I’m writing this post from a small village in the Peruvian Andes where a community of spiritually focused foreigners have either visited or settled over the years. Having arrived only yesterday I obviously have much to learn about this community, though a couple of my observations seem very clear to me already. First, they seem to gather their practices from a wide array of disciplines such as Ayurveda, Buddhism, and indigenous Shamanic culture. It seems to be a true hybrid of global spiritual philosophies. My second observation, which is the inspiration of this post, is that vegetarian and vegan diets are the preferred choice at their hotels, restaurants and retreats. I’m talking about the foreign community here and not the locals when I refer to the choice of diet, as the locals appear to eat chicken, beef, trout, alpaca, eggs, and cheese.
Grain free diets
A little about me, having suffered from symptoms that resemble an allergic reaction for many years, my condition was diagnosed by a Western Doctor as Idiopathic Angioedema, which translates to swelling of the skin from an unknown origin. Later, an Ayurvedic Practitioner recommended a diet similar to the Paleo Diet. Eating a diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, roots, oils, meat, eggs, and goat dairy seems to have kept the swelling under control. However, imagine trying to navigate through this world while abstaining from seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes; a challenge to say the least!
Vegan = Spiritual?
Admittedly, I am feeling slightly defensive as I write this, or maybe I am just frustrated at my inability to eat all the delicious foods this community is enjoying. Do I want to kill animals? Of course not. Do I want to support the horrible conditions that animals must suffer from at factory farms? Absolutely not, but try and imagine eating a grain free diet AND a vegan diet together. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that some people probably benefit from the consumption of animal products, and that they should not be excluded from any spiritual communities. One of my classmates described a similar sense of exclusion she felt from her local yoga community after sharing with them that she was not vegetarian.
Spiritual Carnivore defined
The Spiritual Carnivore eats meat as needed, for nutrition and survival rather than simply for pleasure and due to ignorance. As much as possible they gather calories, nutrients and the fibrous bulk from plant based sources. The Spiritual Carnivore carefully selects their animal products to come from responsible farms where the animals are treated humanely and given as natural of an environment as possible. This is good for the health of the animal, and a healthy animal produces healthy food. The Spiritual Carnivore maintains a body weight appropriate for their size. Overweight people must eat more food than a person with a healthy weight. More food eaten results in more animals sacrificed, so maintaining an appropriate weight is actually a way of conserving resources. How much extra diesel is burned, pesticides sprayed, habitat destroyed, and soil eroded to keep Americans fat? The Spiritual Carnivore doesn’t waste any food because they recognize that an animal gave it’s life for them to be nourished. Uneaten food is saved for later, and bones are made into bone broth.
Tradition versus spiritual evolution
Some of you may be surprised to learn that the texts of Ayurveda do not prohibit the consumption of meat. In fact, I’m not aware of any traditional culture that was vegetarian other than the Hindus, and they certainly supplement with dairy. Since eating vegan is not a traditional diet then I can only conclude that this relatively recent phenomenon represents a new enlightened way of living that allows for humans to coexist with animals. A beautiful idea indeed, and I sincerely mean that, but it doesn’t work in all situations. Like mine for example, or the Inuit of the Arctic, or even an American during a cold winter. In defense of the people here, the equator sure is a great place to form a vegan spiritual community as the appetite is decreased here, and the diversity of plants is abundant year round. Likewise, in certain parts of India it would be easier for the Hindus to abstain from meat due to the climate.
Let it be
The great puma is honored here in the mountains, as is the anaconda down in the rainforest, and these carnivorous animals are more connected to the earth than any human can ever hope to be. Listen, the last thing I want to do is argue with my new hosts about which diet is best, but I can’t help but to feel a little defensive. I really don’t have a problem with what they eat, and in theory veganism seems great for people, animals and planet; at least for a temporary time in an appropriate climate. To this community I say keep eating your delicious lentil burgers, and I can’t wait to be healed so I can share one with you, but until then recognize that like the great puma it may be possible to be a Spiritual Carnivore.