Monday, April 27, 2015

Recognizing happiness

Sometimes life is like a maze, and it can feel like there's no end to the struggles that lurk around every turn.  Every once in a while you get a flash of clarity, a moment in time where the struggles get put on hold. If you're lucky you're able to enjoy living in that moment, but sometimes we're so distracted by life itself that we miss these occasional opportunities to just "be".

Boxes of 45s
Last night I decided I didn't want to just sit on the couch and watch mindless TV, so I got out some boxes of records that my brother and I collected together, boxes that have remained untouched for years. I cleaned and spun records as I alphabetized the boxes. Suddenly I understood that I was living one of those moments where my struggles were outside of the immediate experience. It was just me, the 45's, and my late brother, whose spirit lives in the grooves of those records. I got a quick rush of joy and told Jay I loved him.  That exact moment was a gift, and I'm grateful that I was able to enjoy it, fully present.

This morning I'm back on the life treadmill. I've got my stuff to do, and I feel the weight.  More often than not the "day-to-day" is hard, but I try to challenge myself to streamline the struggle to make each day feel less complicated. In doing this my ultimate goal is to live mindfully, so as not to miss moments like the one I found last night in those record boxes.

Peace.  Jeff

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day 2015 feels like a milestone, at least for me.  In 1990, the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, a lot of media attention was committed to ecological issues, and one that struck a particularly loud chord with me was the harmful impact of the beef industry. I remember reading that if each of us reduced our meat consumption by just 10%, we could feed the world with the grain that would otherwise be consumed by beef cattle. I thought to myself, "If I give up meat completely I could do the work of ten people!" That's how my 20-something brain worked at the time - very black and white, all or nothing.  Thus began my life as a vegetarian.
Earth Day, 1990

My dietary decision was initially met with disapproval from just about everyone in my life, which for me wasn't easy. I considered myself an activist though (still do), so any negativity I encountered just made me more determined.  To say I was a bit full of myself is probably an understatement, and I tip my hat to all the friends that are still with me 25 years later.  I'm sure I annoyed the piss out of most of you at some point.

Despite any early challenges, the long-term benefits of going veggie made the effort worthwhile. My journey may have stemmed from planetary concerns, but soon I was digging into animal rights, the corruption of factory farming, and philosophical arguments for plant-based living. The most unexpected benefit of my new lifestyle was a spiritual awakening. It's not easy for me to explain, but by ending my financial support of animal slaughter I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself.  My daily connection with a higher power became more pronounced. Being vegetarian (and eventually vegan) was a major part of my personal identity, and I wore the veggie badge with pride.

These days I'm not quite as vocal as I was in the '90s, but I remain every bit the activist that I was.  I suspect that age has taught me more effective ways of channeling my energies, so that I don't burn out so quickly. This is definitely a transferable skill -- as a PhD candidate and someone living with a chronic illness it is essential for me to conserve the limited energy that I do have!

To anyone reading who has considered going veggie, I encourage you to at least give it a shot. You've got nothing to lose, and so much to potentially gain. You don't need to give it all up at once -- maybe start with "Meatless Mondays".  You may decide that you want to improve your cooking skills (I personally recommend Linda McCartney's books as a great starting point).  Be adventurous and creative!  You may just find a world of food that you never knew existed.

Thanks for reading. Happy Earth Day to you!

PEACE