… I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and to learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals…
– Thich Nhat Hanh
(The first mindfulness training)
Many Buddhist traditions encourage vegetarianism. Although this practice is primarily based on the wish to nourish compassion toward animals, it also offers many health benefits. Now we also know that when we eat vegetarian, we protect the Earth and help reduce the greenhouse effect that is causing her serious and irreversible damage. Even if you cannot be 100 percent vegetarian, being a part-time vegetarian and consuming a more plant-based diet is already better for your own health as well as the health of our shared planet. [Vegans and vegetarians tend to weigh less than those who consume animal products.]
You may want to start by eating vegetarian for a few days a month, or you can eat vegetarian only for breafast and lunch every day. This way, you are already more than half vegetarian. If you feel that you cannot eliminate animal products from your diet for even one meal, simply reducing the portion of meat and eliminating processed meats like bacon, sausages, and ham can lower your risk of colon cancer and your risk of dying an early death from heart disease, cancer, or other causes. This is a good first step to adopting a more plant-based, healthful, environmentally friendly diet.
Using mindfulness to look more deeply at what you wat can make it much easier to make such changes, because you realize the benefits they can bring to the planet and yourself – lower weight, lower risk of colon cancer and heart disease, and more energy for doing the things you enjoy. We are ‘interbeings’: we and our environment are interdependent. And even small changes on our part can have a large impact when combined with others. Our market economy is driven primarily by consumer demand. As a population, if a large number of people make even small moves to eat less meat and more plant-based foods, the livestock industry will shrink. Over time, farmers will find other crops to support their livelihoods. Through such collective awakening, we can make a difference in our world.