Sunday, 13 March 2011

Meat Free

"God sleeps in stone, breathes in plants, dreams in animals and awakens in man." — Hindu proverb

I was first introduced to the Yoga principle of 'ahimsa' ( non-harming) almost purely by accident at the end of a very beautiful and intense Jivamukti session with Sharon Gannon and David Life. To bring the three hour long practice to a close, Sharon proceeded to whip out her Kirtan and chant the beautiful words : 'Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu' followed by its english translation : ' May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all'. This being my first Jivamukti class, I was completely swept away by the peaceful hum of the Kirtan and the positive energy that seemed to vibrate between one yogi to the next as a whole roomful of people began singing energetically in unison. I had never experienced music live in this way before, certainly not in a Yoga class and I was immersed in the ecstatic chorus of chanting.

Then, amidst the singing, Sharon began to add in her quiet, milky voice, that chanting along to this prayer was to take a solemn vow against the harming of another and causing pain and suffering to another living being. 

'So far so good', I thought, 'I would never dream of inflicting pain on another living creature if I could help it..Lokah Samastah...' 

Cue Sharon's voice: ' That is why, when we have meat, we are causing hurt to another living creature and we consume that hurt and pain... To those of you who are new here, please sing along only if you are ready to commit to the cause of not eating any animal meat or product and are willing to commit to a life of veganism...'


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Not eat meat? Ever? 

Being an omnivore all my life, I had never considered the option of not indulging in the odd roast now and again. Since young, all my favourite dishes I associate with home, family and love all contained some sort of meat in them be it chicken soup, steamed fish or meat balls. However, struggling for some recognition contrary to this nostalgic sentimentality was the sudden jolt of ethical awakening triggered by the seemingly most innocuous of chants. Of course, there was also the question of preserving the integrity of Yoga.  How could one reconcile committing a practice to love and peace, if upon rolling up the mat, you reach for some chicken meat which was obtained from some poor battery hen then pumped full of water to lend the illusion of succulent, tender flesh? Compounded onto all this ethical pressure mounting inside me was also the deluge of ethical political correctness pervading popular media documentaries (e.g. Food Inc). It is enough to make an omnivore yogi feel like she had just committed first degree murder everytime she sat down to share a homemade roast or partake in some party hamburgers.

One for the Family Album: Johnny carving up the Sunday Roast

The horror.

However, after several failed attempts at Veganism/ Vegetarianism, I always felt that whatever label I adopted, be it Omnivore or Vegetarian,  there was always something missing. When I came back home I would always look forward to my mother's double-boiled chicken soup and whatever prior flirtation I had with vegetarianism would be quickly forgotten in lieu of all this home-cooked love in a bowl. Paradoxically, when I cooked for myself, the thought of slicing up a poor pork chop on the slab or removing two sad looking chicken breasts from the packet always made me feel guilty and unhappy. It seemed like I was playing a constant game of tug of war with love and guilt with total contentment always eluding me. Living with all these self imposed or even socially imposed dogmas was like trying to do sun salutations in a straightjacket. I did not feel free to be myself, I felt strictly regulated, not self aware but self conscious.

Om Shanti!

After several brief flirtations with various diets be it green or not, I have decided to quit beating up on myself about whether eating meat or not will earn me extra karma points or affect my energy vibrations, make me less yogic or whatever. Stripping Yoga down to its pure essence, it is about moving in Love, Grace and Gratitude. It is not a question of meat or no meat, but that with whatever you have before you, you accept it with love and appreciation for the fact that it was once a life that has now given itself up for you and you embrace it with full awareness and grace. Returning back to the prayer 'Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu', I am now becoming more comfortable with accepting that I have always strived to love and care for other living beings around me and adopting an omnivores lifestyle does not make me any less of a yogi. I am also thankful for that poignant moment where Shannon Gannon awoke my awareness of the yogic consciousness and our duty as yogic practitioners and human beings, to help each other along the path to a more joyous life.

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One Gif at a time...

Ultimately, I still am working slowly towards carving out a more vegetarian and ethical existence for myself but like the practice of Yoga itself, I am constantly learning and it won't happen overnight. However, to help me along my journey and perhaps you too, here are some new vegetarian related things I have gotten into recently and I hope you will join me as well in the journey towards being the best version of yourself you can be:


By giving up meat for one day each week you can save money, reduce your environmental impact and live a healthier life. Do your bit to help the planet! Click Here for more information!


A great read by Sharon Gannon that will appeal to your ethical and health consciousness surrounding the topic of Vegetarianism.

The bible of vegetarian raw food eating. This book comes highly recommended by many, a must read!

Another bible in the ethical eating world. I have tried making their black bean 'meatball' spaghetti and I must say, despite its apprehensive appearance, it was pretty delicious!


  1. this post really rings true with me as I too have struggled with ahimsa and loving meat. i've decided to forgo any "labels" and simply eat what doesn't make me feel guilty. sometimes that includes meat. sometimes it does not. why must we place ourselves into the very boxes we often fight? xx

  2. As a vegetarian for most of my life, I do advocate a meatless diet, but at the same time, I can see how beating ourselves up with guilt about it is its own form of himsa (violence). Your gradual, loving approach is really nice, Om, and your honesty and humor is refreshing. Love.

  3. yeah! great post. I like the ideas of forgoing labels and being less rigid about meat eating. While, I would like to forgo it and do it is hard to be rigid and have to ask myself, what am i doing this? I like the way my energy feels from a primary plant based diet but I also know that being rigid can cause striving and guilt. Thank you for this post.