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When I was a little girl, I thought every farmer had a couple pigs, a couple cows and some chickens. And then one day while everyone was minding their own business on the farm, the farmer (always a man?) would come out and shoot one of the pigs – Charlotte’s Web style – and then we would have bacon the next day at our house. I loved bacon, but I thought that arrangement was horribly unfair for he pig. My dad egged me on a little and on my 8th birthday I stopped eating meat. I started up again years later, but for a while I ate chip hotdogs at birthday parties and picked the pepperoni off my pizza.

Now I know that we don’t raise meat that way – or at least we don’t raise meat that way anymore. My whole family, except for the cat is vegan and I try to do whatever I can to support vegan organizations and spread the word about how awesome it is being vegan. You do feel so much better. Since I became a mom I had to really think about my choices and if they were safe for my baby. So far, Holden has been a very healthy guy and we are lucky that he has such a big appetite. As a mom, I feel kind of emotional about what breeding food mammals have to go through in a factory farm. Mercedes and Holden are my everything, and it is difficult to think of the horrific nightmare of being constantly pregnant and having your babies taken away over and over again to be eventually killed.

Anyway, I get to keep my baby, so my baby is walking for all the animals who don’t. On September 29th, while his sister and the AYCT team are walking for farm animals in Toronto,  Holdy will be walking on Chamundi Hill. Maybe not all the way up, but certainly up enough to get freaked out by the monkeys (okay that is step number one).

All the proceeds go to Farm Sanctuary. If you donate, I promise to send you a picture of Holden in his official Farm Sanctuary Walk for Farm Animals tee with the monkeys. He is very proud of his t-shirt which came in the mail for him and is for a child 10x bigger. It has a picture of a pig on it, which Holden assures me is actually a dinosaur. So, maybe he will be walking for dinosaurs, I don’t have the heart to tell him that it is a lost cause.

Here is the link to his donation page, with a super cute picture of him. Totally worth the clickity click.

Here is a picture of Holden at Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York this year, petting a goat:

And just a short drive from Farm Sanctuary is a place to get vegan ice cream. it was a big day.

David went to the last conference on Sunday. The Baby was sleeping and so I stayed at home. It turned out to be about ahimsa and vegetarianism

I became vegetarian on my 8th birthday. I am blessed with very patient and understanding parents and they spent the rest of my childhood cooking extra tofu or beans on the side for me. When I went to university, I began eating meat again. I stopped when I moved back to Toronto. Interestingly enough, I think of my university days as some of the most unhappy times in my life. I was away from my family, a little sad and lonely – trying to figure myself out, and I ate meat, drank and smoked.

I do really believe that the reason I fell into Ashtanga – and not say Bikram, where eating meat and wearing leather is Ok – was to put me in touch with other vegetarians and create a vegetarian community. Being vegan is the single most important lifestyle choice I have made. It is also easily the most important part of my practice.

There are many parts of the practice that can make it challenging for my body and my ego. Waiting in the vestibule to be called in sometimes really bugs me. I often feel itchy and irritated when I don’t get new poses that I think I deserve. And then there is the usual thought garbage that comes up during practice: envy, competitiveness, anger, weird mat-territorialism, self-pity. I can make these feelings about the teacher: Why doesn’t he notice me?; the students around me, “How come she gets that pose and I don’t.”; or myself, “I just had a baby, my body is so broken.” Sometimes these feelings lead me to thinking I should quit, get up  and leave and take up running or something where I don’t have to deal with other people in the room, the teacher, the tradition blah blah. I do truly believe that this is part of the process and an integral piece of the practice.

In this blog, I like to explore the things that come up in my meditation – and I know it is about me, my own issues,  and not about Sharath or the person practicing next to me.

I have been thinking about this a lot in terms of veganism, because the tradition advocates dairy consumption as well as the practice of ahimsa (non-violence), and I don’t feel the two are compatible. This is one instance where after some reflection – I don’t believe it is about my own neurosis getting in the way of my practice or listening to my teacher.

Sharath told students at conference to eat ghee as part of a healthy vegetarian diet. He said that calves were given the milk first and the rest was used for human consumption. He also mentioned an organization in India that is working towards having no cows slaughtered in the country. I had several conversations with friends in India, who told me that drinking milk in India is different than drinking milk in the West because the cows are treated fairly and can roam the streets, eat what they please and generally be free.

To be totally honest, those conversations and the teachings from Sharath really aggravate me. There are a billion people in India. If you seriously believe that there are no factory farms in that country then you are, frankly, deluded. I think it is one thing to drink milk and say, “Yeah I drink milk – I participate in this.” It is another to pretend that the few cows you see wondering around Mysore are supplying the milk in your chai. They aren’t. And before that milk was extracted, it certainly wasn’t given to a calf. As lovely a story as that may be. Having had some personal experience with this, mammals tend to give birth to males as well as females. And while I see quite a few mama cows around town in Mysore, I see very few grown boys. Whether you sell the male cows to Muslims or Christians to slaughter them in India, or take them out of the country and slaughter them in Pakistan or whereever – it seems the outcome is pretty much the same. The cows are not free, their lives are short and brutal if they had the misfortune of being male; long, confined and painful if they are female.

Often people complain to me that fake meat or soy is not healthy for your body and that it would be better for you just to eat butter or free-range chicken or whatever. And while I am obsessed with digestion, and I know that those fake meats and margarine are pure garbage (and I choose not to eat them most of the time), I would rather eat garbage than participate in the industrial farming of animals.

The separation between animals and us is dangerous because it leads to other “us” and “them” thinking. I believe it changes the level of compassion and understanding we have towards other humans. If there are a group of living things that don’t deserve to be happy or free why should that be limited to the non-human variety of beings?

My type of animal activism is certainly the Farm Sanctuary variety. I like to pet the cows and make the connection to their sentience from their heroic rescue stories. I choose veganism because I can only imagine the hideous and brutal treatment animals receive in factory farms. I usually can’t watch insider footage of those farms because it is much worse and more inhumane than I can even fathom. It makes me feel hopeless and angry, but I know it works for some folks.

Here is the link to Earthlings, you can click and view if you are interested. The movie documents the way we use animals as pets, clothing, food, and entertainment. The site streams the whole movie as well as the trailer. I personally couldn’t make it through the trailer without crying, shrieking and hiding my face in my sweater. It is extremely violent and disturbing. It is probably a good view if you do decide to eat or use animal products. Ultimately, this is a personal choice and knowing what you are supporting is an important part of that choice. I choose to drive a car and buy plastic, and knowing some of things happening in Libya make this decision pretty uncomfortable for me. I suppose it is mine to live with and hopefully I can strive to make better choices in the future.

I have been internetless in Farm Sanctuary over the past week. But I am going to make up for it with critter pictures!

AYCT sponsors a pig and a cow from Farm Sanctuary, which is a charity that does rescue and advocacy work for farm and food animals. Every year for the last three, David and I have travelled down to Ithaca, New York to visit the animals and spend time on the farm. It is a peaceful and beautiful place and it puts me in touch with why we are vegan.

This year we learned that Sprinkles, our pig had some medical problems due to his unnaturally large size. He wasn’t bred to reach this age, and he has developed leg and hip problems. He is on medication, but he seemed pretty content when I caught up with him again.

Samuel, our adopted cow, is in the special needs herd because he likes the senior citizens. He is also massive. He was pretty bothered by flies when we were hanging out and was swinging his head wildly from side to side, which is why we are keeping a respectful distance in the picture.

My favourite are the goats. Goats are friends with everybody, so you can always be sure of a warm reception in the goat barn.

Holden liked the goats too.

But the tour was pretty exhausting.

Practice Notes:

I practiced in YOGA PANTS for the first time in 6 weeks last Tuesday. Usually I practice in my undies at home, but that isn’t really acceptable attire at the studio. Yippee! It was stinking hot, but I had such a great time. I went up to Janu C and I did a backbend and full closing. At this point I have worked up to navasana with dropbacks, and David told me today that I am ready to finish primary, which I am a little scared about. Navasana is basically the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Trying to lift my feet off the floor for the pick up seems like a far away dream. My belly is still pretty numb from surgery, but I can keep plugging away at it.

I love the studio, I love being able to practice. Mercedes watched the baby and I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude that he has such a great older sister. It was such a gift to be back.

We are in Buffalo for the next few days, and by golly we have internet! I hope to update over the weekend with Holden’s practice notes. He took his first yoga class today. Super genius!

Today the teenagers of Mysore are streaked (and in some cases covered) in bright fuschia and vermillion pigments, the Welsh are celebrating St. David’s Day, and we are celebrating David’s birthday. I have been reading a little on St. David on the always reliable and totally fact-based interweb. It seems St. David  was such a powerful speaker that a white dove would settle on his shoulder and the earth underneath him to make a hill whene’er he opened his mouth.  I found an excellent depiction of St. David riding a ram, which looks sort-of fun and cozy. It also might be a great way to get around mountain areas.

St. David kept to a very strict monk’s diet: breads and herbs. Early vegan! No wonder the doves and rams liked him. In Wales, people wear daffodils or leeks on St. David’s Day. I read somewhere the leek became an important symbol for Wales because the Welsh soldiers would pin leeks to their uniforms to help distinguish themselves from the similarly suited enemy English. A leek pinned to a uniform?

That just doesn’t sound right. Dear readers, one of you must have some knowledge of Welsh military history. Please set me right. Otherwise, I will be apt to believe every terrible joke I have heard about Welshman. And I want to love a country that would make a sheep-riding vegan its patron saint.

I met David when I was 16 and he was working at a clothing store in Kensington market. I think we only said “Hi”.  It is strange when we meet people under banal and seemingly everyday conditions and they end up having such a profound effect on our lives. I like that I can turn to David and say, “We have to be vegan!” and he looks at me for a second and then says,”OK.” And David will say to me, “I want to teach a traditional mysore program.” and about a million versions of “that won’t work!” go through my head but I remember that all the times he said, “Ok” and I say, “OK!” too.  Adventures are so much more fun when you can share them with someone else. i feel/am lucky.

Happy Birthday David!