I’ve started eating meat again.
Why do I feel as though I’m stuttering out a shameful confession? Why do I feel like I might be letting people down? Why does the mere thought of sharing this with you make me wriggle in my seat just a little?
I’m not exactly sure. I assume it’s got something to do with the meaning we as a society place on labels and identities and choices. I for one am guilty as charged in that department. For the few months that I was completely vegan in 2012, I can’t lie that the title I adorned myself with seemed attractive and gave me a sense of entitlement. I could slot into a society, jam with a tribe, raise my fist in the air in the name of The Minority. It was a place to belong.
Three years ago I changed my diet, which changed my state, which led to me down a path of overhauling my entire life. It was incredibly healing for me. I became more patient, more peaceful and more attentive to my body as I gave up meat, processed foods and binge drinking. (I eventually re-introduced seafood and the odd cheese-plate) I mean it when I say that I saw Life through different eyes; everything felt like a fresh start; most choices were vibrant ones; the payoffs - almost instantaneous.
So why then, would I go back on ‘my word’?
It all started on New Years Day this year. A friend and I were driving back to the Gold Coast after a beautiful night celebrating the birth of a new year with friends (complete with vegan snackies-a-plenty), and I was shocked to hear myself blurt out, seemingly from nowhere:
I feel like a lamb burger.
Really Tara, a lamb burger? Said the voice in my head. You haven’t eaten meat in years! You could’ve at least considered chicken, or ham… but a lamb burger?
My body felt like it gave way to a rush of adrenaline, which quickly turned into a craving. I so badly wanted that burger in my hands, yet at the same time, I was simultaneously terrified of it. Shake-in-your-boots kinda terrified.
We pulled into a place that served grass-fed cuts on their menu, and upon learning about that, I was relieved; I felt a little comfort set in, in and amongst the guilt that was already pin balling around on the inside.
Ordering the burger was like having an outer body experience; I almost didn’t recognise my own voice, let alone the request that came out of my mouth. Normally, I’ll be getting amongst the veggie patties, the portobello 'shrooms, the halloumi… But the lamb?
I barely knew what to do with it once it was sitting in front of me. My eyes darted around the restaurant. I distractingly pecked at my rosemary fries, trying at all costs to avoid the elephant on my plate, until finally, I straightened in my seat, took a breath, and gave my little burger a few moments of loved up, grateful Reiki, before picking it up, and nervously taking a bite.
It was the most present meal I’ve ever experienced. The texture, the taste, the whole experience of it… surreal. No moment was taken for granted.
With a small amount left, and feeling satisfied, I pushed my plate to the side.
‘Okay. So I just ate a lamb burger’ I said to my friend.
A few months later, I’m woken at 4am by an urge to run my first 10km. So I wake, and I do; I run it. I feel strong and powerful – and quite surprisingly, agile – during my run, but when I return home, I feel energy literally drain from my body. Turns out I’ve also got my period. And as Glen prepares himself a perfectly seasoned scotch fillet for brunch, it turns out that I’ve also fostered a primal hunger for iron; for strength; for protein; for perfectly seasoned scotch fillet.
Glen, being totally aware of how conflicting this craving is to me, responds to my request of 'just a little taste' by carefully cutting a piece for me. He lifts up the fork to my mouth, like a daddy feeding his child would, and the second I tentatively bite in, relief floods my body. My shoulders lower. My eyes soften. Relief and delight.
'Yama' is the first limb of yoga, which consists of five parts. The first of those on this 'path to yoga' is Ahimsa, which means: Do No Harm.
This played on my mind heavily as I began consciously and gratefully bringing meat back into my diet. 'Yogis don’t eat meat’ was a mantra I heard on repeat within me, and to be honest, it was causing me a shit load of stress.
Until I decided that enough was enough. What good is the theory of Ahimsa if we’re berating ourselves all day and falling prey to the judgements that sound off with a boom inside our brains?
What good is Ahimsa if we can’t be compassionate with our choices?
What good is Ahimsa if we can’t heed the call of our bodies - whose wisdom is infinitely more truthful than that of our minds?
Yes, I am a yoga devotee, but I am also a fierce believer and advocate of self-love, and self love asks – first and foremost – that we be honest with ourselves.
Sometimes we need to come full circle to fully heal.
It was in that moment – the moment with me and my husband and a tired body and a mouthful of perfectly seasoned scotch fillet – that I decided to disassociate with those echoes of guilt and shame, and instead, practice gratitude and presence while I was eating.
Before all this went down, I confessed to Belinda (in a mentoring session), with a shaky voice, my concerns that I might be a food addict. I didn’t have a food filter. That mechanism within us all that communicates when we’ve had enough? It seemed like mine was broken. What was I so desperately trying to fill with food? I was worried.
She looked at my energy and said ‘Tara… maybe you’re just hungry. Maybe you’re not truly full.’
So, I invested in Gabrielle Bernstein’s online workshop, Finally Full.
I read Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Weight Loss (a book on cultivating a spiritual relationship with food).
And I watched in synchronistic awe as my friend and mentor Mastin opened up about his own struggles with food.
And just as I was guided to these mentors, and insights, and resources, so too was I guided to include meat on my plate, once again.
If there’s anything that I’ve learnt through creating and leading the Party Girls Guide to Peace, it’s this: So long as we’re attached to a self-created identity in this lifetime, we’re playing games with ourselves. We’re missing the point. We’re slaves to the ego.
Now, don’t get me wrong (because I can feel a few vegans potentially blowing steam right now) - if you’re passionate about something, have at it! Go nuts! Give it your all! But not at the expense of guilt, or significance, or old promises that you’re simply too terrified to tread back on.
If you’re a proud vegan, I take off my hat to you.
If you’re an impassioned paleo, kudos for finding what’s right for you.
If your a fruity fruitarian, God speed.
What I’d like to share with you here today - is that I am none of those things. I am a Tara who prefers to eat real food that’s preferably organic (though that’s certainly not essential). And that’s about all the labelling I’m willing to throw at my relationship to food.
Few things in Life have effected me as positively as the practice of yoga. And yet still, the more I study it, the more I come to the conclusion that I will not follow anyone else’s yogic path. My yoga commitment is and always will be about me coming home to myself.
I choose to (respectfully) turn my back on such suggested ‘paths’ as:
- Giving up the will to Desire
- Respecting a guru more than I respect myself
- Trusting someone else with my life and livelihood more that I trust myself
So, can a yogini eat meat?
I believe that if she shows immense gratitude and love for what’s on her plate, and if she honours her body in a respectful way, and if she never takes her food for granted, then yes, no matter what the Scriptures say (and believe me - I appreciate the Scriptures!), I believe this yogini can.
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