Applying Mindfulness to Systemic Challenges

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I just watched the doc film Feminists: What Were They Thinking on Netflix. I felt the film was well-done, educational, eye-opening, and inspiring.

Here’s a quote I wrote down from the film that I think all of us unpaid/low-paid creative/artistic/musical humans, community builders, change agents, and social activists would do well to hear and take to heart (over and over and over again):

“When you are doing something you love, it’s like throwing a rock in the pool because that love is hitting the pool and starts radiating out. And so, when you’re doing something that you love and sharing it with other human beings, you are doing something of benefit.”

– Meredith Monk
(American composer, performer, director, vocalist, filmmaker, and choreographer)

It’s worth mentioning that I watched the film as an intentional act of stepping outside of my comfort zone. When I’m confronted with the word feminist in any context, even if a dear friend of mine calls them self one proudly in a conversation we’re having together, I bristle and energetically and/or physically back away.

I hope this is assumed but just in case it’s not: it’s not that I’m against equal rights for women or feel as though as women we shouldn’t be rallying our voices or stepping into our own power. My issue has to do with the labeling and declaration of being a feminist. And to be clear, this just doesn’t just apply to feminism. I bristle at labels that I judge have an inherent quality of me-against-you mentality built in. If a word used for describing one self or a group of people ends in -ist or -ism there’s a good chance it makes me uncomfortable. I’m not saying this is a good idea or right, I’m simply being honest with where my inner processing is at and the judgements that come up for me.

For example, if I were asked to describe myself using single words, I would never include vegetarian in the mix or even Buddhist. In my view, these words have a high potential to cause separation and propel a certain level of me-against-you self-righteous energy. They are also relatively meaningless categories and distinctions when it comes to conveying who I really am. Labels can be dangerous and degrading. They serve to keep us tucked away in a certain box – and when we use them on our self, we limit our potential and our own power to shine forth our true nature.

I appreciate documentary films that afford me the opportunity to see things differently and gain a new perspective by way of hearing the personal stories of others. This was one such film. And it’s not that I now feel called to label myself a feminist but I do have some fresh grist for the mill, which I appreciate.

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Discerning vs. Snobbish

A week or so ago, an interaction I had with a friend got me to thinking about the important difference between being discerning and being a snob. And there is a difference.

Here’s how the basic interaction went down:

Me (responding to a different friend who was making communal pots of tea, who asked what kind of tea I like to drink): Well, I drink mostly green tea, but no need to make any just for me, I brought my own.

Friend (standing nearby in ear shot): You brought you own huh?

Me: Yeah, I found this great loose leaf green tea online that I order from Ten Tea and I really like it. So I decided to bring it along with me today.

Friend (playfully stated): Oh, so you’re a tea snob?

Me: Well, no. I would say that I am discerning.

Friend (again, playfully stated): Oh, is that how you rationalize it?

Me: Well, no. I don’t think being discerning and being a snob are the same thing.

Words matter. And the words ‘discerning’ and ‘snob’ are not synonymous or interchangeable. It’s not the action that matters nearly as much as the motivation and energy behind it. It’s not the what, it’s the why.

On dictionary.com, it defines the word ‘discerning’ as: showing good or outstanding judgment and understanding. And it defines the word ‘snob’ as: a person who imitates, cultivates, or slavishly admires social superiors and is condescending or overbearing to others.

Nope. Definitely not the same thing.

Let’s unpack this a little bit more.

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Vegan vs Vegetarian

vegan-vs-vegetarian

As a point of clarity: a vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat or seafood and a vegan is someone who doesn’t eat meat, seafood, or animal byproducts of any kind: dairy, eggs, honey. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12 years old. It was a decision I made one day, after finding out that my cousin had decided to be a vegetarian. It was something I thought sounded cool, so I did it and it stuck – pretty fancy reason, eh?!

I’ve never been personally drawn to going the one step further into vegan territory, but over the past few months it’s been a percolating thought. The sole motivating factor has to do with my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), encouraging his ordained students to take up a vegan diet. His teachings and suggestions hold a great deal of sway for me, given my love, respect, and confidence in his practice and what he has to say.

I don’t consume very much dairy naturally. I haven’t been a cow’s milk drinker since I was young and my food tastes ere on the side of quite simple and basic, and what many would consider bland, so cheeses, butter and cream toppings have never been a big draw for me in general. A few years ago I gave up dessert sugars, so ice cream, pastries, cakes, cookies, and other similar foods are out for me as well. But I do really enjoy pizza, which we typically have for dinner once a week in our household. And on occasion I make lasagna or stuffed shells. My biggest form of non-vegan consumption is eggs, which I eat every morning for breakfast, and up until recently came from my own backyard chickens.

In an effort to hear a little more from Thay on the subject of veganism, I found a youtube video of him addressing this very matter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gwOzzGibsg&t=252s 

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To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat

meatveggie

Lately there has been some discussion (and some elevated emotions) over the OI (Order of Interbeing) listserve about vegetarianism, veganism, and the impacts of eating meat on the environment.  While it’s true that Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) has asked his students to reduce their meat consumption by half and to consider cutting out meat entirely because of the damaging effects the livestock industry has on global warming and it’s also true that our tradition’s monasteries have switched to a vegan diet I’m not so sure the most pressing question involved here is whether or not to eat meat or to become vegan.  For me, the question here is what can I do to potentially help support an environmentally sustainable food system?

For those of us not who are not familiar with the terms: A vegetarian is someone who does not eat beef, chicken, seafood or fish and a vegan is someone who, in addition to not eating meat, also does not eat dairy, eggs, or other animal byproducts, such as honey.

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