Or – what does veganism mean to me?
Don’t worry, I’ll try to be brief.
Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.
It doesn’t mean dogmatic clinging to a concept. It doesn’t mean being part of a fad or wanting to be trendy. It doesn’t mean never consuming an egg or some cheese ever again. It doesn’t mean throwing away the leather items I already own, nor does it mean never buying a leather item again. It doesn’t mean never buying or consuming honey ever again. It doesn’t mean narrow-minded, short-sighted grasping to ideals, seeing things in terms of good or bad, there’s no tightness, no rigidness, no hardship involved in my view (which already is wrong view, so please don’t take this as some kind of high and mighty preaching, but rather, just as an attempt to share my experience).
So what does it mean then?
Well, that I’m much more aware of what I consume these days, and to the degree that I am able and joyfully willing, it means refraining from buying and consuming animal products.
How can I be joyfully willing to refrain from consuming delicious animal products?
The retreat I went to five years ago today taught me how to look at what I consume a little bit more deeply. During that retreat I understood, at a deep, cellular level – it wasn’t an intellectual shift, but rather, a spiritual one, I guess (!) – (a) that we exploit animals unnecessarily, (b) that we generate such suffering for farm animals especially, (c) that I am free to choose.
These were very powerful teachings that may not have even been spoken. I say may because I really cannot remember the actual content of the talks I attended. I didn’t take notes. Just sat there with a thousand other people listening with our whole body, not just our ears. What I do remember is the Teacher talking about listening deeply and speaking with kindness. The words “deep” and “kind” were physically visible everywhere. In the way people behaved, in the flowers, the trees, the sky, the songs, the food.
I didn’t know I was vegan when the photo posted on Facebook was taken. I knew something had happened, that something had shifted, but I didn’t realise at the time how deeply, nor could I foresee the impact it would have from that moment up until now. It’s as if going on that retreat had taught me what I need to do to get in touch with the path, already available within myself, that conduces towards well-being.
Coming back to the question of veganism, I’d call it a mindset. I don’t normally buy eggs, cheese or honey. But in these 5 years, I have bought free-range eggs from happy chickens around the neighbourhood every now and then. When I had a sore throat and was feeling poorly, I did buy a pot of local honey, but I normally sweeten my drinks with agave syrup. When I’ve visited people or found myself in a situation where a dish is served with cheese, especially if I’m a guest, for example, then I’ll happily eat the cheese and enjoy it.
So can I still call myself vegan? Yes, because I don’t buy animal products automatically and mindlessly at the supermarket the way I used to, and on a day-to-day basis, I joyfully refrain from consuming them and there’s no hardship, on the contrary, it is a source of deep happiness to be in touch with the freedom to choose.
What about you? Are you keen to be more mindful of what you consume? I’d love to hear from you, please, don’t be shy and drop us a line.