In the Vegan community, a new slogan has just come out. We have it on T-shirts, bumper stickers, posters. It says, Vegan, Finding Your Heart. And at first I was a little confused by it. I was not sure what it actually meant. The more I thought of it, the clearer it became. And that is what I am going to share with you here tonight – what that means to me and what it can possibly mean for you.
I became a vegan four years ago, but I have always been a vegan at heart. When I was in high school, the only class that I ever cut was when they were going to dissect a frog. When I speak with other vegans, it seems as though they all have their story – of being vegan at heart since they were young. It took a while to find our hearts because life hits… we fell in love, get married, had jobs, children, we got comfortable in our ways… and followed what we had been taught – that eating animals is what we do. We never quite questioned the sense in that – we just accepted it as the way it was. We forgot what it was like to be young and know what our heart was saying. In finding my heart, I questioned, “Is eating animals what I really want to do?”
A friend of mine says being vegan now is like coming home. This is where she belongs. When she was a little girl, she always felt for the weaker of things – even plants. When her mom took her to buy a plant with her sister, her sister bought this big, gorgeous plant. Christine bought the plant that was wilting and needing care. Today she houses a rescued greyhound and a stray cat. She has found her heart.
Another friend of mine grew up on a farm. The meat they ate was the rabbits that they had raised. Every time her father went to go and kill one of the rabbits, she would run to her room and bury her head in the pillow but she could still hear the rabbits crying and screaming. It took her 39 years to realize she was a vegan at heart, and to this day remembers those rabbits.
My daughter, a vegan, shares her story with me. She says she always had this feeling that she was different. It was like she did not belong with the crowds. She thought differently, acted differently, and saw things differently. When she ate at home or at school, she often questioned, “Is this what we eat, really?” For her, finding her heart was seeing other people who thrive on a plant based diet. It is too hard for her to hear stories about the suffering of animals, but she loves living a compassionate life. She has found her heart at a young age. She is an “old spirit,” perhaps that is why she has found her heart at a young age.
I have another friend who has spent a long time on the road finding his heart. He was vegetarian for many years because of health reasons. As he began to deepen his spirituality, he found Buddhism. Buddhism teaches compassion for all beings. He began to see that all of his words, actions, and thoughts had a karmic effect and in eating animals… he no longer wanted his actions to be of harm. After reading World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle, he began to see the connection to not only his spiritual and physical self, but the connection to the very survival of human life on this planet. The book also details the suffering of not only farmed animals, but all land and sea animals. He became vegan. He found his heart.
There is a quote that comes to mind in me finding my heart… Know thyself means this, that you get acquainted with what you know, and what you can do. For me… knowing who I am – where my heart is – deep inside I know I am a vegan, and passing the message on is what I can do. I have come to know myself in finding my heart.
What happened when we found our heart? Wonderful things happened! Because we found our heart, we were capable of loving more than we ever imagined. We live a healthier life for us. What nicer thing can we do for ourselves but to do the best that we can not to give our bodies heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, and all of the diseases that plague us in our American society because of our diet? When we are loving to ourselves, we in turn are loving to animals, to other humans, and to our planet.
It is not always easy to find your heart –sometimes it takes repeated callings. Each of us is taught to hold particular prejudices and beliefs that are difficult to let go. Finding your heart sometimes means abandoning beliefs that you once held so dear – opening and listening to your heart – whatever it might be saying.
I’m going to end with a story that you may have already heard. It is the story of the man who is in his house when a ravaging flood comes down his streets and into his house. He has nowhere to go but the roof top. And as he is up there with the floods coming higher and higher, he looks towards the sky and prays, God, please help me – do not leave me here to die. And shortly a man floating by on a log sees him and yells up to him, Come on, we’ll float down the river together. And the man on the roof says, no, my God will save me. So he sits and waits Shortly, two men in a boat come by and they yell to him to hop on the boat… and once again he says, No, my god will save me. And they leave. After a while as the river is rising and rising, a helicopter comes flying by with a ladder thrown down for the man, and they yell to him to climb on… and once again he says, No, my god will save me. And they leave. Naturally the river rises and drowns the man. When he reaches heaven, he sees his God and says to him, God, I was a good man all my life, I went to church every Sunday, I prayed to you, I did everything you wanted me to do, why have you forsaken me? And God answers, Look, I sent you a man on a log, two men in a boat, and a helicopter. What more did you want from me?
If you are still in your house, or see a log floating by, or a boat or maybe you see that helicopter in this article, grab on. Find your heart. Many of us believe that there are no such things as coincidences. You and I are together for this moment for some reason. I might be here to share a message with you… and in it, I hope that you also…find your heart.
About the author: Shanti Urreta is a mother, wife, and teacher who also just happens to be a vegan speaker and writer. Shanti lives in New York.