Veganism, however, goes beyond food. Here's the Wikipedia definition:
"Veganism (also strict or pure vegetarianism) is a philosophy and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animal derived products for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans do not use or consume animal products of any kind. The most popular reasons for becoming a vegan are ethical commitment or moral convictions concerning animal rights, the environment, or human health, and spiritual or religious concerns. Of particular concern are the practices involved in factory farming and animal testing, and the intensive use of land and other resources required for animal farming."
Aside from talking about this philosophy within the context of health and the environment, Will Tuttle also framed the idea of veganism with the larger concept of spirituality, particularly in respecting the interconnectedness of all life on the planet and including all living beings in our sphere of kindness. He asserts (and this is probably an oversimplified interpretation) that peace and the sustainability of life, largely depends on our choices, especially our food. His ideas, grounded in extensive research on anthropology, the great religions, and culture, are quite powerful, and I can't even begin to repeat all of them yet. I'm still in the stage of processing everything. But this seems to be why my attempts at trying to go vegan fell through... I was not (and admittedly, still am not) in that place yet spiritually.
Spirituality is a journey, after all... it's based on experience, and the reflections, insights, and growth that results from it. I've gone on spiritual retreats in the past and experienced that "post-retreat high" that can be so common after a powerful experience... and along with that "high", feeling that I'm a completely different person and can change the world. But that "high" diminishes. Because it is unrealistic to expect a 180-degree change within a day. Meaningful change is gradual. Real change comes from learning, questioning, understanding, and accepting... then translating that into action.
But going back to the idea of "interconnectedness"...
The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root word yuj, which means "to yoke" or "to join". Yoga is about union -- union with our true self, union with others and all life, and union with the divine. I'm still wrapping my brain around these concepts, because they can be interpreted on so many levels.
One on level, this sense of union brings about respect and compassion for all life. And I think this can be manifested in various ways, just depending on each person. Each of us carves out his or her own path, and there are different paths to peace. The question is, which path is the most meaningful to me? Which path do I believe in? It's always hard thinking in terms of absolutes, in terms of black and white. Life always comes in shades of gray. Thinking in terms of absolutes makes me feel stuck sometimes. Right now, I'm in a place where I think, "do whatever you can -- a little is better than nothing." As juvenile as that may sound. Maybe I'm letting myself off the hook too easily. But I think a good place to start is by being conscious of the kinds of choices I make on a daily basis.
Before I ramble too much (if I haven't already), I thought I'd post this quote, since today it really speaks to me about this concept of union and our true nature as interconnected beings:
“I had the sense that all things, the sand, the sea, the stars, the night, and I were one lung through which all of life breathed. Not only was I aware of a vast rhythm enveloping all, but I was part of it and it was part of me.” - Howard Thurman