Sunday, June 12, 2016

choosing kindness & rejecting speciesism one choice at a time

Animals deserve to be treated like animals. Not like humans. I don't think we need to treat animals like humans. We just need to respect their majestic existence for precisely what it is. Humans fail to respect other species almost every given chance. Respecting them doesn't mean giving them five star luxury treatment. It means respecting their natural habitat and instinctual behavior. It means that at the very least they do not suffer abuse at our hands.

Animals and children have much in common. They are both easily exploited by adult humans and do not or cannot use their voice to demand rights or peaceful treatment. Their proper treatments relies upon the compassion and empathy of adult humans.

Guilt is good. It is different from shame, which is, 'I am bad'. Guilt is, 'I did something bad'. Guilt inspires us to improve our behavior for the better. Shame promotes more bad behavior. I feel guilty about the animal products I use and consume. I hate that I have ever or currently do contribute to animal exploitation.

BUT--the situation is complex. Rather than being torn up with guilt about the animal products I do consume or use, I focus on the ways I deliberately and consistently eliminate them from my life. I have leather clothing and furniture. Most of them I purchased before I started learning about egregious animal agriculture practices and when I still held a lot of speciesist ideals.

Jared's diet isn't totally vegan, though he has cut out meat and lots of animal products. Sometimes I wince when he eats dairy, but then I look down at my leather sandals. It would be better if I didn't have leather sandals, of course. But I do, and they're here, so I'm going to use them and not just trash them. But what if they were synthetic? Just because the synthetic materials aren't directly made out of animal flesh, it doesn't mean they do no harm to animals. The toxic chemicals involved in the production of so many products we consume and use critically contribute to the destruction of wildlife habitats and even species extinction.

A few months ago, a girl in line behind me at the grocery store made the assumption that I was vegan based on what I was buying. She spent a year eating vegan but went back to eating animal products because she didn't believe one person could make a difference. She saw the problem with animal agriculture, which is typically the biggest hurdle to getting people to realize the importance of veganism. She did not contest that animals deserved to be treated better. She just didn't think that her choices made a difference. I can actually sympathize with her perspective. Billions of animals are tortured and killed everyday in ways that most people would protest if informed. My daily food choices won't end the existence of factory farming all alone. It's a lot and it's overwhelming and I get that.

An ad about illiteracy came on while I was in the shower a few weeks ago betweens songs playing from my phone. I couldn't believe the staggering statistics. After my shower I looked up ways I could contribute to promoting literacy. I found a few organizations that promote literacy for adults where English is their primary language. I even visited one program and met a few tutors and students. Becoming literate as an adult is an enormous feat because the part of the brain that easily learns language in childhood, the language acquisition device, flips off after a certain point during teenage development. Adult students struggle to become literate for years and even decades. Tutors rarely see adults students become literate because sticking with one student long enough is unlikely.

Would it be fair to say those dedicated tutors are not making a difference to the issue of illiteracy? Perhaps. Illiteracy is a massive issue and one tutor's efforts won't solve the problem. But think of how much a difference a dedicated tutor can make for one student's life.

It is estimated that vegans save 198 animals per year. I've been eating mostly vegan for a year and a half. Yes, I have leather shoes and two leather sofas. I have been cutting back greatly but I still find plastic in my life. But instead of focusing on what I'm doing 'wrong' per se, I choose to celebrate the animals that didn't have tortured lives because of my choices. I even think it's awesome that girl from the grocery store ate vegan even if only for a year, that's 198 animals that didn't suffer needlessly. I support meatless Mondays and no-meat March. I love any choice that reduces animal cruelty. If you choose not to change your diet but switch to cosmetics that were truly not tested on animals, I love that.

Ideally, all products I use or consume would be made from fully recyclable, compostable, gentle plant-based materials. I could search high and low for totally cruelty-free, eco-friendly products every single time I make a purchase. But the reality is that while I'm privileged to technically afford the time and money to live like that, most people are not. And among those of us who are technically able to afford such a lifestyle, it's not likely that we will all choose to devote the sort of time and money that would require.

The two big ways individuals can make a difference for animals and the environment is through their consumer power and the influence their life has on culture. Corporations only have power because of consumers. If corporations are automobiles, consumers are the gas. Consumers have power to halt operations that are unkind to humans, other species, and the environment by boycotting unethical products and brands. And whether you realize it or not, your presence is actively contributing to the existence of certain cultures. Your presence influences whatever communities you engage with and support. Communities create culture. Choose to engage with conscious, ethical communities. Your presence influences culture.

I'm not that girl in the grocery store. I believe individuals make a difference. My food choices have saved real animals from lives of torture and abuse. I'm working to reduce the amount of animal products and products harmful to animals and the environment from my life, not just through my individual consumption choices but also through spreading the vegan message of anti-speciesism and love and compassion for all. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

evolution and the pain of social disconnection

i know i'm constantly repeating myself when i say that i'm on the quite evolutionary journey. my identity and beliefs seem to continually change at a rapid pace. i keep expecting myself to finally arrive or slow down; to finally settle into a certain lifestyle and rhythm. but as i continue learning, i continue changing. i see the evolving as a good thing, but the pace makes it difficult at times.

as wonderful and healing and exciting as this process is, it's also very isolating. i'm on a journey that is uniquely mine. i've been very disconnected from people; from communities and networks, but also from people currently in my life. when i've shared my heart with people, it's often been misunderstood. it's not the fault of people i share with, perhaps it is my communication skills, but really i think it's just where i am on my journey. but it's caused me to recluse a bit and has led to disconnection. i had no idea how hard it is to reconnect after a period of disconnection like this. i'm struggling to feel like i really belong anywhere.

i need to take a pause here to validate my own pain (and perhaps other's): being misunderstood and experiencing social disconnection is very painful. i don't think i'm special, but i do know that i am an extraordinarily social creature, which has made this last year of my journey extra painful.

despite all the evolving as i'm doing, i'm picking up plenty of for-sure's along the way. a few for-sure's are my three big daily practices: meditation, gratitude, and yoga. i don't see those going anywhere. they are for-sure's for sure.

i'm giving myself and my life time to come full circle with this social funk. i do expect the pace of my evolutionary process to slow and eventually settle into that of a normal functioning person. and as i settle into who i am (as i am more and more everyday), i fully believe the people will come into my life as they need to, and i will be ready to enter theirs. i imagine my future rich with loved ones that i can't believe took so long to come into (or back into) my life.

i've been settling into this feeling and concept of being at peace with living each day fully and simply. and being satisfied with inner daily success much much much more than single outer achievements. i value loving the people around me on a daily basis and being fully present right now much more than i value big outer achievements such as graduating from college, getting a certain job, or whatever next big life step is supposed to come next. part of what i need to fully connect, is finding people who similarly value the present moment and living fully and simply everyday.

relatedly, jared and i have been repeating this to each other lately, to remember our lives are truly rich and abundant, despite the fact that our wallets are not:

some people are so poor, the only thing they have is money.

Friday, January 15, 2016

not eating animals--what is that called?

hi there, my friends.

when i really dug into this organic lifestyle about a year ago, i experimented eating vegan, but it didn't last since i felt it was unbalanced. however i concluded that factory farming was inhumane and stopped eating most factory farmed animal foods. i would eat some amish farm eggs (still factory-esque) and organic cheeses. but i've recently been reading and learning a lot more about animals and the concept of eating them and it's caused me to stop eating them at all. (hmm--with the exception of raw, local honey.) i know i've said recently and many times in my life that i don't identify as vegan. but actually, for all intents and purposes, i am vegan. i may need to just come to terms with the label.

i really fully believe that animals, at this point in humankind's evolutionary journey, do not need to be and should not be eaten in the quantities they are eaten. it's unrealistic to expect everyone on the planet to go vegan or even vegetarian. but i do think a social shift in the direction of just generally eating more plants and less animals products is realistic and even economical.

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back when we were hunting and gathering, many humans were primarily herbivores throughout the year, with the exception of a lucky slaughter when everyone in the community feasted on a kill. (it's worth pointing out that the quality of meat from a wild animal is vastly different from even an organic grass-fed farmed one, my paleo friends.)

i learned in my anthropology class last year that the advent of cooked meat into the human diet is largely responsible for the increased size of our brain that allowed us to excel beyond competing species such as neanderthals. and that human populations exploded when we began drinking cow's milk because we were able to obtain a dense amount of calories that included ideally balanced portions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates from a single food source. and cheese made things even better since it stayed fresh even longer than milk. i understand why meat and dairy are so important to so many people. dairy has been with us for 10,000 years and meat, millions.

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but it's 2016. and factory farms are a thing. in fact, factory farms are the source of 99% of the meat and dairy privileged, first-world folks consume, including most of you reading this post. and if you believe animals are sentient, dignified creatures, then you can rightly view factory farms as lifelong concentration camps and torture chambers. animals that are factory farmed for food exist only to make corporations rich. their numbers and populations would not exist like they are now if they were allowed to naturally breed in the wild or even on small scale farms. their pain, misery, and confusing suffering, are not even a tiny concern to the corporations that own them and view them as inventory.

the bottom line is that animals don't have voices and can't speak up for themselves. and not a single animal would choose the life of being factory farmed and killed. not a single one. animals bred for food are just as deserving of life and dignity as cats and dogs and it IS hypocritical to defend cats and dogs and still eat factory farmed animal products.

the irony is that while people eat these animal products, it slowly kill them. and unfortunately, animal agriculture is destroying the earth, too. exhibit a) animal agriculture is a major contribution to climate change. exhibit b) our oceans are overfished (90% of the ocean's large fishes have disappeared in the last 50 years). exhibit c) forests are literally disappearing from the earth to make way for cattle farming.

so i really do think that while meat and dairy were wonderful initially (prior to factory-farming) since they allowed humans to excel as a species, we're at a point where continuing to consume the amount of animal products at the rate we're consuming them is definitely doing us more harm than good. it's doing our health more harm than good. it's doing the planet more harm than good. and it's unarguably doing animals much more harm than good.

i believe that as the human population continues to grow, sustainable, economical living will mean growing our own food. and i don't mean going to farmer's markets. i mean growing food gardens in our own backyards and largely eating what grows near where we sleep. i don't say this romantically. i say this practically. learning about plants and gardens and growing our own food will again become common knowledge, something that children learn young and that people will need to know as much as literacy.

so i'm living my life with a focus on eating whole plant foods as nutrient dense as possible. and hopefully i can share this lifestyle with love and not judgment.

and if you want to be disturbed but also learn about how gross the dairy industry is, watch this.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

animal products: should we eat them?

Agricultural animals are treated as inventory and not as living, sentient creatures. The picture painted in advertising and on packaging is a lie. If an animal product is associated with a big brand or has a commercial and in most cases you eat animal products at all, the animal lived a painful life of endless physical, mental, and emotional suffering from birth to violent death.

did you know...
Factory farming releases more greenhouse gas emissions than all worldwide transportation combined. It has been estimated that livestock and their byproducts account for 51% of all GHG emissions.

The World Health Organization classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen this year, which means that it causes cancer.

The meat in one hamburger requires the equivalent water of two months of showering to produce. Large-scale livestock agriculture accounts for half of all water used in the US.

Every six seconds, an acre of rainforest is cleared for cattle farming.

think about it...
There's a reason parents take their kids to the orchard and not to the slaughterhouse. Further, it's not even possible to make a friendly visit to most factory farms these days. That's on purpose.

If we had to watch, let alone personally inflict, the endless suffering factory animals endure from birth to violent, painful death, most of us would not be eating them.

If the sight of a fly in your bag of salad disturbs you or you won't even take a peek at the YouTube videos you know are out there, you may be too detached from the source of your food.

If anything I shared bothered you or sounded shocking, check into it. Look it up. Learn about where your food comes from. And if you don't like it, buycott! Your dollar has power.

a few sources for choosing better animal products
Resources for the Compassionate Carnivore
Find a Local Grass-Fed Farm Near You
The Ultimate Guide for Buying Poultry
Certified Humane Label
Where to Buy Meat
What Labels Mean

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Achieving Worthiness Is A Myth

"What you are looking for is already in you. The flower does not try to become the sun; it already is the sun. It does not try to become a tulip; it already contains the qualities of a tulip within it. When you achieve this insight, you stop suffering. We suffer because we want to deny ourselves. We want to become something else, and so we never stop running." -Thich Nhat Hanh

I disagree with the concept of a savior. I know that will make a lot of people very sad and possibly upset. That's okay. I'm not looking to please anyone but myself with my beliefs (and when posting on this blog).

It's nothing against Jesus or his teachings. I really like most of his actual teachings and deeply admire the life he lived. What I really disagree with is: what the idea of needing a savior says about humankind. I don't accept that the natural human state is fallen. I disagree with the Christian concepts of sin and repentance. I don't accept that core human desires are wrong.

I believe core human desires are neither moral nor immoral, but amoral. They are mostly a result of evolution and what leads to survival. Sometimes human desires harm while other times they help. But I believe the universe and environment that evolved them that way is veritably indifferent.

The large majority of people are generally good and should be trusted to make the best decisions possible with their knowledge and resources. And even when generally good people make mistakes, it's imperative that they are trusted by their loved ones to make them. If making mistakes, learning from them, loving others through their mistakes, and being loved through our own is not the point of being alive, I don't know what is. (The people who are sick and not well that will always make harmful decisions, typically won't be stopped by religious rules and laws regarding worthiness and being good enough anyway.)

If the natural human state should be either condemned or celebrated, let it be celebrated. Individual humans for millions of years have cared for, forgiven, persevered, grieved, shared, explored, healed, and loved. Humans are incredible. There is light and dark within everyone, and humans have done all those amazing things in spite of inner darkness. The natural state of humanity absolutely should be celebrated.

There is nothing wrong with you and there is nothing wrong with me. I am fundamentally good enough and you are fundamentally good enough--as we already are. Simply because we are here, we are enough.

Merely being alive and human makes each of us worthy before the divine. Worthiness is not something attained after hours of prayer, fasting, temple, church, or synagogue attendance, or any number of years of "righteousness". It is something already within our beings.

When I prescribed to the belief that worthiness was an attainable state of being based on my behavior and performance, I never, ever felt that I was enough. Nothing I did or achieved made me worthy enough before God. All of my hours of prayer, fasting, scripture study, deliberate acts of service, church and temple attendance were insufficient; it all failed to make me feel good enough and feel worthy before God because I lacked the understanding that simply being was enough.

A great deal of daily anxiety swept away once I stopped hustling for worthiness and learned that I am good enough merely because I am. Considerable amounts of time, thought, energy, and effort formerly directed at being good enough are now spent doing good and feeling good. Isn't that amazing?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Gay Mormon Policy Post

I've been reeling the past few days trying to process my feelings about the church's policy change for gay families. I realized I have two messages: one for those directly hurt by the new policy and one for those defensive of the church due to this policy. Read one or both. My heart is filled with love and respect for both parties and everyone else lying somewhere in between. It's because of that love and respect that I've got somewhat of a stern talking-to for the latter group.

A message to those directly hurt by this policy,
To my gay Mormon friends, I love you. No one should have to hide, or try to change, the core of who they are. If you are struggling to find hope, love, support, or understanding, my doors are always open. I will be your friend. If you haven't come out yet, know that there are people waiting to embrace the real you with open arms.

Perhaps no one has told you, so I will tell you: It's okay to reject church teachings that diminish you as a person or fail to honor the whole of your soul. Honor your own intellect. Respect the part of yourself that doesn't fit the given mold of who you are supposed to be. Trust the voice inside of you that says you deserve happiness, fulfillment, and romantic love. Walt Whitman wrote, "Re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul."

You are worthwhile. You are worthy. Exactly as you are right now, in all your brokenness and shame--you are enough. You may feel the need to hide or change who you are from your family and community, but that's not your fault and it's not a reflection of your worth. You are immersed in a culture that seeks to regulate behavior through shame. This new policy blatantly contradicts the words of Christ (here) and ostracizes children of gay people. The policy is NOT divine, YOU are divine. The fact that you think and hurt and feel is incredible. You are needed on this planet. The real you, all of you is needed. Please know that this new policy is a regrettable response by the church to the Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage across the United States. The church will rue this day. History tells us so. Please know that.

National Suicide Prevention Line: (800) 273-8255
Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860

My message to those who feel defensive of the church due to this policy,
If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus Christ, right now, spiritually, you're entitled to be there for a suffering sibling in Christ or be silent until you can. Please stop defending the church and instead show up for someone who is hurting. Listen to a gay Mormon or anyone who considers themselves part of the gay community in any way. Hear their story and their experience and truly mourn with them. No matter how deep your convictions that this policy change comes from God, this change is not a celebration for anyone. It has and will continue to cause pain for millions of individuals and hundreds of thousands of families.

The church is not in danger here. In the dynamic between the church and all the gay individuals and families whom this policy directly affects, the church has all the power. Realize that. This should ring especially true for you if you believe the church cannot fall or be defeated, as many faithful members do. The church as a body isn't at risk of suicide or feelings of rejection, isolation, or being outcasted. The church isn't a human being capable of being crushed and doesn't have the capacity to be vulnerable, experience deeply painful shame, or the desire to stop existing. Stop defending the church when leaders chose to issue a policy that blatantly ostracizes an already vulnerable demographic. Please instead show up for a living, breathing person in pain due to this change.

If you don't battle crippling self-hatred and shame, if you believe God loves you, if you believe you are worthwhile and have value, you enjoy huge privilege that many LGBT Mormons do not. If you feel accepted enough by your family, community, and culture to live your authentic, true self, you are privileged. That means the game is rigged just a little bit (or a lot) in your favor. Think about that. In the church's crusade against homosexuality, you are protected from self-hatred and excruciatingly painful shame (which degree cannot be overstated)You need to understand if you don't already how much that position privileges you above people who weren't born fitting the Mormon mold. And how it strips from you the spiritual entitlement to ignore people who are truly vulnerable and suffering under the guise of righteousness.

***If you're Mormon and part of a Mormon community and you think you don't know any gay Mormons, what that really means is you haven't positioned yourself as compassionate and safe enough for the gay Mormons in your life to trust you. Build a track record of love and support for your gay brothers and sisters and watch as people already in your life open up to you.***

NOTE: Sexual orientation and gender identity are not black and white, but rather gray. While those who identify as LGBT are in the minority in society, many people in reality land somewhere on a spectrum between two polars. There are as many sexual orientations and gender identities as there are people. Just as skin tone varies from person to person, so does sexual orientation and gender identity. If you look at a collective view of humanity, the skin colors you see are a myriad of beautiful tones, so it is with sexual orientation and gender identity. While the church has a black or white stance on homosexuality, people are not.

Just some background on me, if you don't already know. I grew up in a heterosexual Mormon household with my dad and stepmom and part-time in my lesbian mom's home. She has been with her partner/wife since I was 8 year's old in a committed, "marital" relationship. I was baptized at 8, served a mission, and married in the temple. I left the church over a year ago after experiencing a crisis of faith.