I had no idea I was going vegetarian when I asked Alice Christenson in 1970 to accept me as her yoga student in Cleveland. “Say this mantra (writing it down), do these asanas, and don’t smoke, don’t eat meat, and don’t drink alcohol for a year, then come see me.”
Wow! Is that all? I was so happy to be accepted on the Path. The meat, smokes (had smoked half a pack on the way to see her), and drink just fell off and left. In. 1970 being a vegetarian was new and special. When you said you were vegetarian people took offense: “What, meat’s not good enough for you. I eat meat. You think something is wrong with me? ”
Four years later when I left Cleveland to return to VA, disgruntled because I had not become an enlightened yoga teacher, there was no work in rural VA, so I ended up driving a truck, a meat truck would you believe. I’m sure I was the only vegetarian meat truck driver.
But I saw this as a metaphor for my karma. Everyday I would come to work, open the back of my truck and it would be packed floor to ceiling with boxes of meat. In those days small markets were in every town. I would unload my cargo during the day but my truck would fill up during the night, and like Sisyphus, I would push the rock up the mountain all day.
During my solitary driving, I had a Big Mac attack and the smokes came back. Now I was battling the Devil in my truck cab, throwing the cigs out the window with one hand and buying them with the other, and the meat. I brought home expired hot dogs to eat, rather than throw them out. Oh, the depravity I felt. The self-loathing was right there as my co-pilot. I would never succeed.
Then I asked my heart what I really wanted, realizing that I could not win my battle with the Devil. I want to return to Cleveland and my spiritual path. BAM!
Immediately, again, the meat and smokes fell off, and I Knew what I was going to do, My heart choice had cleared away the confusion and doubt. I stopped pushing the giant boulder up the hill and left for Cleveland. I ended up delivering milk, one of the best jobs I ever had.
And so here I am today, still delivering milk bottled in words. But the meat came back, and the scotch, but, thankfully, not the smokes.
The meat came back in 2012 when as a guest to dinner the host offered me her special chicken she was so proud of, and I refused. The look of disappointment was felt, were as I had not felt the death of the chicken as that was abstract. But she was real, so I said: What the hell, give me that chicken.”
I practice the Buddha Dharma now, and I discovered that the Buddha in instructing his monks who were required to go into town and depend upon town people to fill their food bowl to accept what was given. Just don’t have any animals killed especially for you.
This is my practice now. I accept what the moment gives. I no longer had any argument with myself or the world. I am the world and the world is me. But, don’t get me wrong, this is not a passive surrender to the world, but a creative response to the world.
I take what is given and create something new. Like the mystical swan of India, the Hamsa, I drink only the milk from the world mixture of water and milk. That’s why the swan is white.