Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If everyone you knew jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?

I've been thinking a lot about intentionality lately. This comes hand in hand with trying to find balance, stay positive, and balancing upside down on my hands! But, my focus on setting an intention has really come from a desire to move lightly in the world, to not be weighed down by the oppressive impulse to "succeed" because I have defined my own success as being true, light, and open, not a home owner (though I do so desire), the girl with the most amazing career, etc. When I wake up in the morning I try to set the intention to rise through the day -- to levitate through my tasks, both those that I chose to take on, and those that I take on out of necessity, with good humour, appreciation for the details, and no sense that any action constitutes a failure. To do my best in this moment, on this day, even if I have done better before and will do better in the future, is enough. This moment is where I am, and I rise to it with all the lightness I have at my disposal. Some days the ratio of light to heavy is better than others, but I try to respond to the emergence of heaviness with a light and loving and compassionate heart - Why so heavy today? What happened? Did you not sleep? Or, not eat? Were you rushed? Where can you find lightness now, in this moment, to alleviate this heaviness -- Is the sun out, the air warm, someone laughing nearby, plants blooming? People say life is short, but it is also long, mindful levity that allows me to rise above the bullshit is key. Which is why articles like this one compel me to speak; in speaking my truth, I can rise above the bullshit that the NYT and NPR and many other publications continue to insist on posting about vegan diets, compassionate living, and sustainable consumer choices.

First of all, I believe in accepting challenges. Challenges give me the opportunity to rise, to cultivate my lightness, to accept the possibility of having to start many times in order to find the right path to where I want to go, and enjoy the journey while laughing at and learning from it's pitfalls. I respectfully take issue with the entire conceit of Tara Parker-Pope's article as a vegan, who lives on less than $300 / week to cover all of my expenses (rent, car, utilities, food, etc.) in an expensive city, with a family who often sneers and snickers at my ripe farmer's market plates of snap peas and squash, jewel like legumes, and whole grains sparkling with fresh, vivifying herbs. T P-P, you are a lovely writer, and writing is always a challenge, so I know that you know what it is to intend to rise, which is why I find the following thesis so disappointing.

As countless aspiring vegans are discovering, the switch from omnivore to herbivore is fraught with physical, social and economic challenges — at least, for those who don’t have a personal chef. The struggle to give up favorite foods like cheese and butter can be made all the harder by harsh words and eye-rolling from unsympathetic friends and family members. Substitutes like almond milk and rice milk can shock the taste buds, and vegan specialty and convenience foods can cost two to three times what their meat and dairy equivalents do. And new vegans quickly discover that many foods in grocery stores and on restaurant menus have hidden animal ingredients.

I'll come right out and say that, yes, if you expect rice or almond milk to taste like dairy, you will be disappointed, and yes, if you rely on processed, prepared, or take-out food for the majority of your meals (vegan or not!) you will find that you are spending an arm and a leg and then some to feed yourself. And, yes, I know, cooking takes time. I work 6 days / week on my feet and often spend a couple hours on the 7th cooking beans and grains and prepping veggies for the week ahead. Most of this cooking time is down time, curled on the porch or the sofa near the kitchen with a book or a movie, periodically rising to check water levels and bean tenderness as my tiny home fills with the sweet, warm steam of whole foods cooking. Friends, strangers, family, unless I am throwing a dinner party it never, ever takes me more than 1 hour to make dinner. Breakfast is nearly instant as it's either prepped the night before (holla overnight oats, aka Muesli!) or quickly steamed on the stove (breakfast porridge) or pulled from the toaster (old standards- almond butter or avocado toast, and lunch, lunch is a matter of minutes -- toss a salad in a container, throw some trail mix in a bag, and grab a piece of fruit... Even easier, take a single portion of last night's dinner and savor it all over again. A little mindfulness, or planning, and being vegan (or just eating healthier and cheaper by cooking for yourself) is cheap, easy, not time consuming, and maybe even a fun, safe, fortifying space to be creative! Be positive and rise to challenge of creating the best, healthiest, happiest life for yourself.

As for Megan Salisbury who says,

Megan Salisbury, 33, a social work student in Phoenix, says she prefers plant-based eating but can manage it only about 75 percent of the time. The vegan options at the campus cafeteria are limited and often expensive, and she has to drive 20 miles to find stores with vegan specialty foods for cooking.
You don't really need specialty foods. Sure raw tahini and miso paste are among my favorite ingredients, but they can be ordered if you don't live near a health food store and feel that you need or want them. However, these things are expensive and indulgent treats like raw, organic cheese. What you need are organic fruits and veggies, grains, beans, some fresh herbs, simple spices, nuts if you eat them, and maybe a fortified non-dairy milk. These simple ingredients, with a little ingenuity, can be used to make wholesome, fully nutritious, affordable and easy to prepare meals that will satisfy and keep you enjoying that healthy body / mind connection that comes from living, eating, and shopping in line with your principles of compassion and sustainability.

As for this:

Frustrating, too, is the lack of social support.

I was raised vegetarian and my parents think I'm insane. The person I'm dating, who I've been friends with for years, scoffs at the idea of applying ethics to your diet (despite being supportive, lovely, and an enthusiastic consumer, all of which I feel more or less cancel out the disappointment of our lack of shared ethics), my friends ask me to shut up about farming, slaughterhouses, the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet, and just let them do what they want... But, they eat the cookies, they make me vegan food, and we still have fun and extend love toward one another. Why? Because, yes these things are "challenges," but challenges are opportunities to rise, to learn new ways to speak and share your truth, to get creative at the grocery store, to share what you love about doing your best to make the most ethical, joyful choice all the time. What a pleasant and heart-warming challenge to encourage me and you and everyone else to be mindful, intentional, and light in their words and actions.

If you're looking for someone to show you how to eat vegan on a food-stamp budget, I highly recommend this blog. And, as a challenge to myself, I'll be doing a little tracking on how much it costs to prepare certain things and trying to share than info as well. If I do anything in my life, I hope that it is to spread the light that I cultivate through sharing the things I love and am passionate about-- art, gardening, literature, food, mountains, love-- So anything I can do to rise with you, I will do.

After this little rant, I wonder, what's your intention everyday?

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