The Luxury of Choice

I am deeply aware that being vegan is a luxury and I am profoundly appreciative for this great ability to make a choice about what I consume.

Most people don’t get the choice to make a decision about food based upon anything but scarcity. Food is food, when you manage to get enough of it. The desperate need to preserve life outweighs any ability to weigh the ethics of the fish you were lucky enough to catch for your family.

I am extremely privileged that I do not have to subsist from meal to meal, worrying about how many I will miss, resigned to need and hunger. Even when I was very young and my Mom was on public assistance, we had enough food. It is the dishes of beans and cornbread, those cheap but filling meals, that I often crave as comfort food now. When cornbread shows up while I’m in sesshin at Great Vow I always feel a happy warmth in my heart.

Often I point out to people that the diet I mostly eat, consisting of legumes, some grain or starch, and some veggies with a sauce, is the kind of meal eaten by many people all over the world. I say mostly because in Portland I also get the tremendous luxury of vegan bakeries, restaurants with everything from vegan grilled cheeze sandwiches to hearty quinoa pancakes. Not to mention my choice of cuisines from all over the world. Truly, I am spoiled by the vegan goodness all over Portland!

In America I am unusual in that I choose this vegan cornucopia of foods over the dominant culture that exhorts us that Beef is What’s For Dinner (unless you want The Other White Meat, chicken, fish or shellfish) and that I need to drink 8 glasses of milk a day in order to keep my body healthy. And I shouldn’t forget to pick up some ice cream on the way home.

“You work hard, you deserve the luxury of this diet of plenty”, suggests the radio.

It made me sick. I saw how it made all of the women in my family sick (heart disease, diabetes and strokes). I decided I didn’t want the luxury of sashimi, brie, Gorgonzola, or roast beef. I didn’t want to Have It My Way anymore. I wanted to go my own true way, not the way millions of marketing dollars told me I wanted to follow.

The ability to just enter a market and buy whatever you choose to is a huge luxury. That we also may consciously make choices that reduce suffering is astoundingly fortunate. This great fortune allows us to be mindful of our connection to all living beings when we are making purchases.

I am profoundly grateful that I have the luxury to choose vegan products. Having this choice in my life has deepened my compassion in ways I’d never have guessed. It also helps me cultivate a more peaceful mind with which I may greater benefit all living beings.