Here’s what happened.
A couple of months ago, I read Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. And then I saw the video that once seen can never been unseen (you’ve probably noticed them popping up on Facebook—animals being mistreated in slaughterhouses, tens of thousands of chickens in “cage free” barns, pecking each other to death).
I read, I saw, I became a vegan. This was non-negotiable and far reaching. Despite myself, I became fanatic. I looked at everything I owned, used, ate, sat in, wore, and drove around in, and wondered if an animal had been made to suffer because of it.
My veganism started as pure commitment, but then that commitment morphed into neurosis, and dogma ensued.
Dogma, judgment, and marital difficulty. My wife is a mind blowing cook, and I was her best customer. But now, there were two different meals at the table, hers and mine. The bad news is that where before we were sharing a meal, now we each ate our own meals—hers and mine. (The real bad news is I had to cook mine.)
And not only was I eating my own bravely prepared meal, I was clucking my teeth at her silently, barely resisting shaking my head at her, while trying to polish the spiritually inclusive veneer on my demeanor. Over time, this distance between us, exacerbated by months of my secret lust for her golden brown, crispy-skinned roast chicken, and made worse by habit, unconsciousness and an all-pervasive meat eating culture, wore me down.
Suddenly (I hardly noticed the shift), I was picking at the chicken carcass, savoring every little juicy scrap—happily shoving aside everything I vowed I would never do again, enjoying my meal and the sweet sense of togetherness with my wife.
What happened to, “Never again!”?
Vows, promises, commitments. We love these things. They make us feel secure. But we carry them around, compare ourselves to the ideal expression of them, fall short, and then feel crappy about it. I write this on September 5th, having made a resolution to live vegan last week, and having already broken it. I failed right out of the gate. For a few days there I was at my peak, though. And then it all went to hell.
Disappointment can be a great mindfulness bell. If I use it that way here, what can I notice? The image of a wave comes to mind. Have you ever stood hypnotized at the ocean’s shore? There’s something comforting, even inspiring about the cresting, peaking, and breaking of the waves—something about the repeating rhythm, and the infinite diversity of their coming into being and dissolving. Nothing about this is disappointing. I’ve never watched a wave reach its peak and then, when the wave broke and came rushing toward my feet, thought, “Bummer. You really had it there for a moment, but then you blew it.” I’ve only ever loved the whole cycle.
I can connect with my life in the same way. I’m a human being, part of the natural world. I am an animal, just like the birds and bears who follow their own rhythms into and out of life. I can be with my vows like I am with the waves. Reaching for an ideal, I may fall short and have another go. This might happen over and over. But I keep reaching. Not to reach perfection, but because it’s in my nature to reach, peak, crest, and fall away. Again and again, all year long, my whole life, until I dissolve back into that vast ocean of original essence.
So. My resolution is to keep a vegan diet. And to use veganism as the context for noticing when I’m a slave to what I want, without regard for what it costs another living being. I will stay in relationship to it as thoroughly as I can, every moment, every day, remembering the beauty of the endless waves on the ocean.
What are the resolutions you’ve made to yourself? Can you find a way to be with them that leaves room for the waves to rise up, fall, swish that lovely salt foam around your feet, and then rise up again?
Author: Tina Lear
Editor: Travis May