Warning! My blog will be cheesy.
The first limb of yoga is composed of the Yamas - or ethical rules. The first and most important of these yamas is Ahimsa - nonviolence. Easy right - I can be nonviolent.
I certainly don't practice violence. It is, however, a struggle for my mind to stay focused on ahimsa. I am sure every one of us has been cut off in traffic and has thought "I am going to have to kill that person" or have looked in the mirror and thought "I wish I could cut a little bit of fat off of my legs." Or maybe after watching a political ad you think "one day I am going to punch that guy in the face." These thoughts, whether we intend to follow through on them or not, are violent thoughts and are not following the practice of ahimsa. I know - so hard. Ahimsa is a sarcastic person's nightmare.
Here is the hardest part. The non-negotiable part of this practice is vegetarianism (EEK!). In order to fully follow a path of ahimsa, a yogi cannot eat meat - this includes eggs. After attending a workshop on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I decided to go vegetarian myself (I know - I can't believe it either. I am going to miss the Chinese food days, you know, where you go to the buffet and only get meat). Edwin Bryant, a commentator on the Sutras (and the workshop facilitator) swayed me. He had a few main points:
- Could you kill an animal to eat it? There are many that can - I grew up with a father that did - and does. He could do it, I could not. I can't picture looking an animal in the face just to take its life and then eat it, knowing and seeing how the animal was full of life. How could I take that away from them?
- How is a cow any different that your dog or cat? This struck a cord with me. I love my dog Frankie more than I ever thought I could love a pet. I actually had an aversion to dogs for years, but after making such a strong bond with an animal and seeing how capable it is to love and be loved, how do I know that a cow or a chicken is not the same? Apparently cows are quite cuddly. But look - we are all bonded together with the same life energy. How can I take away that energy? How could I knowingly take this energy away?
Ok, so some of you may be saying - wow, a little new agey for me. I would have said the same a few months ago, so I don't judge you - you can make your own choices. I will do my best not to be preachy. Regardless, I am now a vegetarian and feel better because of it. I do actually feel different now. I feel as though I have a better place in the world and a better understanding of what life is and how we are all connected by that life.
That being said, I have lived an American life for 29 years - well, closer to 30. I have had a very close relationship to meat. So what now? Going from steak and potatoes to the world of tofu and seitan is not easy (I still have not incorporated either into my diet - it is difficult for me to eat something called satan, even if it is pronounced "Say-tan." I can see my mom saying, "its the devil's food"). So I am taking a very gentle approach to vegetarianism - starting out with vegetables and beans and nuts. I have been making my own black bean burgers and falafel - neither of which are staying together very well, so I will take any tips. I actually went to a vegetarian pot-luck the other day and learned some new recipes - so exciting. I did feel like my dish was the meat eaters version of vegetarianism. In my mind they were looking down on my dish - hummus, really?
Now here is the rub. I live in a "normal" town that is surrounded by other "normal" towns. My grocery store offers little to no vegetarian options - I didn't even see tofu hot dogs there. But they did have veggie burgers (apparently that is the meat eater's answer). I have been hearing about vegetarian pepperoni but have yet to see it or sample it - having this would make my life much more enjoyable. Do I have to travel to Guam to get vegetarian goods? Is there a vegetarian black market that I don't know about? How does an everyday American find vegetarian alternatives when they do not have access to proper grocery stores or vegetarian restaurants? I live in the land of the steakhouse. I have to travel 40 minutes to get falafel. What is a yogi to do? What is a yogi to do?