Saturday, December 2, 2006

Paradigm Shifts

It has been several months now since I adopted a vegan approach to my food choices. For the most part, I would have to say that I am eating healthier than I have ever done in my life. Because I cannot fall back on readily available cheese and eggs, my intake of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans has increased substantially. This is not to say I do not have my "lazy" days - I wish I could just poach an egg (that would be so easy), but my committment is strong.

Anyhow, in hindsight, I realized how empty my decision to become vegetarian had been. By empty, I am referring to my intent. This was back in 1999 - I had recently joined a Buddhist sangha and was attending different functions with this group of "mad cool" * people. We were an eclecctic, evolving group coming from different walks of life. I loved being with them, learning the dharma with and from them and continue to do so to this day. Taking the Buddhist precepts for the first time in 2000, the first precept is one of ahimsa or non-harming. Becoming vegetarian seemed the obvious solution here and I felt rather elitist (in my quiet self-righteous way)calling my self a vegetarian. When my teacher, in a conversation at one gathering, stated that she did not eat eggs or cheese, I responded indignantly as if justifying myself, by saying I was doing enough not eating the animals! I couldn't possibly give up eggs and cheese.

Well, things change (thank goodness!). Last spring of this year, I found myself at a film fest at the local university. The documentary I was so interested in viewing was called Compassionate Consumption: A Cow at My Table. Without knowing a thing about the movie, I told myself and others that this film wouldn't resort to the shock technique. I asked a number of people to come with me just the same (in case); strength in numbers I thought! Alas due to circumstances, I found myself alone but at the last minute, my youngest son and his friend showed up. So in we went and the movie started innocently enough to begin with, but descending rapidly to heart-pounding, gut-wrenching images of what can and does happen to "downer" cows at the abbatoir.

I am a baby-boomer - I am not desensitised to violent images like my children's generation. I sat in my chair and I did not move. I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest. So I closed my eyes. Now all I could do was hear the narration and the sounds of the animal.
For days, weeks, I was seriously upset by what I had seen. Literally, overnight I decided to eat vegan.

So what can I say about all of this? I don't like to look at upsetting things or get involved in upsetting issues. Avoid conflict at every chance; this is the way I was brought up. But it is obvious to me, that in my own experience (albeit limited) pain meant growth.

My need to be liked, to maintain my "image" have delayed me from putting some shocking images on this blog. But again, what is my intent here? It's not to give you recipes (although this is great for the already converted!). No. My intent is to encourage myself and others to open our eyes; to not turn away; to investigate. Go to and let the images hit you. Feel whatever you are going to feel. Maybe nothing. At least you have made a step to really seeing.

* A member of my sangha received this compliment from her son recently (I am paraphasing) "you're mad cool Mom!". We were all quite amused by this new phrase, "mad cool". I love it and hope to use it frequently. Maybe one of my sons will call me mad cool!!

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Anonymous said...

Hey thanx for including what I said about my mom. I am happy that you are intrigued and lets hope more children see the way of the budha more "hip" rather than embarrassing because I like the fact that my mom is a buddhist...we take knowledge from one another, even though I am not a buddhist.. It is a very profound philosophy. I also hope you children think buddhism is "mad cool".

-Paula's son

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