Sharing Yourself with Others

Yesterday was my favorite holiday, Independence Day. I love being able to spend a day with my friends and family in the sunshine, by the water, enjoying fresh fruit and BBQ food. I also always like the opportunity to drink around them as strange as that might sound. Being a generally reserved person, having a little alcohol at family gatherings gives me the courage to be more affectionate with everyone. The only problem with that is sometimes I’ll make promises that sober me isn’t brave enough to keep.

One of the things I always think about is spending more time with my family. My grandmother is over 90 years old, and although she’s SHOCKINGLY healthy and spry, I know I have limited time with her. I think a lot about all the time I spent with her growing up. There was a point I even considered her more of a mom than my actual mom. She would babysit my sister and I while my mom was at work and for a few hours after school every day. Even as a teenager I would often stop by her house before going home from school once I started driving. She was always there for me. I told her everything. She taught me so much and I cherish every memory I have with her.

I honestly don’t know when I started to drift away. Maybe it was once I started college and I wasn’t as close by anymore. For awhile I really didn’t have the time either, although I certainly still could have called. It just seemed like the crippling anxiety I carried with me all through my youth never applied to her. Then at some point, all of a sudden, it did. I became afraid to go see her, afraid I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, afraid I’d be bothering her. The longer I’ve let this anxious energy remain, the bigger it has become.

Now that I’m older I feel similarly about my Aunt. She is an amazing woman whom I love and admire so much. Before I never thought she really cared to be close with my sister and I, but over the last few years that’s changed. These past two presidential elections have really pushed her and her husband apart. It’s also really hurt her relationship with all of her boat club friends. I get the sense that she feels alone now. I want to reach out more and spend more time with her, but I get so anxious at the idea that I usually avoid the thought all together.

As I was sitting with my feet in the damp grass this morning, setting intentions for my day, a new thought struck me. Whenever I’m considering spending more time with friends or family, my main focus is on convincing myself that even though the thought makes me anxious, I will feel better overall. Embarrassingly, this morning was the first time I really considered the other person involved, other than feeling guilty for not following expected social conventions and possibly letting them down. The idea rang through my head that this time that I want to carve out for my friends and family is a gift to them. It is an act of love and compassion. Giving of myself to bring them happiness.

Of course my self-defeating inner voice immediately tried to tear down that idea. “No one cares whether or not they hear from you or spend time with you. You are insignificant,” it tells me. I am constantly afraid of bothering people with my presence. But once again I am merely focusing on myself and my own ego. The fear of feeling unwanted, facing rejection, or feeling like a burden has kept me from forming deeper bonds with all the people in my life. Deep down I know that isn’t true though. My grandmother would never feel burdened by being with me more often.

Not only that, but it helps to remind myself that even if I were an annoyance, so what? I truly believe that the closer we are able to live to the way our distant ancestors lived, the happier we will be. In the tribal communities that once made up humanity, and even in more recent times in small rural towns, every member of the group had value. I don’t have to be perfect to deserve love and quality time with the ones I love. No one expects me to be perfect, except me. There are plenty of people in the world that are more aggravating and problematic than me that are still loved and embraced by those around them. We are all flawed, imperfect beings, but that doesn’t disqualify us from having meaningful, important connections with one another.

What's the Secret to a Happy Family Gathering? – Conquer the Crave – Plan Z  Diet

Sharing Suffering and Success

I stumbled across an article the other day that proposed an interesting thought experiment that I’d like to share with you all. I get so excited when I find a point of view that I’ve never even conceived of before. There is nothing better than reading or hearing something and experiencing almost a physical sensation of a shift inside your brain. Maybe I’m the only one that gets that sensation. Never-the-less I am eager to try out this new perception in my every day life. I am hopeful that it will be helpful to me and anyone reading this.

Through my readings on meditation, I have often come across the idea of imagining sharing your love and happiness to loved ones, strangers, and even enemies. This is often considered loving-kindess meditation. I’ve practiced this quite often when I meditate and it has certainly been transformative often leaving me with tears of love and joy. However, these types of practices, while helping me to grow more loving and patient, haven’t really helped me deal with and accept the times in my life when I am overwhelmed by negative emotions. I knew I needed to find a healthy way to acknowledge these feelings rather than avoid them.

The article that I read proposed that whenever you are feeling things like uncertainty, fear, pain, or sadness to imagine you are experiencing these things in the place of someone you love or even someone you don’t know. This was such an amazing idea to me. Although I don’t literally believe that I will be sparing my loved ones suffering by experiencing it instead, this helps me somehow. It has always been hard for me to lean into my unpleasant emotions. Thinking of them in this way allows me to accept those feelings more easily. It is helpful to think of others in this world that experience these same things and send them love and relief for a moment.

I am so excited to be entering this new year with such a wonderful new tool in my mental tool box. I hope that this allows me to live my life with more ease. I am so grateful to have access to so much information that I am able to use to improve my experience on this earth. I am also grateful for the chance to share what I learn with anyone who wants to listen. This year let’s all try to not only share our love, our happiness, and our success with others, but also our suffering. Let us lovingly take on the burden of another to lighten the world’s.

Free Vegan Resources

Even after six years of veganism I am still finding new and exciting additions to my bountiful collection of resources. This past week I have stumbled upon two that I just can’t help but share with everyone I can. The first one I found accidentally as I was looking into details of The China Study by T. Colin Campbell for a co-worker of mine. This individual despite being certified in nutrition and fitness training for some reason believes that cholesterol does not make someone any more likely to get heart disease!

This continues to astound me so I suggested he read The China Study because despite not having read it myself, I knew that it was the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and strongly advocated for a whole foods, plant-based diet. After only a few simple searches I was able to discover that there is a PDF of the entire book available for free online! Click the link to check it out. While I doubt my coworker will take the time to read it, I have been reading it myself, and have learned a lot so far. Although years of arguments with non-vegans has taught me that solid evidence and facts and peer reviewed research is still never enough to convince someone of something they are determined to deny, it is still a helpful tool to have if you do happen to find someone who is interested. It makes it even more accessible when you can find this type of information for free from such a credible source.

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The next incredible resource that I came across this week is perfect for those that hold the mistaken perception that veganism is expensive and difficult to manage. I was looking for a free plant-based meal and workout plan in order to help me get out of the plateau I have reached in my fitness journey. While I have yet to find exactly what I was looking for, I did find an incredible vegan meal plan that could greatly benefit others. I hadn’t ever even heard of the website Plant-Based on a Budget before. It would be a wonderful resource for anyone dipping their toes into a vegan diet. This site gives you a full month of meals including recipes and shopping lists all for free! (There are some you can pay for, but the link is to the free version.) You are even able to choose a plan based on how many people you need to feed. I could hardly believe something so helpful had been right under my nose this whole time.

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I have shared both of these websites on my Facebook page in the hopes that those too timid to attempt a vegan diet before will be emboldened by this new information. I have certainly grown a lot since I first transitioned to this lifestyle. Instead of flaring up arguments with aggressive, impassioned proclamations, I’ve learned to just live by example and share information in an open and compassionate way in the hopes that those who are ready will find it helpful. I’ve learned that there is always more to learn and discover even six years in.

I am continuously inspired by the ever-progressing availability and amount of information there is about veganism. Things have changes so much since I began this journey. Each day the choice becomes easier and easier for others to make. I truly believe that the only possible future for humanity is a vegan one. I hope we all get to see it.