August 4, 2011

Confessions of a Meat-Eating Yogi. ~Suzanne VanGilder

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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