I am on this path towards compassion and non-harming, guided by Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Living in the United States, I have so much freedom to choose, and living in this time of the internet, I have so much access to information about those choices. I live and participate in a capitalist society, as much as I love to create, I am also a consumer. So naturally, I have to take into consideration ahimsa when consuming.
When it comes to consumption, I think there's three parts to it all:
1) The Food I Eat
2) The Products I Buy
3) The Information I Take In
Today I'd like to focus on food. Ahimsa is the explanation of why yogis are traditionally vegetarians. A commitment to compassion and non-harming have never went hand in hand with killing animals for their meat, fast forward to today's factory farms and slaughterhouses and it's obvious that is true even more so today. I began eating vegetarian when I was 13 years old, inspired by my readings of Buddhism and PETA's nightmare-inducing "meet your meat" videos circa 2004. The more into yoga and scripture I got, the less eating animals made sense to me.
Then, college happened: Full time art school, volunteering for a yoga studio, working at and designing for the Tea House, all without a car, that's 6 public buses a day 5 days a week and I worked weekends. Needless to say, I had found the world of vegan instant ramen and was honestly too stressed out to eat most days. Patrick was working full time as a sushi chef and eventually (weighing in at around 80 pounds) I began to eat fish again, and accepted the food offered to me. I'd gone 9 years without eating any fish or meat. I felt burnt out and defeated.
But ultimately, I was able to gain some weight and health back, and after graduation decided to amend my pescetarianism. I would only eat fish caught in the wild that were being taken from sustainable fisheries. Whole Foods Market does a good job of making that distinction easy with their labeling system and I've been eating that way for the last 5 years. Looking back, I know it was what I had to do to regain some sanity. At the time I didn't have the knowledge, cooking skill, or time to prepare balanced vegetarian meals for myself, or the money to pay someone else to do it for me.
So, years later, I am a much better cook, I am in a much less dismal financial situation and I have time and access to plenty of recipes. I think it really has been easier to eat fish and seafood than not in social settings. It definitely allowed our honeymoon in Japan last year to roll smoothly and enjoyably. Yet here I am now, in California, a vegan's dream come true, with a fresh air farmer's market every day of the week in different parts of the city. And I'm on this journey towards embodying ahimsa. So I think it's time.
This time, I'll be easy with myself. I've been reading up on the Ohsawa Macrobiotic Diet, and I think that it is a good fit for where I'm at right now. It's all about plant based whole foods that rely heavily on whole grains. Lots of pickled vegetables and fermented goodness, which I love so that's also a plus. This isn't a forever commitment, like my pact back at the age of 13 was, but a step towards getting away from processed foods, refined sugar and excessive caffeine. I'm going to be gentle with myself and remember that my intention is compassion not deprivation.
Does the concept of ahimsa play into your dietary choices? Are you compassionate to your own self when you eat? I realize now that I was pretty self harming in my ways back in college, physically in my lapse in providing nutrition for myself, and emotionally in my shame for eating fish once more. I personally don't think slaughterhouses can be reconciled and integrated into a compassionate yogic life, and I also don't think judgement or criticism internally or externally is part of that kind of life either.