I’m not a very good cook. I watch cooking shows with the same sense of amazement I have watching aerial artists. I can’t go into the kitchen and make something fabulous with whatever is there. I need to work from a recipe. I have some yellowed cookbooks that have served me well since college, and there are some great websites available for any style or odd ingredients that I’m trying to use.
I tend to cook vegetarian and definitely buy organic ingredients. I think eating organic, and locally grown, grown food is a responsible way to be kind to our environment. However, I am not a vegetarian. I eat meat about twice week. When I eat meat, I am careful about the amount and where it comes from. I like to keep my diet as clean as possible, and as free from processed foods and chemicals as possible. My diet mirrors my general philosophies which do not tend toward extremes, absolutes, or imposing my way as the only way.
I was vegetarian for a long time but I found that, especially with the amount of teaching I do in hot yoga rooms, I was getting very tired, and I felt weak. My body and muscles were never fully recovering from the physical activity. On the other hand, the quality of the meat I eat can also have a negative impact. For example, if I eat fried or fatty meat like a hamburger, I don’t digest it well. I work with a preventive health and wellness doctor, especially since I am entering menopause, to determine what is the healthiest foods and supplements for my body and lifestyle. In general, I feel better with higher amounts of protein, including small amounts of meat, than other people might need. Ultimately, I think deciding how to feed and fuel your body should be based on your personal requirements, a knowledge of your body, and not what someone else tells you is right.
Within the yoga community the concept of ahimsa is often tied to vegetarianism. Ahimsa, the practice of non-harming must start with not harming yourself. Treating yourself well and fueling a healthy body are important pieces of ahimsa. Any choices about how to feed your body, should be mindful and well considered, but ultimately they need to reflect compassion and care for yourself.
The practice of ahimsa is a good deal broader than not eating a hamburger. I’ve given a lot of thought to this quote from Autobiography of a Yogi, “This world is inconveniently arranged for a literal practice of ahimsa. Man may be compelled to exterminate harmful creatures. He is not under compulsion to feel anger or animosity.”
Violence shows up in our lives from the fear that causes humans to go to war, to physically and verbally attack each other. Violence shows up because we are out of balance from our over scheduled lives in which we mistreat ourselves, and end up erupting at others. We feel powerless in our own lives and we cause violence to others by trying to “fix” their lives and make ourselves feel better.
If we each work to conquer our fears, create balance, and reconnect to our personal power, we would be making greater strides toward the practice of ahimsa than eating tofu.