Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


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.


Countdown to Jukai

It is a week away and I don't feel excited or happy about the Jukai ceremony next week. It has felt like every task (sewing my rakusu, making my lineage chart, and writing about the precepts again) has done nothing but stir up my Inner Critic and/or trigger painful memories. For the most part I'm just feeling apathetic, tired and emotionally raw.

And I'm still waffling on asking my Mom to attend. Right now part of what I'm stuck on is pure logistics. Mom doesn't drive, is out in either Corbett or Gresham (long story, another post), our house is already going to be filled to the brim (yep, source of anxiety) as are our cars, and I'm not sure her husband or anyone would be willing to come into Portland on a Thursday evening. Add all of those headaches to having stirred up a lot of painful emotions around growing up and I still haven't talked with her about it at all.

My neck/head still ache, particularly the left side. IW worked on it yesterday at our therapy appointment, but there's this lingering heavy feeling to it all. I think some of it is allergies/sinus and some feels like all this icky, sticky energy. CK and I talked again last night about my seeing someone for acupuncture to get some of that stuck stuff moving. Massage and the physical/craniosacral therapies have helped, but stuff still feels stuck at times.

Tonight before sitting we had a meeting with our practice group and I shared that I felt lousy, cranky and didn't really want to be there. It was suggested that we talk about working with emotions in our practice and I felt like I had a total meltdown, including muscle spasms, stuttering, and crying of course. We ended up not staying for zazen and instead went to the gym to sit in the steam room, which helped relieve some of the muscle tension.

What really hit me was feeling angry that here I've worked so hard to reach this point, to receive Jukai, and I don't even appreciate it. I'm so worn out and exhausted by all the painful emotions it has brought up that I can't even enjoy the accomplishment. I feel that I've been robbed of feeling good about this, like so many other times in my life the abuse in my past has taken from me.

Before we left one of my Dharma sisters reminded me that I have a week to go, that maybe by next week I'll be able to appreciate the work I've done. I hope so.

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