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Having been a consumer of animal products and a non-consumer for more than 20 years on each path, I’ve experienced both paths from the inside for significant lengths of time. I think it’s easier to make the choice by comparing each perspective experientially. I went vegan by deciding to try it for a month to see what it was like. I like encouraging people to try different lifestyle experiments in a similar fashion. Choose from a place of knowing, not from a place of ignorance.
As long as you remain on the outside looking in, you never really understand a particular lifestyle path. You can’t predict who you’ll become on the inside. No amount of research can match personal experience.
When people look at veganism from the outside, they tend to get stuck on certain factors that aren’t actually as important as they assume. A common one is to get hung up on the animal welfare issue.
Choosing to reduce or eliminate animal products from one’s lifestyle is a simple, actionable way to reduce one’s personal contribution to unnecessary cruelty, simpler than transforming the animal products industry as a whole. However, as a vegan this animal welfare aspect doesn’t really connect with how I experience my lifestyle on a daily basis.
Thinking of veganism as a way of relating to animals is like thinking of blogging as a way of relating to a computer keyboard. While that’s technically part of it and might seem like it’s the most significant aspect to some, it’s really not where the juice is.
Veganism is a way of relating to life, not merely to animals. I experience veganism more as a way of relating to people than to animals… just as blogging or making videos is about connecting with people more than it is about typing on computer keys or interacting with a camera.
When I’m writing a blog post, the keyboard disappears. My mind is on the message and the people I’m writing for. When I record a video, there is no camera. I’m just talking to people, even if they aren’t present in the room with me at the time. In either case the inner experience is about channeling energy and ideas and letting them affect me as they flow through me.
The animal welfare issue is a lot more visceral to many non-vegans than it is to me. My lifestyle is just something that brings that aspect into awareness for them. It’s like noticing someone making a video out in public. To you the presence of the camera may grab your eye, but for someone who’s been making videos for 20+ years, the camera isn’t such a big deal to them. Their focus is on something more interesting than the camera. As a long-term vegan, my focus is usually on more interesting aspects of this lifestyle than the animals.
From my perspective there’s something almost nonsensical when my veganism is immediately connected with animals. Yes, that’s part of it, but I tend to only think about that aspect because other people bring it up so often, just as people who make a lot of videos are often asked, “So what camera do you use?” … as if that’s what really matters.
I prefer not to relate to animals as products, not just because of what that does to the animals but because of what it does to me. My direct experience with animals tells me they are much more than this, and honoring that relationship is in some ways a selfish act on my part. The less I productize animals, the less I productize myself, and the freer my relationship with life feels.
Veganism is a set of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This daily practice involves not visiting certain parts of the grocery store, never buying certain items, and never putting animals or their fluids or ovums into my mouth. Animals aren’t actually involved in my daily practice of veganism. When buying food at a grocery store, the cashier might converse with me about all the produce I’m buying, but we wouldn’t talk about what isn’t on the conveyor belt. So in my day to day interactions with real people, my vegan lifestyle isn’t defined by animals. I spend way more time dealing with people and with plants than I do with animals.
Changing your relationship to animals may be a big step in your life if you go vegan, but after a while you may find that aspect receding into the background. Just like when you start making videos, you have to get used to the camera and other tools, but soon the gear just fades into the background of your work.
Just as it’s easy to stop yourself from making videos or building a website because you’re using the tech as an artificial roadblock, you can do the same with veganism by using the animal welfare issue or any “how to” confusions as convenient yet phony roadblocks. When people bring up these things as issues, I might humor them (barely, if I can stomach the sheer boredom of it), but I also know that this level of Q&A isn’t really what people need to grow. Their bigger blocks have to do with courage, facing others’ reactions, stepping into leadership, making heart-aligned lifestyle decisions, fully owning their paths, and so much more.
Being vegan changes your relationships with animals, plants, food, etc. But you may find that the bigger aspect of this is how it changes your relationships with people. For me this path has had many wonderful lessons about sculpting my own character, honoring my path with a heart, and doing what I feel is best for me. But beyond that it also transformed my relationship with life as a whole… and in so many ways I couldn’t have predicted in advance. It’s helped me find a way of fitting in by not trying to fit in, of attracting people who like me as I am, of still feeling grounded when I’m exploring outside of my comfort zone. It also helped me shed a lot of misaligned nonsense from my life, such as old family traditions I stopped practicing many years ago, so I could replace them with my own aligned choices.
Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this path was that by observing the oddities of how non-vegans relate to my lifestyle choices (such as their animal welfare comments or their goofy protein hangups), it helped me spot similar odd behaviors in myself. I started to catch where I was doing the equivalent of asking timid questions about the camera instead of pursuing my path with more courage and directness. And I noticed that when I worked more on the alignment side, the “how to” pieces fell into place with greater ease.
Veganism isn’t about my relationship with animals… not really. It has a lot more to do with my relationship with life, with myself, and with other people. The same goes for many other lifestyle and character sculpting decisions.
For instance, would you assume that by being in an open relationship, the bigger change involved having relations with other people who are cool with this lifestyle… or in changing how I relate to those who aren’t cool with it?
If you go vegan, do you think the biggest aspect of this change will be that you relate to animals differently? Or that you relate to certain people differently?
Pursuing a new lifestyle path isn’t just about your relationship with that lifestyle. It’s also about changing how you relate to other people, especially those who judge or resist that lifestyle. At the core of these lifestyle changes, you’re facing a power challenge.
When I see people wrestle with vegan values, I don’t see the main issue being their concern for animals. I see the main issue being their fear of other people.
When I see people facing a decision to pursue a heart-aligned path, I don’t see their passion for that path as the biggest issue. I see their fear of being judged by other people if they take the plunge… and especially if they stumble along the way as they pursue it.
I encourage you to watch out for any areas of life where you’re getting hung up asking too many questions like these:
- What camera should I use?
- Where do you get your protein?
- Which web host is best?
- What niche should I pursue?
- How can I make more money?
- How can I build a following?
When you really want to ask questions like these:
- Am I ready to act boldly? To lead? To do the thing that scares me?
- Where is my path with a heart?
- Can I stay strong in the face of criticism?
- Am I ready to walk this path and see where it leads?
- How will this experience sculpt my character?
- Am I ready to trust this reality more deeply than ever?
You want to know what it’s really like to be vegan, to start a heart-aligned business, to explore open relationships, or to pursue any other lifestyle path that will run into social resistance? It’s about trust.
The answer to these power challenges is trust.
For me these decisions are about trusting in myself, my thinking, my feelings, and my intuition. Even when it seems like most of the world is opposed, I choose to trust myself. That’s been a powerful part of my personal growth.
Can you choose to trust yourself and make decisions that feel aligned to you, even when you perceive that your decision will be met with strong resistance? This is a powerful aspect of our character sculpting journeys, is it not? Figure out who we are, and stand strong in that knowing. Let the winds of opposition blow upon us, knowing that they’ll be exhausted first. Know that the entire world will surrender before you do.
That’s how I’ve sometimes felt about being vegan. I felt like I had to be strong in being who I wanted to be, regardless of how the rest of the world felt about it. And over 20+ years, I’m gradually seeing the world give up and become more aligned. More and more support is emerging. From a subjective reality perspective, that makes a lot of sense. I had to first become something within myself before I saw my reality fold around to match it. I didn’t need to convince anyone of my path. I just had to fully own the path for myself.
Moreover, these decisions are about trusting reality. This includes trusting that when I’m faced with a decision that will toss me into an abyss of resistance or challenge, that it’s for my own good. There may be tough choices to make, especially when it comes to following a heart-aligned path, and life likes to put up apparent roadblocks to see if I really have the heart, the guts, and the courage to plow through them. This helps me think deeply about such choices and really own them when I’m ready to commit. I’ve learned to see that life’s apparent resistance is actually resistance training.
When you face a choice between growth and security, and you choose security, part of you slowly dies inside, does it not? And when you choose growth instead, it’s like a giant leaps to life and floods your whole being with power and energy. And then you realize that you never had any meaningful security without this power coursing through you. It’s this power that grants real security. Without this power flowing through you, your trust in life degrades, and you become less than you are.
Clinging to what you have in order to feel secure is like putting your camera in a safe. That will secure the camera, but that’s all it will do.
If you want to know what it’s like to explore veganism or any other interesting lifestyle path, don’t fall into the trap of framing it as being mostly about animals, caring, passion, or compassion. Such people exist in your world to remind you to face and accept your own power challenges. Pick up the camera and use it.
And when people squawk at you for being different, remember to laugh… not so much at them, but at who you used to be when you were afraid too.