Since becoming a vegetarian I’ve felt a new openness and lightness. Channels have been cleared and obstacles have been removed; energy is flowing more freely from top to bottom. An elimination of obstructions, both physical and spiritual. And with this I’ve discovered a new sensitivity. How do you know what it’s like to not have something when you’ve had it all of your life? I’ve eaten meat for 29 years and I never knew what it was like to not eat meat. Sometimes the best way to know what you have is to take it away. I took meat out of my diet, out of my body, and I was able to see what was underneath and able to experience what I was putting on top. I became more sensitive, sensitive to the quality of food, the character of food, and the impact of what I ate. I developed a new awareness of my body as an organic being, realizing it’s made of the same material as Earth and Nature. It seemed so simple and made perfect sense, a new understanding of what it means to live in accordance with the world around me.
I became vegetarian as an experiment, to see what it was like, and to do so without adhering to a hard and fast ideology. First it was a physical experience: I felt lighter, more open, and even stronger; more efficient. I developed an increasing sensitivity to the essence of what I ate: what was wholesome felt instantly energizing and life-affirming; what was unwholesome felt instantly empty and life-draining. I could feel the nutrients of various foods rushing to and kindling various parts of my body. The act of eating became even more pleasurable than before.
Then I understood vegetarianism on a moral level. Here was the way I approached it: To live in harmony with one’s environment, there needs to be a constant sense of give-and-take, a mutual respect that promotes sustainability for eternity. Food is sustenance. Nature provides food for humans to live. It offers fruits, grains, plants. When we take of these things we must pay our respects with gratitude: “I am grateful for this food to have as my sustenance.” In return for our gratitude, Nature replaces these simple things that we take; no harm done and the Earth is found as it was left. But with animals, there is no gratitude we could possibly pay that would replace taking a life. Once a life is taken, that’s it, it’s over, it doesn’t come back. To kill an animal is the end, the animal does not grow back and it is not replaced. There is no sense of gratitude that can equal the taking of a life. In that regard, I don’t eat meat because I could never be grateful enough for eating a life. This sense of gratitude promotes a strong sense of living in harmony with the world around me. If everybody functioned with gratitude, kindness, and respect, the world would be sustainable for eternity. My moral approach to my diet is that food is an offering from the Earth and for that I am grateful. The Earth regenerates its vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, nuts, etc., so therefore it is within my right to respectfully take from it for my sustenance. I, or Nature, could never replace the life of an animal so therefore it is not within my right to take from it for my sustenance. (In this light, eating animal products is ok with me since the animal is not killed for its offering. Milk is an offering from the cow, honey is an offering from the bee. I have moral issues with the way these products are sometimes obtained but I don’t feel that there is anything inherently immoral with taking them for consumption. For me, milk and honey are very nutritious food sources that have prominence in my diet). I began to regard humans and other animals as co-existing on the same rung of the food-chain; to eat animals would be almost cannibalistic.
Tonight, I finally understood what it means to be a practicing vegetarian. Some vegetarians say it’s ‘wrong’ to kill animals or use animals for food (as I did above). I see that as a matter of principle- and principles aren’t necessarily true or real. It is almost always more powerful to have something be an innate experience, to feel it from your core rather than as an ideology. It finally made sense to me what it means to be practicing vegetarianism: it has to do with making the decision to willingly act for kindness and to renounce violence. To not eat meat, is to say to myself, “I will consciously make the decision to not eat animals killed for my sustenance.” It is a choice- and that is the point. There is no wrong or right, good or bad. But there is, for me, a prolonged sensation that comes with acting for kindness, peace, and non-violence; with acting for openness. This type of consciousness broadens into every other aspect of life: personal relationships (hostility vs. compassion), attitudes towards one’s self (acceptance vs. punishment), and approaches towards daily living (gratitude vs. selfishness). To practice non-violence, in any form, is a reward in itself, and it feels right and undeniably good. So, practicing vegetarianism becomes less about the ideological reason of it being wrong to kill animals for food; it doesn’t bother me that other people are meat eaters and I believe people have the right to choose to eat meat if they like (whereas, nobody has the right to kill another human being, not even if they like). I do it as a way of practicing non-violence; it is a way of bringing peaceful consciousness into my life and a way of making choices that help me maintain that feeling from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep. It promotes openness and the removal of obstacles as a means of developing heightened sensitivity and broader awareness; it affirms unity and coexistence; it is a way of acting and living for peace, sustainability, and eternity. For me, it has become a way of cultivating a sense of spiritual well-being, and that always comes down to Love, define it as you will. At the moment, this is the way that is working for me, as it feels right. It is a continual experiment.
In the end, I think too much importance is given to the debate between, ‘is it better to have a vegetarian diet or is it ok to eat meat?’ It can become a back and forth with many twists that won’t lead to a sense of resolution. Really, in the end, I don’t think it matters, though the pros do seem to favor vegetarianism. Vegetarians are certainly no better people than meat eaters. And, different diets work for different people. The real question should be regarding what will improve the quality of life- physically, mentally, emotionally, and, spiritually -for us as individuals and the world that we share with everyone else. And, once finding that, making efforts to move in that direction, and then to live in it.