A big thank you to Ethan for writing this piece for Vegan Ithaca! Ethan is a yoga instructor – check out his website here.
First off, I have a confession to make. Well, its not really a confession cause I know who I am inside, but some people on this forum might care about the following fact – Sometimes I eat cheese. There, the secret is out. Will I be banned from this blog? Who knows? 🙂 But other than the occasional cheese (or monthly bi-monthly cup of yogurt), I eat 90%+ raw vegan food, with the other 10% being vegetarian.
OK, so to the actual article. This article is about Yoga and Veganism, but first a somewhat-related detour.
I just realized something – being vegan is kind of like being a virgin! Or maybe its the other way around, I’m not sure. ‘Say what???’ Stay with me on this one for a second… Let’s say someone ate a hamburger when they were 10 years old and now at age 40, they have been vegan for 30 years. Would we not consider them a vegan because of what they ate a burger 30 years ago? Of course we would consider them a vegan! I feel its the same thing with being a virgin. Just because we had sex before, doesnt mean we can’t reclaim our “innocence.” I know this article is supposed to be about Yoga and Veganism. I just used the example of sex paralleled with veganism because they both show that who we are, and in particular our choice to be a “vegan” (although, personally, I dont like saying “I am [FILL-IN-THE-BLANK-WITH-A-DESCRIPTION-ABOUT WHAT-THE-HECK-I-EAT]” does my Self justice) is more about our expression of life NOW, not our past expression our who we were…
And this is what Yoga teaches….
… unlike the clear definition of “veganism” that you might find in the dictionary, Yoga has a gazillion different meanings, and many different styles, lineages, etc. But a big part of yoga, regardless of the style, is ‘ahimsa’ – aka ‘non-violence.” Kind of like the Socratic Oath (And get this, doctors dont even have to say it anymore like they used to!!!), the first step in Yoga is to “do no harm.” But there’s something really cool about ‘ahimsa.’ It doesn’t just mean to NOT do something. It’s actually more of an ACTIVE state of being – aka consciously expressing LOVE.
I feel that if we are vegan without being non-violent, that is a recipe for sillyness!!!! But how could we be vegan and violent, you ask? Trust me, its possible! You can have someone who will give their life to save an animal, but treats the people around them like shit. Or something else that I often find bizarre is how someone can be a vegan, but then they try to convert others to being vegan by insulting them or by using guilt, or by being pushy or cold-hearted to the other person. Or here’s a good one: someone who kills the owner of a slaughter house in order to show their belief in animal rights (OK, i don’t know if that’s ever happened, but Im just using it as an example, kind of like how some “pro-life” people will bomb abortion clinics [I know, thats a different topic, but still somewhat related!!!]).
How about this approach. What if vegans were so full with love for life, love for themselves in all ways, and full of love for mother Earth and all of God’s creations, that this love automatically extended out to animals? What if this love not only extended to animals, but to all humans? I think if vegans take this approach, then others will be INSPIRED to live a life of LOVE, and let this love extend to animals…
Yoga also teaches something that is probably the most important aspect of cultivating a skill, or any state of being, of any kind: hang out with the people who are already there! If we want others to change their lifestyle in a permanent way, I feel that we must begin with ourselves. After that, we must let this love overflow in our daily actions/interactions. And lastly, we must have the courage to share our passion and ideas with as many people as possible – without violence, of course.
Who knows, maybe a former prostitute is now a virgin. And maybe a former McDonald’s regular (who didn’t just eat to-go salads) is now a leader in the vegan movement because somebody like you inspired them to take the first step towards a life filled with love. In my books, and more importantly to those individuals, they are their own barometer of who they are and what they stand for in the world – today.