Sustainable Living and Various Types of Vegetarianism

Most people in western countries who turn to a vegetarian diet do so for conservation reasons and their lifestyle is often connected to sustainable living that promotes the maintenance of natural resources through recycling, the use of renewable sources of energy and the support of organic farming. More and more people are trying to live a more ecologically friendly life style, in the process cultivating a more conscious humane society.

Many people who turn to vegetarianism have in their minds that changing to a meatless diet is in most probability the first step to a change towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. About half a century ago, vegetarianism was regarded as a “peculiarity” and not as a moral duty of care towards self, animals and the environment but today such a notion is outdated and we can see that more and more eco-conscious people are making the switch.

There are several types of vegetarians whose common denominator is a meatless diet, but apart from this there are major differences between various groups. The general term “vegetarian” refers to people who do not consume meat or meat products, fish, or seafood such as mussels, crabs, shrimps etc., or any other dishes containing them.

Vegetarians who allow dairy products in their diet are called “lacto-vegetarians” and those who consume eggs in addition to dairy products are referred to as “lacto-ovo vegetarians.”

Lacto-ovo vegetarians often wonder how fair and humane the treatment is of milk producing animals and egg-producing hens. The truth is that dairy products and eggs that come from industrial farms may raise several health and ethical issues. Most industrial farming techniques for the production of milk inject cows with synthetic bovine somatotropin – a hormone that makes them produce larger quantities of milk. That is why lacto-vegetarians are advised to buy organic milk and dairy products which come from cows that are fed natural feed which are free from chemicals, hormones and antibiotics, or even better to consume sheep or goat milk, butter, yoghurt and cheese from small local farms where animals live under natural conditions.

The same thing applies to eggs. Despite the fact that “true” vegetarians avoid consuming eggs, several people who have just made the switch to vegetarianism feel that they can keep their health in check with a little more protein in their diet. Consequently, if you would like a couple of eggs with your breakfast every now and then, buy your eggs from organic farms with free-range hens that are fed organic grain.

During one’s first year as a vegetarian, meals may often contain organic eggs and plenty of organic dairy products, but research has shown that eventually one wont rely too much on such protein sources and many would never compromise for anything where they didn’t know of its origin, quality and its sustainable production.

Vegans are those who consume only plant-based foods and abstain from anything that contains animal-derived substances, while raw vegans exclude from their diet anything that is cooked or processed. Also, there are those who prefer to include fish and seafood in their diet and they are known under the strange name of pescetarians, a word that comes from “pesce” the Latin word for “fish.”

Finally, “flexitarians” are a category of people who eat meat and fish selectively, either when they consider that these foods come from sustainable and ethical sources or when such dishes are offered to them in social or business occasions.

How to Discover Your Life Purpose in About 20 Minutes

How do you discover your real purpose in life? I’m not talking about your job, your daily responsibilities, or even your long-term goals. I mean the real reason why you’re here at all — the very reason you exist.

Perhaps you’re a rather nihilistic person who doesn’t believe you have a purpose and that life has no meaning. Doesn’t matter. Not believing that you have a purpose won’t prevent you from discovering it, just as a lack of belief in gravity won’t prevent you from tripping. All that a lack of belief will do is make it take longer, so if you’re one of those people, just change the number 20 in the title of this blog entry to 40 (or 60 if you’re really stubborn). Most likely though if you don’t believe you have a purpose, then you probably won’t believe what I’m saying anyway, but even so, what’s the risk of investing an hour just in case?

Here’s a story about Bruce Lee which sets the stage for this little exercise. A master martial artist asked Bruce to teach him everything Bruce knew about martial arts. Bruce held up two cups, both filled with liquid. “The first cup,” said Bruce, “represents all of your knowledge about martial arts. The second cup represents all of my knowledge about martial arts. If you want to fill your cup with my knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge.”

If you want to discover your true purpose in life, you must first empty your mind of all the false purposes you’ve been taught (including the idea that you may have no purpose at all).

So how to discover your purpose in life? While there are many ways to do this, some of them fairly involved, here is one of the simplest that anyone can do. The more open you are to this process, and the more you expect it to work, the faster it will work for you. But not being open to it or having doubts about it or thinking it’s an entirely idiotic and meaningless waste of time won’t prevent it from working as long as you stick with it — again, it will just take longer to converge.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
  2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
  3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
  4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

That’s it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a counselor or an engineer or a bodybuilder. To some people this exercise will make perfect sense. To others it will seem utterly stupid. Usually it takes 15-20 minutes to clear your head of all the clutter and the social conditioning about what you think your purpose in life is. The false answers will come from your mind and your memories. But when the true answer finally arrives, it will feel like it’s coming to you from a different source entirely.

For those who are very entrenched in low-awareness living, it will take a lot longer to get all the false answers out, possibly more than an hour. But if you persist, after 100 or 200 or maybe even 500 answers, you’ll be struck by the answer that causes you to surge with emotion, the answer that breaks you. If you’ve never done this, it may very well sound silly to you. So let it seem silly, and do it anyway.

As you go through this process, some of your answers will be very similar. You may even re-list previous answers. Then you might head off on a new tangent and generate 10-20 more answers along some other theme. And that’s fine. You can list whatever answer pops into your head as long as you just keep writing.

At some point during the process (typically after about 50-100 answers), you may want to quit and just can’t see it converging. You may feel the urge to get up and make an excuse to do something else. That’s normal. Push past this resistance, and just keep writing. The feeling of resistance will eventually pass.

You may also discover a few answers that seem to give you a mini-surge of emotion, but they don’t quite make you cry — they’re just a bit off. Highlight those answers as you go along, so you can come back to them to generate new permutations. Each reflects a piece of your purpose, but individually they aren’t complete. When you start getting these kinds of answers, it just means you’re getting warm. Keep going.

It’s important to do this alone and with no interruptions. If you’re a nihilist, then feel free to start with the answer, “I don’t have a purpose,” or “Life is meaningless,” and take it from there. If you keep at it, you’ll still eventually converge.

When I did this exercise, it took me about 25 minutes, and I reached my final answer at step 106. Partial pieces of the answer (mini-surges) appeared at steps 17, 39, and 53, and then the bulk of it fell into place and was refined through steps 100-106. I felt the feeling of resistance (wanting to get up and do something else, expecting the process to fail, feeling very impatient and even irritated) around steps 55-60. At step 80 I took a 2-minute break to close my eyes, relax, clear my mind, and to focus on the intention for the answer to come to me — this was helpful as the answers I received after this break began to have greater clarity.

Here was my final answer: to live consciously and courageously, to resonate with love and compassion, to awaken the great spirits within others, and to leave this world in peace.

When you find your own unique answer to the question of why you’re here, you will feel it resonate with you deeply. The words will seem to have a special energy to you, and you will feel that energy whenever you read them.

Discovering your purpose is the easy part. The hard part is keeping it with you on a daily basis and working on yourself to the point where you become that purpose.

If you’re inclined to ask why this little process works, just put that question aside until after you’ve successfully completed it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll probably have your own answer to why it works. Most likely if you ask 10 different people why this works (people who’ve successfully completed it), you’ll get 10 different answers, all filtered through their individual belief systems, and each will contain its own reflection of truth.

Obviously, this process won’t work if you quit before convergence. I’d guesstimate that 80-90% of people should achieve convergence in less than an hour. If you’re really entrenched in your beliefs and resistant to the process, maybe it will take you 5 sessions and 3 hours, but I suspect that such people will simply quit early (like within the first 15 minutes) or won’t even attempt it at all. But if you’re drawn to read this blog (and haven’t been inclined to ban it from your life yet), then it’s doubtful you fall into this group.

The Bhavacakra Brief

The Bhavacakra or “Wheel of Life”  is a visual tool used by Tibetan Buddhists to represent the concept of Samsara.  Buddhists are firm believers of cause and karma, as well as birth, death and re-birth or reincarnation. Perhaps the meaning of this symbolic wheel can help others lead a more meaningful life.

In the center of the wheel lie the images represent the three poisons of life – ignorance, jealousy and aversion. These are the three sufferings which, Buddhists believe, keep humanity trapped in Samsara.   Samsara is the Buddhism concept of endless misery.  A person experiences Samsara when they fail to understand cause and effect.   In other words, the individual does not fully understand the consequences of his own deeds.  As a result, they are unable to free themselves from the “wheel of suffering.”  One analogy is to imagine an insect trapped in a jar; one is trapped in their own reality, regardless of their actions if they cannot fully understand what keeps them contained.Wheel of Life

The second layer of the wheel is a representation of Karma. Karma refers to the actions that spring from intentions. Intentions translate into thoughts, and thoughts lead to actions. Eventually, all actions lead to eventual consequences.  Whether the consequence is desirable or undesirable depends on the action. Buddhists firmly believe that one is responsible for one’s own destiny. That is to say, we are all responsible for the consequences of our own actions.

The third layer of the wheel is a representation of the six realms of samsara.  Namely, they are the God realm, the demi-God, the human, the animal, the hungry ghost, and hell. It is both purposeful and interesting to examine each realm as it related to one’s own self.

For example, the God realm is a place where beings are in a state of bliss or nirvana.  They are here, in this state, due to the positive karma that they have built up from their actions. Unfortunately, they neglect to work towards enlightenment. Soon their positive karma runs out and then they are born into lower realms. The jealous Gods are those who envy the higher Gods. They live a more pleasurable life when compared to humans, but they suffer from jealousy of the Gods.

Next, is the human realm, which we are all, obviously, familiar with.   In this realm, there is the possibility of enlightenment.   From this particular perspective, it is actually advantageous to be reborn as a human.  Unfortunately, most human beings spend their life time in the pursuit of materialistic rewards. The chances of most beings being reborn in a lower realm are very high.   Once entered into a lower realm, it takes many life-times to accumulate enough merit to be born as a human again.

The forth layer of the wheel represents the twelve Nidanas, known as ‘chain of causation’. There is an aggressive demon-like figure holding this wheel, and here it represents impermanence.

Finally, there is a moon at the top of the Bhavacakra, and it represents liberation.   In other words, it is possible to be liberated from samsara – the wheel of suffering.   Buddha points to the moon to indicate the possibility of freeing oneself.

This is just a very brief explanation of the Wheel of Life, as Buddhists see it.  I very much suggest that if you’re interested, you do more research and explore this for yourself through the links within.  I’ve taken care to make sure these are credible & helpful links.  One of my personal favorites is an interactive version of wheel, which can be found here.

Insight Meditation Center