The Goal Was Never to Become Gandhi
Last New Year’s Eve, I made the resolution to start off the year 2016 as a vegan. I felt strongly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s life of service and spiritual path. His writings and philosophy, including being vegan, deeply resonated with me, so I decided that was the next right step for me. I also had a few vegan friends that we very passionate about this lifestyle choice and felt strongly this was the next essential step for human evolution. At the time, it felt absolutely like the right thing to do. As with anything, I was fully committed and started making meal list ideas and even subscribing to Purple Carrot, a plant based food delivery service.
This was a quiet decision that I shared with only a few close friends. There was no need for an announcement or declaration, I just wanted to see if this practice impacted my life in any positive way. However, fast forward 6 weeks, and I find myself in the Emergency Room which began this recovery from chronic illness. I remember in those first few months how sick and disoriented I was, not knowing why my body seemed to be revolting against me and not understanding why I was rapidly deteriorating.
It was probably sometime in April when I decided to finally throw in the towel of being vegan. Something inside of me suggested that maybe this diet was not the best option for me. I vividly remember sitting by the fireplace, teary eyed asking my husband if he would make me some eggs. It felt like a personal defeat of sorts. In all reality, everything during that time felt like a colossal failure, because the life I had created was crashing in around me at monumental speeds.
I remember feeling like I was somehow betraying myself and God for this vow that I made to honor more humane, sustainable animal practices. I had become very passionate about the welfare and care of animals as I had become educated on some of the despicable industrial farming practices here in the United States that treated animals as slaves, many times confining them to cages and crates their entire lives.
I was disappointed to say the least to break my commitment, but addressing my failing health was crucial to continuing this life of mine. I remember thinking that I could not be a very effective advocate for animal rights if I couldn’t even get out of bed and felt like I might be dying. I also didn’t realize how accurate that premonition was. I have since learned that when our bodies have become extremely malfunctioning, entering into a state of chronic fatigue, is essentially a body’s last attempt at survival, similar to an animal in wild that goes into a hibernation mode to survive. The body shuts down all critical functions like energy production, heart rate, digestion to conserve what little remains in hopes for major repair. I had no idea how severe my symptoms were, only the fear and instinct that something was very, very wrong.
Since that time, I have researched and studied nutrition in depth. Although there is evidence that eating vegan or vegetarian is a healthy lifestyle, I do not believe any longer that is a viable option for everyone. The more I learn about the individual make-up of each of our bodies and ties to ancestral roots, the more I realize that the wisdom for the perfect health template resides within each of us and can look very different.
For me, I realized that my body composition was more aligned with needing healthy proteins and fats from animals (There are several great articles and books on the correlation between our nervous system makeup and the diet that best suits.) I believe that eating vegan was severely adding to the burden on my body while I was dealing with the early stages of a massive illness. I still appreciate the work of many animal advocates, and I respect the individual choice of anyone who chooses to become vegan. I would recommend though that you really understand your own body chemistry and options before you consider making that type of decision. It is not one to consider lightly.
As more than a year has passed, I have rarely thought about my vegan days until recently as I’ve been reflecting on the progress I have made with my health. I was wondering how I could have been so passionate about something that I thought would advance my spirituality and relationship with God and have been so off? I felt almost embarrassed about my past decision, thinking how could I be so naïve and foolish?
And there it was.
The gentle, quiet voice that always speaks, when we have finally settled down and are still enough to receive the wisdom it is trying to impart. “Darling, the goal was never to become Gandhi. It has always been to become yourself.” I began crying with joy, rejoicing in that epiphany. This epiphany and many others have literally saved my life.
I realized I was mistaking my worthiness with how “holy” I perceived myself and felt that if I were not emulating great leaders like Gandhi, I was somehow missing the mark. This my loves, is not the way we were meant to live. Never feeling like we measure up, feeling like we need to behave better, sacrifice more… For what? To earn ourselves an early grave? That is essentially what I was doing, and disturbingly, was so unaware.
I recently listened to a podcast by a woman who had the privilege of hearing the great Thomas Merton speak to a group in the 60s. She shared that they eagerly awaited to imbibe themselves with his most profound spiritual truth, while the most important spiritual advice he had for them was this, “The only requirement for the spiritual life, is to become the most authentic version of yourself.” Thomas Merton, one of the greatest contemplative minds and spiritual thinkers and philosophers of his time, boiled it all down to that.
That does not seem like something one would need to spend hours in deep prayer and meditation to discover, but I imagine it takes deep trust in yourself and the divine to know that a life lived honoring the beautiful gifts and personality you have been given is the greatest way to achieve peace and enlightenment. I think about all the years I have hustled and strived to be special and worthy of love when the secret to feeling loved and fulfilled, is “relax, be yourself, let your guard down, seek joy.”
In essence, “Don’t try to become Gandhi, become you.”