Becoming Vegan and Finding Integrity

Four weeks ago, I decided to go vegan.

When I became single four and a half years ago, I stopped eating meat. I had wanted to do this for many years – since I was eight years old and watched a beautiful, frightened pig being murdered. Once I decided to make this compassionate change, transition to being a vegetarian was quite fast, except for fish, which was the last thing to go. Going vegan is an entirely different scenario, as it takes added effort to figure out what things we purchase have animals in them.

When people ask me why I went vegetarian (and now vegan), I am often hesitant to respond. In reality, many people don’t want to know, but want to use this question as a springboard to defend their own fallacious position. When I do respond, I either keep it very short and say, “compassion” or – if the person seems genuinely interested – I mention three reasons (animals, the environment and personal health). I then say that while my choice was based on compassion for other beings, it is also nice to know that I am helping to save the planet and improving my own health. Excellent collateral benefits!

Regarding my health – while I noticed myself being less sluggish when I stopped eating meat, the effects were not nearly as dramatic as I have noticed since going vegan four weeks ago. For one, the weight is just dropping off me. I would guess I have lost 8 – 10 kilos in four weeks. Pants I couldn’t get a single leg in four weeks ago, I can now wear.

What else? My cognitive dissonance about trying to be compassionate for animals, while still consuming them in butter, milk, cheese, etc. is gone. It is difficult to hold contrary ideas in one’s head. When we try to do so, we tend to want to ignore one view, pushing our focus onto the contrary view that we prefer. This is cognitively a lot of work. We are not then able to sit with ideas or ourselves, but are constantly defending the wall to the castle of our protected views. We find it difficult to be honest with ourselves about other things, because we know that we are protecting views that – if allowed to be truly examined – would not stand under scrutiny.

So, in addition to my health benefits, what else has changed? I have greater peace of mind. My meditation practice is further improved. I am taking comfort in being true to myself and in knowing that I am not causing the suffering of countless living beings.

We tend to use the word “integrity” to mean “moral”, but there is another meaning. Think about the use of this word in engineering – structural integrity. This relates to wholeness, consistency (e.g. it is desirable for a ship to be consistently strong – one weak section and the ship sinks). To say that a person has integrity could mean that they are moral, but at an arguably deeper level, it can be mean that they are consistent. Their views and actions are in harmony. I personally prefer this use of the word. When I stopped eating other beings, I realised greater integrity within myself.

When I look at the top choices of my life, the decision to go vegan is in the top four. It is also nice watching my weight returning to what it was when I was 18.

Wishing you the best of mental health!

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Graduate Diploma in Arts (Psychology) is next for me

I already have five qualifications, but when I began thinking about doing a Psychology degree, it just felt right for me. I have a Master of Counselling and don’t actually *need* another degree to do the work I love, but I have always attempted to excel at what I do and additional studies in mental health is very exciting! So, in addition to my continuing reading in counselling and therapy topics, I will be doing a Graduate Diploma in Arts (specialising in Psychology).

Some great reading ahead! I have already bought the first two texts for the course, which starts next year.

Here’s to the journey!

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Inner Space – The Final Frontier

When I was a small child, I thought nothing could be better than to explore a new world. I was fascinated by science fiction – to see a new world, to explore the stars, to encounter new beings, to imagine new (and generally more noble) ways of existing. All of these things filled me with wonder and desire for things which I knew I would never experience. I have always loved sci-fi for this gift. This ability to be and imagine more.

When I entered my 40s, I had an experience which shook me to my core. I was lost – lost in my head, lost in the world. The only thing which kept me tethered to this world was a very dear four year old who called me “Daddy”. I felt adrift emotionally and the mood shifts, from grief to hostility, were almost more than I could bear. A place that I felt I knew intimately – my mind – suddenly became a strange and frightening landscape.

It was then that I realised that our greatest journeys will never be to other celestial landscapes, our bravest explorations will not be propelled by the thrust required to break orbit of our pale blue dot. Our greatest and most noble paths will not be to the stars, but will be to the infinite abyss within ourselves. To stand at the edge and look into the darkness, to be willing to stare into the darkness – such is a brave and noble act.

You will receive no ticker tape parade, no slaps on the back, no heroes’ welcome. Most will not be able to understand either your motivation or the changes which this journey has brought to you. You will be able to discuss your voyage of discovery only with kindred spirits, who have also sailed by the stars.