*Deep Breath* I have fought against myself for months about writing about this topic. I know I am opening a whole can of worms here, but the signs and feelings are clear-- I need to write about it. This article is for you omnivores out there who choose to eat meat and, fuck, even enjoy it. This article is for you vegans and vegetarians out there who want to understand a bit more about how people can eat animal meat and still follow a spiritual path-- and in fact, eating meat can be a spiritual practice.
First let me say that NOT eating meat may be an extremely important part of your spiritual path. It may have become clear to you that you cannot and should not eat meat-- for perhaps many reasons. That's wonderful and valid. BUT. It can also be true that eating meat may be an extremely important part of you spiritual path. At some point on your path you may realize that you can and should eat meat. This is also wonderful and valid.
All that said, there is a persistent belief and practice that highly conscious individuals cannot, should not, or do not eat meat and if you too stop eating meat, you can be more evolved/conscious/awake/compassionate.
Yet again, I'm using this blog to call bullshit.
Particularly, what is driving me to write about this, is I was once at a weekend spiritual retreat that was BYOLunch and I had brought some leftovers that contained meat for my lunch-- I actually like to eat meat when I'm doing deep spiritual work, because it grounds me and nourishes me. I might fast or go off of meat for a few days beforehand, but sometimes during-- and always after-- my body and soul crave some meat to bring me back to earth. More on this in a minute. But the point is, I was at this retreat which was BYOL but there were signs all over the communal kitchen that it was a vegetarian space only. On the one hand, I can respect that. On the other hand, however, I felt shame, embarrassment and exclusion because I hadn't been made aware of that rule beforehand. Was I such a dunce to even consider that it was an option to bring a meat-based lunch? Did everyone else know something else I didn't know? Are they sneering behind my back? (they weren't).
The thing is, rules are an illusion. There is no rule that you must not eat meat if you want to be spiritual. And if you are creating those rules, or creating shame for yourself because you can't stick to those rules, hear me again: rules are bullshit illusions.
Now, I also know that not eating meat is often a stand against animal cruelty. I fully support this and practice this myself. The meat I eat is not cruelly treated. You might wonder how killing an animal to eat it is anything but cruel, but that's a very lopsided view of life and death and I'll explain more about that in a moment. If I somehow do eat inhumanely curated meat, it shows up almost immediately in my body as stress and cystic acne, evidence that it's not nourishing or grounding.
It is possible to eat meat that is not cruelly sourced. And if you are a meat-eater, I highly encourage you to do this.
I've watched all the documentaries. Trust me. I started a pretty damn successful food blog in 2004, I wrote my Master's thesis on how food creates and sustains cultural identity and legacy, I used to be married to a holistic chiropractor and now I'm married to eco/sustainable/organic farmer and rancher. I've read the books. Watched the documentaries. I've dabbled in veganism and vegetarianism. I still eat meat. Here's why:
1. I don't believe that eating plants is any less violent than eating animals. Everything must die to bring about new life. Just because you can't hear a plant or see a plant's facial expressions, doesn't mean they aren't animated. I believe there is as much of a soul in a stalk of grass as there is in a cow. In fact, plants suffer a long slow death when picked and packaged and then shipped to grocery stores. I don't get hung up on this. I just do my best, make the best possible decisions that I can in the moment, and get on with my life because I am at peace with death. I accept that an animal or a plant (or fruit/vegetable) must die so that I can live. I accept that someday I must die so that another generation may live. (please note that I am not making a direct correlation that says not eating meat = being ignorant about death. I'm not. Nor is the reverse inherently true. It just happens to be true for me).
2. From watching all the documentaries and reading all the books, oh and from being married to an ethical rancher, I know that it is possible to get ethically sourced meat and other animal products. Boycotting these products on the whole, vs. supporting the conscious farmers who are trying to make a difference, isn't going to bring about the change you want to see in the world. People will always eat meat. So let's boycott the inhumane treatment of animals, yes, but don't boycott the humane and conscious farmer at the same time. He or She is depending on you.
We have several cows, goats, chickens, ducks and other animals. When a cow reaches old age, we will butcher her. We give her some yummy food, maybe say some kind words or even shed a tear She literally never feels fear or stress or knows that it is coming. It's not an easy thing, emotionally, for my husband to do it BUT he does it because he believes it is the best thing for the cow. Why? Well aging is hard and painful on cows. They are huge animals with relatively weak and vulnerable legs. And also, when you live on a farm you know that everything must contribute, everything must pull it's weight. We save the cow from a long and miserable decline into death, she provides nourishment to us. That's the circle of life folks.
We also keep our calves and cows together for several weeks before weening the calf (and it has to happen at some point, I've seen a grown cow WITH HER OWN CALF, still sucking on her mother because she was never weaned. It's really hard on the mother to have a daughter the same size as her, pushing her around and trying to suck her dry), but we do ween the calf and we do keep milking the cow for ourselves. Why? Well, 85% of that milk is turned into cheese, which we sell at the farmer's market, which pays for the animal feed/supplements and other necessities. Which makes it so we can actually afford to have cows, which means the cows we have are in a loving environment vs. being born to a stock yard or worse. It's all part of the economy. You give us milk, we'll give you everything you need including peace and quiet and beautiful green pastures. Cows (goats either for that matter) do not make great or inexpensive pets. They require maintenance and that requires time and money. To give a cow a good life, we need to get milk from her and, someday, meat. Support your local conscious ranchers!
3. Truth be told, while we are meat eaters, we don't eat meat all that often. Once every 7-10 days at most and it's always our own meat that we have processed start to finish ourselves. I recognize that in this manner I have a unique blessing and access to high quality, ethically sourced meat, so I can stand here and say "eating meat is spiritual too." And it is. But having access to that meat is easier for me than it may be for you. However, if you are a meat eater, please support your local ethical farmer, or become one yourself. If you can't afford to eat ethical meat, then maybe youyou just eat it once or twice a month. That's your call and, more importantly, none of my business.
If you are a lifelong vegetarian or a vegan who has changed her life with a vegan lifestyle, congratulations. You are a rare fairy whose body does well without meat. It is a myth that EVERYBODY can do well without meat (I've tried). But if your body is giving you clues that it's time to add a little meat into your diet, please don't punish your beautiful body by making it adhere to rules that aren't real. Your life is too precious and valuable. Just eat a local, organic, pasture-raised burger once in awhile if that's what your body needs. Please?
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan who does not judge or shame those of us who eat meat: THANK YOU. There's enough out there in the world to create friction and disharmony. I honestly appreciate your efforts to not add to separatism and your maturity to see that two things can be true at once.
But wait. How exactly is eating meat a spiritual practice?
Well, this varies from person to person and season to season. For me, my ancestors love a nice piece of fresh meat as an offering. I'll cook some up for myself and give some to them on their altar, raw. We partake, commune, together.
Meat is also really grounding and nourishing, energetically, and many of us on a spiritual path need that. Maybe not all the time, but I would say at least once or twice a month is a good idea. The New Age mainstream spirituality loves to focus on the upper chakras, but the truth is, if we are highly activated in the upper chakras but poorly supported in the lower chakras, we can become sick, imbalanced, disassociated, delusional, spacey and inadvertently invite a lot of chaos into our lives. The reverse is also true if we are more activated in our lower chakras than our upper chakras.
We are incarnated on the earth plane, the physical plane. We are meant to have dense, physical bodies. Yes, meat has that dense, lower chakra energy. Many people shun meat BECAUSE of these dense qualities, as if eating enough plants will make them magically float away on cloud and as if that's actually the point of life on earth. . . WTF? To those people, I question: what pain are they trying to avoid? What are they trying to escape from? What are they trying to not feel? Why do they want so desperately to be made of air and energy rather than flesh and bones. I'm seriously asking. What unresolved issues do they have with death? Dying? Aging?
Is it possible that if you have a unrelenting desire to escape your human condition, to return to source, that you incarnated here on Earth, where we are dense and physical and under the illusion of being separate from source, precisely to work through those escapist desires, not to enable them? I'm not suggesting that eating meat= all your esoteric fears and problems magically disappear. But I AM suggesting that being afraid to eat meat could be a symptom of a larger fear, a fear you've incarnated to face.
But, again, consciously choosing to not ingest animal flesh or products because it feels icky or off to you is also a perfectly good reason to not eat animals or animal products! It's okay if it is as simple and straightforward as that, and I hope it is.
Eating meat is also a great opportunity to reflect on the fact that your life costs lives. From the lives of animals to the lives of your ancestors. Let eating meat be your reminder to stop for a moment and give thanks to these lives. Let it be your moment to remember that life is a circle and that someday, you will be required to also lay your body down on that sacrificial altar. Let it remind you that you are not, actually, a god or a goddess, but a mortal with this one precious life. Let it remind you that Death will come for you. How do you want to live?
Finally, I believe that consciously farming and ranching is spiritual and certainly part of an individual's spiritual path. We need to support these individuals, not blanket boycott their work because of the ill-practices of the masses.
Thank you for reading this,