A pure-black calf walked to me, smiled and snuggled, so innocent and trusting, and licked my hand. I half-awoke from the dream, and cried with tears of joy, gratitude, and repentance.
The context was: the day before, I finally resolved to take milk out of my diet, effectively going vegan.
Then, that same night, the calf came to me. With its smile and trust, it forgave me for the wrongs I have caused onto its kind until now. It thanked me for taking the step to honor the values that have been developing in me over the past months. It showed me affection and encouragement in taking my vow seriously.
In my dream, I so vividly felt the love, forgiveness, and compassion from this being, that tears flowed unstoppably. I regretted that my actions — and inaction — have caused much harm to my fellow beings for all these years. The fact that forgiveness and grace from the cow gods came so quickly and readily overwhelmed me with gratitude and repentance. I will not let the black calf in my dream down.
I know that I will from time to time break my vows, fall, and slip. But Rumi assures me, “Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.”
I know that going vegan does not make me morally right or superior — taking airplanes or using a smartphone, as I do, does as much harm to Earth and other beings as eating meat and dairy. Going vegan is just one more step on the path of living my truths, aligned with the values that have become so apparent and irresistible to me.
(If one is interested to explore more, this hour-long video below helped me to finally make the decision to go vegan, after months of internal back-and-forth.)
At about the same time, I decided to gradually take dinner (or 1 out of the 3 meals) out of my daily routine.
It has become shockingly clear to me how I (and most of us) eat way more than what’s necessary for nourishment. Most of the time, I am not feeding my body’s need, but my mind’s greed and habits.
To take from Nature more than what’s warranted for my sustenance, is theft, and waste. The surplus food I eat consumes more energy in digestion than I can possibly extract from it. Being full also makes my mind dull, and my lust untamed.
Chinese medicine and sages have long promoted the virtue of eating less. An old saying goes, “The best medicine to cure illness is to eat less” ( 疾病以减食为汤药). In fact, the Chinese word for hunger, 饥饿 ji’ e, has two parts. The first word, 饥 ji, means bodily hunger, physical starvation. The second word, 饿 e, means the mind’s craving for food, the feeling of being hungry. One of the major sickness of our industrial societies is that many of us are forever craving, even when our bellies are mostly full.
A Taoist belief suggests, “There’s only a finite amount of food each of us is granted in this life. The faster and the more you eat, the quicker you will use up your quota and die.” Traditional medicine also list “eating again before the stomach is empty” as a cause for illness (胃家实).
Buddhist teachers have taught that our body actually consumes a small amount of energy. The main user of life’s energy — 95% of it — is our “false thoughts” (妄念). The less false thoughts we have, the less we would need to eat. Jesus also said, “ Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Those who know me knows how much I eat, and how much I love food. It has been a real struggle to not eat dinner. I still frequently overeat when I get the chance. But, by cutting my intake from 3 to 2 meals a day, I have reduced my chance of offense by a third. Not a bad way to start ☺
One immediate benefit has been that I have much more time to do other things I love, when I have reduced my grocery, cooking, dish-washing time by 1/3. Using food as a way to surface my greed — and to wrestle with it — is also a great aid in cultivation. I also feel much healthier, happier and more alert compared to when I was stuffing myself with food.
I am forever grateful for the friends who have been living their values, thus inspiring me to take mine seriously.