A number of people took it upon themselves to let me know that I looked like a "bone rack". I felt extremely self-conscious from their input, and felt betrayed by the entitlement they felt, to offer their “concern” for my appearance, without being given an invitation to do so. I was 21 when I saw the movie Baraka, and I walked out of the theatre that night, a decided vegetarian. Having seen in that film, the treatment of chickens in the “food industry”, I just couldn’t pull myself to contribute to that kind of devastation and cruelty, now that my eyes had been opened to it. This was in the days before alternatives for “organic” and “free range” meats. So, with little choice for an option, I remained a vegetarian for ten years.
Vegetarianism, combined with a high metabolism, meant I couldn’t keep the pounds on. I was waif thin and I knew it, so I didn’t need everyone else telling me how unhealthy I looked. It wasn’t until I learned the reason why I remained so thin, that I began eating meat again. Luckily, by this time (as said, ten years later), there were a few butchers in town, selling organic, free range, meat options, from local farms. Otherwise I would have continued on with vegetarianism, unfortunately. I hadn’t known that the mechanics of my body require meat to thrive. So, I came to a juncture where I was met with Ahimsa, a concept I hadn’t been exposed to as a Yogic practice, but obviously I had an innate understanding of it, as all of us do. So, bigger than being faced with the question of Ahimsa, I was met with my own moral dilemma around my feelings of the killing and treatment of an animal, or inflicting further damage to myself. My “dilemma” was the challenge that I learned and grew from, more than if I had just followed the outline of Ahimsa as instructed.
Slowly finding my way through my dilemma taught me, that we do leave a footprint in this world; regardless of how much, with all our hearts, we might not want to. We can’t help making an impact, and we need to find compassion for ourselves within that understanding (Ahimsa in itself). I’m not studied in the Christian Bible, but my personal reflections through this learning process, led me to wonder if this is what it means in saying that we’re born “sinners”. If in fact, the Bible is indicating to have compassion around that as fact. This process taught me that we will do harm or do “the wrong thing”, because we’re human. That’s not to promote a “get out of jail free” card, in fact far from that. It’s part of our Dharma to make mistakes and to see how we correct them.
I always say that guilt in itself, isn’t productive; so a better practice is the self-reflection and the discipline, the personal accountability, of holding ourselves to the standard that we ultimately reveal to our own self. What is productive, is making a conscious choice around what we’re doing. Do we know why we’re doing what we’re doing? Have we considered the impact and consequence of our actions? Are we doing it in moderation (removing something completely can be just as harmful as doing something too much)? Who are we in what we’re doing, regardless of anyone else? Are we living to a moral and ethical code that we can live with?
What’s funny is, that I don’t judge the food choices of others, it’s the people around me, who look at me and judge themselves. Too often I hear, “Oh you practice yoga, you must not eat meat”, while they sheepishly hover over their steak.--with love, Letters In Yoga www.lettersinyoga.com
*image credit pp.vk.me