Saturday, January 10, 2015


My path to veganism was first planted(har har)  by my sister going vegan for several years in the late 90s. She also did a lot of Food Not Bombs.Unfortunately, she no longer engages in this lifestyle, primarily for health reasons. I never really entertained the idea of going vegetarian, let alone vegan. I never seemed to encounter any vegans directly; it just wasn't in my sphere of influence. I've always been compassionate towards animals though; been a huge dog and cat lover especially, and I even recall some vivid experiences fishing that stuck with me today. I remember once my Dad and I caught about 6 catfish from Sauvie Island here in Portland. We brought them home in a bucket to keep them fresh. I went out into the garage and peered into the bucket, as they all clambered to the surface to gulp down air from outside the murky water...I felt real remorse for doing this to them. Another time we laid a crawfish trap and brought home a pretty big haul of about 20 odd crawdads, ready to be thrown into boiling water for supper. After we cooked them, I just couldn't bring myself to eat them....they were too lifelike, their little eyestalks and limbs still intact and dangling about lifelessly. That was always my aversion with animal products, the more real, the more I was disgusted. Sinewy ligaments, bone and skin with chicken. Fatty veins and chunks of fat with beef and pork....just not appetizing. But drench that corpse in sauce, breading and other disguises, and it was somehow palatable. Hmmm...

"A human body no ways resembles those that were born for ravenousness; it hath no hawk's bill, no sharp talon, no roughness of teeth, no such strength of stomach or heat of digestion, as can be sufficient to convert or alter such heavy and fleshy fare. ... But if you will contend that yourself was born to an inclination to such food as you have now a mind to eat, do you then yourself kill what you would eat. But do it yourself, without the help of a chopping-knife, mallet or axe—as wolves, bears, and lions do, who kill and eat at once. Rend an ox with thy teeth, worry a hog with thy mouth, tear a lamb or a hare in pieces, and fall on and eat it alive as they do. But if thou hadst rather stay until what thou eatest is to become dead, and if thou art loath to force a soul out of its body, why then dost thou against Nature eat an animate thing? Nay, there is nobody that is willing to eat even a lifeless and a dead thing as it is; but they boil it, and roast it, and alter it by fire and medicines, as it were, changing and quenching the slaughtered gore with thousands of sweet sauces, that the palate being thereby deceived may admit of such uncouth fare."
~ Plutarch of Chaeronea, ca. 100 CE

Then came 2012, and my co-worker Tanya! She truly inspired me to give it a go!!! She mentioned all the great plant based docs on Netflix/YouTube, like Forks Over Knives , and I dived in full bore. With all the free time during my graveyard shift, I must have read over 20 books about plant-based lifestyle, and watched countless documentaries and presentations, especially from Vegetarian Society Of Hawaii. John McDougal and Micheal Greger were especially key in my new eating plan.

  I primarily switched for health and environmental reasons..the ethical/compassionate angle didn't really hit home till later. With minimal increase in exercise I managed to blast through 40lbs in six months, and really transformed my life for the better, learning a great deal about nutrition, food politics and more. Regrettably,  I started to fall off the wagon and began eating more animal products.., I lacked  a vegan solidarity network, and was tempted by all the free food at work.

Fast forward to 2014... after a full year in the Food Not Bombs and Touching Earth Sangha communities, I was compelled to follow my convictions and go back to being 100% vegan. My sangha really drove this point home, tying in the Buddhist concepts of non-harm(ahimsa) and bringing the compassionate angle back into the spotlight. Nothing like solidarity for clarity! The ethical/animal rights angle is really key for sustaining this lifestyle, as many others will attest to. When the heart strings are stirred, it's hard to rationalize that away.  "Know Better, Do Better" from Maya Angelou has become a core mantra of mine, and I just couldn't ignore the tidal wave of evidence for making veganism a core foundation of my new paradigm.We are obligated to take stock of our actions and behaviors; only through a mindful and earnest approach to our life can we hope to be our best selves. Hyper vigilance can be taxing, but what is the alternative? Sowing negligent harm...? Placing our own selfish sensory based wants and desires, over the suffering of others?

Once you are presented with the evidence...,how can one NOT be vegan?
It's mind blowing the amount of ignorance and disconnect going on out there with just what we eat alone, not to mention the vastness of our warped reality, rife with "dis-ease." It's hard to fathom how so many folks can be blind to the the harm they cause...many think they are completely justified and doing nothing wrongMore and more it feels like I'm in some kind of surreal Matrix-esque sci-fi movie....

I've already felt like this for awhile, like with the droves upon droves of humanity in their cars, whirring, belching and screeching all around me...but this fresh vegan perspective was on another level. Just the other day I was in New Seasons and went by the meat department...the shiny windows encased with dead flesh, eager patrons waiting their turn in line...madness. I felt like slapping a "MEAT IS MURDER" sticker on the can so many supposedly educated and loving people turn away from a plant based life? Or so called environmentalists?(watch the following movie if you consider yourself  one of the latter) 

The devastating effect animal agriculture has on our finite, delicate eco-system is mind boggling. A lot of vegans seem don't seem to be fully conscious of this issue; many have typical American style consumptive  patterns because their main impetus for their shift was ethical. We must expand our compassionate awareness to ALL beings; not just our fellow humans, but our precious planet. Like the recent Ferguson demonstrations have reminded us once again, oppression hurts all, and so many of these issues are color blind, cutting across vast layers of our culture.

It comes down to education/awareness and modeling. We are a very much a "monkey see, monkey do world", so the more people actively displaying wise behavior,  the more people will jump on board, and the glorious snowball effect will ensue. Happily, this is taking place with hundreds of new vegans a week joining the ranks of their awakened brethren.

Israel: first vegan nation?

Some people may say..."well I'm vegetarian, isn't that good enough?" In my opinion... no. It's of course "better" than  a typical meat-based lifestyle...but there is still egregious harm with the vegetarian path. Often, there are numerous exceptions, like for fish or other animal products, making the the gap between the vegetarian and vegan ethos  quite substantial, in effect placing many vegetarians closer to the meat-based camps. Like I said, its a matter of knowledge. Many vegetarians think it's morally acceptable to consume dairy/eggs, as the animals aren't "killed." Sadly, there are errors in thinking with that rationale. I'll let Gary Yourofsky explain:

My family has been supporting and accepting of my journey, but it still hurts me to know they ultimately continue on their destructive patterns, my father especially. I love my Dad so much; he's a great and noble being, but his health is in danger. He's been 50lbs overweight for several years now, and all those prior days of being fit and active, are not going to save him from serious health complications entering his mid-60s and beyond. I've talked with him, sent him countless documentaries/stories over the last few months, but I am very much disheartened at this point. Even if he doesn't get the environmental, ethical, political etc reasons, the health rationale alone should be a clarion call for change. I had hoped the story of Bill Clinton-a fellow pudgy boomer-  going vegan  would be a catalyst for embarking on a healthier path. (sadly, I guess Slick Willy  has since fallen off the wagon). Maybe one day, like other people I care about, he will be unable to ignore the mounting evidence that a vegan lifestyle  should be championed for it's exemplary principles and habits.


Diet wise, I try and aim for as much whole foods as I can, and because I'm inundated with so much free produce/leftovers from Food Not Bombs, it can easily be done. My pleasure trap has been eating too much bread, chips and occasionally overdoing on the fake meats/cheeses. We get so many free loaves and bagels I feel compelled to have multiple pizza fests a month....I also need to cut down on my long-running vice; ice-cream. My favorite has been Amy's Mocha Chocolate Chip. I'm also fasting more; one day a week is juice(carrot+coconut) and everyday I fast from 9pm-11am, eating just two main meals a day, with a little fruit/veg snack in the afternoon.  Like my sangha mates, I try and eat local and seasonal, and stay away from packaging as much as I can, but I still need to work on this. I"ve also incorporated using a single bowl to eat with, which helps cut down on dishes and portion sizes.

Going forward I hope to connect with more like minded vegans, rally others away from the daily harm they cause mistreating their planet and fellow sentient beings, and continue leading by example as best I possibly can.

So remember....

"Good people—the ones who maintain good habits, and observe worthwhile traditions and customs— don't just talk about kindness. They practice it. They don't pray about love. They actually give it. It is not your right—based on YOUR traditions, YOUR customs and YOUR habits—to deny animals THEIR freedom so you can harm them, enslave them and kill them. That's not what rights are about. That's injustice. There is no counter-argument to veganism. Accept it. Apologize for the way you've been living. Make amends and move forward "-Gary Yourofsky

"Isaac Bashevis Singer, the compassionate Jewish humanitarian who escaped Nazi-occupied Poland, once condemned every animal-exploiter by stating, "What do they know—all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka." '

 "As long as there are slaughter houses there will be battlefields."-Tolstoy 

"My body is not a tomb for dead animals"-Leonardo da Vinci 

“People eat meat and think they will become as strong as an ox, forgetting that the ox eats grass." ~ Pino Caruso.

"One should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite another to kill. Do not injure any being, either strong or weak, in the world." ~ Buddha.

“Society does not want individuals that are alert, keen, revolutionary, because such individuals will not fit into the established social pattern and they may break it up. That is why society seeks to hold your mind in its pattern and why your so called education encourages you to imitate, to follow, to conform” ~ Krishnamurti.

"Our grandchildren will ask us one day: ' Where were you during the Holocaust of the animals? What did you do against these horrifying crimes?'  We won't be able to offer the same excuse for the second time: that we didn't know."Dr. Helmut Kaplan (b. 1952)

"If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals."Albert Einstein

"Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are all cut from the same defective fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves."Cesar Chavez

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Guide to FREE Wifi-Phone!

Just a quick guide/advice on going with a wifi only smartphone setup.

For many paying $50-100 for a phone plan is a HUGE chunk of their budget, one that is not necessary at all. I at first was a bit hesitant of getting rid of my always on data plan, enabling me to call anywhere, text anywhere and look up random stuff on the internet anywhere. But after being on my Droid X with wifi for almost a year now, I couldn't be happier.

 The steps:

1.) Acquire smartphone, Android preferred(they are more open source, and easier to root I believe. Plus I am not a fan of Apple's propriety BS). With all the new fangled giant phones coming out, you can probably score used first and second generation phones(like my Droid X) for very cheap. And rather than just getting a "dumbphone" that might be cheaper to buy initially, the data plan will hurt you in long run.   A smartphone allows waaaaaay more options for use; it's a mini-pc with a phone/camera/gps/e-Reader/flashlight etc etc. The gps actually can use downloadable offline maps for navigation as well, and of course as long as you  have wifi it functions just like all those phones with expensive data plans.

2.) Get a Google Voice account. This will enable you to get texts and voicemails, the latter will be transcribed as a bonus, though they are usually hilariously mistranslated like Mad Libs You can check and send all messages via your gmail account too! A few months ago they dropped the ability to make outgoing calls, so I use another app for that, GrooveIP, that also receives voicemail if you wish, but I just keep my Google Voice as my text/voice mail depository to keep track better.

3.) Let people know ahead of time what your plans are and that you are wifi-only. It's akin to having an old phone at home; checking messages later, having certain windows of availability for talking etc. I find it really liberating to not always have this constant connection to the data stream. And there are PLENTY of wifi hotspots, nearly every home has it, cafes, restaurants etc. You can even be outside the establishment and pickup on usable signals, just as I had to do the other day to get picked up from Greyhound. I walked a few blocks down to a sandwich shop that had "FREE WIFI" emblazoned on the window and voila, contacted my data cell plan user to come pick me up.

The main issue I have seen is just that people used to having always on data is that they get so used to that they use it as a crutch. Lost? GPS. Can't find your friend/didn't coordinate before hand. Text/Call. And if worst comes to shove and you have to use a phone outside of wifi, 99% of people have an actual data plan phone with them you could ask to borrow. Ideally more people would switch to this and the availability for free wifi everywhere would be in more demand, as proposed by several industry leaders. Even PDX has tossed the idea around for this city-wide access.

This video does a good job of breaking it down.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Years Intentions

When I moved into Casa Tequio in April 2014, I made an intention list. Much to my delight, most of these things have come true; from living primarily without money, continuing to make my sangha/Buddhism a central part of my life, cycling, becoming vegan again and more. Intentions are very powerful, and given enough focus, time and momentum, they usually manifest.

When I went to the Heart of Wisdom's New Year's Eve. myself and others wrote down several errors of the past year to be ceremoniously burned let go and start fresh for 2015. A few of them were "too much screen-time"(PC/phone etc), "lack of yoga"(no classes, no routine) and "not assertive enough." I highly recommend going to such a ceremony on New Years, so much more rewarding than self-serving parties.

New Years Intentions 2015:

1.) Less Screen Time (unplug!)
2.) Expand Vegan activism/health by eating more whole foods, up my fruit/veggie intake
3.) Connect more with like-minded persons "doing the thing"
4.) Spread word/mission of sangha to more people, bolster our weekly meeting
5.) Continue dog caretaking/sitting for rent monies as well as volunteering(Pixie Project)
6.) Get more involved with Micro-Housing for houseless/low income
7.) Thrive primarily moneyless
8.) Visit Moab in Fall?
9.) Attend Summer Programat Great Vow
10.) Get into alternative green building/living systems more(veganiculture. Earthships etc)
11.) Let go of videogaming/Netflixing away hours.
12.) Be open to a romantic partner to join on similar path.