What It Means to Be Imperfectly Vegan
Following a vegan diet is healthiest for both humans and the earth. However, a traditional vegan diet is too extreme for most people to want to attempt. Even the most committed vegans will falter, whether consciously or not. This is why SacredExploration in the San Francisco Bay Area has come up with a new kind of plant-based lifestyle known as “ImperfectlyVegan.” By following this kind of lifestyle, you are providing huge benefits not only to yourself, but also to our communities, animals, and the planet. The degree to which someone is ImperfectlyVegan depends on his or her personal level of commitment, experience, and circumstances, all of which may change at different points in time. Being ImperfectlyVegan thus offers all the health advantages of being vegan without undue pressure to be absolutist or extremist. Being Imperfectly Vegan is a lifestyle, not a destination.
Individual Relationship With Food
You Are Cordially Invited
We begin this journey into the sacred art of eating with an invitation to remind ourselves of the fact that we have the gift of free will, the ability to make choices. All of our actions, especially eating, require us to exercise our free will. This is no easy task with the abundance of food choices available to us today. With hundreds of thousands of food products constantly being marketed to us, our society have become sadly desensitized to the inherent value of food. This disconnect with food is a significant contributor to our current health crisis. And yet, it is the simple fact that we have free will that offers personal hope for renewed health and healing.
Whether it is obvious or not, we have at all times a number of choices regarding the food we eat. First of all, we always have the choice of eating or not eating. Additionally, we usually have the choice of deciding what foods we want to eat. We always have the choice of how much of a particular food we want to eat. This means that while the fast food industry is responsible for super-sizing our food choices, we cannot really place the blame on them for our national obesity epidemic since it is ultimately our choice as to whether or not to buy into their marketing strategies. Instead, we can exercise our free will. We can use our “ability” to “respond” to the infinite number of food decisions facing us each and every day to make choices that nourish our bodies, minds, and souls. With practice, these decisions become easier and easier to make.
What Does It Matter?
Based on the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control, for the first time ever we will soon be facing a generation whose mortality rate will be greater than that of its parents. This is because overweight and obesity contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, all of which lead to premature death. So not only does what and how we eat impact our overall longevity, it also impacts society as well in terms of overburdening the medical institutions required to sustain the results our self-indulgent attitudes.
More importantly, the quality of our lives is at risk here. Aside from our faith, food is the primary factor within our control that impacts both the long-term and short-term quality of life. How could the food we eat not matter when it is our bodies that support us in everything that we do in our lives – from hugging a child or comforting a hurting friend to being able to sustain the demands of a complicated and rewarding daily job? When we are taking care of our bodies, we are in alignment with our true nature. By educating ourselves about how to live well and then putting that knowledge into practice, we actually spend less time preoccupied with our bodies and health because they are well. As Eubie Blake said, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”
Communal Relationship With Food
What social occasion does not involve food? Whether it is a birthday party or funeral, religious or national holiday, graduation, wedding, staff meeting, or family dinner, food brings us together around the table of life. Despite our human differences — gender, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, political party, religious orientation — we are all dependent upon food for life. Food illustrates the fact that we are more similar than we are different from one another.
Love Thy Neighbor?
While we all share in the act of eating, it is seemingly common to set our ideals for good nutrition aside when it comes to our own communities. The amount of junk food that circulates through our public school system, for example, is appalling! It is only recently that this issue is being noted and addressed. And why do we engage our children in healthy activities like soccer, baseball, and swimming and then reward them after a practice or game with mini-packages of cream-filled cookies or gummy snacks? A thought to “chew on” here might be that perhaps this personal lapse in our “good intentions” somewhat echoes the lapses in our own expressions of spiritual integrity. The pursuit of oneness, or the wholeness of our beings is, after all, about the true integration and expression of our highest principles.
In March of 2005, headlines read: “Obesity spreads across the Atlantic to Europe: Weighty problem now as big as in U.S.” How can we possibly have a good feeling about such disturbing information? One theme that we see over and over is how the populations of other countries that are slowly but surely expanding their girth are doing so by becoming more like us! They either immigrate to the United States and begin to adopt our lifestyle, or we push our convenience-based lifestyle onto theirs (Coke, McDonalds, etc.) so that they begin to suffer the same physical fate as ourselves.
Paradoxically, there are 34 million people in the United States — including 13 million children — who suffer from hunger. As distressing as hunger is in the US, its prevalence is greater and its consequences more severe in developing countries.
Extending the impact of our food choices to our global community, we now begin to recognize the impact that our food choices have at the local, national, and global levels. The amount of water needed to make one McDonald’s hamburger, for example, is roughly equal to the amount of water used by a family of four in the Amazon in one month. That’s because we need water to grow the plants that feed the cattle. The amount of vegetable protein used to grow cattle for our fast-food chains is equivalent to the world’s protein deficiency. Meat production is tremendously energy intensive, while production of plant food is 10 to 100 times more energy efficient. On a vegetarian diet, the world has enough resources to feed several times the current world population. As long as a minority of the world’s population demands large quantities of meat, there is going to be a life and death struggle for food somewhere in the world.
It is not necessary to give up meat completely in order to participate in global healing. 60 million people could be fed adequately with the grain that would be saved if Americans reduced their meat intake by just 10 percent!
Environmental Relationship With Food
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
This is it. The alarm clock has sounded. It is now imperative that we awaken to the fact that we are all one — one with ourselves, one with each other, and one with the planet. It is time for us to ask the difficult questions: How will we care for ourselves? How will we care for the earth? Will we continue to plunder the earth’s natural resources, or will we recognize ourselves as a species among species and adopt environmentally sustainable lifestyle practices?
The Human Body as a Microcosm of the Earth
Only by entering into a mutually supportive relationship with the earth do we have any chance of saving it from ourselves. We can begin by celebrating the human body as a microcosm of the earth: Indeed, the human body is composed of the same elements in the same proportion as the earth: three quarters water and one quarter solid, organic and inorganic.
As an exercise in learning to experience our mutual dependency, imagine being pregnant with the earth, connected by a cosmological umbilical cord which both nourishes and removes waste. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn has pointed out that “Even if you do not have a baby in your womb, the seed is already there. Even if you are not married, even if you are a man, you should be aware that a baby is already there, the seeds of future generations are already there.” Placing the earth within our body helps remind us of our intimate connection with the natural world, and our great interdependence upon it for survival. By returning to the womb, we awaken to the fact that the human survives only within the larger complex of ecosystems. Damage to any part of that system will eventually affect our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being.
Eating for Two: Gaía and You
Long ago, the Greeks called the earth Gaía. The Gaía hypothesis is an ecological theory which proposes that all living and nonliving things make up a single organism. Indeed, while the earth supplies us with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, nuts and seeds, how we in turn shop, cook, serve and dispose of food has a great impact on the environment. Here are some steps you can take to begin a mutually loving and supportive relationship with the planet that supports and nourishes you!
- Keep a grocery list to help limit the number of times that you need to visit the supermarket.
- Choose foods low on the food chain; that is, eat more plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts and seeds — and fewer animal foods which require more energy to sustain.
- Visit your farmer’s market where you can buy foods grown locally which require less transportation, packaging, and refrigeration.
- Carry reusable cloth or strong shopping bags.
- Use ‘real’ plates, cups and utensils instead of disposable ones.
- Run the dishwasher only when it is full.
- Give thanks on a daily basis for the blessings of this bountiful earth and its continuous, unflagging support of all its inhabitants!
What People Are Saying About Being Imperfectly Vegan
StaciJoy, Holistic Nurse
“‘Imperfectly Vegan’ is a very powerful term to me because it describes the way I eat in a way that gives me self-compassion for when I am not perfectly vegan. So when I eat a bit of goat cheese on my salad or a bite of a quiche, I still feel that I am being congruent with my description of being Imperfectly Vegan.”
Sean Butman, Naturopathic Detoxification Specialist
“Imperfectly Vegan, for me, is a mindset that I will not become dogmatic in my approach to being vegan. Although I’m vegan for moral, ethical, as well as health reasons, it’s my own path to walk, and if I mistakenly have something that had cheese or milk or honey in it, I won’t berate myself for it, and I won’t chastise the sources of that food and instead will still thank them for their efforts. It means knowing the difference between having compassion for all life on this planet, regardless of what that life looks like or which animal or plant kingdom we’ve placed it into. Imperfectly Vegan also helps me avoid using vegan philosophy to pretend I’m better than those who aren’t vegan.”
Phil Isaia, Spiritual Teacher
“Imperfectly Vegan resonates with me. Nobody’s perfect, after all. And it’s not oppressive. It takes the pressure off!”
Imperfectly Vegan Workshops
Each one of us has a unique, lifelong relationship with food. But for too many of us, our relationship with food is broken. We are born into amazing human bodies on a planet that serves up a bounty of food, yet our disconnection with our bodies and with the earth has led us into a global food frenzy. Serving up a much more expansive view of what it means to eat, Imperfectly Vegan workshops will lead us toward optimal levels of individual, communal, and environmental health, highlighting our relationship with food as a spiritual path that is both exciting and necessary. Presenting food in a way that is new and refreshing, Imperfectly Vegan workshops will catalyze desperately needed conversation and behavior change toward true integrity of body, mind, and spirit.
Shamanic exercises to break and release old unsupportive eating patterns
Shamanic exercises to create and integrate new supportive eating patterns
An eating meditation
An Imperfectly Vegan cooking demonstration
The benefits of expressing gratitude for our food
A scrumptious nourishing meal to satisfy the palate and soul
Connection with colleagues, neighbors, and friends, familiar and new
What it means to have a relationship with food
Ways to deepen your connection to the divine through your relationship with food
What oxidative stress is and how to minimize your risk of it for optimal health
How to nourish your relationship with food for the benefit of our individual, communal, and environmental well-being
What it means to be Imperfectly Vegan™
Ways to express gratitude for our food
- Recipes to take home
- Door prizes
- A signed full-color copy of “The Sacred Art of Eating”
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
Learn More About Our Vegan Community
For more information about Lisa’s personal and professional background in regard to the development of these play shops, click here. You can also give us a call or send us an email to learn more about our programs and workshops. We look forward to helping you attain the discipline and the spirituality you need to live the healthy lifestyle you’ve always wanted.
Join Our Imperfectly Vegan Community Today!
SacredExploration invites you to join our upcoming health and wellness programs and workshops. By doing so, we are not only helping ourselves but are also making a change in our society and our environment. Be part of our growing vegan community today and together we will ignite a green and eco-friendly revolution worldwide. For more details about our upcoming events, call us or visit our Events page.