The process of peace.
That is what meditation can be to us all, it is a process and a practice. Not something that can be perfected, but something that can enhance every single aspect of our lives. Whether you are an athlete or an office worker, meditation is what will bring presence into your everyday life, what will allow you to experience life fully, and what will enlighten your journey.
MORE THAN WHAT YOU THINK
We all have a preconception of what meditation is, but it is usually a misconception. In our modern society meditation is a cross-legged, long-haired hippy chanting "Om" on his way to enlightenment. However this is an incorrect interpretation of what meditation is, in fact meditation is infinitely more applicable to everyone than what our society interprets. When it comes down to it meditation is the simple act of breathing in and then breathing out, it is as simple as being aware of the breath and being present within it. One of the biggest misconceptions of meditation is that you are making your mind blank. This misconception is actually extremely dangerous and can negatively affect those practicing meditation or attempting to, it can make those interested in this process come to dislike it. Meditation is not blanking your mind, meditation is being aware of the chaos of our minds and letting that chaos pass on by. When approaching a meditation sitting know that thoughts are inherent, they're going to happen, but what we must do is be aware of their existence and let them go on their way, do not get caught up in thought.
ANCIENT ORIGIN, MODERN APPLICATION
Meditation has existed for thousands of years, all forms of religion practice a form of meditation. Praying the rosary in Catholicism is a form of mantra meditation, silently focusing on a verse is a form of meditation, a pilgrimage (like the Islamic hajj) is a form of walking meditation. Whatever form religion may call it, it is meditation, however meditation is secular by nature and can be applied to modern everyday life. It can be a tool to raise our ability to be who we truly are.
Breathe in, breathe out. That is the entirety of the process, nothing more and nothing less. Meditation can seem confusing and unattainable, but it is in fact simple. The breath is where your focus must lie, by focusing on the breath mindfulness will arise. However, this is not a perfect process, thoughts will arise, but it is not something to worry about. You are watching the thoughts, not engaging with them. Take a step back, focus on the breath, when thoughts arise be aware of them, and then let them go. While it can be described in this way to you, meditation is still a skill to be honed. You're not striving for perfection, instead strive for practice.
- Dhammapada (I recommend the Eknath Easwaran translation due to its wonderful introductions and commentary. I also enjoy the Gil Fronsdal translation)
- Tao Te Ching (I recommend the Stephen Mitchell translation)
- Bhagavad Gita (I recommend the Eknath Easwaran translation due to its wonderful introductions and commentary. I also enjoy the Stephen Mitchell translation)
- Upanishads (I recommend the Eknath Easwaran translation due to its wonderful introductions and commentary.)
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (I recommend the Sri Swami Satchidananda translation)
- Dharma Punx, by Noah Levine
It's An Inside Job
The food we eat is more than taste or presentation, food is the trail to peace or destruction. In our society food is what controls us and binds us to the medicine and unending doctors visits that we must perform to stay "healthy." Except that interpretation of health is flawed, our society only cures illnesses and afflictions, but doesn't prevent them. All of the bottles in your medicine cabinet may cure your affliction in the short term, but the only way to long term health is through what you eat. Food is now our vice, but can be our savior. In a world filled with immediate satisfaction through fast food, processed sugars, processed grains, chemicals, and animal products, we can return to the simple things and what they can provide for us through a vegan lifestyle.
The basis of this pure eating lifestyle is no animal products and clean eating, but what does that mean? To be vegan you must not eat any animal products which means none of the following:
Also if you wish to truly commit to the best lifestyle then the following should not be consumed either:
- Processed flour
- Processed sugar
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
These foods make up the majority of what our society eats, but they are not beneficial to your body or your wellbeing. What you eat should be based on plants, because plants can provide you with the best sources of nutrition that this planet has to offer. Animals are just the middlemen of nutrition, instead we must go straight to the source to fuel our bodies in the absolute best way possible. The macro and micronutrients that plants provide us with are the purest and most effective that you could find.
Frequently Asked Questions
WILL I GET ENOUGH PROTEIN?
The short answer: YES! This question is almost always the first one out of someone's mouth when discussing veganism, but there is no need to worry. The conventional sources of protein in our society (meat, eggs) are laden with negative effects such as:
- acidifying your blood, which:
- weakens your immune system
- leads to chronic diseases
- increasing your risk of cancer
- increasing your risk of heart disease
- increasing your risk of osteoporosis
With a vegan lifestyle not only will what you eat be more nutrient diverse, something that an animal-based diet does not provide, but you will be eating sources of protein that are more pure and efficient. If you make sure your plate is varied then your body will be provided with all of the necessary amino acids through green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and more. If you're an athlete and worried about the "lack of protein," there is no need to worry, because a vegan lifestyle will provide you with clean energy and clean protein.
DOES IT TASTE GOOD?
Of course it does. A vegan lifestyle can be exceptionally diverse if you make it so. Do not let it only be salads and smoothies, they're a part of it, but not all. You hold all the control. You must get creative, get out of your comfort zone, and try new things. It may sound like work, but you will find that the flavors, creativity, energy, and depth of the food you eat will fuel you to want to eat the best you can.
IS IT A LOT OF WORK?
No, it does not have to be. You hold the control of how much work you want to put in. If you want to cook an extremely complicated meal then you can, but it is not necessary. Creating varied, healthy, and flavorful plates is extremely simple. A bowl filled with only black beans, quinoa, avocado, and sautéed spinach is simple. You can add a chipotle cashew sauce, nutritional yeast, or hot sauce for even more flavor and this is just one example.
IS IT EXPENSIVE?
No! This is another huge misconception, eating vegan does not have to be expensive. You can of course buy expensive products from markets like Erewhon and Whole Foods, but you do not have to. Places like the 99 Cent Store or Smart & Final Extra have a wide variety of produce for an affordable price. Rice and beans are also an excellent and affordable way to build a basic meal that you can add depth to with fresh produce.