As a Practical Buddhist I have the freedom to choose what type of nutritional regimen in which to participate. I am not driven to adopt any particular dietary plan simply based on my choice to pursue the path of Practical Buddhism. Instead, it’s my choice to eat what I feel is right for me.
As the major tenets of Practical Buddhism is to jettison the needless ritual, ceremony, and traditions, I’ve not seriously evaluated my nutritional lifestyle. It’s funny, because I follow a Buddhist lifestyle, most people assume I’m vegetarian or vegan.
My personal dietary regimen
To date, I’ve never seriously departed from the dietary plan of my parents. For some 55 years, with only a small periods of departure for purposes of what turned out to be temporary weight loss, I’ve not restricted my intake to a particular regimen.
My nondescript dietary plan consist mainly of poultry and fish (occasionally I’ll buy ground grass-fed beef), fresh and frozen vegetables, some potatoes (most Yukon gold and small red potatoes), yams, fruit, eggs and dairy. That list appears to be a mostly Western diet, although a few areas (fruits and veggies) are more emphasized over others.
Recently I got ‘Vegucated’
Vegucated is an independent documentary film by Marisa Miller Wolfson, a vegan writer/director/editor in New York City. Raised in the farm belt of the MidWest, Marisa summarizes her shift from pork chops and steak to veganism this way:
That’s what happened to me, growing up in Indiana, loving pork chops and ridiculing vegetarians—or rather, the one vegetarian I knew (sorry, Lorena!) Then I moved to New York and saw a documentary about animal agriculture, and my whole perspective shifted.
That’s kind of what happened to me when I watched Vegucated. I learned about the farms raising steers for beef, chickens for consumption and eggs, and the inhumane treatment of animals in the process. Live mail are chicks thrown into a grinder for disposal because they serve no purpose; steer are castrated without anesthesia screaming and resisting in their enclosed pen; pigs and fish are disemboweled while still alive.
I had to look away several times. My 16 year old son left the room. The footage was minimal, but graphic enough to make me instantly realize that my dietary habits were not in alignment with my personal commitment to nonviolence. Suddenly I was confronted with the reality that my choices were sustaining, albeit in a small way as just one person, an entire industry that feels no compassion nor observes any measurable amount of respect for the dignity of the animals they raise and sacrifice.
Water-boarding is nothing compared to the inhumane treatment of animals in family farms across the United States.
An immediate and mind-jarring awakening
Talk about satori…to say that I was immediately affected is an understatement. The next day I made a vegetarian lunch and took it to the office. In the afternoon, I visited a grocery store and bought some veggie-burgers. I came home and asked Justin if he’d mind if we ate at Dharma’s, a local vegetarian restaurant in Capitola. He as affected the film as well and although he wasn’t crazy about having a vegan pizza, he didn’t put up any resistance. He gobbled up the pizza.
Hypertension and weight loss
I have essential hypertension, a.k.a. high blood pressure, that’s currently treated with two medications that I take once daily. I’d love to get off these meds and lose about 15 – 20 pounds as well. Vegucated showed me from both the experience of the actors as well as the commentary from physicians that were part of the process, how this could be possible by transitioning my nutrition from its current meat and dairy status to a predominantly plant-based regimen.
Non-Violence and Compassionate Kindness
As a Practical Buddhist, my areas of practice are meditation, mindfulness, and compassionate kindness. As I write in The Practical Buddhist: Buddhism Without the Robes & Ritual:
Compassionate kindness is a two-fold activity. As I mentioned earlier, compassion is the internal commitment while kindness is the external expression of the commitment to compassion.
I’ve always been able to notice when others are in pain, are suffering, or are unhappy. Some call this being an empath, I think I’m just an emotionally oriented person. Regardless, it’s a part of who I am and how I’m wired. I see this same quality in my children, especially in my sons Benjamin and Justin.
I think it’s the reason, in part anyway, why I’m drawn to those in emotional, financial, or social need. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. If I choose to ignore this part of me, I cease to be compassionate and cannot express kindness. However, if I engage in the other person’s need and act upon it, the way to the expression of kindness is opened.
If I am committed to practicing compassionate kindness, then I must act to make changes in myself and in my life that predispose me to greater sensitivity and the expression of kindness.
Becoming aware of how I, in a small part, am contributing to the inhumane treatment of animals as I have described above forces me to act out of compassion for the animals and kindness toward my own body.
I’ve begun reading the GetVegucated site about transitioning to a Vegan lifestyle. I realize this will take some time for me in a lot of ways. I’ll need to learn about shopping in my area, what brands and types of new foods I like, and how best to please a growing teen’s demands for good meals while slowly introducing him to vegetarian/vegan cuisine.
But the commitment has been made and today I’ll visit a local independent organic / health food market to peruse my choices. I’ll also visit my local Trader Joe’s for their selection. As my journey progresses, I’ll do my best to keep you informed of my progress.