During this current North American Tour Thay has offered wonderful teachings on the Four Nutriments, including in the Ocean of Peace Hall at Deer Park. To hear Thay share with so many friends at Deer Park this past Sunday warmed our heart. This talk is posted on You Tube – Plum Village Online Monastery.
In order for us to continue to learn and practice mindful consumption I have asked some lay friends to share their experienced with the Four Nutriments. First comes a sharing by Marge and Keith, Order of Interbeing Members, from San Diego, where they practice with Open Heart Sangha – on Edible Foods.
“As a couple we made a choice to let go of eating meat and animal products (with the exception of some honey), and our primary motivation was to care well for Mother Earth. We had learned of the health benefits of a vegan diet, but it wasn’t until we woke up to the realization that the health of the earth was deeply affected by our food choices that we actually decided to move to a plant-centered diet. This is not a perfect path, for when other options aren’t available as we visit other people’s homes or travel to other cultures we occasionally find ourselves choosing to eat some cheese or egg, or in very rare circumstances a bit of meat, feeling grateful that we have food prepared by our hosts. But, we do make our home a 100% vegan household and identify ourselves as plant-powered.
On this blog the environmental links with our food choices has been beautifully described, and for us the primary environmental motivators for choosing a vegan diet are the decreased amount of the earth’s water, land and energy resources required to feed us from the plant world, the lower contribution to global climate change caused by the carbon emissions created by meat and dairy production, and the reduced suffering in the world because we are not contributing to the terrible way animals are raised and killed for food. Environmental degradation is all around us, and by eating plants rather than animals we feel empowered that we are doing something positive and life affirming.
As practicing Buddhists in the Plum Village Tradition, our way of eating is a spiritual decision that we get to act upon at least 3 times daily and seems to us to be one of the most powerful tools we have for living in harmony with everything around us. Our food choices express our reverence for life and the earth. We all eat, and this gives us the daily opportunity to enhance life or detract from life, to respond lovingly to other beings and the planet or to be destructive. Our practice promotes peace, respect for all life, and kindness, and eating a plant-powered diet allows us to get closer to those ideals.
We also choose to eat mostly organic food to prevent the harmful effects of poisonous pesticides and herbicides from polluting our bodies, the land and waterways, as well as prevent farm workers and animals from being exposed to these dangerous chemicals. Each time we pay the extra price for organic foods it seems that we are filling the coffers of the earth herself.
At the beginning of almost all of our meals we invite the bell of mindfulness and smile to each person present at the table. We then spend the first 5 minutes in noble silence contemplating the blessings of where our food came from (some of which grew in the garden right outside of the dining room window) and appreciating the flavors of the simple, home-cooked, whole-food meals. Once we start talking we still pause often to enjoy our meal, knowing we are caring well for our health by eating a vegan diet and walking more gently on the planet by leaving the animals off of our plates.
We are deeply grateful that the practice centers in our Buddhist tradition serve vegan food and model this powerful diet for the people who come to learn and practice together. Reciting the 5 Contemplations at the beginning of meals is more meaningful to us, knowing that the food we are eating is kinder on the planet and the animals that inhabit it.
Perhaps with the modeling provided at the Plum Village tradition’s practice centers, more people will choose to transition to a more plant-based diet. We wish to support other practitioners in that endeavor, and we are available to help people get on the path or take further steps to focus more on the plant world. We (especially Marge) are committed to supporting people who want to learn how to change their grocery shopping and kitchen habits, improve their vegetarian cooking skills, and transition away from animal-centered meals. This is a way we may share this life affirming way of eating and a way that we put our practice into action.”
Today Thay is giving a talk in Oakland: “Refreshing our Hearts” and a theme that has been offered during this tour is to come back to care for ourselves, our family and for nature.
Enjoy your breathing in the present moment!