After I had my second child, in November of 2014, I started to see her in all living creatures. All babies, mainly animals, were my Lois. Maybe it helped that I had decided in 2014 to go vegetarian and my brain was helping me along with some internalisation.
In zen monk Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart, she calls this bodhichitta. Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means “noble or awakened heart.” It is said to be present in all beings. It is the kinship with the suffering of others, this inability to continue to regard it from afar. This is the discovery of our soft spot.
This sense of my baby in every creature is why I don’t want to participate in eating meat or why I don’t want to participate in using animals for humans’ benefit. So this year I am going vegan. Leading a vegan lifestyle is not that easy or straightforward in a society where the use of animals is so common. Milk is in so much food that it’s ridiculous.
I don’t think it’s going to be easy but it is what I want to do. I will need a lot of preparation and an attitude that doesn’t involve shame. To keep me going I will be focusing on all the ways that stop me from being vegan.
I remember wanting to stop eating meat a few years ago – maybe nine or 10 years ago – and at the mere mention of wanting to stop I would get a craving for meat and I would have it. This was very helpful. I knew that one of the things stopping me from achieving what I wanted was simply my ‘desire’ for it. I would then notice this desire come up and see what happened. Just noticing didn’t ultimately make me stop. Learning about the life that animals bred for meat, face, is what made me stop. I watched innumerable videos on cows being abused, cramped conditions, babies being taken away and slaughtered, the pain of mastitis for cows in the dairy industry and much more about their lives. I finally got to a point where I had been vegetarian for a few months and decided to try a beef burger. I was pregnant so my body and hormones were all over the place.
I started eating the burger and all I could sense was muscles and tendons and a very unpleasant experience. I didn’t have to worry about desiring meat after that.
So this next stage is to pay very close attention to all the things stopping me from being vegan. Some things that stopped me in 2015 were hunger, no options at restaurants, not enough preparation beforehand and in terms of the yarn that I dye and sell, not enough knowledge or access to vegan yarn.
Let’s see what happens next. Here’s to a curious 2016.
This is the story that I was trying to relate to my daughter’s father about not taking things personally when you had to be an authority figure at home, but he wasn’t in the right frame of mind*.
When something goes wrong at home, when a child is naughty etc, you can act in one of two ways:
You can be the kind of police officer who when they spot a driver who has just committed a crime, can either pull them over, yell at them to get out of the car, slam them against the bonnet and rage in what seems to be a justified rant;
or, you can pull the person over, ask for their details, give them a fine and then get on with your night.
When it’s your job to be the police officer you can’t afford to take it personally. Expending all that energy and having to deal with the aftermath of the stress hormones and the upsetedness of the little child with whom your angry is just not sustainable.
You choose the type of enforcement that goes on in your family life. I do my best to be police officer that does her job and moves on. I try not to take it personally even when my child slaps me across the face and laughs and laughs. Whether I succeed or not, this is always my intention.
*Our daughter was getting manic and wanted a bath and someone had to chase after her.
Picture it, Colchester 2004.
My then-boyfriend Graeme and I were visiting a pet store with friends who wanted to buy an aquarium, possibly even a clown fish after just having seen Finding Nemo.
There were tanks of tropical fish. That is to say, there were little creatures of dark crimson and royal blue who flickered and swam and propelled themselves with voluntary movements of their muscles and fins. They filtered water through their gills as they swam, extracting oxygen from the water. Miracles of creation no bigger than a 50p coin, a colourful reflection of the miracle of nature.
As I watched them slightly mesmerised, a voice piped up with “I wonder how that tastes?” about a particular dark blue fish. I was horrified. “Whoa there!” horrible carniverous voice. Here I am reflecting on the miracle of creation and you pipe up with your petty, low-life stomach urges? How could I pretend to admire and love the other beings on earth when my basest desire was to gobble them up with sliced and fried fish and a bit of lemon?
That wasn’t the moment I decided to be vegetarian but it was one of the many moments scattered around my life that made me decide to stop eating other animals.
My following and practise of Buddhism has also convinced me to have my actions in harmony with my thoughts and feelings. So here it goes.
2014 is my year of not eating other creatures. Reviews and explorations of food on this blog will not contain meat products.
So far it has been a bit of a challenge and instead of it being a problem, it reminded me that I like puzzles and thinking about things and analysing.
There will be more to follow but I wanted to publish this while I had the chance.