Today’s post is going to be a bit different for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a guest post. Second, it digs a little deeper into the reasons I choose a plant-based lifestyle.
My husband, Alan, wrote this post. He and I have been on this plant-based journey together, and it really has been a journey. Our reasons for living plant-based have evolved over the years and we’ve had dozens, if not hundreds, of conversations about why we choose to eat this way. This post sums up and reflects those years of discussions. We’re excited to share a bit of our heart with you.
I’ve noticed that many of the people in my social circles are experiencing a pull toward Spirituality. This pull, what may more appropriately be called a thirst or hunger (good words for a food blog!), unites people from a diversity of religious and nonreligious backgrounds.
We seem to crave Spirituality. We love it when Rob Bell says, “Everything is Spiritual”, and when Richard Rohr says, “Everything Belongs”, because we sense that the rivers of generative energy, the binding force that draws us into unity, peace, and reconciliation with each other, runs deep. We want our lives, our communities, and our planet to be integrated and whole, and we are looking to the language of Spirituality to help us. I admire and applaud each and every person, and each and every community, that is digging past the shallow waters. I want to dig with you. But I also have a question for all of us.
What about our food?
What about the central element of our physicality, the non-negotiable practice that every human does most every day that connects us not only to humans far and near, but also to our non-human neighbors such as animals, rivers, fields, forests, oceans, prairies, and mountains. I don’t know if there is any other activity we do with such frequency that brings every living particle of our planet together.
And yet, I hardly ever hear meaningful or robust discussions about the Spirituality of food.
Allow me to back up for a moment and share a bit of my own story. Seven years ago my wife, Nora, the creator of this blog, walked up to me in the kitchen and said, “I think we should be vegan.”
I blinked at her a couple of times and said, “That’s dumb. I don’t want to do that.”
Later that night, after I spent some time consoling the meat-eater in me, I returned to Nora and told her, “Okay. Let’s do it.”
And so, we became vegan. At that point, the motivation was self-centered. I don’t mean that in a pejorative way, but in a descriptive way. I decided that it would be a good idea to be vegan because that would be good for me, good for my body, and for my lifelong struggle to not be overweight. I figured that if being vegan could help me lose a few pounds, then I was in. As the years passed, however, the circle of my motivation widened.
After I stopped eating animals, I realized how weird it was to eat animals. I began to see cows not as potential steaks and prime rib, but as these fascinating creatures with multiple stomachs and a soothing presence. I began to see chickens as these quirky, colorful birds that refuse to play by the rules. They cluck where they will, and they don’t dig flying. Cool. I began to see pigs as funny and clever. Basically, I began to recognize their connection and participation in the benevolent energy that binds us all together.
Not eating animals for a while allowed me to see them as they are in nature, not as they are in my supermarket, and this allowed me to cultivate a connection with them.
Then, as my journey in plant-based eating continued, I learned more about the relationship between the food we eat and our fellow humans. I watched, “Forks Over Knives”, and read articles that taught me that the planet produces enough food to feed every living person, but most of the food goes to feed the animals that are born, raised, and then killed so that we (those of us in “developed nations”) can eat them. It struck me as so weird.
I began to imagine ships of grain passing by hungry nations on their way to feed the cows in developed and developing nations so that their citizens could enjoy a nice prime rib. That felt strange. And kind of gross. I knew, and I know, that global food distribution is more complicated than this, but at the core, on the Spiritual level, it seemed pretty simple. The other humans that I share this planet with suffer when I’m committed to eating animals and their products.
The third step in my spiritual understanding of food relates to the impact of our food on the health of the planet, which many of my Spiritually minded (and especially my socially progressive) friends care about. The health of the planet is in jeopardy. Few of us question this. But what we either don’t know, or don’t want to admit, is that the animal-consumption habits of developed and developing nations is one of the most significant contributors to climate change. Think on that for a moment.
There is an important moment in the film “Cowspiracy” where the filmmaker is talking about his commitment to the health of the planet. He’s talking about the habits he’s put in place, such as riding his bike everywhere, and how disoriented and upset he was when he learned that the meat he was eating was more destructive to the planet than any car he ever had driven or would drive. He had a moment of clarity that led to a conversion. If he cared about the well-being of the planet, the most effective and simple thing he could do is stop eating animals.
There might be a little voice in your head at this point that wants to have an argument, either with me, the creator of that film, or yourself. You might want to question the validity of the studies, how realistic it is to change global food production, or the motivations of those who are advocating for a plant-based way of eating. That’s all natural and understandable, and those are important conversations to have.
The thing is, those conversations are happening in our brain and with our intellect. They’re good, and they’re important, but they don’t contribute to our desire to cultivate Spirituality, to participate in the connectedness of all living things. I want to encourage us to have those intellectual conversations. Do the research, test the studies, don’t easily accept the answers given by filmmakers or industries. Do your homework.
But then, when the world is quiet and you are doing your interior work, when you are praying, or meditating, or trying to develop a spirit of contemplation, consider your food. Don’t leave your food in the fridge, on the table, or at the market. Bring your food, figuratively–or maybe even literally if it helps– into your prayer closet, your yoga mat, your solitude. Ask this question:
“How does the way I eat impact the connectedness of all living things? Are my food choices leading to deeper harmony between myself and other living things–humans, animals, and the planet?”
If everything is Spiritual, if everything belongs, if everything is connected, then these questions matter. If everything is Spiritual, then so too, is what we choose to eat.