Tag Archives: vegetarian

Craving Sprouts, eating a burrito…

(This is one of a few posts I’m importing from another blog I recently closed down)

Grocery shopping is generally a fun event for me. I’m a bargain hunter. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I’m the Indiana Jones of sales. I refuse to pay full price for just about everything. Yes, I’m cheap, but I have to be. I’m supporting a pregnant wife and a 17 month old boy on just my income (which isn’t much). We shop at a couple of places that save us 50-60% over going to Kroger/QFC or Safeway. They have a fair amount of organic food, but we also have to settle for some GMO crap in a box each excursion.

Last week after we shopped, Corbin (my son) wasn’t too cranky, so we went to grab some burritos from Taco Del Mar. It was my first trip there since my recent vegetarian conversion. So lots of beans, rice, cheese, and no meat. Weird. But we get back to our place, scarf down the burritos, and put the little gorilla to bed. Then comes our ritual of grocery re-arrangement and stocking, and its off to the computer to watch some 24 via the interwebs. Off to bed at 9:30.

Wait. This is not the life I want to lead. These are not the choices I want to be making. I don’t want to buy Little Debbies and Hamburger Helper. I don’t want pasta made from flour made from god knows what. I don’t want 40 different types of corn in my diet. But this is what I’ve bought. These are the choices I have made. It’s hard to be mindful when you’re broke.

Yes, this is suffering. I suffer because I’m not content with the way things are. The reality is, I’m doing the best I can to provide for my family and still be around to know they exist. Yet I’m not okay with that. My best isn’t good enough. Right now, my best doesn’t cultivate mindfulness. Right now, my best isn’t providing the type of environment I want my child growing up in. Right now all this corn in my diet is giving me IBS.

It is difficult balancing the spiritual with the mundane.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we do make some good choices. The only TV we watch is what is on the Internet. We don’t have cable or digital rabbit ears. We get a produce box twice a month from a local CSA farm. We do our best to be mindful about our purchases, though I leave myself with much to be desired in the way of some of my habits (and non-habits). These are choices that we have made about how we want to live our lives, the impact we want to have on the earth, our bodies, and society. More craving.

My “dream life” isn’t a rich or extravagant one. Far from it. All I want is a simple 3 bedroom home with a decent yard and a place for a garden where we can grow copious amounts of fresh produce. I want Corbin to have his own grass, and not have to make a trip to the park to enjoy the outdoors (and a basement to make into a man-cave where I could serve my home brew at my own private bar. But that’s another post altogether). He should have his own tree to kick and swing from. He should have his own field to loose his toys in.

The conventional Buddhist wisdom might tell me to simply accept this moment and situation for what they are, don’t dwell on what could be or a “dream life”. But I’m not convinced. I think a little suffering is in order. I think a little suffering will go a long way toward creating the type of environment I want to provide for my family. I will do what I can to be mindful and compassionate now, as I have been. For me, it is not enough and I think my bar is set at just the right height to push me in the right direction.

So for now, I’ll continue to dream about my garden fresh watermelon and cucumbers, and I’ll eat my burritos. That’s the best I can do.

For now.

Cheers.

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A new year, a new diet, and some thank you’s.

First, let me look back on 2009. No top ten lists here, (though I feel it’s worth mentioning that Full Sail’s Session Black was the best new beer I had this year) just some quick reflection. My son was born on Christmas Eve 2008, so this year has been all about not sleeping and the baby. My home brewing was a wash this year (2 great batches, and 2 that became infected). I took a vacation and just stayed home to spend time with my family. I helped raise some money for charity in November. I started a blog in March, and….. oh yeah, became a Buddhist. I can’t complain about 2009, and even if I did, what’s the point? It’s all in the past now. While nothing monumental happened, my son hit so many milestones and kept surprising me and challenging me that to call this past year boring would be a flat-out lie. I’ve had a great year, it’s been mostly focused around my family, sharing in our love, and for that I am thankful.

So what’s next in 2010? Normally I’m of the “New Year’s resolutions are retarded” crowd. This year however, I find that it’s a great time to make some commitments, goals, and life changes.

1st: No more meat. Yup, after today I’m going “veg”. A few people have asked me why, and I haven’t come up with a great reason for them. I suppose it’s simply that I don’t want to kill animals anymore. I like them. There are plenty of healthy alternatives, and it’s better for the enviroment to eat a diet that doesn’t involve meat. James from The Buddhist Blog posted this video awhile back that I think has a great message (without being one of those gross PETA videos).

So I have many personal reasons (moral, ethical, enviromental) to not eat meat, and the only reason I can find to continue to eat it is that “bacon is tasty” (which it is. I’v previously stated that I would walk across broken glass like Bruce Willis in Die Hard for bacon). So, I will miss steak, and beef jerky, and bacon, and burgers, but I think I will be getting much more in return. Also, I’m not going to push my vegetarianism on anyone else. Really, I’m not here to judge your diet. Eat what you want, but please do think about where it came from.

2nd: A more committed practice. The idea is to chant twice a day, though I’ve been failing at this miserably. I seem to always find some sort of excuse to not chant. So with the New Year, I’m going to make a stronger mental effort to chant twice daily. The only crappy part about this is the fact that I will sleep/rest less. My son currently wakes up about 5 times a night, and finally gets up around 6:30am. I try and just sit with him for a half hour or so to let my wife gain a little bit of sleep, but now I’ll just have to take him into the living room with me so we can chant together. I suppose I can sleep when I’m dead.

3rd: Add meditation to my practice. This isn’t going to be something that I will start Jan 1. This is something that may not happen for a few months, but it is something I feel the need to add. I’m reading up on different approaches and techniques now, and will try to figure out what works best for me.

That’s it. Those are my concrete goals and affirmations for 2010. Am I a perfect father/husband/employee/friend? Hell no! But I’m already working on those things all the time, and I don’t feel the need to make a new resolution to just make myself feel good. The three things I listed are things I want to do, feel I can accomplish, and I feel like the time is right to make them all happen.

I’d like to take just a moment to thank all of my readers that have stuck with me from some of my first posts on Blogger all the way to now. Likewise, thanks to those of you that have joined as of late, have commented, and have supported and challenged me. Also, thank you to my fellow bloggers that I’ve met and have been willing to discuss everything from the 5th precept to squirrel nuts to the culture and politics of Buddhism in the West and beyond (including Buddhist Purgatory). And last, thank you to my beautiful wife for putting up with my sometimes excessive interweb use. I love you.

Have a happy (and safe) New Year’s everyone.

Cheers.

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The Eightfold Path: Right Action

The fourth “step” on the Noble Eightfold Path is Right Action, also translated as Right Conduct. Right Conduct is defined as abstaining from that which would cause harm and/or suffering to others or yourself. There are some specifics we have to work with here. They are: abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, and abstaining from sexual misconduct.

 The first one seems simple. Don’t kill. Don’t take another’s life. Most of us don’t have to much of a hard time with that. However, it does say to abstain from taking life. So here we go with the whole eating meat thing. First of all, the Buddha was not a vegetarian. He ate meat. And he died of food poisoning (either from Mushrooms or bad pig meat). He begged for his food, and wouldn’t refuse any food that was freely given to him. He did however ask that no one kill an animal in his name, or to feed him. But if someone wanted to toss their leftovers in his begging bowl, he wasn’t going to turn them down. He didn’t want to add to the taking of life in this world, because he knew it added more suffering to the world. I’m sure those pigs and chickens just wanted to go about their day living, don’t you?

 So what about now? Do you have to be a vegetarian to be a Buddhist? No. You don’t HAVE to do anything really in Buddhism. The Eightfold Path is not the 10 commandments people. There are no absolute laws handed down from some divine law giver. And for some people, they need meat to be healthy. I am married to a vegetarian, and I eat a 90% vegetarian diet. I’ll maybe eat meat once a week if we order out (which is rare) or sometimes I’ll have some bacon at home (there is no substitute for pig fat. sorry). Eventually though, I’d like to make it to 100%. I feel that supporting the meat industry is just leading to more and more suffering, senseless violence (not to mention all the enviromental impacts….) and isn’t really helping myself or the rest of the world out.

 I suppose I went off on this tangent because all life in this world is sacred and important in Buddhism. That means mosquitos, your in-laws, deer, any form of life really. What about plants? No idea. Yeah, they’re alive. I suppose the main issue with food is the attachment that comes with it. Why are you eating it? What is the intention behind what you’re about to do? Is it to sustain and fulfill your life? Or are you eating those Swiss Cake Rolls because you’re depressed and bored? Why are you going to drink that home brew? Is it because you’re an alcoholic? Are you just trying to get drunk? Or are you going to drink and appreciate it, savoring every swallow, noticing the aftertaste, the bitterness, the aroma….

 Ok, enough on that. Next is abstaining from stealing. Again, a lot of us don’t have too much trouble with this one. Don’t take what isn’t freely given. Seems pretty simple. The only tricky part is when you don’t steal from someone directly. Let’s say you’re at a party, and there’s a bunch of people there, and you see someone brought some home brews. They’re just sitting there on the table, waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. So you ask the host if they know who the brews belong to, but he doesn’t know. You ask everyone at the party, and no one seems to know. Hmm. Maybe the owner left! Score!! Not so fast. Didn’t we just say to abstain from that which isn’t freely given? Those brews don’t belong to you, nor were they freely given to you. If it isn’t yours, don’t take it, end of story.

 The last part is abstaining from sexual misconduct. This usually entails not having sex with children, or with someone that is married, or is a relative, or animals, or outside of your own marriage. Again, pretty simple. This one is for the lay people. The monastics were all asked to abstain from sex alltogether. But the Buddha knew that family was very important, and that it was the central point from which society grew. And he knew that in order for family to prosper, someone was going to have to have sex.

 The really bad thing about sex is the attachment that comes with it. It’s another one of those impermanent parts of life. The orgasm is a fleeting moment of premature enlightenment, and pretty much impossible to sustain. Sex for the pleasure of having sex leads to suffering. Because, who the hell wants to go from the pleasure of having sex, to not having sex? Sex when used as an expression of love, or a physical representation of emotion is another story altogether. It’s the ego-feeding pleasure-seeking type of sex that isn’t right conduct.

 I can think of plenty of other things that could fall into right conduct, but I think you get the point. It’s especially important remember that the other “steps” in the eightfold path will always go with each other. It’s almost never really just about one. Because even when one abstains from sexual misconduct, it’s the intention behind the abstention that matters as well. Cheers.

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