Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dove Inspiration

It all started this morning after my silent meditation.  I could hear the doves in the tree above me.  I remember bird’s songs by putting English words to what their songs sound like.  These doves were saying “I don’t know why”.  The  doves  in Arizona sang “My brother says…”  This morning I could also hear the difference in the individual birds.  Not every “I don’t know why” was the same.  It is so hard to think of another species as individuals.  Like any group that we are not familiar with…..another race, another religion, etc.  If we group them all together, it is easy to disregard them as a group and needlessly cause them suffering or kill them.  It has happened throughout history and continues today.  If Jews were seen as individuals rather than a group, the holocaust would not have happened.  If Africans had been seen as individuals rather than a group, they would not have been captured and sold into slavery.  If cows were seen as individuals, rather than a species that we are allowed to own, they would most likely not become property that we abuse and slaughter for food. 
For most people, not all, dogs and cats are our familiars.  We see them as distinct individuals and because of this, most people in this country would not eat them.
You can, more often than not, find people who are Dog Lovers and Cow Eaters, Horse Lovers and Pig Eaters, etc.  The animal lovers who actually just love the ones whom they have known as individuals or can see as individuals.  

We can easily disregard the lives of an entire species because we do not have experience or connection with an individual in that group.  And the opposite is also true:  If someone has a connected experience with an individual in a group they once disregarded, they can be changed forever. 
Think about a group of humans or non-humans that you have strong judgments about….maybe you even hate them.  Most likely you do not have a connection with an individual in that group. 
What I find surprising is that individual humans from groups that are typically oppressed as a group (because of race, sexual orientation, religion, etc) are often not open to learning about (and acting on) how their daily actions oppress others (especially other species).  Many people in typically oppressed groups do not want to hear anything about the well-being of other species we use for food, testing, entertainment, etc. 

I want to be seen as an individual.  We all do.  I do not want to be grouped together with all women, all humans, all Caucasians, all vegans, all animal rights activists, all environmentalists, all yoga practitioners, all people over 50, all RVers, all Jews, etc. I want to be seen and heard as the unique individual that I am.  All beings want this.  No one, not one being, wants to be disregarded, violently beaten or killed for no good reason.
Even the tiniest among us fights for his life.  Try to swat a fly to demonstrate this for yourself.  He will try to escape.

We all seek LIFE. 

How would our lives be different if we looked at a group of birds or cows or sheep or pigs and saw individuals rather than a species?  How would our lives be different if we looked at any group of people and saw individuals, rather than the group?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Old Primate Super Healing!

We are Northeast of Payson AZ in the Tonto National Forest.  Parked here in a spot for the night that only has the sound of the wind in the trees.  We get to an area and clean up any trash left by other folks camping there.  Most of what we find is shotgun shells, fast food containers, cigarette packs and beer cans and broken beer bottles.  I think humans should have to carry waste bags for each other like we have to do for our dog companions in lots of places. 

Yesterday we hiked into a huge gorge in the Superstitions.  It was a no trail bushwacking hike where we mostly followed a creekbed down and had to do some bouldering along the way.  The hike was fantastic.  Blooming cactus and birds that were mostly unknown to me (both the sounds and the appearance).  The familiar little hummingbirds were tooling around and one was especially interested in buzzing us while we were sitting up on a ridge half way down to the base of the gorge.  I watched her buzz around us and then go land in a cactus.  Finally she landed in the big cholla cactus and stayed there.  It was then I noticed that she was sitting on one of those magical little hummingbird nests..... about the size of a golf ball.

On our hike back up the gorge, we were pawing our way up a huge boulder when JC offered his hand at the end of my climb to pull me up the last bit.  I was doing this whole thing in my wet Chaco sandals and one of them slipped on the rock and sent me flying into the boulder with JC still holding my arm.  So, with my bloody foot and what I could tell was a torn muscle inside my upper thigh, I hobbled my way back to our camper.  I could not lift my leg up enough to walk up the small stairs to the camper or take off my shorts without extreme pain.  I said to JC, "This is going to heal really fast because I eat healthy plant-based foods."  And lately I have been eating VERY healthy foods.  It is all I have been attracted to eating.  Mostly organic greens and other veggies and organic fruits and nuts.  So yesterday was the big body slam that made me wonder if I would have to cancel my upcoming backpacking trip and day of rock climbing with my New Mexico buddies.  When I got back to the camper yesterday, I rubbed arnica into my entire leg and took arnica tablets and Bach Rescue Remedy.
This morning I woke up feeling like someone had slammed me with a baseball bat.  But by mid-morning today I was able to lift my leg about 6 inches higher than the day before and went on a hike.  And by this evening I was able to do the camper stairs!  I can feel this thing healing like time lapse photography!  Even the bloody gash across my toe is almost totally healed.
So I it the healthy food?  meditating twice a day?  Yoga every other day? Or is it my attitude that assumed I was going to heal really fast?  All I know is this:  I am incredibly grateful to be 55 years old (old for a primate), slamming into a boulder with all my weight and to be hiking the next day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

RVegans Stole My Blog Time!

OK, it isn't just the RVegans Facebook page that is taking my time....But, who can blame me for wanting to hike and meditate and do yoga in the mountains rather than look at a computer screen? 
You can see some beautiful photos of where we are (a blooming desert next to the mountains) if you go to:                                              !/pages/RVegans/196082600431252

Monday, April 4, 2011

This Flag is My Flag, This Flag is Your Flag

I figure it this way:  All suffering comes from stories.  There is not one stressful or painful incident that does not have at least one believed story behind it.
I learned much of this theory from Byron Katie ( years ago and the tools she taught me continue to help me let go of fear and stress.  They also help me in being more honest with myself and others.
We are still in our solar rv spot in Arizona.  As I have said before, this place is a very diverse mix of lifestyles.  Luckily it is mostly a live and let live place.  And, luckily, we are not parked right next to each other…..we have lots of elbow room and thousands of acres of mountain/desert.  People fly American flags or Canadian flags at their camper.  We fly an Earth flag.  I never thought of a flag as being offensive.  Certainly not one that represents our HOME (Earth).
Last week one of the folks here was telling me about a couple who were here a few years ago who had a Peace flag flying at their place.  Some people complained about the Peace flag and wanted them to take it down.  It didn’t happen.  I never thought of a Peace sign or Peace flag as being offensive. The Peace flag couple had drumming circles every evening and most of the people here loved those circles and would happily attend them.  (Must have been the people who weren’t offended by the Peace flag.)  I could not imagine any of the people I know here (or anywhere) complaining about a Peace flag.   

When I told one woman here that I used to be quite a little hippie, she told me to never say that.  I asked her why.  She said, “A hippie is a very bad thing, Rae.  A very bad thing.  Just say you are an earthy person.”  I never did quite get the reasoning behind it all.  I do know that people are afraid of certain labels.  I was doing a program at a church and I was carrying my stainless steel water bottle.  A man started going off at me…accusing me of being an “environmentalist”.  I said, “Aren’t you an environmentalist?”  “No!” he shouted.  I then asked him if he cared about living in a clean environment.  He answered “yes”.  “Well”, I said calmly, “in my definition, that would make you an environmentalist, too.”  He walked out of the program.
A few days after I heard about the Peace flag incident here, I asked some folks I was hanging out with if it was true.  Turns out it is not only true, but some people don’t even think that the Canadians here should be flying their flags.  Then everyone started talking about all these flag rules that I had never heard of:  “Never fly any flag higher than the American flag.  That is disrespectful.”  “If you fly a state flag you never fly it higher than the American flag.”  “When you are in the USA, you should never fly a flag from another country.”   Everyone had rules they knew about the American flag.  I asked the most vocal person what that meant to him when he said it was disrespectful.  “Rae, you have obviously never been in the military”, was his reply.    It is true, I have never been in the military.  That is no accident.

What I found interesting is that the same person who was the most adamant about respecting the flag eats living beings everyday.  Reminds me of Gary Yourofsky’s ( talk where he says that if he burned a flag or a bible people would want to have him arrested…but if he burns up a pig or a goat, people will go get some beer and be ready to party.  Cloth and paper and ink compared to a living being.  Stories.
We all have so many stories about how things should be or shouldn’t be.  My story that people should not abuse or needlessly kill living beings can often cause me incredible suffering and stress because I think the world should be kinder than it is..not everyone believes my kindness story.  The story that flags should be respected seems to cause people suffering because not everyone shares their story.  The story that living beings are food causes suffering to the living beings who are raised/trucked/killed and the earth and the people who consume these products that cause disease. 
Some of the stories do not cause much suffering. My story that eating lots of organic fruits and veggies is the best path for me, does not cause me any suffering.  I feel great physically and emotionally.  But even this seemingly harmless story could cause suffering.  In fact, in the past, it caused great stress to my family members and friends who wished I would just “eat normal”.  Combine my vegan story with their story that eating “normal” meant eating the products from captive or dead living beings and there was a whole lot of suffering going on.  Or, just my story alone could cause suffering or stress.  What if I think that I must eat organic vegan food and I am in a place where none is available and I am hungry?
My "wierd" food...why can't I just eat normal?
I knew a woman in the Midwest who insisted that her children never consume ANYTHING but organic food.  She was stressed every time her kids went somewhere without her.  She could not control what other people fed her children.  She stormed into my house one time and screamed at me for quite a while….accusing me of feeding her children non-organic wholewheat pasta.  She was in the midst of shouting that she could not trust me anymore when I silently went to the kitchen, took the package out of the trash and showed her it was indeed organic pasta.  About 4 years after that incident, this woman died of cancer.  I cannot prove my theory on this, but I would say that stress was part of her health issues.  She left behind three great kids and a sweet husband.
If I observe my mind through the course of a day, I can identify story after story.  Some of the stories are pretty harmless.  Some of them are strong judgments about me or others.  When I let go of these stories I can feel myself breath deeper.  I can feel the absolute freedom of not being in what can often feel like a prison of stories.  If you let go of your stories, not everyone around you will be happy with you.  That is their stories to deal with.  It is none of your business.  You are being true to yourself.  They are being true to their stories.
Can you go through this blog and pick out all the stories that cause suffering or stress?  There are so many. 
I even get to let go of the story that people should not have stories!  Because the reality is, we all do.  Examining the stories is a lifelong process. 
Byron Katie often asks, “Who would you be without your story?” 
Who would you be?  Who would I be?
"What is your story about me?"