I recently had the privilege of providing an endorsement for Lani Muelrath’s latest book, The Mindful Vegan: A 30-Day Plan for Finding Health, Balance, Peace, and Happiness. It’s a beautiful book from a longtime vegan and meditation teacher. Reading it, and being on a panel with Lani at Vegetarian Summerfest last month, brought mindfulness to top of mind for me. Getting laid low with a stubborn bout of laryngitis finished the job. When people want an intense experience of mindfulness, they often sign up for a silent retreat. Life handed me a silent retreat because It seemed to know I needed one.
To be mindful, it seems to me, is to pay life such thorough attention that you glimpse the heartwarming beauty of all that is as you go through the motions of life. With mindfulness, you don’t just do what you’re doing: you become what you’re doing. And when one task or conversation is finished, you move on to the next with the same attentiveness, the same conviction.
A mindful person is a blessing to everybody else because he or she is fully present. So often the person we’re talking with on the phone is also writing an e-mail or brewing the coffee. This doubling up is how we get things done. But when you focus on someone to the exclusion of everything else, you give something rare and eloquent.
Choosing a vegan lifestyle is one way to live mindfully. Instead of simply eating what’s available, or what we’ve eaten all our lives, or what our taste buds think is the cat’s meow, we choose to consume foods and beverages that we believe to be best for our bodies and that we know show compassion for animals and respect for the planet and future generations. When we’re mindful of our food and we’re rewarded with gifts such as peace of mind, improved health, and perhaps even longer life.
We all want to live long and well, and yet an unwillingness to be fully aware takes hours, days and years from our lives. You don’t need to lose another minute. And you won’t, as long as you’re willing to be completely aware of this one. Just pay attention. Be in the experience without judging it or naming it. Be in it as you’d be in the water if you dove into a pool.
If non-stop mindfulness, like St. Paul’s “Pray without ceasing,” is too much, do your best to be mindful at least once every day. That’s all. Once a day, give another person your undivided attention. Once a day, look at a flower and see the petals and the leaves, its strength and delicacy. Once a day, focus on the heat from the sidewalk, the breeze from the fan, the wetness of a glass of water or a shower or a swim. When you do this, you learn to be in life instead of just passing through. This slows it down and fleshes it out. It makes you a blessing, yes, but is also makes you blessed.
Victoria Moran, author of Main Street Vegan and coauthor of The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook, coming in December, is a vegan of three decades, a spiritual seeker all her life, a reader to her core, a writer to the bone, and someone who can’t help but believe in miracles because every now and then, one just shows up. Follow Victoria’s Amazon author page here.
Some Absolutely Heavenly Books on Vegan Spirituality
Animal Grace: Entering a Spiritual Relationship with Our Fellow Creatures, Mary Lou Randour
Animals, Nature & Albert Schweitzer, Editing & Commentary, Ann Cottrell Free
Compassion the Ultimate Ethic: An Exploration of Veganism, Victoria Moran
Disciples: How Jewish Christianity Shaped Jesus and Shattered the Church, Keith Akers
The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible, Norm Phelps
Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith, and What to Eat for Dinner, Ellen Kanner
Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism & the World’s Religions, Rynn Berry
The Inner Art of Vegetarianism: Spiritual Practices for Body and Soul, Carol J. Adams
The Lost Religion of Jesus: Simple Living and Nonviolence in Early Christianity, Keith Akers
The Mindful Vegan, Lani Muelrath
The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of Your Kinship with Animals, Tina Volpe and Judy Carman
Vegetarian Christian Saints: Mystics, Ascetics, & Monks, Dr. Holly Roberts
Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet, Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D
Yoga and Vegetarianism: The Diet of Enlightenment, Sharon Gannon