Friday, August 31, 2012

Food Superiority/Inferiority Complex?

I was recently annoyed by an article I read in an NPR blog by Barbara J. King.  It wasn't Ms. King who was annoying, but the topic she was attempting to address.  I don't think she ever did adequately address the topic and so I will!

Are vegetarians and vegans suffering from huge superiority complexes because we are choosing to eat the way we eat?  Or, maybe we need to ask: Are omnivores suffering from inferiority complexes when in the presence of vegetarians/vegans? 

The one aspect of this question that Ms. King addressed was the disparity in a culture that purports to love animals and yet most of those we eat are treated quite cruelly.  I tried to learn more about this phenomenon in a book called Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat:  Why it's so Hard to Think Straight about Animals by Hal Herzog.  Maybe someone can read this and give me the gist of his theory, because I couldn't finish the book due to the stories which were too much for me.  It is necessary to categorize our animals to justify what we do in this world.  Those that refuse to do so are considered extremists (PETA).  Those of us in the less extreme areas of the spectrum are still often treated with derision or scorn, as seen in the comments on the NPR blog.

Another aspect of food choice is what is and is not good for the planet and our own health.  Some of us choose to pay attention to what we can do to live "Green" lifestyles, but the truth is, not everyone can, nor wants to.  There are economics involved.  There are political barriers.  There is knowledge and information not being shared widely.  It's important to get the information and the knowledge out there, it's important to create economic access, and it's important to create policies that allow access for those who want it, but in the end, everyone gets to choose. 

I don't want to minimize the huge consequences of choice.  As if a choice is no big deal, because a choice can lead to immense consequences.  It is hard to accept someone else's choice when it affects you and your family.  I could get very angry and frustrated with the food system.  My beliefs are that as it stands, it is making us sick, creating global warming, torturing animals, and destroying livelihoods and employment.  Yes, I make choices that follow those beliefs.  But I have loved ones who don't have those beliefs, don't care, don't believe aspects of my knowledge are true and continue to do what I believe is detrimental to their own health and the planet's health.  That's the truth of how life works in living among multiple beings. 

Here's another rub.  I am not going to pretend that my choice to eat non-meat sources is not affecting the planet or the animals living here.  Animals, especially small ones, die due to farming practices.  Wilderness areas are compromised.  This is true whether the practice is organic or not.  Organic farms do minimize the damage and the hurt, but it's definitely happening.  No one is a purist.

When I speak about my choice to become vegetarian, some people do get defensive.  I am not sure why they ask about my choice, if they are unhappy with the answers or feel defensive toward their own food choices.  And why do they feel defensive?  I can theorize that it's inferiority, but come on, not everyone who has defended meat eating is having an inferiority complex! 

My theory is that is like bumper stickers and T-shirts.  We like have others see and read our beliefs, whether they be plastered to our cars or printed all over our clothing, or we come right out and say or write them.  It is a sense of pride, perhaps?  A need to identify - "This is who I am!"  Those in the minority or the opposing view tend to get sneers, sometimes all in good fun and sometimes not so nice.  This seems to me to be the best answer.  In our internet culture, it is even more so as we feel the need to plaster our opinions on every blog.

I think it is important to know that every vegetarian or vegan makes a very personal choice about what it is they will and will not eat, as does every omnivore.  It's based on their beliefs and what they can handle in their lifestyle.  It's based on experience and knowledge.  End of story. 

We all have the right to make those choices, write about those choices, talk about those choices and live those choices.  Yup, some people are real pains in the a-- when they discuss their choices.  That's true in food, politics, religion, any topic.  Too bad!  That's what we have created in this country!  That's how we grow and expand and learn!  The extremists stretch things, make the impossible sometimes possible, make new view points that never existed, and drive us all a bit crazy.  Without them - many of us wouldn't be here - we'd be off in the countries from which our ancestors travelled, living a whole other existence.

So the next time you come across a person with a lifestyle/viewpoint different from yours, decide on a different stance than the usual.  Let yourself expand a little.  Take in a bit of new information and see what you think, see how you grow, see what new things might be worth considering....

Tell me what you think about this topic!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Synchronicity and Surrender

I learned some years back to pay attention to synchronicity- those strange little coincidences that after the third or fourth time, force you to pay attention.  Most recently, I had this happen with the concept of surrender.

I first learned about surrender in its healthy and meditative form when, as a public school teacher, I took a group of students, along with other teachers and schools, to Japan.  The lead up to the trip was filled with wonderful, meaningful cultural lessons.  This is where we learned about letting go or surrendering what we can not control.  I wish I could remember how to spell or even say the word correctly, but it gets confused in my mind with the word for "man is it hot!" which it was that summer.  I believe the 2 are combined and confused in my head because I spent so much time reminding myself to just surrender to the heat - something I could not control, among many things on that wonderful trip.

As a control freak, learning the art of surrender was so necessary.  I get better at it every year since then.  It is not the idea of giving up or lying down, belly up.  It is the art of knowing when to let go, to allow, to walk away with your sanity in tact.  It is the art of knowing what you can control and create and accepting what you can not with grace and dignity.  It doesn't mean I put up with things that are wrong or unacceptable.  It means I know that I can choose my fights and I can know that what I think is wrong or unacceptable is mine and others have every right not to agree. And, it means more than that, as I was soon to learn....

Most recently, I learned I could go even deeper.  I took a class on meditation where we were taught the art and practice of surrender.  Of course, it was not assumed we would master the lesson, but it was a very meaningful and timely reminder for me and I was told I smiled through the entire practice (I often smile during meditation).  It was such a relief to let go of some things I was holding tight, unnecessarily.  A few days later, I was going through a pile of articles I had printed that were never read and taking up space, ready to recycle.  I found an article called Get Carried Away by Sally Kempton.  I kept it and began reading, soon discovering it was about surrender.

Sally wrote about surrender in a broader sense than I had yet to experience.  The idea of letting go of the result you want and allowing something else to flow creatively through you - to trust or surrender to the process.  I so needed to hear this.  Struggling to make sense of the business world, I often lose track of what I want to feel and do in this business and try to get a result I wish for.  This article reminded me that when I allow myself to surrender to the process, sometimes things even more amazing than I ever dreamed become possible!

The real synchronicity, however, comes in an aspect of surrender Kempton shares which I had never heard before.  Surrender is the process of asking "Who Am I?" and allowing that very Tao-ist answer- "I am all that is."  It is the complete surrender of ego.  Yikes!  My ego is trying to create success.  My ego is trying to be popular.  My ego is controlling my life and Kempton is suggesting I stop all of that and trust?!  Not only is it scary, but how?!

That night I went to bed with a book by Erich Schiffmann - Moving Into Stillness.  He wrote about a meditation in which we ask that exact question, "Who Am I?" and we seek the stillness that comes when the ego and the mind let go - or surrender.  Geesh!  How could I not pay attention to that?!  I have since spent my morning meditations with this intention in mind.  I will not say here that I've got it.  My ah-ha moment has come!  But, I have had moments of wisdom and release and I am committed to learning and teaching the practice, because I can feel that it is right.  I know because my ego so often makes mistakes, gets stubborn, and makes me stay stuck.  I know because the release I get with surrender feels like freedom and joy.

How can you take a step toward surrender and make your life more joyful?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Heart of Compromise

Today I am contemplating compromises.  I am not one to be known for my abilities to compromise. My strong sense of independence prevents me from what I see as "giving in," but my yoga practice has been teaching me this art gradually and slowly as yoga is like to do.

I decided today that I would enjoy some free time by sitting in the quiet of the backyard, and by quiet I mean with the sound of the cicadas and the chipmunks and the buzz of the bees in my vines, my tea in my hand and my cats wandering the yard shaking the dew from their feet.  Instead what I got were the garbage trucks, an overwhelmingly noisy Tuesday morning ritual in the neighborhood. Once they were gone, I realized the tension I was holding in my body due to the loudness of the motors, the squeals of the brakes, the rattle and then shattering of the trash cans being dumped into the trucks.  
I was reading a lovely article by Lama Surya Das at the time and perhaps this inspired my thoughts, because instead of the frustration that usually accompanies a plan thwarted by external forces (my quiet contemplative morning down the tubes), I found myself thinking of gratitude.  I was grateful, I am grateful, for those working the trucks.  How do they hear that noise all day every day that they work?!  I thought about the alternative to having one overwhelmingly loud morning a week - garbage lying around stinking up the place, or like my dad, loading up the car and hauling the garbage myself to the dump.  No, I am deeply grateful and I can compromise this small amount of noisy time for the luxury of having my trash hauled away.  I am grateful to those who do the hauling.

I also found a sense of compromise in the constant yammering from my neighbors.  My neighbors hold a constant conversation with some aspect of the household at all times.  Even when in separate rooms of the house or one indoors and the other out, they are hollering the conversation with many, many "what?s" and "pardon me?s" mixed in.  If they aren't talking to each other, they are talking to the chickens, the dog, the plants.  Yup, the plants.  Now I don't know about you, but if I was talking to the plants, and I might be found to do so, I would do it quietly.  Maybe a low whisper.  Not so with the neighbors.  Full, normal volume.  Even when saying "night, night" to the chickens.  It's like a Waltons episode in the garage/chicken coop every night without John Boy, but instead Norma Rae, Rachel, and others.  Now, this I would keep quiet, but not my neighbors!

But, I am grateful they are there.  They help me care for the cats when I take off for a few days.  They help with the garden.  We share ideas, dreams, and laughter.  Surely I can handle the loud conversations?  Surely I can smile and even laugh about the talks with plants and animals?  I can be grateful for the smiles and the laughs even!

And so today, I realize that to compromise, is to also be grateful.  Yoga teaches me every day, even when I am not focused specifically on gratitude, to be grateful, to take a deep breath and love the life I live.  Yoga teaches me to compromise, to give in, to enjoy, to love life and all those around me with a deep sense of gratitude.

What has gratitude taught you?