child

There. It’s out. I eat meat.

Also, I have been known to consume beer. And I am a yogi. A real, card carrying, daily practicing, meditating-in-the-morning yogi. It’s just that I live in Northern Wisconsin.

Know who else eats meat? The Dali Lama. It’s true. Ask him. Also, what gets him out of bed early to pray and meditate isn’t communion with the universal, it’s breakfast.

Photo: Rick

He’ll tell you that himself.

I once had the honor of hearing His Holiness speak. He even entertained questions, one of which was, “What can we do to  help save Tibet.” His answer was, “Nothing. Even those deeply involved don’t understand the cultural context.” (Moment of disappointment from the well-meaning questioner) … “What you can do,” HH says brightly, “is to be a better community member, be a better friend, a better parent, a better partner. Put your good efforts into places where they have influence.”

Insert moment of dawning recognition here.

It is easy to lose sight of what is important when we try to make reality fit into a pre-conceived mold of right and wrong. It is also easy to get paralyzed by fear when we try to take on the woes of the world alone. HH adds to this wisdom noting, “Small kindnesses have a ripple effect, reaching ever further.”

So in my small, close-knit agrarian community, is it better to get protein by eating small portions of meat from an animal that was lovingly raised less than a mile away, or to drive 20 miles to the Wal-Mart Super Center to buy a processed tofu burger crapped out by ConAgra? When invited to the fundraiser for our mostly volunteer firefighters and EMTs, is it better to reject the cup of local beer

Photo: Tony Austin

whose proceeds go to protect the community because “my body is a temple,” or is it all right to have one or two and connect with the young and old dancing to live classic rock? It’s not a Bhakti devotional gita, but it helps us connect to a universal goodness none the less.

The Tantrikas say it is up to each individual to make the most life affirming choices in each moment. Occasionally we are asked to, and even encouraged to make choices that the great ones before us, living in austerity in India, never faced. They could not have possibly anticipated our current cultural context. As long as those choices benefit the greater good and don’t keep the individual in bondage (classic rock and beer everyday may not be the best practice for spiritual unfolding), then aren’t they the right actions at the right times? Mindfulness infers a co-participation, rather than blind following. While practice, faith and tradition are important, some of the worst atrocities in history have been carried out by spiritual sheep.

Speaking of sheep, I paid $8 for a tub of a friend’s local chevre today, and it was worth every penny and every calorie.


Suzanne VanGilder first got yoga in Scottsdale, AZ 12 years ago, and since then has been moving farther north into smaller cities, stopping for a while in Madison, WI before moving up to the North Coast of the US, where she now lives in a town of 2000 on the shores of Lake Superior. When not foraging in the bush, dressing appropriately for the weather or scavenging for agates and beach glass, Suzanne spends time at her kids’ Green and Healthy School or taking in as much local fun, art and agriculture as time allows. She also writes magazines about materials technology and design, and is a co-director of Humble Be yoga and dance, the best (and only) studio on the idyllic Bayfield Peninsula.


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8 Responses to “Confessions of a Meat-Eating Yogi. ~Suzanne VanGilder”

  1. Erica Hannickel says:

    I too live in Wisconsin, and as a devoted yogi, beer and cheese are really no-brainers for me. I could go on, but it really just comes down to being tasty and me liking them, really two of the best things on earth! I sometimes struggle with the meat question. I eat most meats, and mostly in moderation, but prefer tofu/tempeh/etc when I can get it. I find that, perhaps like others, I eat more meat (and of different local and wild varieties) since I've moved to WI.

  2. Carrie Miller says:

    Well said, Suzanne! I sincerely agree with putting our good energies into the small sphere we inhabit. You have been a joyous addition to our far northern community, and your energy reminds me of all that is positive in the world. You encourage me to be a more active and intentional member of our wonderful little community. Thanks… and cheers! PS: There will be both meat and beer at the deck party, once the said deck is completed 🙂

  3. Madison misses you, Suzanne. Great to imbibe in a bit of your writing. Always decadent. Say, didn't you write an article about ghee? Keep bragging about the school your kids get to be a part of and your gonna end up with a few more neighbors on your North Coast. Can't wait to check out HumbleBee.

  4. terri says:

    I love the attitude. It's really hard to be perfect in an imperfect world. All you can do is be the best you can be and I think you do that, hands down.

  5. You know, yoga/yogis are not above fundamentalism and fanaticism. It's true. And I find those who are such not much different than any other religious or belief system who takes a written word as literal and imposes dogma on others based on their understanding of that written word. In the end one has to live with their soul, their energy, their karma. If meat is not your thing then don't eat it. But leave your crap on your plate.

  6. tanya lee markul says:

    Hi Suzanne – thank you so much for this! I have to say, however, that I truly feel that we as humans don't have to eat meat….ever. 🙂 I don't think it's about being a fundamentalist or a fanatic, I guess I just know it's not for me and will never be for me in this life. I hear people with your point of view all the time, but how do you really define a 'lovingly raised animal' that is being groomed for a profitable slaughter? Is it really and truly loved or does it just have slightly better circumstances than the factory farmed animals? I think when people eat meat because they desire the taste or because it's been programmed into their eating habits, perhaps it's worth questioning it on an even deeper level. Is it truly something our body needs and wants and how does it really impact the connectivity of life around us? Maybe I am a bit crazy. 🙂

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    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
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  7. tanya lee markul says:

    Beth, I really appreciate your comments and I agree with your points, especially with the 'NEITHER* option. 🙂

  8. Cheri says:


    Thank you! I love your article! I have recently relocated to a very rural area in western Nebraska after living in an urban area much of my life. I really relate to what you wrote.

    I am a yoga practitioner and teacher, RYT-500. And I am not a vegetarian. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work for me. I appreciate the yogic view of non-harm meaning not harming animals, but I believe more than anything else in individual choice in what we consume. I agree with listening to one’s own body to determine what works best. The Dalai Lama example is one of the best! I love his words regarding how we can help Tibet.

    I can tell you also that my teeny community sure does enjoy yoga classes, but probably aren’t ready or willing to listen to anyone’s fanatical “loving suggestions” about vegetarianism.