hunger1_2When I was lying around with jaundice and essentially starving, I started to develop cravings and a lot of the cravings were for fat and protein, particularly in the form of cheese. One thing I’ve learned over the years with a restricted diet is that craving always takes a form, but it’s never necessary to fulfill that form. Underlying any particular craving is a deeper need. When we satisfy that deeper need, the form simply disappears. For instance, if you crave meat, your body is likely crying out for protein. If you eat something with beans or nuts, that craving, unless you become super-attached to it, will go away. In some cases, the craving may be more emotional, in which case, perhaps you are craving the feeling of comfort or “home” that is associated with the food. This can also be fulfilled in other ways.

At the time, I had a particularly strong craving for Blondie’s pizza in Berkeley. It lasted so long and was both an expression of what my body was crying out for (fat and protein) and a yearning for relief and comfort. Eventually, I decided I would probably make an exception when I returned to the US and have a slice to fulfill the emotional part.

pizzasliceThe thing I learned about being vegan from when I first started is that exceptions can easily lead to a complete meltdown and that is why, if you choose to uphold a decision like this, it’s sometimes necessary to remain very strict.

Knowing that I was going to make an exception, when the feeling of starvation persisted for many more weeks, and the yearning for protein and fat remained, my guards had been relaxed and I opted on a few rare occasions to take cheese. Since I had made these exceptions, why not add a little more fat to my diet? On several occasions, I stopped and bought ice cream. With jaundice, you are supposed to keep fat intake to a minimum, but my body was telling me otherwise.

I was very ashamed and did not want anyone else to know I was making these exceptions. I think for one, I had trained everyone to know that I was vegan. It’s easier to remain disciplined when the rules are clear and concise and they are upheld. Exceptions can make things fuzzy, and more difficult to live by. Plus, in taking dairy, I was clearly choosing to ignore and violate certain compassionate truths I had come to understand, and felt tremendously ashamed about this.

icecreamIn taking dairy for the first time in years, it quickly became apparent how nourishing it is. It was amazing to me that people eat it on a regular basis. It felt like such instant and complete nutrition. Just taking a little, I could feel my body absorbing it and using it. It was as if my body had a memory of where it was supposed to be and it instantly started to work its way back to that state. Without effort, my muscles were returning. My appetite was growing huge.

As I began to make exceptions, it no longer made sense to say no to some dairy and yes to other. This is the slippery slope that I was talking about, when meltdown is just around the corner. I decided to give myself a conscious window of a couple weeks. That way, I could take in the nutrition my body wanted and not feel like I had thrown out my values.

In taking dairy, life becomes a hundred times easier. I could eat what was offered. I could get full nutrition super easily. Life just became damn easy and so much more pleasant. And I realize that is how most people are living. But with this relaxation, there was also a loss. There is something deeply valuable about maintaining a discipline. It keeps you sharp. It keeps you focused. It heightens life and provides a meaning that can be lost when things are too comfortable.

cowmothercalfI could also feel a shift in consciousness. Years before, I had been a very strong and physical person – engaged in working within the material world. Since then, I had become more meek and fragile. Again, I felt a shift back into this consciousness, where I was becoming stronger, more of a force, more physical. I was re-entering the more human plane and it felt empowering.

When I became vegan, it was never a health choice. It was a tremendous sacrifice as a refusal to participate in a murderous system. In the process of evolution, you see that species adapt to their environments. One can argue that humans are natural meat eaters or are supposed to drink milk, etc. But from my point of view, I saw my decision as a conscious evolutionary choice. Sure, this decision to go vegan is perhaps new to the human species, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Though the transition may be a difficult one, eventually with time the human species would evolve into another form as we walk down the vegan path.

One thing I know for certain is that when I take milk, the cow literally becomes my mother. That may sound ridiculous, but when you really think about it, how can it not be this way? You are drinking her milk like an infant. Would you kill your mother when her milk production decreased? Would you treat her as a commodity? Would you kill her children when they are born male? Of course you wouldn’t, but we do. It’s the standard.

holycowWhile here in India, I began an investigation into the milk industry and I have learned a lot. I came in looking for the dark, hidden secrets, and what I have found instead is that for the most part Gujarat serves as the model for the world. Since this entry is too long to go into it now, I’ll have to talk about it elsewhere, but what I have found is extraordinary and provides such hope.

For now, I have stopped taking dairy again completely outside of Gujarat, or unless I’m assured the cows, both male and female, have it good. In Gujarat, I’m still not entirely sure where I stand, but for now at least have decided to continue making exceptions.

People don’t always understand why the Hindus regard the cow as Holy, but it’s when we do, that we come upon a natural harmony.