Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Values & Myths

 This blog is dedicated to empowering people to make informed food choices and debunking myths about the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle. I want to give people the tools and resources they need so that their lives can reflect their values. My own personal values include kindness, compassion, love, non-stealing, non-harming, and non-killing, along with the values of education and teaching. Roll together all my values and you have: my vegan lifestyle. But how do I convey this to the rest of the world? How do I be a role model with my food choices, be informative and compassionate with the rest of the world, and be mindful of the footprint I leave on the earth? Hopefully this blog can achieve all this; I know it's a tall order and I'm just a short person, but I do love a challenge.

 I also challenge you, the reader, to explore your own values. Instead of just saying you are a kind person, instead of just hoping you are doing the right thing and being a positive role model for your family, your kids, your spouse, instead of wishing you could be healthier, I challenge you to put those thoughts into action! What would it look like for you to be a kind person? What is one thing you could do today to fulfill that?  Does it look like volunteering at a homeless shelter or animal sanctuary, or more like recycling every piece of plastic or glass that comes into your house so you can reduce your carbon footprint on the world. What does being compassionate mean to you? Does it look like lending an ear to a stranger who is hurting, or does it look like choosing to not eat meat because you wouldn't want to be treated the way animals are treated today?

 It can be painful to explore your own values because we might find things we don't want to acknowledge. We might discover we aren't very good people at all. It's hard to recognize the pain we've caused others, and it hurts to know we have caused suffering. It is during these crucial moments of self-reflection that you start to see the truth. The pain will not last forever, acceptance of the truth is bound to come, and the truth is that we are all one, appearing as many, and the way you treat others is a direct reflection of yourself.

 Taking that sentence literally: How you treat others is a direct reflection of yourself, is hard to accept in itself, isn't it? It doesn't just apply to humans. It applies to pets, animals you eat, the world you walk on. Does it make you double-think the road rage you had earlier, when you were cursing and raising a fist to the car in front of you, only to discover the person you were so angry to drive behind was a 90-year-old Grandma (possibly driving home from the hospital, where she was visiting her beloved husband, or perhaps she was leaving the library, where she volunteers twice a week.)  Does it make you think about that piece of meat you ate last night, knowing that although it tasted good to you, the animal never agreed to have it's life taken, and if your life was taken without consent simply for someone else's tasting pleasure, your family and friends might not be too happy about it.

 For me, I cannot live out my values of compassion, kindness, non-harming, and all my other values if I am killing, stealing, taking what is not mine, mindlessly consuming things I do not need, and being selfish, greedy, and gluttonous. It's as simple as that. If I want to live out my values, I have to literally live  them out. Is this hard? Is it hard to be vegan?  No harder than it is for a woman to be a mother, no harder than it is for a runner to lace up his shoes. No harder than it is for anyone to be a living testament to the things they want in life and live out their values. So no, it is not hard for me.

 The following are some things I've heard, mostly myths that I wanted to discuss about being vegan in general. They are hurtful, broad statements that bother me. 

Myth #1: Vegans are all animal-rights-activists, tree-hugging hippies who don't live in a reality-based world.

  First and foremost, notice the language. Cliche expressions have pigeon-holed a group of people into what is now deemed to be a category that no one wants to be in. Why is it bad to be an animals right activist? Why is it bad to be a "tree hugging hippie?" My point is, to begin with, how rude and disrespectful is this language?  For myself, and the other vegans I know, our goal is to be compassionate and kind to people, yet we are being ridiculed and judged. We wouldn't use this language to describe you, so why treat someone else, or rather, a whole group of humans, with such disdain and carelessness? 
 Secondly, about not being grounded in reality, I can't speak for every vegan in the world, but I think for myself especially, I am living in quite a real world. It doesn't get any more real than watching this : 
 and knowing once and for all what really goes on.
As for all vegans being animal rights activists, this isn't true. I know a lot of vegans who don't care about the world at all, they simply want to be vegan for their health. While I don't agree with this or understand this at all, it is just the point that they could care less about animals but they're still vegans.
 As for the tree hugging hippie part, what does this even mean? I might like trees, but does that make me a hippie? I might be a hippie, but does that mean I need to like trees? Let's either ditch the ridiculous stereotypes or all return to the fourth grade so I can call you equally immature things and we can be on level playing ground.
  I used to walk by PETA members on the sidewalks in Boulder, Colorado and roll my eyes at them. "They're pushy," I thought. "They are crazy."  So I know how you might feel about animal rights activists.
 Could there have been a better way for them to convey their message to the public? Perhaps. But they too have "seen" the truth and now have a passion for trying to be a positive change agent. Surely there's worse things they could be doing. They aren't any different than the Mothers Against Drunk Driving group, who are passionate about being sober while driving, or the March of Dimes group, who raises money for premature babies. These are all groups with a passion and the heart to carry out a cause. Try to extend some understanding and compassion to these people. It will open your heart immensely and perhaps give you a better love for all humans. Better yet, discover your passion and get involved with something you love!

Myth #2: Vegans just eat salads

 Obviously, this is a myth. You only have to pull up google and type in 'vegan blog' or 'vegan' or 'vegetarian blogs' to be bombarded with the thousands upon thousands of vegan blogs, all suggesting recipes, food choices, cookbooks, dvds, podcasts and more, all with satisfying food that is compassionate as well as delicious.

Myth #3:  Natural eating and natural medicine can't cure diseases the way conventional medicine can.
  You might be surprised to hear this from me, considering I am an ICU nurse, and have had medical jargon shoved down my throat and in my brain for the past 9 years, but I disagree with this myth.
  I have seen children as young as four years old die of leukemia. I have watched cancer consume and take a life of a woman my age. And I have held the hands and hearts of crying family members after I took their loved one off life support.  In some cases, medicine might have helped. In all of the above, plus thousands more, it didn't.  These families either didn't want to try natural remedies, or they simply didn't know about it, and as a result, they lost their loved one. I have always felt it was not my place as their nurse to suggest this alternative way of healing to them while they are in the hospital under the supervision of a medical doctor. I only know what I would do for myself or someone in my own family.

 I have witnessed, with my own eyes, my parent's good friend Kathy undergo three years of chemo and radiation for breast cancer. I was only nine and didn't understand why she lost her hair, was pale and sickly looking, or even really what dying meant. I do remember the day the doctors told her they couldn't do anything more for her and she was released to Hospice and given less than six months to live. It was at this point she went to a natural doctor and he what did he prescribe? Something drastic. Something really unusual and rare. Something unheard of back then. A vegan diet. I am happy to say Kathy is still alive today, and has been cancer free ever since.

 Back to the title of this myth, I think if more people ate natural and vegan, we wouldn't even have the sicknesses we have today. At work on Monday we watched an obese man die. I asked the usual, "Why" and although he did have some medical problems, it was nothing you or I couldn't have easily overcome. He ultimately died because he was over 500 pounds and couldn't overcome the common cold. He literally ate himself to death.

So to start with, I think natural eating is the way to go to prevent illnesses altogether. Then if any are acquired, including cancer, I am convinced they can be cured naturally. My parents always owned a book of Andrew Weil, M.D. He has apparently written a lot more since my childhood. Dr Weil books are here if you would like to take a peek. It's pretty overwhelming and amazing to read. MD means Medical Doctor, by the way. A lot of chiropractors get flack for writing books and using their "doctor" title, because while they are technically a doctor, it's a different degree (D.O vs M.D.) so just to make sure we're on the same page, this guy is an actual medical doctor. You won't find many medical doctors in support of natural healing remedies, and this is because they are usually under contract with pharmaceutical companies. Under their contract, and by law, they have to suggest the medicine that their pharmaceutical company sells, even if they don't necessarily like it. If this doesn't make you queasy, I don't know what will. Anyways, this Dr Weil guy is a gem because he isn't afraid to defy the norm.

 To close, I would just like to wrap it up by saying:
Be mindful of how you talk to people. Is it so hard to be kind to people? Are we naturally an evil, hurtful species, or do we have it in our hearts to extend some warmth and understanding to those around us?
 Examine your values and try to think about the life you would live if you were to live out your values.  I know I keep coming back to this, but do these values really include selfishness and gluttony, two things our culture is pretty deep in these days? Try to live simply so others may simply live.
 Be patient with yourself and other people. Not everyone is at the same point in their path, or even on the same path at all. Again, patience, understanding and kindness go a long way here.
Remember that you do make a difference. One person does have an impact. One person does have a voice, and every time you make a decision you are casting your vote out into the world. When you buy a house, a car, or even just a shirt, you are saying, "I vote for this shirt. I support this shirt, and this company. This is what I want." The same goes for when you buy food. Your vote does count. Be encouraged to know you do and can make a difference!

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