Thursday, 26 May 2011

Green Shoots

By now, all readers will know I'm a vegetarian. The title of this blog literally gives it away. As we're in the throes of National Vegetarian Week, I'm dedicating this post to veggies – old and new, and those mulling over the prospect. I'd like to think we've come a long way since vegetarianism first began, but some attitudes still frankly consume me. Being veggie is not always enough to change entrenched societal views.

What I'd like to focus on here is the value we place on animals. The belief that not all are necessary or desirable. We do this to humans too, but we're less likely to admit it. Classified “not human” seems to make this belief somehow more acceptable. I find myself unable to negotiate this criteria regardless of the subject: human or non-human form. Further still, I can't understand how some people can be directly involved in an animal's care, yet not face a dilemma in eating them. Not blink an eye when it comes to the prize – their highly valued meat. Except we don't even value this enough, thinking it's our right to partake. Surely an infringement of animals' rights, if animals were supposed to have any.

Studies have shown animals are self-aware, feel and perceive pain and emotions too, yet the human need to consume them is great. Able to detach the animal in the field from the meat on the plate. My belief meat-eaters should consume in full knowledge. I want children and adults to know where their food comes from, to see food close up and living, before placed on trucks for the supermarket. To make an informed decision. Transparency, the new golden rule. Well, I want this in the food industry too.

Animals taken for granted as substance when our environment has changed. We no longer need meat to sustain. The latter, a factor I'd like to see publicly defined. Eating meat a choice, not a precondition of life. Is it only veggies that question this human-made condition: the assumed hierarchy of life? Some would argue humans are placed in the position of stewardship, guardians of other life forms on Earth. I support this view up to a point, but oppose the accompanying notion, which implies animals are owned by us to be used as resources. Where does it state explicitly this is how life's meant to be? The power to speak words is not a strong consent, nor does it imply animals are not our equals.

I'd like to think in future this sense of dominion will diminish and be replaced by a coequal existence. The ideals voiced above are just that – green shoots for the movement, although we need green shoots in the form of members too. Make the pledge if it feels right for you. Our duty to impart the general rule: Eat, question and consider. A principle we all can do.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Nice To Meat You

For veggies the month of May is significant. National Vegetarian Week (23rd-29th May) the reason. These dates, a permanent fixture in our diaries since the year began. A celebratory week filled with events and mouthwatering recipes to promote vegetarianism. Encouraging others to give it a go. The Vegetarian Society championing this year's big idea: the veggie pledge. Give up meat for the week.

One week is not a lot to ask, to see how you go. Meat eaters may even enjoy it, perhaps bring a spring to their step. A veggie life not bland, with abundant veg and meat-free alternatives to try. Think of the animal lives you're saving, your body will thank you for it too. Meat, often no longer a treat, but a strange compulsion to chew. I should know, I used to be a meat eater too. Turning over this new leaf 17 years ago. I don't regret my choice. It's opened up a whole new world of tastes, textures and flavours. My palate expanded, far beyond any words that could describe. My connection to food and the world around me enhanced by this very stance.

You may think this is a PR stunt, but I prefer to think of it as advocating this path. Vegetarianism has brought me many benefits, my belief it could do the same for others too. I'm healthier in mind, body and spirit, and no I don't care if this sounds a little holistic. Going veggie a journey, where I've learned to value who I am and life. Meat eaters missing out on so much just by hating their vegetables. Funnily enough, I once felt the same. Green veg not allowed to even grace the plate. Now feeling cheated if green's a colour absent from the dish. Beans, lentils and pulses, a discovery I won't forget. The myth, once you adjust, being far from true. Carnivores though might find it easier to try the meat free alternatives. Many to explore if you require that meaty taste and texture.

Nobody's saying this transition has to stick. The veggie pledge a challenge to meat freaks. Recovered meatoholics, like myself, would have more respect for others if the favour was returned. Test out our way of life, even if you harbor doubts that it will suit. The support is there if you dare to enroll or choose to persist when the week's through. Just visit the links below for further info.

I'll leave you with this call, which veggies might say in Brucie style: “Roll up, Roll up, get your meat free grub. Nice to meat you, nice.”

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Perfect Blend

Community, the latest in a long line of Government trends, but how do you get that perfect blend? Neighbours, my single word reply. For me, this conjures up my favourite lunch or tea time treat. This Aussie success an addiction since knee high. Running home from school or work to catch each half-hour episode. Neighbours, my chance to unwind, leave my troubles behind and forget my day. Nobody dares interrupt this schedule – no point in being ignored or receiving a tongue-lashing. Other soaps unable to rival this affection. What is the magnetic attraction? The altogether different scene – the other side of the world? The strong association to growing up, from child to teen, and now adult? Perhaps, it's the Ramsey Street residents themselves? Their fostered community spirit.

The theme tune plays out and I sing along – an automatic reaction whenever I hear the song. The show begins and I sit enthralled until the end credits roll. Pause button off, my day resumes to contemplate our anti-social trend. “Everybody needs good neighbours”, the theme tune claims, but this seems far from true. Many of us wishing the neighbours were not friends and even miles away. Is the once golden rule:- Do unto others as you would like them do unto you no longer a rule at all? Made a partial fact by our narrowed view? All of us quick to judge others, when judgment only lies within ourselves.

I am the perfect example of this notion, but I take a broader view. Intensely protective of my space and person, I prefer to know others on superficial terms. To allude to who and what I am. Naturally friendly, I chat to strangers or acquaintances in the street, but different people know different levels of my being. A chameleon, I change to suit conditions, revealing only what I wish. All these aspects of ME are true, but I ask: Can you ever know the whole person? I don't think you can. You can know others well, fall into easy conversation, but you can never know completely what they're feeling or thinking. Does this matter? Here's where we mess it up...

We think we have a right to know, to put words in others mouths. Committing others to heaven or hell based on their beliefs. This isn't what “love thy neighbour”is all about. Its love in many forms. From our neighbours next door to our neighbours abroad. Why does this view not hold up? Often used instead to incite hate or intolerance towards fellow beings. The rest of us preferring to shut the door, not connect to individuals we consider different. Perhaps the Neighbours lyric should read: “With a little apprehension, you can lose the perfect blend”.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Om

I sit cross-legged, hands lightly placed on knees and eyes closed. Inhale and exhale – puffs of air escaping from my mouth and nose. “Ommmmmmm”, I gently chant. Calming my thoughts, going within. Does it work? Not always. Thoughts rippling to the surface whenever I dare to close my eyes. Momentary flashes of inspiration I have to scribble down. Mind operating faster than I can write. SLOW DOWN I instruct myself, mind overriding this command. Thinking, analyzing, contemplating, details considered from every angle... Switching off my problem since birth. Worrying, the general term.

Meditation, the new-age answer to control the mind and so I try, combined with yoga and pilates too. The latter giving me flexibility and core strength. Relaxation bliss, but meditation a work-in-progress. A practice not easy to achieve. Rules for meditation often too rigidly applied. I find I cannot meditate as described above, preferring to lie, or sit in my comfy Ikea chair. 5-15 minutes grabbed here and there, before leaving for work or on a quick break. Mantras and chants not for me. Closing my eyes, blocking the outside world from view. Where should I focus my attention? On conscious thoughts now bubbling away? Or should I let these fade? Is this even meditation I ask myself? In truth, I have no idea.

Right or wrong an everyday concern. Why should this be so? Some practices best left out of this approach. Meditation one. If it feels right for you, no need to argue the case. My best ideas the outcome of this solitude, conceived from this not so silent inner void. Affirmations, a ploy used to detach. Inwardly repeated, beginning with “I am...”, aligning the mind to all I want to be. The essence of who I am. These my “oms”, my “it is” or “will be”. What I will become. The energy guiding us and all around.

I used to pooh-pooh all of the above, not realizing my contemplation throughout the years was a form of being still. An only child, being lost in thought was a natural sin. Buried deep in thinking or nose in a good book, chapters read aloud to the family dog. Little has changed from then to the present interval - the mind ceaselessly whirring away. Meditation, now my tool to quiet this cognitive beast, bringing calmness to my day. Initially, I shied away, thinking meditation was clich̩. It belonged to yoga and those following the way. I disliked the automatic link to my veggie life. Society believing this to be true Рif I'm veggie, then I'm bound to be a hippy and a nut. Spiritual pursuits seeming to further ridicule my choice in the eyes of others.

Does vegetarianism and meditation go hand in hand? That I do not know. Nowadays I mind this association not so much, knowing I can pick and choose. Practicing what feels right, leaving what does not suit. Om connecting me to my inner core. I am the one gaining more.