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Becoming a vegan again: Day 1

vegan-1I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years now, ever since I visited a slaughterhouse as part of my veterinary studies and saw an animal being slaughtered. I didn’t consciously decide to become vegetarian. It was as if the decision was made for me, deep down, and I just had to go along with it. And in 30 years I’ve never once been tempted to lapse.

And I’ve tried being vegan several times, sometimes lasting for a few years. It’s a natural and logical extension of vegetarianism. Really, there isn’t a lot of different between eating eggs and eating a chicken. In both cases a chicken dies, but in one case the chicken lays lots of eggs first. But I’ve found it harder to sustain.

There was the usual tussle between ethics on the one hand, and convenience and laziness and craving on the other. So ethics was outnumbered.

Anyway, we were discussing the Buddhist first precept (not causing harm) in an online Dharma study group that I lead, and mentioned my unease about eating eggs and dairy, and my faltering desire to be vegan again. Someone in the groups connected veganism with my “getting myself on the cushion mantra.” This is an affirmation that I’ve been using to make sure I meditate every day: “I meditate every day; it’s what I do; it’s just part of who I am.” This has really worked for me. And when someone connected that mantra with veganism, I realized I had the tool I needed to give ethics the upper hand over the other three.

So this Wednesday, the day after the study group, was the first day I had an opportunity to put my vegan “mantra” into practice. It went well until dinnertime, when I discovered that some cornbread that my six-year-old daughter had made (all by herself!) contained an egg. It was my bad: I hadn’t had a chance to talk to my wife about the vegan thing. So I’m counting that as Day Zero:

Day One went well. I’d talked to my wife — who also wants to be vegan — and since I was cooking that evening there were no problems anyway. When I was our for a coffee with a friend, I became aware that my local cafe has nothing vegetarian (apart from oatmeal!) but I’ve suggested to them that they make a vegan carrot cake. And an online friend suggested that I carry around snacks. He takes some emergency Clif Bars with him for times he can’t get a vegan snack.

So it’s been sinking in that this is just what I do now, and from now on. There will be slips. My father-in-law invites us round for dinner from time to time, and his culinary skills are very limited. Basically he can make pizza. So every couple of months I’ll have some pizza. I’m not going to ask him to change his ways. In the past that’s tripped me up, because I’ve gotten caught up in all-or-nothing thinking, where I’ll regard eating Lou’s pizza as me having crossed back from veganism to non-veganism, and then I think there’s no point carrying on with it. I’m not going to do that this time.

For protein this week, in the three meals I’ll be cooking at home, I’ll be having tofu, seitan, and tempeh. I’ve also ordered a book, Artisan Vegan Cheese, by Miyoko Schinner. I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Anyway, this is the start of Day Two. Going public about this will help me stay on track, as will counting the days (although don’t worry — I’m not going to do a daily post on the subject).

I’m looking forward to my first anniversary as a vegan!

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About Bodhipaksa

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Bodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and a published author. He founded Wildmind in 2001. Bodhipaksa has published many guided meditation CDs and guided meditation MP3s.

He teaches at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. You can follow Bodhipaksa on Twitter, join him on Facebook, or hang out with him on .

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Comments

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Comment from Yvonne Hufton
Time: January 18, 2013, 2:16 pm

Good on you for going vegan! And to keep you on track maybe extend your compassion to the millions of day old male chicks that are killed in less than humane ways because they are of no financial value to the egg industry. Or the cows who have their calves taken from them at birth so we can drink the milk that’s meant for them – male calves that are then kept in crates to become ‘veal’, or shot in the head because they are of no use, or the female calves that are fed formula and follow in their mother’s footsteps to the slaughterhouse at a fraction of their natural lifespan.

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Comment from Sudaya
Time: January 18, 2013, 5:51 pm

Well done for getting on the vegan road. I agree with your ‘not hard line’ approach. It can cause so much suffering to other humans to be holier than thou about what you are prepared to eat. I am vegan when I am in control and lapse back to be vegetarian when it’s too hard on others (like your father-in-law) for me to insist on being strict.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 18, 2013, 5:54 pm

Thank you, Sudaya.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 18, 2013, 5:58 pm

Actually as a motivational technique, Yvonne, that reminds me more of “guilting,” and I’m afraid that rather backfires of me. It’s just one of the peculiarities of my psyche, I’m afraid :) I appreciate your efforts to help me stay on track, though. I’m sure it’s meant kindly.

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Comment from Caroline
Time: January 18, 2013, 6:21 pm

Well, you know I’m always here to be your vegan comrade! My latest obsession is http://www.findingvegan.com – I have over 200 recipes on my Pinterest board that I’ve pinned from that site. Then , I copy them into Evernote, open my Evernote app on my phone and tote it into the kitchen as my mobile recipe book!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 18, 2013, 8:11 pm

Thank you. I just downloaded the Edamam app for iPhone. I limited the search to vegan recipes, put in “tempeh,” and got scores of delicious-looking recipes. I’m astonished by what’s out there. I also use Evernote as a recipe book. What a great app :)

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Comment from Jessie
Time: January 18, 2013, 9:27 pm

Just found this site and found this post…
You’re going to love this journey. It is one not for weak but do it right and the world will change with you. Do not be fearful of the little slips, and mishaps that happen…they are small and will become less frequent. Remember to get vitamin B12/B pills, eat LOTS of raw veggies/fruits. and never turn down a vegan cookie.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 18, 2013, 9:33 pm

I almost had two slips already today! I absentmindedly picked up a cookie and actually made contact with my teeth, then realized it almost certainly wasn’t vegan. It was a bit of a waste, but I threw it away. And then my wife served up some soup she’d bought, without having checked the ingredients. She knew it was vegetarian, but hadn’t thought about whether it was vegan. Fortunately there was a second soup…

We’ll get used to this!

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Comment from Sharon
Time: January 18, 2013, 9:52 pm

Starbucks in Canada has a vegan Brownie. Google Wacky Cake, fantastic vegan chocolate cake.

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Comment from Yvonne Hufton
Time: January 19, 2013, 4:00 am

My comment was more about raising awareness – so many people don’t know where their food comes from, and you mentioned the slaughter of chickens in your post but not the cost to the male chicks. But if you feel guilty maybe your conscience is trying to tell you something ;)

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Comment from Yvonne Hufton
Time: January 19, 2013, 5:41 am

Me again! Your post has given me lots to think about, so thanks for that. I’m a relatively new vegan (having been vegetarian for 15 years of so before that) and it was learning about the fate of the calves and chicks that made me go vegan. It broke my heart. So for me it was an emotional, compassionate response that came from my heart not an ethical reason that came from my head and apart from the very occasional slip due to not reading ingredients properly, I haven’t been tempted to to eat dairy products or eggs, it’s been easy to stay on track. And that’s essentially what I was trying to get across. Very best wishes for your journey!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 19, 2013, 9:02 am

It’s not that your comment made me feel guilty, it’s that it reminded me of “guilting” — people trying to shape your behavior by making you feel bad. I really dislike when people try to manipulate me. I’m not saying you were doing that — just that it reminded me of that.

But when I associate veganism with feeling bad, then veganism becomes something I don’t want to think about, so at this point I’d rather focus on the fact that I’m doing something good, and feel good about that, than think about what goes on in factory farming, which I do already know plenty about.

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