The web of life and eating meat: People look at you and only see the “you” that’s presently there on the surface. It can be hard to imagine all the changes any human has gone through in their lifetime. I’m no different. As a well-known vegetarian author and chef, I was asked last week on Facebook about eating meat. Several FB friends were not excited about eating meat, yet they needed to, for health reasons. I was empathetic. Little did they know I was looking at this issue myself.
Last weekend I couldn’t get comfortable in my own skin. Usually it’s OK, being a skinny aging white woman. Yet for some reason I was struggling big time. The Cochiti Pueblo dances were happening an hour south of me. We go when we can, to bear witness and support. An old friend (older than me) was singing and playing out there on the hot sun-baked plaza of Cochiti, I knew, with more than a hundred other people from the Pueblo. Right livelihood, right actions. Singing to the Elements, singing to invite the rain. Awareness, heart and action combined.
A couple of hours north in Taos another sacred gathering was happening. Other friends were coming from all over the States to commemorate the week-long opening of the new Hanuman temple and Gurupunima, the day to honor our spiritual teachers. Baba Neem Karoli’s visage and inner presence would be all over that gathering. There would be great veggie food.
I’d made a decision to stay put in the forest in Pecos and send White Tara prayers to any and every practice for the benefit of all sentient beings. But I was struggling. There was a choice point in front of me.
Clients sometimes ask me as a respected Ayurvedic nutrition educator, “What do you eat?” I point to all the recipes in the veggie cookbooks I’ve written, The Ayurvedic Cookbook, Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners, Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, and also add, “Yet we’re all different. You need to eat what’s healing for you.” Assuming that what I eat will be healing for someone else, may or may not be true. In truth, what’s most balancing for me is not a strict vegetarian diet, despite my love for it. This was part of what I was struggling with in the Pitta heat last weekend in hot Pitta July, despite the occasional cool breezes coming through the trees.
When I was in the fifth grade in elementary school, I got pudgy. My family were not vegetarians by any means, yet my mother made great vegetables (canned, frozen, or fresh). We six kids would fight it out for the last bite of cooked frozen spinach in the serving bowl. We helped our dad in the garden (or else). All in all, this instilled a life long interest in vegetables for me.
I also got lucky. As the oldest grandchild, I was shipped down to Clearwater, Florida to spend time with my maternal grandparents. A rare two weeks of being an only child, going to the beach, being out of the stifling humidity of a Midwestern summer with no place to play but cornfields. Grampa and Gramma went out to eat. They treated me to adult-sized seafood platters and all the dessert I wanted. I was in Seventh Heaven. The attention was fabulous. The food was great: batter-fried fish, fritters…to this day I have an abiding fondness for Southern food.
My mother, being a fashionista and relatively health-conscious, was appalled when I got home. Her chunky daughter. The battles began (well, let’s face it, continued . . .we each still are stalwart in asserting our independence from whatever role the other projects).
Eighth grade: I was the biggest kid in my girls’ required home economics class. (Which in retrospect really wasn’t that big by today’s standards; current people have accomplished more.) At the beginning of fall semester, we lined up to be measured, height and weight, publically, as was the case in those days. When I stepped off the scale and the teacher announced my weight, I was shocked. How did I get there? Well, I wasn’t stupid: I was also the tallest. Tall people will weigh more. Still. It wasn’t a comfortable time.
Fast forward fifty some years. Now I’m at the other end of the scale, literally. In Ayurveda, we all have three biological energies known as the doshas, and we travel with one unique combination of these doshas our entire lives, referred to as our prakruti or constitution. My constitution is Pitta-Vata, impassioned fire-water Pitta energy mingled with curious air-space Vata. There’s another dimension beyond constitution, though.
The doshas, besides establishing our constitutional type and nuancing the weather, health, and dozens of other aspects of life, also watch over all of us throughout the span of our lifetimes. It’s the same order for everyone. Moist sturdy Kapha dosha watches over the childhood years; warm Pitta’s time is adolescence thru mid-life; cool dry Vata is with us as we age. This is regardless of whether we have a Vata, Pitta, or Kapha constitution. Baby fat is associated with Kapha time of life.
If Vata dosha gets unstable and increases, ojas (our vital immunity) can go down. Holding on to weight, being stable in our core, mind, and guts – can change. Keeping Vata balanced as we age in Vata time of life can be more challenging. (As many women in menopause can attest, as well as those men in andropause.) Grounding Vata in the midst of change, travel, excessive stimulation, distraction is also tough – at any age.
I love veggie diet. I just lose weight easily on it (poor soul, you say) – now. I would not have lost weight so easily on it as a kid. Yet it’s the Vata time of life. It’s harder for light mobile Vata to hold on to weight. Things have changed. This is part of what I was facing in the forest last weekend. I’d given myself weeks to gain weight on veggie diet, and it wasn’t happening. No matter what my mind wanted or the Ayurvedic cook in me did, my Blood type O body wasn’t going for it – again.
(Pause here for a huge shout out to the veggie clients I work with who have successfully gained or lost healthy weight on a veggie diet – you know who you are. Bravo!)
The pudgy 5thgrader feasting her way through life craved approval, despite her outer defiant attitude. She’s still alive in me today. It would be nice to be an easeful veggie and create happiness for my honored Hindu Ayurvedic mentors. It would be great to be able to cook decent fresh beef or yak dishes for my respected Tibetan teachers, yet my experience is with vegetables. In their web of life eating meat is often a part of life. It would be fun to delight my vegan business mentor Brian (he’s a Kapha-Pitta and does quite well with vegan diet) and join his robust plant-based community. Yet when it comes to food, I’ve learned, give up on approval.
I’m grateful. While I’m currently skinny, my health is okay. My appreciation for the sacred is intact. Yet I know from past experiences, if I keep losing weight, my health could easily get unstable. (Remember, increased Vata can mean decreased ojas, immunity.) I struggle with the same essential issues many of us do. I don’t want to kill animals. I want to honor ahimsaas much as possible. I’m also a part of the web of life. This is a dry place I live in, northern New Mexico. I’m willing to give my body and its moisture at death to the earth and whatever creatures will benefit from it. I figure there needs to be some give and take in life. We’re all a part of everything.
Making people wrong for what they choose to eat is not my story. It’s my job as a nutrition educator to let you know some of the easier ways to meet your healing goals. Yet what you do with my years of experience and advice is up to you. In the web of life eating meat will be a choice some of us need to make.
So what did I do? Tune in later today for . . .Web of Life Eating Meat 2.
Image thanks to Ankita Gkd from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/photos/spider-wild-life-web-green-3900025/
Amadea Morningstar, MA, RPE, RYT is expert in Ayurveda and Polarity Therapy health care. Amadea has taught about Ayurveda, Polarity, and Marma Therapy at Kripalu, Omega, the Sivananda ashrams and venues around the world.
She meets you where you are, and is available with respect, bringing over 40 professional years of experience, academic training and hands-on knowledge to her sessions, teaching, and books. Sessions with Amadea include Western nutrition, Ayurvedic nutrition and herbalism, Polarity Therapy bodywork, Marma therapy, Integral yoga, and nature-based approaches.
She and Renee Lynn are co-creators of the Easy Healing Drinks series.