Jivamukti Yoga

“No one can “do yoga.” Yoga means union with God. Yoga means eternal happiness, bliss, joy, and unconditional love. Yoga is who you are. It is your natural state. What we can do are practices that, by revealing to us our resistance to existing in our natural state, may lead us to it” – Sharon Gannon

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During my second year at university, I was extremely stressed – all of which was self-inflicted. I was putting enormous pressure on myself to get the scholarship, the grades, the recognition, the perfect undergraduate performance to allow me entry into a postgraduate course of the most prestige, the idealised career of money, security and a feeling that I mattered. Over a coffee with a friend with a big Type A personality also I explained how stressed I was and she insisted “you need yoga”. Yoga? That super spiritual workout people do? I was a little dubious but also curious to see what all the hype was about. That was four years ago now. I have often heard it said that the way you approach asana (Sanskrit for “pose” or “seat”) practice on your mat is the way you approach your life – nothing was truer of my first experience at Yoga Dojo. I took no basics or beginner classes, jumping straight into an open class with intermittent and advanced practitioners. I pushed and pulled my body in every which way, supplementing the strength required for a safe, well aligned asana for my already great flexibly. In vying for the teacher’s recognition, with only faintest regard for alignment, I would often opt for all the hardest of variations for each asana. And rather than connecting with my breath to assist in surrendering to the asana, most of the time I was holding my breath and hoping for the best. But even though I was approaching my asana practice with the competitive, achievement-orientated aggression that a university culture cultivates, I felt an intense feeling of contentment, healing and fulfilment. Many times when I first started practicing I would lie on my back in savasana (the final pose, of relaxation), tears rolling down my face.

I distinctly remember one of my first classes at Yoga Dojo, were Adrienne was teaching about the importance of cleansing our body though the food we eat. If we are eating meat – literally the flesh of another sentient being – how could we expect our physical body, the home of our soul to be clean and perform optimally? I was newly vegan at this time, with not a single vegan friend, except for my long distance primarily telephone relationship with my best friend. For perhaps the first time in my entire life, I felt as though I was in the presence of people who I could deeply connect with, without having to prove my value. I was getting up before 6AM (an ungodly hour for a university resident) to catch a bus into town to practice this thing that was making me feel like… I mattered and was loved by God already, without the achievements and credentials I was so desperately grasping for. And they kept talking about veganism. Even the jivamukti chant symbolises veganism:

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Which translates to:

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way, to that happiness and to that freedom for all”

This chant is sung in almost all classes and captures the essence of Jivamukti perfectly.

Jivamukti Yoga is one of the nine internationally recognised yoga methods. The other eight being: Ashtanga, Iyengar, Viniyoga, Sivananda, Integral, Bikram, Kripalu, and Kundalini.  Jivamukti yoga is a relatively modern school of yoga co-founded by New Yorkers David Life and Sharon Gannon in 1984. The name Jivamukti, where ‘jiva’ means the individual living soul and ‘mukti’ means liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Thus the term Jivamukti means ‘liberation while living’. The five elements of Jivamukti Yoga are;

Scripture (Shastra) which is the study from ancient yoga books such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Devotion (Bhakti) as God-realisation is the end goal of all yoga practices. Therefore interreligious understanding and tolerance is encouraged, as is kirtan (devotional chanting) and the use of altars in a yoga room.

Non-violence (Ahisma) is the primary ethic of yoga so the Jivamukti method promotes ethical veganism, animal rights, environmental and social activism.

Music (Nada) is used in a Jivamukti yoga class refine hearing though listening to uplifting music during the asana practice and to refine speech through kirtan.

Meditation (Dhyana) is an essential part of every yoga practice and without it Sharon and David believe that no attainment in yoga is possible.

That’s a very brief overview of a very comprehensive method. It is the ancient principle of ahimsa that is often lost in other methods of yoga but is so integral to Jivamukti yoga. The opposite of ahimsa is himsa, which means harm or violence. Himsa can be self-inflicted through thinking badly of yourself, or you can cause himsa to others by thinking badly of them. There are many examples of himsa to animals that occurs around the world today, primarily on farmed animals who are routinely exploited for the flesh or reproductive secretions. So whilst an asana practice can be personally beneficial for the practitioner both physically and mentally, there is a more noble reason to practice yoga, on and off a rubber mat.

“Not harming yourself is a result of the practice, not a directive. If you limit your practice of ahimsa to being kind to yourself, you may experience temporary happiness but you will deny yourself the ultimate benefit of the practice, which is Yoga, everlasting happiness. Everlasting happiness is achieved by kindness, by being considerate of others first. Live to benefit others and all will benefit” – Sharon Gannon

At the start of each Jivamukti class, teachers encourage everyone to set an intention for the practice. Sharon advises that if you cannot think of any particular intention to set, to devote the practice to God. At the start of each month there is a new Focus of the Month, this month (May 2017) the focus is “be the change you want to see in the world”. The Thoughtful Vegan is my attempt at activism, the courage required may never have manifested if I had not found my way home though Jivamukti yoga.

“Throughout human history, cultural heroes like Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi have chosen the path of non-violence… It is a challenging path to take, because it is rarely the path of the majority and because it takes more courage to meet violence with kindness and compassion than to meet violence with violence. Non-violence also happens to be the ethical foundation of Yoga” – David Life and Sharon Gannon

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

 Jivamukti Yoga – Sharon Gannon and David Life

Yoga and Vegetarianism: The Path to Greater Health and Happiness – Sharon Gannon

Yoga Dojo: http://www.yoga-dojo.com.au/jivamukti-yoga

What is a person? (Focus Of The Month – November, 2016):  https://jivamuktiyoga.com/focus/what-person-world-which-kestrel-moves

Ahimsa (Focus Of The Month – November, 2003): https://jivamuktiyoga.com/focus/ahimsa-2

David Life on Veganism underpinning Jivamukti Yoga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rweOXROS5Fg

What is Jivamukti Yoga? (Sharon Gannon) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STPTt_I9OCY

Why are you a vegan? (Sharon Gannon) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUGNF0794ns

Diet and Spirituality: Does it Matter? (David Life) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7BL7kprReI

Will we Ever Stop Exploiting Animals? (David Life) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlEUBwbfjec

Russell Brand – Awakened Man; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bKQXmvdr8o

The Real You – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMRrCYPxD0I

The Dream of Life – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU0PYcCsL6o

Choice – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7CH9cRN8Rg

Vegan Book List

I am a book worm, but one of my main goals this year is to read the books I already have on my shelf. Then start going to the library more and borrowing books. I thought I would review some of the books I have read and add ones to the wish list as I learn of them. I think vegan books are an integral part of my advocacy and psychological self-care.

The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter – Peter Singer and Jim Mason

I read this a few years ago. Peter Singer explores the diets of three American families; the first exemplifies the standard meat-and-potatoes diet sourced from the local supermarket, occasionally eating fast food and drinking Coke and beer. The second family is concerned about its health, buying fresh, locally grown vegetables, calling themselves ‘caring carnivores’, eating meat from animals raised to humane standards. The third family is vegan: nothing they eat comes from an animal and wherever possible they buy organic. Peter and Jim trace back the origins of the food purchased in a standard shop by each family and discuss the ethical implications on other humans, non-human animals and the environment. A very informative read, I recall learning a lot about organics and fairtrade.

Eating Animals – Jonathan San Foer

I read this about a year ago and got absolutely absorbed in it on the bus to and from work each day. I had never read anything that encompassed philosophy, literature, science, undercover detective work, folklore, pop culture and family traditions into a holistic discussion about eating animals. It really opened my eyes to different perspective sand was so beautifully poetic to read.

Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows – Melanie Joy

I started reading this over Christmas and couldn’t put it down once I picked it up. Melanie applies basic and advanced psychology to explain her theory of carnism. Carnism provides an understanding of how we numb ourselves to our natural empathy for farm animals through carnistic beliefs, such as we love some animals but eat others. Being a social psychologist, there is an emphasis on social justice and change. A wonderful read.

Living Among Meat Eaters – Carol J Adams

I started reading this recently after attending a vegan advocacy workshop and realising I had some symptoms of secondary traumatic stress and that my interactions with others were being affected by this. Carol has a beautifully direct way of empowering the reader without being dogmatic. This book provided me with healthier perspective of almost every significant relationship in my life and practical tools for my vegan toolbox, of which perhaps the golden rule is a blanket rule of not discussing food choices whist eating.

To be read and reviewed: 

Animal Liberation – Peter Singer

How Not To Die – Michael Gregor

The Sexual Politics of Meat – Carol J Adams

Proteinaholic – Garth Davis, M.D

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals – Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy

Beast: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil – Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

The Jungle – Upton Sinclair

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry – Gail A. Eisnitz

Cats and Dogs are People too – Sharon Gannon

Yoga and Vegetarianism – Sharon Gannon

Reasons for Hope – Jane Goodall

The World Peace Diet – Will Tuttle

The Compassionate Animal: The Yoga of the Extended Circle of Compassion – Barbara Gardner

Please comment below on your favourite vegan reads or any I could be adding to my list!

Happy reading,

Meg x

Spirituality

“Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without the science that I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening.  Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it in a dark place in our memory – disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own” – Jonathan San Foer, Eating Animals

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I travelled around Southeast Asia, Nepal and India within my first six months of adopting veganism. In many places, particularly Nepal and India a menu was divided into ‘veg’ and ‘non-veg’ options. This gave me the impression that ordering from the ‘non-veg’ options made one part of the ‘out-group’. Indeed this is a population of people who are mostly Hindu, don’t eat meat and believe cows are holy. I had curries in India I still dream about.

Spirituality is a term closely associated with religion, of which the “big five” world religions are Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I studied these in my first year at university but I have recently started personal research into what various religions say about food choices.

Hinduism: As mentioned, vegetarianism is an integral part of most schools of Hinduism although there are a wide variety of practices and beliefs that have changed over time. Some sects of Hindus do not observe vegetarianism.

Jainism: is an ancient Indian religion of which the central tenet is nonviolence and respect towards all living beings. One of the three main principles of Jainism is ahimsa (“nonviolence”). More on this in my next post about Jivamukti yoga.

Hare Krishna: Hare Krishnas are all vegetarians and some are vegan. They serve free vegetarian meals, every Sunday wherever they have a group anywhere in the world.

Buddhism: Modern Buddhist attitudes toward vegetarianism vary by school and location. In China and Vietnam, monks typically do not meat. In Japan or Korea some schools do not eat meat, while most do. In Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia Buddhists do not practice vegetarianism. Whilst there are no accurate statistics, it has been estimated that worldwide about half of all Buddhists are vegetarian. The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying “I’m a Tibetan monk, not a vegetarian.” Yep…

Taoism: Taoism is the oldest religion in China, of which yin-yang thought began as an attempt to answer the question of the origin of the universe. Veganism (with the inclusion of oyster products) is practiced by Taoist monks and some followers of Taoism.

Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam): Vegetarianism is not promoted by mainstream authorities although in all these faiths there are small group’s actively promoting vegetarianism on religious grounds. Most Jewish religious feasts such as Sukkot and Pesach (Passover) has a ritual slaughter – meat is commonly the centrepiece of the feast – whilst some grains and legumes are abstained from. Despite this one can be both a Jew and a vegetarian. The Torah (and Genesis 1:29-30 in the Bible) records God as saying: ‘See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food.’ So Judaism teaches that vegan was the original, and presumably ideal, diet for humans. A non-meat diet harmonises with the Jewish mitzvoth requirements ‘bal tashit’ (not destroying), ‘shmirat haguf’ (defending our bodies) and ‘tsa’ar ba’alei chayim’ (being kind to animals). Several chief rabbis are strict vegetarian, as well as the intellectual genius Albert Einstein.

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security” —Albert Einstein

Christianity has the largest religious following in Australia, so I spent some time on it. In Christianity there is great diversity in beliefs about food choices. Some Christians believe in “fruitarianism” a subset of raw veganism, originating from the belief that Adam and Eve had this diet (fruits, nuts and seeds) before “the fall” when sin and death came upon the world. Other Christians may subscribe to lacto-vegetarianism described in 1 Corinthians 3:2 “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready”. In my view, most Australian Christians follow a standard diet, promoted by our government and culture. It seems Christians often overlook Gods message within the first thirty lines of the Bible (Genesis 1:29-30) and cite later passages within the Bible that imply man’s domination over animals and “permission” to eat them. But it appears that Christian theologians are rediscovering the links between our dietary and spiritual choices. Many are arguing that vegetarianism and veganism is the diet most compatible with Christian values like mercy and compassion. Anglican priest and Oxford professor Andrew Linzey, Ph.D. argues that “to stand with Jesus is to … honor life for the sake of the Lord of life … to stand for Jesus is to stand for active compassion for the weak, against the principle that might is right.” The following excerpt is from the Christian Vegetarian Association:

Proverbs 12:10 teaches, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast,” and Psalm 145:9 reminds us that “The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.” The Bible describes God’s concern for animals (Exod. 23:5; Matt. 10:29, 12:11–12, 18:12–14) and forbids cruelty (Deut. 22:10, 25:4). All creatures share in the Sabbath rest (Exod. 20:10; Deut. 5:14). Animals praise God (Psalms 148:7–10, 150:6) and are present in eternity (Isa. 65:25; Rev. 5:13). God preserves animals (Ps. 36:6; Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20), and animals look to God for sustenance (Psalm 104:27–31, 147:9; Joel 1:20, 2:22; Matt. 6:26; Luke 12:6) and deliverance (Jon. 3:7–9; Rom. 8:18–23). Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful” (Matt 5:7), yet no mercy is shown for nearly all farmed animals. Should not the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12) – treat others as you would like others to treat you – guide how we treat animals?

Seven Day Adventists: The most prominent of the vegetarian-oriented Christian groups is the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church. Its founder and prophet Ellen White, was vegetarian; the church officially promotes lacto-ovo-vegetarianism, though fewer than half of its members practice it, whilst other branches practice a vegan lifestyle. These religious food choices originate from the idea of food being an integral part of healing the mind, body and spirit.

Pantheism: Pantheism is the belief that all reality is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing God. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god. Although there is no doctrine or imperative for pantheists, their reverence of the natural world would probably encourage them to adopt a vegan diet, in view of the environmental arguments in favour of it.

Spirituality as a term has largely been bastardised. I recently learnt of the term spiritual materialism, which was coined to describe mistakes spiritual seekers commit in equating spirituality into an ego building endeavour, as ego development is counter to spiritual progress. New age bookstores and wealthy lecturers on spirituality might be used as an attempt to build up a list of credentials or accumulate teachings in order to present oneself as a more realised or holy person. Learning of spiritual materialism got me thinking about how my community and culture interprets and responds to vegan values and beliefs. I recalled being in New Zealand with Patrick a few years ago. Anyone who has been to Queenstown on the South Island is familiar with Ferg Burger – a burger joint with God-like status. My approach to veganism has always been that it is liberating, not restrictive, so I will often eat at places even when there is only one thing on the menu for me to eat. With time I have found that I can do this and still feel content and abundant. It so happened that this was the case at Ferg Burger, I had one option, an incredibly tasty burger called Holier than Thou. Reflecting on this I believe that most people see vegans as having or even pretending to have more spiritual credentials, which I personally don’t believe to be the case.

fergburger

Is Veganism a Religion?

Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet and as far as I can see the spokesperson of spiritual veganism thinks so, or at least will soon be so. Indeed ethical veganism is legally recognised in some states of America as a religious or personal freedom. One may abstain from consuming animal products on spiritual grounds as one is repulsed by the concept of ingesting suffering, anger, death and disease. Or, like me, as ones veganism deepens one begins to make that spiritual progress.

“Just as there are stages in the spiritual life of people on a spiritual path, there are stages in our practice of veganism as a spiritual path… We begin with what I refer to as the shallow vegan stage, where we are shaky in our understanding of vegan philosophy and practice, and have a lot to learn. If we are able to survive this vulnerable first stage, we arrive at the second stage, which is the stage typically that I refer to as the angry vegan and/or the closet vegan. Though we’ve learned and absorbed enough to be able to live in a healthy way as vegans in our culture, because we are in such a small minority, we find ourselves often angry, outraged, and disappointed by the attitudes and actions of our neighbours, or we are afraid of being rejected, and become closet vegans. Beyond these stages lie the more psychologically and spiritually satisfying stages that I refer to as deep veganism” – Will Tuttle

My personal research for this piece has taken me to some weird and wonderful corners of the internet and taught me a few terms I have never heard of one of which is devotional veganism.

The following doctrine of Devotional Veganism lays out the universally recognizable life principles of Devotional Veganism that we know and live by with conviction and devotion.

  • All living beings have inherent value and shall be given due consideration.
  • Participation in or contribution to or facilitation of the following, which are recognized as bad, shall be conscientiously avoided:
  • Harming a living being.
  • Exploiting a living being.
  • Adversely affecting the wellbeing of a living being.
  • Doing to a living being that which the living being would want not done to self

A follower of this doctrine may refer to Devotional Veganism as the person’s religion and refer to self as a Devotional Vegan. The religion of Devotional Veganism is about what Devotional Vegans know and live by, and not just about veganism as a diet and/or lifestyle. Not all vegans are Devotional Vegans. Not all Devotional Vegans are vegans (but most usually are). A Devotional Vegan is not forbidden from following other religions in addition to Devotional Veganism as long as they adhere to the principles of Devotional Veganism if and when there is a conflict in the religions.”

Spirituality is something I have historically intellectualised. But there are no words that could ever describe the feeling in my heart when I am reading religious scriptures, walking through a mosque in India, reading scientific literature about the vastness of the Universe, sitting in worship at a church, on my yoga mat with sweat dripping off my body, or walking home from work into the sun, smelling the sunflowers and being aware of myself in time and space. I am of the belief that regardless of whether you identify with a religion or not, whether you identify yourself as having a relationship with a personal God, nature, the Universe or Ferg Burger, whether you are a human or a non-human animal – we are all spiritual seekers, all imperfect, all loving and all divine.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

The Good Book: A secular Bible – A. C. Grayling

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism – Chögyam Trungpa

The World Peace Diet – Will Tuttle, Ph.D

The Compassionate Animal: An Interfaith Guide to the Extended Circle of Compassion – Barbara Gardner

Christianity and Vegetarianism from Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA): http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/honoring.htm

God, Christianity and Meat: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/religion-vegetarianism-_b_3874652.html

Why I am a Christian Vegan: http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2013/november/why-im-christian-vegan.html?start=2

Why it Matters That Ontario Legally Recognized Ethical Veganism: http://www.care2.com/causes/why-it-matters-that-ontario-legally-recognized-ethical-veganism.html

Veganism in world religions: http://vegan.wikia.com/wiki/Religion

Is Veganism a Religion: https://www.idausa.org/veganism-religion

Vegan Butter

The old butter or marg debate is dead in vegan land – its vegan butter or its nothing. I have been a long time Nutlex user, which is vegetable oil based. I really like the taste but since I’ve been learning of the health gamble associated with packaging food in plastic I’ve been motivated to find an vegan butter I can make myself and package waste free, preferably without plastic. Not only that but its super cheap and satisfying to make your own goods. But all the recipes I found looked super complicated and it took me ages to muster the confidence to attempt one. This is my lay-person translation of a recipe I found by veganbaking.net.

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Yields: 1 cup (215 grams)

¼ cup of soy milk – Since curdling is directly proportional to butter flavor development, high-protein non-dairy milks such as soy milk will provide the highest degree of butter flavor in vegan butter. Other non-dairy milks can be used, but don’t expect the same degree of butter flavor.
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar – ACV is responsible for curdling the proteins in the soy milk which creates a layer of savory flavor. Butter flavor is also enhanced from the acid itself. Milder acidity profile option: ½ teaspoon coconut vinegar if you can find it, with ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup of slightly melted coconut oil – Dairy butter consists of about 78% fat, 18% water and 4% milk solids, of which the fat comes from heavy cream. This recipe replaces that with a healthier alternative in coconut oil.
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum or ½ teaspoon psyllium husk powder – 
Emulsifiers are compounds that bind oil-based ingredients and water-based ingredients into one cohesive mixture. A stabilizer is able hold air bubbles and support structure. Xanthan gum is a vegetable gum which is both an emulsifier and a stabilizer but you could also try psyllium husk powder if you prefer.
Optional: 1 tablespoon of canola oil, light olive oil or rice brain oil – If your goal is to have a conveniently softer, spreadable Vegan Butter (instead of harder traditional butter for baking), swap out around 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil with 1 additional tablespoon canola, light olive oil or rice bran oil.

1. Curdle soy milk

Place the soy milk, apple cider vinegar and salt in a small cup and whisk together with a fork. Let it sit for about 10 minutes so the mixture curdles.

2. Mix other ingredients

Melt the coconut oil in a microwave so it’s barely melted and as close to room temperature as possible. Pour it (and the canola/olive/bran oil) along with the soy milk mixture, xanthan gum to the food processor or blender.

TIPMaking smooth Vegan Butter is dependent on the mixture solidifying as quickly as possible after it’s mixed. This is why it’s important to make sure your coconut oil is as close to room temperature as possible before you mix it with the rest of the ingredients.

3. Transfer to container to solidify

The original recipe directs you to pour the mixture into a mold (like an ice cube mold) and place it in the freezer to solidify but I transferred straight into a glass jar. It should be ready to use in about an hour. Store Vegan Butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer for up to 1 year.

Enjoy,
Meg x
To read original recipe: http://www.veganbaking.net/recipes/fats/vegan-butters/vegan-butter

Buckwheat Granola

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I found this recipe on Pintrest a few years ago and have loved it ever since. It’s so nice and satisfying in summer or winter. Buckwheat is neither a grain nor related to wheat, buckwheat is a seed. Therefore it is naturally gluten-free and hence safe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. Buckwheat has too many nutrients to list, but in combination with sunflower seeds, you can be sure that your nutritional needs can be well and truly met by this amazing granola.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1 and ½ cup of dates or sultanas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cocao powder
 INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 (180 degrees celsius) and line a pan with baking paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients  in a food processor and pulse until it all sticks together.
  3. Pour the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Take out of the oven and let cool completely.
  6. Break down into pieces and transfer to an airtight jar or container. Enjoy with soy or nut milk, topped with fruit.

Enjoy,

Meg x

Living By Your Values

One of the greatest opportunities to live our values – or betray them – lies in the food we put on our plates” ― Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

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What does it mean to live by your values? What is most important to you?  How do you feel when your behaviour is not in line with your own personal values?

Values play an important role in our emotional wellbeing. We feel authentic when our behaviour is aligned with our deepest values, numb when we’re indifferent to them or guilt and shame when we violate them. My line of work involves trying to convince people that they still have values and even more importantly deserve to have their values. People entrapped by addictions can be at the extreme end of this, were they often feel they have lost touch with their values completely and as a result experience feelings of utter meaninglessness. Your core values may be meaningful relationships, humanity, spirituality, creativity, nature – the list is endless. For me health and wellness is a core value. I think this originates from growing up in a family with heart, thyroid, weight and alcohol issues. The desire to be free of this has been present in me for as long as I can remember. Caring for the environmental has also been a core value of mine from a young age, which started when my grade three teacher taught us about greenhouse gases. And of course, I have always felt a closeness to pets and other animals that have come into my life – as I think everyone has. However, I ate animals up to the age of 20. Until then I was still not close enough to the animals that ended up on my plate. Back then I did not realise that identifying as an animal lover and eating meat was an oxymoron, that saying that I care about justice or equality and eating/wearing animal products was hypocritical. When I stopping eating animals I realised my previous thoughtless choices were in fact betrayals of my own personal values and that more thoughtful choices were in themselves joyful.

“To live an ethical life is not self-sacrifice, but self-fulfilment” – Peter Singer

Is it possible that vegans at times don’t live by their values? At a recent vegan activism workshop Professor Melanie Joy highlighted something so obvious yet so profound about personal values; people that are interested in social justice movements (women’s rights, LGBTQIA rights and animal rights etc) tend to be people or great integrity, or in other words, people that highly value personal integrity. Integrity tends to be associated with moral or ethical uprightness. The assumed moral superiority of vegans tends to get non-vegans on the defensive and into shaming arguments. These sorts of interactions are likely to going against many vegan’s values around empathy and compassion. As a result vegans may also experience feeling less aligned with personal integrity and more so with the opposite – hypocrisy.

“Most people would agree that practicing integrity precludes shaming. Integrity is the integration of values (such as compassion and justice) and practices, and when we shame others, we violate such values. So, shaming others — vegans and non-vegans alike — is simply unethical” – Melanie Joy

If you don’t know what your personal values are, explore them, align with them and its like magic. Simply making more thoughtful food choices was transformative not only in health and wellness but in my sense of self and the world around me. When I learnt of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in my first year of university I wondered how one could possibly reach self-actualisation.

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But when I transitioned to veganism the following year I felt the exact characteristics that Maslow had described as self-actualisation, that I had studied so closely; achievement of one’s full potential through creativity, independence and a grasp of the real world. I don’t think this experience is unique to me or that I’m special. I think this experience of self-fulfillment is accessible to everyone who is brave enough to take their alignment from carnistic cultural values to their own personal values.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

Values Exploration worksheet: http://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/values-self-exploration.pdf

 

Effective Vegan Advocacy Workshop (Part 2)

Part 2: Sunday, 5th of March

Admittedly, I was a little late to the first Sunday session – Tobias’ presentation about Making Compassion Easier. But when I got settled, Tobias was discussing how people are more likely to do something if you don’t ask to much of them and the birth of the reducatarian movement. You may have heard of flexitarian (plant-based with occasional inclusion of meat), pescetarians (people who consider themselves vegetarian but eat fish that grows on tress) but reducatarians? I’d never heard of it. This is a definition of the movement from a reducatarian website:

“It is composed of individuals who are committed to eating less meat – red meat, poultry, and seafood – as well as less dairy and fewer eggs, regardless of the degree or motivation. This concept is appealing because not everyone is willing to follow an “all-or-nothing” diet. However, reducatarianism is still inclusive of vegans, vegetarians, and anyone else who reduces the amount of animal products in their diet.”

Cool, sounds legit. Tobias explained that we owe reducatarians a lot more credit. They have raised the demand for our animal-free products more than we ever could have alone. This phenomena Tobias likened to the gluten-free movement. Although on the one hand people with Celiac disease must be annoyed when people use the term “gluten-free” loosely because they have adverse reactions to even slight traces of gluten. On the other hand, the health-conscious-gluten-intolerant-or-avoidant people are to be thanked for giving people with Celiac disease an enormous increase in the amount of gluten-free products and menu items available to them.

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What does an increase in nut mylks, alternative meats and vegan menu items mean? It means that there is one less obstacle in place for people to transition to veganism – if they wish. Therefore, reducers make it easier for everyone to go vegan. Don’t diss the reducatarian, encourage them every chance you get! The reason this is an effective vegan advocacy strategy was counter-intuitive to me. We learn it psychology, to change behaviour you must change the thoughts, feelings, beliefs or attitudes from which the behaviours have manifest. I had always understood this as universal law. Tobias explained that actually, when it comes to veganism, it could actually be considered more effective to do the opposite, to get people to change their behaviour (try/enjoy vegan foods) and let their attitudes about veganism evolve as a symptom of that behaviour change.

Okay, next question, why might this be the case? Tobias shared that there was an interesting scientific study conducted in which people, the following is the abstract:

“People enjoy eating meat but disapprove of harming animals. One resolution to this conflict is to withdraw moral concern from animals and deny their capacity to suffer. To test this possibility, we asked participants to eat dried beef or dried nuts and then indicate their moral concern for animals and judge the moral status and mental states of a cow. Eating meat reduced the perceived obligation to show moral concern for animals in general and the perceived moral status of the cow. It also indirectly reduced the ascription of mental states necessary to experience suffering. People may escape the conflict between enjoying meat and concern for animal welfare by perceiving animals as unworthy and unfeeling.”

Tobias explained that it is easier to condemn something you are not participating in rather than something you are complicit in. Hence, shaming people who eat meat by telling them that they are doing a bad/cruel/inhumane/immoral thing (apparently, especially whilst they are in the act of this) is not only likely to start an argument/damage a relationship/perpetuate the angry vegan stereotype/lead to more denial, but it ineffective in advocating for animals.

This gets us to look at the big picture.

Tobias spoke about the different modalities of vegan advocacy. Of course traditionally, the only vegans were self-realised people who were working from a moral framework that eating animals is wrong (of which many vegans and non-vegans may agree). They might have picked some other “low hanging fruit” through their active or passive advocacy who also came to the realisation that it was/is wrong to eat animals. Although I can’t imagine the hit rate was not very high – obviously not, as people identifying as vegan a decade ago, were a scarce minority. Tobias explained that in the last decade there has been a new cog in the vegan machine – the health and environmental factors. I’m happy to share that this was the part were myself and some of my friends found our membership in the club, and we were in good company with thousands of people around the world (thanks to Forks over Knives and Cowspiracy!) Most recently and perhaps most significantly, we have entered the age of vegan businesses – the best way to get critical masses of people trying and enjoying vegan food and hence changing minds about veganism. Once critical masses of people are vegan or vegan-ish then it will be easier to get law reformed around animals killed for food.

“There is no moral obligation to present veganism as a moral obligation. Celebrate all the reasons people go more vegan” – Tobias Leenaert

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After a break Tobias run his second session about Effective Vegan Outreach. He gave about 10 noteworthy advocacy strategies including:

  1. Adapt your ask. Given everything covered above, really welcoming and encouraging people who are open to the idea of reducing is very effective. Even suggesting someone reduce their meat and dairy consumption is a lot less confronting and harder to deny than asking someone to change their ideology.
  2. Adapt your arguments. Your personal truth will not always resonate for others. I think I have been effective with almost passive vegan advocacy in the early days because I almost left animals out of the equation, telling people my story – of which the short version is that it was a health choice (if you are interested in my story in is the first blog post on my website). I think there is a perception that being vegan for the animals is a selfless act and being vegan for health is selfish, which may be true. However I am of the belief that over time the emotional, cognitive, spiritual and political aspects of the vegan voyage align and that you eventually end up as vegan for “all the reasons”. Be mindful not to ask people to run before they can walk.

“Any reduction is okay and any reason to reduce is okay” – Tobias Leenaert

  1. Put yourself in their shoes – you are not your audience. They have their reasons for eating meat, primarily they are likely to believe that it is normal, natural, necessary and/or nice. This may be infuriating to you as a vegan but remember back to a time when you were likely to share their same carnistic beliefs. Tobias used the term “vegan amnesia” – almost every adult vegan today is unlikely to have been vegan their whole life. Remembering your own justifications for meat eating helps us to be humble and show empathy to others.
  2. Apply basic psychology and communication skills. Sea Shepard is a wonderful organisation and they have a huge following from vegans and non-vegans alike. Why is this? Because people don’t eat whales in our culture! Even meat eaters in Australia aren’t complicit in the killing of whales. Also, Tobias spoke about how as vegans we feel we have so much to say and no reason to listen as we have heard it all before. Unfortunately this is to the detriment of the movement and the animals. Listen.
  3. Think about the impact will be over speaking your truth or winning an argument. Impact is doing or saying stuff that opens people to our cause. If it’s not going to opens a person’s heart or mind to veganism, is it still worth saying?

“What goes into your mouth is less important than what comes out of it” – Tobias Leenaert

  1. Forget purity and perfection. Hallelujah. I actually believe anyone with the boldness to call themselves vegan is wholly committed to avoiding animal products wherever possible, but sometimes mistakes are made and sometimes people get misunderstood and sometimes you don’t know what that additive on the label even is and sometimes you buy shoes thinking they are vegan then on closer inspection you find they have leather in the sole or whatever – I could go on. But these things don’t matter! It was so refreshing to be told this. That good enough is good enough. I already have pathological perfectionism, I don’t need to be giving myself a bad time about the occasional vegan blunder. When it comes to doing your research about how vegan goods and services are Tobias made an important distinction about public and private behaviour. And if there is that one person that demands of you, “did you check to see if that wine you’re drinking is vegan, I don’t think it is,” don’t take the bait. Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to be perfect and this doesn’t even make you a hypocrite! It makes you a person trying to do the least harm, the best way you know how. You can explain this to them and that when you’re eating out, you drink non-vegan wine if there is no vegan one available because that is you ethical bottom line – I like wine. The book I’m reading at the moment Living Among Meat Eaters suggests then asking an interrogator politely, “So, what is your ethical bottom line?”
  2. Use food. You can give people theoretical and practical information, a feeling when you speak to them but even better than any of those you can give them a taste experience. That is what they will remember.

“Food comes first, then morals” – Bertolt Brecht

  1. Be patient. It’s not up to you to turn the world vegan. Veganism is a young movement, around 95% of people aren’t on board, yet. Celebrate small changes.
  2. Advocate in a way you can sustain, keep yourself healthy as well as a healthy belief in people.
  3. Practice slow opinion by leaving dogma at the door. Be modest and understand that showing some self-doubt can be effective.

Tobias made several other interesting points during his presentation and his post-presentation discussion:

  • Let people have their exceptions if they want them, like “vegan except for cheese”
  • Reducing to chicken and fish is not a solution. The idea of starting by reducing red meat does not ethically stand up as less animals are killed in the production of “red meat” than “white meat” (my concern with this is the environmental impact of red meat)
  • Women may often be vegetarian/vegan as they identify with oppressed groups
  • The difference between meat eating and domestic violence etc is that one is condoned even celebrated, whereas the other is condemned.

Then we had this awesome lunch!

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The final session of the whole workshop was Melanie Joy’s presentation on Sustainable Activism. Melanie defined sustainability as the intake being greater or equal to the physical, emotional, social output. In regards to activism Melanie suggested that resilience must be greater than or equal to the stress response on our “psychosocial immune system”. As well as the slight hypocrisy of asking justice and compassion of others when we don’t practice the same for ourselves or others. Melanie suggested:

  1. Prioritise sustainability in your activism. You should aim to be here for a good time and a long time! Priorities are beliefs that are acted upon. This means, if you -like me – are planning on prioritising leisure and self-care, find practical ways to make this a reality. This might include time blocking (that is, clearing your schedule) for half an hour in the morning or night for meditation, or planning leisure with strictly no activism on the weekends.
  2. Get informed about Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder (STSD): often present in people who witness violence to others. More on this in a second, but similarly to PTSD there are triggers and symptoms. Get to know your own triggers and symptoms. For me a prominent one if watching artificial insemination procedures, the symptom of which is repulsion and a feeling of personal violation and helplessness. An awareness of these triggers and symptoms can help you avoid this imagery and hence reduce the stress associated.
  3. Become aware of your own physical, psychological, emotional, social and spiritual needs in a culture were self-neglect is the norm. When others don’t meet our needs we feel deprived and unattended too but the same is true for ourselves albeit more subtle.
  4. Then take care of your needs, they are normal, natural and necessary!

Melanie then elaborated on STSD including some of the common symptoms is traumatic framing or traumatic slitting in which a complex situation is framed by the individual as having a victim, perpetrator and hero. Melanie explains that she has observed this play out as animals being the victims, an individual’s significant meat eating others as the perpetrators and themselves – the vegan – being the hero. Traumatic framing is rigid thinking and can be associated with perfectionism. Another symptom of STSD Melanie described with was very close to home for me was that of survivors guilt. For those that don’t know, this is guilt after surviving (or not having had to survive) a terribly traumatic event or life. I have literally said to myself and to other vegan friends that I watch graphic factory farming footage through a feeling of obligation because I have such a good life by comparison; “the least I can do is watch.” But in fact you don’t have to over-witness – it induce a stress response and that stress response can have an accumulative affect. If someone asks you to watch you could say “I’m at my maximum capacity for traumatic material.” If you wish to show people traumatic material, such as factory farming footage, it’s important to get their consent. Some other STSD symptoms include:

  • A sense that you can never do enough
  • Minimising the suffering of others (by comparison to animals)
  • Avoiding and feeling overwhelmed by others
  • Disassociative moments (feeling disconnected from the self/world)
  • Guilt, helplessness and/or hopelessness
  • Increased anger
  • Cynicism and/or loss of faith in humanity
  • Grandiosity
  • Intrusive thoughts or images
  • Sleep disturbances

STSD is both the cause and consequence of self-neglect. Learn how to meet your own needs, so you can advocate for the animals for as long as possible.

It was a privilege and a joy to learn so much from two incredibly humble activists. I could never thank them enough for coming to Melbourne, it was an experience I will never forget.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

Tobias’s presentations including some of the ones included in this workshop: http://veganstrategist.org/vegan-strategy/

For more on reducatarianism: https://reducetarian.org/

A website and book Melanie Joy recommended: http://traumastewardship.com/

Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows – Melanie Joy

Living among meat eaters – Carol J Adams

Melanie Joy’s website: https://www.carnism.org/

Tobias’s blog: http://veganstrategist.org/