November 21, 2012

Why I—a meat eater—am going meatless this Thanksgiving. ~ Eka Joti

Courtesy: Tambako/Flickr

I love meat.

Truly most animals, from rabbits to pig, quail to cow. I grew up with a varied diet, thanks to health-conscious parents, yet meat was always available in some form. As I started to travel abroad and really become a foodie, meat has been a big part of this adventure.

My personal focus up to this point in all my food—meat or otherwise—has been to eat lovingly prepared food, to eat when I am truly hungry, and to be present with the experience of eating.

Year by year, I have experimented with lightening my diet, whether it be eating less meat, or consuming less processed food, or cooking with less oil, or simply eating less—the point for me has been to feel more energy, more clarity and more response-ability in my daily life.

Coming up to Thanksgiving this year, something has shifted—not forced, just fallen away. I am ready to define a new shift for me into vegetarianism, and it begins with this day of giving thanks.

I am ready to redefine this national over-eating holiday, and make it a real experience in thanksgiving to my body, my life and my planet.  And, I want to share these inspirations and commitments with you!

Cornerstone 1 & 2: Personal Wellness and Global Ethics.

Courtesy: Zachancell/Flickr

The two reasons that I hear most people citing for going veggie are personal health and ethics. And for me as well, these two themes are a part of the overall picture.

I am definitely ready to further lighten my diet, softening the load on my digestive tract and on my body in general. There have been times in the past where I have made a decision to remove meat from my diet, but always with the underlying feeling of this is what a good yogi would do/this is what a person that values health would do.”

And of course, something like this does not stick, because it doesn’t really recognize the roots of the desire or even the need to do something. This is like the need to experience something painful or unenjoyable, dozens of times before one realizes they really truly don’t like it and they have alternatives to it.

My current choice is something very different, arising from an excitement and desire to have more of the experience of physical lightness and ease in daily life.

The key here is that I am excited to experience this—this can be called a ‘motivation-toward’ strategy, and not, as was the older motivation, a “motivation-away-from” strategy. Or as Reverand Beckwith simply says, “pain pushes until vision pulls.”

And, my main priority here is supporting my health and wellbeing in the best ways possible, which ends up being a very intimate and changeable thing. What worked yesterday may not work today, taking into account age, location, physical activity, season, illness and other factors.

Courtesy: Farm Sanctuary/Flickr

The second one here is ethical, taking into account the exploitation that goes into me having my cut of meat. There are various ways I can connect to this, including holding the view that all life is equal; holding this view, factory farms are just as bad if not worse than concentration camps.

Bluntly put, I wouldn’t want to experience a forced life of choiceless and overcrowded force-feeding, only to be eaten long before my time, even if it was for a ceremony of giving thanks.

Beyond the consideration of the animal itself is the consideration of resources involved between farm (or in this case factory) and table. This includes fresh water (so very precious) and oil in transportation and petrol products. One recent and reliable study shows 2,500 gallons of water per pound of meat, taking into account the lifestyle needs of a factory cow. This is compared to about 60 gallons of water per pound of potatoes.

It has also been determined that 284 gallons of oil are required to raise a cow for slaughter. Already these are truly shocking figures, and I haven’t even touched the realities of the toxic byproducts of such factory farms.

But there is also a catch here—going veggie or vegan does not imply stepping outside of this system. Factory farms exist for both animals and plants; whether meat or veggies, if they are not local, they are being transported and refrigerated using fossil fuel.

The point here is that all diets involve some level of exploitation (even sun gazers or breatharians intake life from elsewhere to sustain their own life). For me then, this becomes a bigger issue of understanding the role of life to sustain life, and how to minimize the harm and unconsciousness in it, while maximizing the personal and socio-cultural evolution available through nourishing ourselves.

Taking it up a notch.

As you can see, both personal health and ethical reasons open up a lot of food for thought. Both are complex equations, including many moving variables. It can be easy to get bogged down in these considerations, and for me, there is more to explore beyond this.

I have also discovered that looking at the arenas of personal health and global ethics can start to feel heavy, discouraging and generally not very fun. It doesn’t mean they can’t be inspiring—more that people often bring a lot of their own baggage to these considerations. So, these next two points are all about positive and inspired exploration.

I am a very big proponent of the recognition of the universal constant of change and evolution. As a person, you are always evolving, expanding, shifting and discovering—I want to create focal points that encourage me to have fun discovering and stretching the familiar.

Courtesy: Vidya/Flickr

Cornerstone 3: Adventures of Palate.

Part of my excitation in exploring Thanksgiving alternatives is the discovery of tantalizing veggie dishes. I consider myself a pretty big foodie, especially when it comes to cooking with others and being adventurous with the palate. And when I say veggie dishes here, I don’t mean ‘meatless’ recipes or ‘meat-substitution’ dishes, which simply focus on the fact that I have lost something I am trying to replace. Instead, I am excited to gain new experiences through pushing my boundaries.

In essence, this is also the basis of authentic tantra as I have come to experience it: keep identifying old limiting beliefs, keep pushing the boundaries and stay uber-truthful as to the results.

Here are some awesome recipes that I am considering:

>Cider-Glazed Roots with Cinnamon Walnuts
>Brown Butter and Dill Brussel Sprouts (OMG!)
>Light and Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes
>Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing (veggie instead of chicken stock)
>Buttermilk Biscuits
>Okay, gonna stop here before I get overwhelmed

Can you help me out? What are some of your favorite holiday veggie recipes?

Cornerstone 4: Modernizing an Outdated Ritual.

If you know me personally—or know my work—you will know that I love to redefine habits and rituals.

A ritual can be very powerful, as it has the ability to entrain human consciousness. In other words, it can trap and direct attention in a certain way. This is not inherently about religion or spirituality, and is actually happening all the time: from your morning coffee or tea, to the way the bank architecture is designed, the layout of your computer desktop. All of these structures serve to focus and entrain your attention in different ways.

Similarly, Thanksgiving has been ritualized. And I gotta be honest—I am so ready to redefine the shit out of this ritual. I am done with this being about a few minutes of gratitude reflection, followed by gorging, sleeping and watching whatever game or Thanksgiving-themed movie happens to be on (no offense past, but the future is present).

I am choosing to completely rewrite the container for this experience, in a way that truly allows me to give thanks. I want to be transparent and share my current vision of this with ya’ll. Please feel free to share your ideas and inspirations as well, as I love cross-pollination!

1. My day starts off with an early morning short salt water cleanse to appreciate my hard working GI Tract (if you are interested, I use the Bihar school ‘Laghu Shank Prakshalana‘ which is a short salt-water cleanse).

2. Then, I will take some tea and go for a giving-thanks walk-about, where I purposely focus in on the amazing blessings of my neighborhood and life in general (thank you grass, air, flower, neighbor, just for being you).

3. The walk will also include some stretching and breathing at my local park to appreciate my miraculous body.

Following this wake up vision, I will do any or all of the following, though in no particular order:

1. Vision Board: I have been gathering images and ideas for an updated vision board and feel ready to put this together following my walk-about, to give thanks for all the amazing people, experiences and opportunities in my life.

2. Loving on my friends and family: I will make Skype and phone calls to my friends and family (all far-flung at the moment) to simply share their smile and appreciate them for all the ways in which they have supported my unfolding adventures.

3. Veggie Delight: I will be cooking up the super-tasty recipes that I mentioned above (or ones that you recommend!). Following this, I will eat, appreciating the amazing harvest of this life-giving planet. And yes, I will appreciate Northern California for being so bountiful!

4. Taking it easy: I will go see Wreck-It Ralph or Cloud Atlas to give thanks to the part of me that likes taking it easy and being entertained.

5. Pampering: At some point, I will draw a bath and soak while reading one of my current books.

And, of course, these well-laid plans can change in an instance should gratitude take an unexpected turn, and to that possibility, I am also grateful.

You may notice that this is more of a solo vision rather then being with others. Rituals are intensely personal and are best when they support our natural selves. For me, I am more of an introvert in terms of arriving at insights, gathering myself and recharging.

For me, this feels like a great fit. For others, this would be a horrible ritual—it all depends on your unique needs and strengths. S,o go out there and make it what you will!

The place of self-honesty in giving thanks.

As accountability to myself, and as a reconnaissance scout to you, I commit to keeping you posted on each of the focuses I spoke to here. I strongly believe that life is not about holding fast to commitments for commitment-sake, but about creating commitments that allow us to really shine in our victim-free, empowered and responsible selves.

Beyond this, I commit to taking my meatless adventure through the end of November as a first step. Staying sensitive and observant of my energy levels, moods, behaviors, etc., I commit to being honest with myself and with all of you in the possibility of moving beyond December first with this same commitment.

Giving thanks to you.

I deeply appreciate the space and freedom to express these passionate feelings with you today. I appreciate that you chose to read this, and I truly hope that it has caused you to understand more of yourself through your reading. I wish you a super fun, meaningful and IBS-free Thanksgiving.

With gratitude,



Ed: Bryonie Wise

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