Silence is the medicine so desperately needed in a deafening world of noise the earth is always waiting with gentle tea leave tonics to soothe an aching heart rough, strong branches to support your tired limbs soft, sweet smelling grasses to cradle a head made heavy with over stimulation invite in the fearful feeling that rises suddenly inside at the thought of slowing down prove to yourself that the world keeps spinning when you completely stop rest is the only remedy that can refill an empty cup taking a break seems impossible when you need it most of all this is your permission slip to settle into stillness and reconnect with the almighty ebb and flow of ever-present earth energy pulsating beneath your feet you deserve to take deep breaths and sprinkle your days with compassionate commas and plump, perfect pauses
By now I think most people are familiar with the major benefits of transitioning to veganism. Many, like me, are initially drawn in by promises of weight loss while still eating large quantities of food. Then they wind up staying for the animals and the myriad of other bonuses you notice along the way. Other people do it to be healthier in general or to contribute less to the destruction of planet Earth. There are tons of posts out there that will tell you about the same handful of positive changes a vegan diet brings into your life. After being vegan for over 10 years, I’d like to shine a light on the somewhat stranger, less discussed benefits a vegan lifestyle offers.
One: Level Up Your Cooking Skills
I hate to cook. Or at least… I used to. Now although the amount of time it takes and the mess it makes frustrates me from time to time, I can’t help but get an immense sense of satisfaction from the incredible, healthy dishes I’ve learned to throw together so easily. In the beginning the increased necessity for cooking your own meals may be daunting to new vegans. In a small area like the one I live in, going out to eat every night or buying pre-made vegan food items isn’t really an option (even if I could afford it.) I can’t just go to the deli and buy a rotisserie chicken for dinner when I’ve had an unexpectedly long day. On the other hand, I honestly have no desire to let others make my food. They simply don’t do it as well as I am able to now. I’m quite surprised and proud of my newfound cooking ability and can genuinely say I prefer the meals I make at home over the expensive vegan restaurants’ dishes. If you’re interested in the types of food I prepare, you can find links to all my most used recipes in this post.
Two: Expand Your Food Repertoire
After ten years of hearing, “But what do you eat?” I’ve grown quite perplexed by the question. Imagine trying to answer that as a non-vegan. Am I supposed to list dozens of food items and meals? I eat so many different things! I feel like simply responding, “What do you mean?” I once heard someone on a podcast who explained it perfectly. How many different meats are there really? Maybe three or four that people eat regularly, then cheeses and milk. That really isn’t much variety. On the other hand there are thousands and thousands of different plant foods available to us to eat. Non-vegan meals now look quite sad and tan-colored to me, very bland and unappetizing. Since going vegan, my experience with new, interesting, and exotic foods has expanded beyond the wildest dreams of the normal, American meat-eater. I’ve tried dishes from many different cultures, mastered the art of utilizing spices, and tasted fruits and vegetables I never knew existed before! I assure you I eat a more exciting and varied diet than any non-vegan I’ve ever known.
Three: Bye-bye Common Cold
While I had a vague awareness of this before, the Covid-19 pandemic really brought it to the forefront. I think we’ve all gotten a bit more paranoid around anyone who seems to be sniffling or coughing in the last few years. What’s surprised me is just how often everyone I know experiences cold symptoms like these. It’s almost as if everyone around me is perpetually ill. There are people I’ve noticed who are literally always congested, dripping from their noses and eyes, and have a cough that won’t quit. And these aren’t people with long Covid. Many of them never got it to begin with. Hopefully I won’t be jinxing myself by saying that in my ten years as a vegan, I’ve never gotten sick. Seriously. Not once. And before you go attributing this to luck or good genes, I used to get sick all the time. At the very least, I could expect a few days of serious battling with a stomach bug every year and being plagued by the pesky common cold every fall/winter. I never even realized how badly my body felt at a baseline level until I went vegan and experienced real health for the first time in my life. I thought regular sickness was just how life was supposed to be. I’m here now to tell you, it’s not. Veganism is your ticket to not only long-term health, but daily wellness.
Four: Faster Recovery Time
Not only does a vegan diet prevent you from feeling achy and sluggish after a big meal, it also helps your body recover more quickly from a workout. A vegan diet contains absolutely zero cholesterol, so the heart benefits are usually a big focus. But in addition to a stronger, healthier heart, the rest of the body’s abilities are also bolstered by eating plant-based. I can’t help but laugh when I see fitness bros proclaiming vegans are weak and can’t build muscle for lack of protein. Not only are there world-class, record breaking athletes that are vegan, the diet is also a great help to the average fitness enthusiast like myself. You are not only just as capable of building muscle, but the process will be much less painful. Inflammation in the body wreaks all sorts of havoc, but it also is the culprit when you notice sore, tired muscles after an intense workout. While I still get a satisfying sense of soreness from a challenging leg day, my body recovers and replaces those aches with new, stronger muscle tissue much faster than it ever did before I went vegan. If you’d like to learn more about the effects of veganism on athletes, I’d recommend watching The Game Changers. Or you can read about this specific aspect on their website.
Five: Brain Fog Finally Lifted
Before the pandemic, this aspect of veganism was also a bit harder to explain to people. With so many long-covid patients reporting the now common term of “brain fog” I feel I have a better chance of helping people understand what I mean. It’s been so long, I can’t really remember what it used to feel like inside my head. Still I’ve never forgotten the experience I had after about a full month of vegan eating. I woke up one morning and everything just felt clearer. It’s hard to describe exactly. I’ve always said it was like a cloud had lifted off of my mind. I could think faster, more coherently, more easily than ever before. It’s not like I had been struggling or anything. I had always been a straight A student and prided myself on my above average intelligence. Even so, this was something different. Almost like I had been carrying a heavy weight that was suddenly dropped, allowing me for the first time to move at my full potential. When you and every one you know have been living in a perpetual state of mild illness, you don’t really understand what it means to truly be healthy and well, physically AND mentally. But I promise you, give it a month, even if just as an experiment. You’ll be blown away by what you discover.
I hope that this has given you a bit more insight into the nearly infinite reasons to go vegan. I’m sure there are many more that I have accidentally overlooked, but these five are the ones I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m no saint. I went vegan in the beginning for selfish reason, not for the animals, as I wish I had. I’m hopeful that personal gain will be a motivator to other people as well. Regardless of what aspect of veganism you look at, there is some incredible benefit to be had whether it be to your health, daily lifestyle, cognitive function, the Earth, or the animals. Please consider giving yourself, everyone else, and everything on this planet this amazing gift.
This body is not an ornament or a toy to break and replace it is the holy vessel that holds me and tethers me to this world A useful container that houses the soul perfect and precious because it is uniquely mine the one thing I fully own, my true home the most important gift I could be given How ungrateful I've been for the mortal flesh that supports me my personal window into reality an unconscious effort that keeps me living Belittling all that this body does based only on shallow self judgement centered around outward appearance as if that even matters The frightened animal form my consciousness has been assigned to protect and take care of offering only criticism and neglect May I be a better steward to this living temporary temple and learn to speak to it with gratitude and soft caresses of loving kindness
If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.Dalai Lama
It feels like this sentiment has received a lot of backlash in recent years. People are offended when you suggest their lack of self-love somehow eliminates their potential to love other people. This quote is at the back of my mind a lot and I’ve thought about it in different ways at different points in my life. I believe both perspectives have validity to them. I don’t think it’s impossible to have love for other people if you don’t love yourself. I know the love I receive from the people in my life often makes it more possible for me to show myself love and compassion. But I don’t think that was ever the message trying to be conveyed. The message to me was that you can’t love others fully or as much as you would be able to if you loved yourself.
Relationships of any kind are very difficult for me. I do think it stems a lot from the way I love myself, or rather the way I don’t love myself. Throughout my life, all the relationships that have stuck were with people that are extremely open, loving, caring, and communicative. These people are the easiest for me to connect with, because I feel safe with them. And I guess to a certain extent, maybe they have the self-confidence and self-esteem to not take it personally when I am in one of my anti-social moods.
I’ve recently noticed how a lot of my other relationships break down over time. If the other person is not always openly expressing their good opinion of me or how much they value me and our friendship, I slowly start to convince myself that they don’t care about me. Because of this often mistaken perception, I pull away. They notice me pulling away, so they pull away. My suspicions are confirmed, and the friendship/relationship is dead. Without the presence of a palpable and verbalized unconditional love, I don’t ever feel secure enough to maintain a relationship with someone.
This stems directly from the way I feel about myself. I don’t believe I deserve friendship or love. It makes more sense to me that someone wouldn’t like me. I seek out cues to reinforce this belief whether they are there or not. It takes a LOT of weight and evidence in the opposite direction for someone to counterbalance my negative self-perception. Which can understandably be an exhausting dynamic for anyone without the predisposition to interact that way.
This is what I think it means when someone says you have to love yourself first. No, I’m not incapable of having meaningful, loving relationships. I’m fortunate enough to have several that I deeply value. BUT I would be available for forming close bonds with many different types of people if I had a higher amount of self-worth. My self-loathing makes it far too painful to be vulnerable with anyone that I’m not 100% certain will receive that vulnerability with positive regard and support. I’ve already rejected myself to such an extent that seeing that reflected by another person, whether real or imagined, is unbearable.
I don’t think you have to love yourself to love other people. But it does make it a hell of a lot easier.
The hardest part of yoga is letting myself breathe after 7 years of practice it still feels impossible I've heard that meditation can turn toxic if you let yourself spend it ruminating on the negative listening to that hateful little voice inside I don't know how to avoid that sharp pang of self-criticism and still breathe into my belly to find deep, full, relaxed breaths I've spent my whole life disassociating from that area avoiding myself even in the internal mirror of my own self awareness Only on my back can I let myself fully expand and take up space with the help of gravity to hold me and keep venomous thoughts at bay How can I learn to love all of myself when some parts cause me so much pain this undercurrent of overwhelm at the idea of accepting it's something I cannot change
I tested out a little journaling exercise the other day that I really enjoyed, so I thought I’d share it with all of you. As you may have picked up on from my poems yesterday, I went to a wedding this Saturday. Even though I was really excited, there was still a lot of anxiety surrounding that day. I’ve only been to one other wedding in my entire life. It was also going to fully take up one of my only days off for the week, which for me is a huge trigger for my anxiety. The night before I decided to lie in bed and journal for a bit before going to sleep. But instead of just letting my thoughts flow freely onto the page, I decided to try doing it a bit differently.
Normally I would have started writing about how anxious I was and how irritated I am at myself for being so stressed out about something so silly. I didn’t really feel in the mood to ruminate on the negative feelings I was already experiencing though. Instead, I started to write from the perspective of how I wanted to feel. There was a part of me that was excited and happy and looking forward to the next day. So I let that side of me take the reigns and remind me why I had nothing to fear. It felt like the way I used to write when I was a kid excited for a field trip or something.
I wrote about what a beautiful day it was going to be, how I was going to feel spending time with people I love, and all the little details about what the day would consist of that I was going to enjoy. I felt much better after I was finished. I really believe how well the wedding ended up going was directly effected by my positive focus the night before. It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I definitely want to start doing more journaling like this in the future.
I hope you give it a try and it is helpful to you. Let me know if you’ve done this before or if you have any other journaling tips/tricks to put you in a better headspace. I’d love to hear how you like to journal or what you’ve discovered or created that you find useful.
People always say you should be someone your past self would be proud of I see the dark eyes of the girl I used to be and wonder what she would think of me I have to smile because she would not be proud the person I am and aspire to fully embody will never be someone the teenage me admires her fearful heart is too tight to hold space for this form She would think that I'm weak and foolish for giving up on all the things she always thought we needed to be happy and being happy anyway She would cringe and moan about my smiling open heart pouring over her although she would still approve of my all black attire She would have never wanted this simple contentment I've found the surrender that saved me is her failure another indomitable spirit crushed by time And I hope this trend continues that who I am today would not even be able to grasp my future self in her magnificent, frightening expansion I want to look back in ten years and know that I have let go of the illusions I am still chasing after in my ignorance in favor of something real and inconceivable Then again maybe it was never our teenage selves we were trying to impress those moody, jaded, muddled versions of us that were impossible to deal with Each year I am peeling back layers reconnecting with the blissful, grateful innocence of the small child that had been slowly covered up full of love and curiosity and wonder Now she would be proud of me I can feel the look of awe upon her face as she looks up at me across the span of time eyes lit up by a joyous smile I think growing up is not linear phases of gathering knowledge and growth are paired with the careful work of returning to the pure, effervescent essence we've always had
There are over seven billion bodies breathing on this beautiful blue orb of ours surely I can't be dissatisfied with the only one that is mine When I consider all the forms I could inhabit the one I have is enchanting I wouldn't select another at random if I were given the chance From this perspective it's easy to see that each day should be a celebration of my unbelievably good fortune a silent prayer of thanks permanently on my lips How silly it seems now to criticize and complain about such an unlikely gift as this I couldn't have asked for a more splendid vessel to accompany and carry me on this journey There is no guarantee of getting to keep this treasure in awe of each step, each sight, each smell gratitude takes the place of discontent such a fine body to call my home
There is purpose in pain there is salvation in suffering there is peace is powerlessness teetering on the edge of oblivion is a balancing act that brings great strength blessings disguised as burdens bring unsuspecting hearts new perspectives sometimes joy is hard to find in a life of lavish excess the simple soothing sensations of aching needs finally met are lost in the gratuitous gamut of wealth and superfluous luxury even small happinesses are enough to feed a truly hungry heart there is no need to fear the fall it offers us cleansing from distraction a chance to uncover the real pleasures of a life unclouded by greed we flee from the emptiness clinging desperately to all we have forgetting that letting go is a lesson that teaches us we were enough all along
I recently read that one of the most important tips given to new race car drivers is, “whatever you do, don’t look at the wall.” When I heard this, it immediately reminded me of one of my very first practice driving sessions with my mom when I was a teenager. As I was driving 25mph down a street in my dinky little home town, my sister yells out from the back seat for us to look at a house to our right. Without thinking, I turn my head to look. In just that one split second, turning my attention away from the road and just to the side, I had swerved the car and nearly driven up onto the sidewalk. Whether you realize it or not, where you place your focus is the direction you are heading.
We say something similar when teaching arm balances in yoga. In teacher training when we practiced cues for bakasana (crow pose) we were told to always make sure to emphasize the importance of our gaze. If you look straight down between your hands as you try to lower your body’s weight forward onto the backs of the arms, you’re inevitably going to tumble forward and possibly hit your head on the floor. The trick is to look a few inches ahead of you. Looking forward, but not down. Our gaze is a reflection of our focus and intention and a reminder of how important these things are.
I think these physical examples are an excellent demonstration of how this same principle applies in more abstract matters. If you look at the wall, you’ll hit the wall. If you look at the floor below you, that’s where you’re going. If you focus on the potential problems or possible ways you might fail, that is where you’re going to find yourself in the future. It seems so obvious when I think about it in this context.
My anxiety is always directing me to the worse possible outcome. It would be great if I were able to print out a pie graph of my mental energy expenditure from day to day. I’d be willing to bet that 90% of my thoughts are about what I’m afraid of or what could go wrong. Even when things usually go pretty well for me, I always immediately find the next fear to latch onto as soon as one disappears. Somehow my brain convinces itself that it is doing this to keep me safe. And to a certain extent, it is smart to contemplate obstacles that may come up and how we can deal with them in the event that they do. However, this is not really what my anxiety is doing. It’s not coming up with calm, rational contingency plans. It’s telling me that the experience will be inherently stressful and traumatizing and trying to find a way to avoid it all together.
It’s really helpful for me to remember the real life examples of the way our focus determines our experience and even has an influence on future outcomes. Yoga gives us ample opportunities to practice these principles before putting them into action in other areas of our lives. Getting into an arm balance is scary. You’re quite likely to fall down the first few times you try. But if we focus on that fear or how it feels to fall and hurt ourselves, we’re never going to master bakasana! Focus on what’s in front of you. Focus on where you want to be or what you want to see happen. If you focus on falling you’re going to fall or perhaps never let yourself try in the first place.
Realizing and reminding myself that my focus on fear is not helping me to avoid it, but instead propelling me toward it, is exactly where I need to begin. Normally when I contemplate shifting my thoughts to the positives and letting go of my anxiety about any given situation, I become afraid that by not looking at the scary bits, they’ll sneak up on me or something. It’s like trying to keep your eyes on a spider at the corner of your room so that it won’t suddenly appear on your arm. But what if staring at that spider was an invitation for it to come over to you? You’d probably keep yourself busy with whatever you’re doing and leave it alone.
It’s time for me to start giving my energy to the good things in life that I want to create, not the parts that I want to avoid. If I focus on the good, I’ll naturally move past or through the obstacles in due time. When I let myself focus on only the scary parts of life, that is all I’m going to experience, whether my fears come to fruition or not. I’ll have already lived the worst of them out in my mind anyway. It’s okay to let myself think about the good things that might happen too or the things I hope will happen. It’s safe to let myself be happy. It’s safe to imagine a future full of positivity and light. In fact, that’s the first step towards manifesting that future.