Could eating meat be a spiritual act?
I was standing in a woman's womb activation circle at Bali Spirit Festival when women started sharing their visions and dreams to be manifested and collectively held by the group.
Women were shouting out things like “supportive partner!” and “teaching our kids about love and peace!”, when one woman called out “a vegan world!” and all the women moaned in alignment….all except for maybe me.
I want to begin by saying that I am in no way opposed to veganism. At least not from the sense of morality and environmentalism. I am however opposed to any rigid diet that has no end or clear intention and is potentially is creating self harm….even if it is in the name of doing no harm.
Let’s travel back in time for a moment. About 15 years ago is when I traveled to India for 4 months and became a yoga teacher. I was living in an ashram in Kerala when I was first introduced to vedic sciences, ayurveda, and began uncovering my self worth. It also was when I committed myself to being a vegetarian. I had dated a vegan a few years prior to the trip and had reluctantly eaten tofu and braggs amino acid but this trip opened my eyes to a world of spirituality that I wanted to embrace wholeheartedly. Abstaining from meat was a large part of this.
From the yogic viewpoint of Ahimsa, yoga's moral code of non-harming, eating meat is not “good”. And so began my journey (or strengthened my already present desire) to do things RIGHT, to be good, and to be moral/spiritual. I was on a path to enlightenment.
During that time (though I would have never admitted it aloud), I actually felt better than those who ate meat. They must not be as spiritual or self aware as me. Not as evolved. I was doing good for myself and for the planet. Or so I thought.
Not that I actually saw the connection at the time but I also had taken my health to a place of being pre-diabetic, my adrenals where haywire, my cystic acne was out of control, I couldn’t sleep for the life of me, I had anxiety that would give me panic attacks, was constipated and I was constantly bloated.
But I was a vegan yoga teacher. I rock climbed on the weekends. Taught 10 classes a week plus my private clients. Hiked regularly. In my mind, I was healthy. And I probably appeared to be as well.
It wasn’t until I was in my nutrition class in my Master’s program from Chinese medicine that I had a massive AHA moment around my diet and my health patterns.
I started to realize that many of my symptoms were actually due to blood deficiency, weak spleen function and nutritional deficiencies.
But what would this mean if I started eating meat? This completely contradicted all of my beliefs. All of my judgements towards others and myself. It was only 1 year prior at a party when I ate a piece of steak because I was slightly intoxicated and my body craved it that when I got home I forced myself to throw it up out of the guilt of eating the holy cow. The belief, the guilt and moral depth of the matter ran deep.
How could I start to eat meat again?
But after realizing that my diet was potentially doing me harm rather than good, I did something radical. I chose me. I chose me over my dogma.
And it wasn’t easy.
I held the belief that my stomach couldn’t digest it. That I would get gas and bloating. It would make me sick. I would get constipated.
And worst of all, it would make me a bad person.
So I started looking for avatars. People whom I admired and were spiritual but consumed meat. I needed to know that I was not a bad person for doing this.
I found out that the Dalai Lama ate meat. After becoming very ill, he had to start consuming meat medicinally.
This opened my mind to the idea of conscious and medicinal meat consumption. And for almost a year, my mantra would be “the Dalai Lama eats meat” when I would have a twinge of any negative thoughts or feelings surrounding my new conscious meat consumption.
In Chinese medicine, animal products are considered to be potent medicine. One should never eat meat in large quantities. It should be eaten as a condiment. Same in Ayurveda.
Although, when most think about Ayurveda they most definitely think about a plant based diet. However, in Ayurveda, no food is eliminated either, all foods are welcome. Plant based is a focal point because the obvious that plants are healthy and they are said to be more sattvic; meaning it promotes calmness, peace and clarity in the mind that it tends to be the focus.
However, many constitutions (particularly those with a lot of Vata) do well eating meat regularly and may feel depleted if they skip it altogether. Meat is incredibly nourishing and also very grounding so helps to pacify Vata
In Chinese medicine this would be patterns associated with blood or yin deficiency. As I mentioned that I realized I suffered from.
I started to see that all types of food could be used as medicine and that there is no one size fits all approach. That what one eats really is dependent on their state of health, the season, where they live and how they feel.
I started to see eating as a spiritual act. But not in the same way that I used to. It was more about releasing the polarity and duality.
It was more about listening to my body and it’s needs and less what my ego thought was right or wrong. It was allowing myself to be curious like a small child versus rigid in my beliefs.
I started slowly reintroducing local sourced medicinal meat in my diet. And my symptoms slowly started to fade.
Since then I have used food in so many different ways for my healing journey. I am grateful for all types of food and the energy they have provided me at different stages in my health.
I saw this instagram post today where this woman was complaining about never knowing what the “right” food was any more because of all the conflicting health advice.
And then I realized that the polarity still heavily exists within the health industry. We are constantly making each other right or wrong. Putting ourselves in boxes. Keto, plant based, paleo, raw foodist, AIP. Putting other in boxes.
Separating and sorting. Manically trying to feel a sense of control in what can sometimes feel like a scary chaotic world. Making ourselves feel better by doing the RIGHT thing, in a world where everyone else is so wrong.
But here’s the thing. A diet can’t save you. Nor can it save the planet.
So yes, eating healthy can definitely move you away from disease just as easily as it can move you towards it. But that alone won’t be enough. The rigidity, thought patterns, beliefs, low self worth, lack of self love are at the core of what needs to be brought to light as well.
And yes, eating more plants helps the planet but many times more packaging, synthetic vitamins, and foods shipped long distances are what supplement a diet lacking in animal proteins in the northern hemisphere. Which only perpetuates the petroleum abuse, the number one environmental polluter.
And as for the moral code of doing no harm?
It’s important to ask yourself, as I did, if you are causing harm to yourself by putting others first. And if the answer is yes, then ask yourself why you believe that you don’t deserve to thrive? You must really be able to be your own mother in this situation. Any mother would give her child any medicine if it meant the child being healthy and thriving. Part of our spiritual evolution is being able to be that mother for ourselves.
Now, I am not saying that meat medicine is always needed. This is not some plea to get everyone to start eating meat. There are many that can thrive on a purely plant based diet. But there are also many circumstances and constitutions that need the extra support.
The following are some signs and symptoms as well as some circumstances that may be inclined to need some meat medicine.
Signs and symptoms of blood deficiency:
Paleness of lips, nail beds, tongue, complexion
Dry hair, skin
Trembling or numbness in the arms or hands
Dizziness/Light-headed upon standing
Muscles strain easily
Anemia, nervousness, low back pain, headache (especially around eyes), scanty or painful menstruation
Palpitations, scattered mind, “spaced out” foggy thinking, poor short term memory, chest pain, insomnia (difficult to fall asleep), easily startled, dream-disturbed sleep
Excessive dreaming, insomnia (waking at night), blurred vision, “floaters” in eyes, spasms, cramps
Circumstances that may require meat medicine:
Living at high elevation. It is more difficult to make blood at high elevation.
After surgery or childbirth. Any time after you have loss a lot of blood.
Breastfeeding. This depletes jing and blood.
Chronic illness and states of deficiency.
It’s important to know that you can always use meat medicine to heal and then go back to a plant based diet once you feel better. The more flexible and intuitive you are with your diet, the better results you will have in using food as medicine.
I currently feel no need to put myself into a box that justifies my dietary choices. I consciously consume animal products based on the seasons and my health. In the fall and winter, when it is colder I increase my meat consumption. In the spring and summer, I decrease it. When I am at high elevation, I eat meat vs. currently in Bali (at sea level) I am eating very little. If I started feeling blood deficiency signs arise, I would increase it as well.
Diet is meant to be fluid and ever changing. Just like all aspects of the natural world.
And to those women in that womb circle at Spirit Fest, I would respond, Let’s not wish the world to be vegan but rather wish every person to radically love themselves, listen to their deepest needs, see their truths, and make conscious choices.
That would radically transform our world.