On Becoming Vegan – Why I Did It, Why I’m Sticking With It, And How I Stay Healthy

cow family

For a variety of reasons, I became a vegetarian in 2009.  Although, as the years passed, only one of those reasons really stuck: I couldn’t justify the killing of another living being when there were plenty of other ways to get easily & fully nourished.

However, I never thought too much about becoming vegan.  Using animal byproducts wasn’t outright killing living beings, I thought, so what’s the big deal?

As the story goes, last October I started to learn about the mechanics of the dairy industry.  It struck me that continuing to eat dairy – even from the “conscious” farmers who don’t use growth hormones or do factory farming – was essentially lending my support to an industry built on rape, baby stealing and murder – on very large scales.  I don’t choose those words lightly.  They come from the pain in my heart that is no longer willing to sugarcoat the truth.

***See the foot note at the bottom for an example of why I choose those words.***

Anyhow, as I learned about the intricacies of that industry, I couldn’t in good conscience continue eating dairy.  When I told this to some friends, two people who’ve lived with me jokingly asked something like, “how are you going to survive without eating quesadillas!?”  This is to say I used to eat a lot of cheese!  I liked cheese.  It was certainly not convenient to give it up.

However, my values won and after a two month trial run, I decided to officially give up dairy on January 1st.

Seven months later, I can say it’s been incredibly easy.  When we have a strong conviction, we can accomplish just about anything.  I don’t even think about eating dairy anymore.

I know being a vegan is much bigger than just dairy.  Personally, I don’t eat eggs because I have a mild intolerance to them.  But I have also seriously re-considered and altered my relationship with leather, wool and honey.  I don’t necessarily abstain from using them, but I’m much more judicious than I used to be.

My guiding criteria is the question, “is engaging in this action causing unnecessary harm to living things?”  It’s sometimes really hard to be honest with myself about the answer, as well as my commitment to it, but it continues to be one of my practices.


vegetablesSo how do I stay healthy?

When I talk to people about being a vegan, the main question I get is how I stay healthy.  Usually, I like to point out that plenty of people eat unhealthily.  I don’t actually believe our health has that much to do with whether or not we’re a vegan, meat eater or anything in between.

Instead, since 2005 I’ve more or less followed Dr. Andrew Weil’s Anti-inflammatory Diet, which works regardless of being a meat eater or vegan.  By following it, I’ve consistently enjoyed good health (minus some challenging years living in Asia & Latin America, where it wasn’t always possible to do these things).  Here’s my adapted version of his diet:

  • Daily or near daily consumption of nuts, vegetables, quinoa/brown rice, tempeh/tofu/beans, fruit and a good multivitamin.
  • Little-to-no consumption of processed or packaged foods.
  • Little-to-no added sugar – I’ll occasionally have a chocolate bar, or use honey in baked goods.
  • Abstaining from alcohol & marijuana.
  • Either preparing my own meals, or eating out at places I know won’t make me feel gross.

Additionally, as the mind and body are deeply connected, our health level involves much more than just diet.  I’ve also found it really important to pay attention to exercise, sleep levels, social connection, purpose, and mental health.

If a simple and accessible way to healthy living appeals to you, I highly recommend Dr. Weil’s books, “Eight Weeks to Optimum Health” and “Spontaneous Happiness.”


***Footnote – standard dairy industry practices ***

Let’s say Joe Farmer has 20 dairy cows.  He will artificially impregnate the females every single year so they can produce dairy milk (that is; until they get too old to produce a sufficient amount of milk – then he promptly has them murdered).

As soon as those dairy cows give birth, he separates the babies from their mothers (as cows are mammals with a deep emotional reality, the mothers wail and bellow for several days).

As soon as possible, the baby girls are started on the cycle of artificial impregnation (ladies – imagine someone shoving a pole up your vagina once a year, so that you get to live pretty much the entirety of your life being pregnant – sound appealing?).

The baby boys are promptly sold off to ranchers who will feed them until they have enough pounds of fat on their body, at which point they will be murdered as well.

As there’s lots of money in this whole process, this cycle is repeated in increasingly large numbers.

In hearing this, I find most people are either heartbroken, desensitized or in disbelief – it’s almost too much reality to bear.


It seems to me a marker of a life well lived is our capacity to align our actions with our values – whatever those may be.  With that, I end these reflections of another journeyer on the path =)

A Rough Guide to Eating Meditation — For Beginning and Advanced Meditators

luis-reynoso-514780-unsplashThere are two basic ways to practice eating meditation.


The first is about being mindful of your sensory experience.

Before the food even goes into your mouth, you take a moment to really look at it.  You put your nose to it, and smell its various fragrances.  Maybe you even feel it in your hands. Continue reading

A Rough Guide to Walking Meditation — For Beginning and Advanced Meditators

There are a million different ways to practice walking meditation.  But all of them are rooted in the basics of mindfulness: being aware with a curious & equanimous attitude.

What follows is a way of practicing walking meditation that I’ve found particularly helpful, both for “beginning” and “advanced” meditators.

I like to think of this practice in terms of layers.  Each one is a perfectly great practice on its own, though they can also all work together (sort of like how different instruments can create beautiful sounds by themselves, but can also mesh with other instruments to create a “song”). Continue reading

Three Types of Gratitude — And Practices To Develop Each One

Developing gratitude can be very powerful for brightening spells of depression, and for making the good times even sweeter.  In reality, it’s one of the key inner qualities a person can develop if they are interested in happiness.

In today’s post, I’ll share a way I think about different types of gratitude, and practices I do to cultivate each onw.  Here’s the three types.


aaron-burden-133364-unsplash1. Past Happenings

As the name suggests, these refer to tangible experiences that have already happened.  They could be experiences from long-ago, like the vacation spot we went to as a child, or things more recent, like the vacation we took last month.

Although, one important principle to know is that proximity is power

In other words, the most powerful past-happening-gratitudes are usually the ones that have occurred more recently.  In turn, here’s a fairly common daily practice that I’ve found extremely beneficial: Continue reading

What To Do When You Can’t Fall Asleep


Not being able to fall asleep is a really common experience.  It can happen at the beginning of the night, during the middle of the night, or even at nap time.  Here’s my no-nonsense guide on how to expedite the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep.

The first important thing to understand is that if the mind is tired, it will naturally fall asleep once it’s sufficiently relaxed.

So how to get the mind sufficiently relaxed? Continue reading

Six Important Things to Know after a Major Insight (Part 6 of 6)



We’ve just had a significant insight, and now life feels “different.”

Whether it’s a psychological or meditative insight isn’t terribly important, because whatever it was, it has left a noticeable residue.

Maybe we’re glowing and beaming.  Maybe it has more of a sobering and cool feel.  Although, whatever the residue, the question on the mind is often,

What now?

Here’s a list of six things I wish I would’ve known a decade ago.  They help navigate the transition space from the old-us to the new-us.

Continue reading

How to Attain Insight & Wisdom in Three Steps (Part 5 of 6)


The Buddhist tradition uses a three-step model for the development of insight/wisdom.  While it could be applied to nearly anything, we’re mostly interested in how it applies to the three meditative truths: inconstancy, not-self and dukkha.

Although, to bring it down to earth, imagine we really dislike cold weather.  Whenever it drops below zero, we automatically become tense, agitated and grumpy.

In other words, our experience is of “dukkha”—the pain of wanting things to be other than they are.

However, after walking through the three steps detailed below, we learn to be in frigidly cold weather without getting tense or resistant.  And, in turn, we actually feel a deep capacity to stay relaxed and engaged, not just during cold weather, but during just about all unpleasant life situations. Continue reading

The Three Core Insights of Mindfulness Meditation (Part 4 of 6)


In today’s post, we’re going to more directly explore the realm of meditative truth.

Of course, just as you don’t need to read about gravity to experience it, you don’t need to read about these to experience them, or to have insight into them.  However, knowing where to steer your practice can sure save a lot of time.

As a basic formula, meditative insight largely comes through applying our meditation fundamentals: being mindful with a curious and equanimous attitude, moment-after-moment-after-moment.

Without further ado, here they are:

Continue reading

The Difference Between “Psychological” and “Meditative” Insight (Part 3 of 6)

With any insight, the basic thing we realize is the truth.  However, we can have insights into two different types of truth: psychological truth and meditative truth.

Psychological truths are unique-to-us, story-based, and subject to change—like realizing our life’s purpose is to be a community leader, what our true values are or why we always seem to be late everywhere.  This is also referred to as relative or personal truth, and is often pursued in a therapy room.

Meditative truths are universal-to-everyone, nature-based, and will never change—like realizing that anger is merely a combination of fluctuating sensation, cognition and feeling, or that there’s a subconscious belief that gives rise to it.  Or, deeply seeing that “I am not my thoughts,” and how “I have profound choice on whether to indulge a thought or to let it pass.”  This is also referred to as ultimate or absolute truth, and is often pursued in meditative practice.

To this point in the series I’ve given two examples of insight.  One was about a community elder who realized that people were more important than possessions.  The other was about two people having insight into healthy eating.

Both of those were psychological truths.  While both situations present insights that many people could relate to, they don’t deal with the fundamental building blocks of consciousness. Continue reading

How to Measure the Strength of an Insight (Part 2 of 6)

Insight Scale

When we strip away all the fancy explanations, everyone knows what an insight is.  It also goes by the names epiphany, revelation, realization, paradigm-shift, deep understanding or awakening.  If we look closely, most people actually have “mini-insights” pretty regularly.

It’s a moment where we have a deeper-than-thought realization that shifts our understanding or way of being.

I think of insights as being like a mind-earthquake, occurring on a 0 – 10 magnitude scale (like the Richter Scale).

The higher the magnitude, the deeper the shift in our understanding & way of being.

For example, a friend with poor eating habits once told me he had an insight about healthy eating.  However, a couple weeks after his insight, we chatted again, and he really hadn’t made any tangible changes to his eating habits.

Continue reading