Making 'Good' Choices

A tiny mountain of sand stood in my path, created by a community of ants who probably spent years of their life (days of mine) constructing a tunnel into the Earth. The thought of placing my foot down felt wrong and selfish.

I do a lot of thinking. I take every idle opportunity to think deeply and consider what I should or should not be doing.

When I'm walking around and looking down at the ground with a blank state of mind, I'm thinking about where I want to place my foot next, what spot makes the most sense.

The other day while I was walking to the train station, I approached a puddle in the road and found two doves sipping from the waters' edge. They began scuttling away as soon as I approached, keeping an equal distance from me with each step I took forward.

Doves have always struck me as an odd creature, more relaxed, as if they love not flying, as if they'd rather not be bothered to needlessly expend energy if they can avoid doing so.

It was then that I realized I had a choice: I could walk to the right of the puddle (closer to the doves) and they would surely feel outpaced and take flight, or I could walk to the left and they would remain on the ground, at ease with my distance.

So which way should I go, left or right?

In the end, either choice would take me to exactly the same place on the other side of the puddle, but it was obvious to me that one of those two choices would have would have a drastically different effect on the world around me.

If I felt a sense of entitlement--if I felt that my being born as a human gave me some inalienable right over all other life--then I might not care which direction I stepped; I'd feel entitled to do whatever I wanted.

But the simplistic notion that all life resides somewhere on a food chain, and that anything below your spot on the food chain is somehow worthy of less respect, is ignorant to say the least.

Life is more than a hierarchical order of things.

Carrying the Best Intentions

My friend Niall Doherty--not to pick on him, but because he recently wrote something that helped me learn more about myself--quit being vegan after two years of sticking with it, siting serious doubts around the three arguments that initially led him to the vegan lifestyle.

Reading through his doubts I quickly realized why I've always found myself drawn to veganism: it's not about the effect my diet has on the environment, or about avoiding any needless killing, or even about taking care of my own health.

For me, those things are just practical and logical bonuses on top of the real reason that I gravitate towards veganism.

It's the same reason why, when given a choice, I avoid stepping on an ant or scaring away the doves: my actions, no matter how trivial they may seem, affect the world around me and, as the one responsible for my actions, I have a duty to ensure that my actions carry the best intentions.

How many people do you know who wouldn't tense up or put their foot over the brake when a squirrel or any other small animal runs in front of their moving vehicle? A small animal poses absolutely no threat to the person inside the vehicle, and yet we risk danger to ourselves by slamming on the brakes or swerving on the road.

When our subconscious is presented with a choice between life and death we instinctively choose the action that preserves life, because non-violence is an integral part of human nature.

While all life has meaning, purpose, and value, a human existence grants me something unique to the animal kingdom: the ability to make conscious choices based on rational and empathetic thinking.

Because I'm human, I can choose left or right based on conscious thought.

Because I'm human, I can look at the world around me and ask myself how my small, seemingly insignificant actions today will affect the bigger picture tomorrow.

I'm able to think about how my actions are going to affect not only me, but how they're going to affect everything around me, and not just for today or tomorrow but for generations to come.

No other species on this planet can make such conscious and globally empathetic decisions. No other species can consciously recognize that its actions may be copied by others and therefore amplified to create change on a greater scale.

Setting a 'good' example that I would want others to follow is important to me, but so is feeling good about the choices that I make. Making choices that I'd want others to follow, it just so happens, usually leads to choices that make me feel good too.

I doubt that anyone saw my instantaneous decision to walk left around the puddle, but it felt good, just like stepping over the mountain of sand and choosing to eat plants instead of animals.

Perhaps I think this way because of an innate understanding that what affects everyone and everything around me eventually ends up affecting me too.

Globally Conscious Personal Choices

Earth is an ecosystem, a community of life, and we're all born with an innate understanding that what affects the community eventually affects us too.

Good choices, then, are those that are not only good for us, but also good for the community.

For most of human history, our community has consisted of a few hundred people, or a few thousand at most. Today we're living in a global community of more than 7 billion people, a community where what we buy, what we eat, and what we choose to do with our time has a measurable affect on all corners of the globe.

It's not enough to just think globally. We must also live globally and that means making globally conscious personal choices, choices that are made while being conscious and informed of how those choices will affect everyone else.

If everyone on the planet copied your personal choices would that be good or bad for the global community?

Video: Eating a Cashew Fruit

[Note to email and RSS readers: You may need to click through to the website to view the video.]

Have you ever wondered what a cashew looks like straight from the tree? The farm where I'm staying in India has dozens of cashew trees growing (they're harvested for good money).

One day, while exploring the farm, a cashew fruit dropped from a tree and almost hit me on the head (maybe if it actually hit me I would have discovered a universal law). Continue reading

My First Substantial Vegan Dinner on the Farm in Ujire, India

I cooked my first substantial vegan dinner on the farm in Ujire, India using rice, channa dhal, and onion's that I purchased from town and some local veggies that were growing on the farm.

I have since gotten more creative (standby for future videos!) but there's something beautiful about the simplicity of a meal like this: It never leaves me feeling like crap and it always fills me up (thank you fiber)!

Cooking food with positive thoughts and positive energy

While sitting at my favorite vegan cafe, Life Alive, I overheard one of the employees telling a new employee about the importance of positive energy and positive thoughts when making rice. Yes, making rice. She was explaining how even if it's been a busy day and you're frustrated, it's important not to put negative energy and negative thoughts into the rice. Whether or not that's the primary reason the food tastes so good, I'm willing to bet it plays a big role. (I would reference Masaru Emoto's Messages from Water research, but it has yet to be scientifically proven.)

Tempeh & Chinese Broccoli

I had about a cup and a half of leftover brown rice that had been sitting in my refrigerator for the past few days and I needed something to eat it with for lunch today. So this morning I spontaneously whipped together something on the stove:

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of peanut oil
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 a package of soy tempeh
2-3 leafs of steamed Chinese broccoli

After sautéing the first three ingredients for a few minutes I added the tempeh and turmeric, splashing in a few tablespoons of water to keep things from drying out. In a separate pan I steamed the Chinese broccoli, stems and all, until they were soft (but not soggy). I then drained and added the vegetable to the tempeh and let it cook for a few more minutes. Towards the end I sprayed on a few squirts of Bragg Liquid Aminos (very similar to soy sauce) which really added flavor to the whole thing.

It turned out great and only took me about 15-20 minutes. When you add in the brown rice it's a very tasty and nutritious meal!

Red Bell Peppers

As I was cutting these red bell peppers this morning, I was surprised when an open cut on my hand started stinging really bad -- as if I had been cutting onions or hot peppers! I knew it wasn't the water on the peppers because I just took a shower and I had washed my hands without feeling any pain at all. I'm guessing the pain was caused by the trace amounts of capsaicin found inside the bell peppers.

Red bell peppers, like their close relatives the hot peppers, contain capsaicin. Capsaicin is what makes peppers hot, however the bell peppers have a recessive gene that eliminates the capsaicin and allows us to eat an entire pepper without our mouth catching on fire.

Red bell peppers are an amazing food and contain a huge array of vitamins and minerals. They are very high in vitamin C (higher than oranges!), contain high levels of antioxidants, and have more beta-carotene than green or yellow peppers.

Red Lentil Dhal

I made some red lentil dhal yesterday, following this recipe from the Vegan Recipe Database. I only had about half the ingredients, so I had to run to the store before cooking it. The spices are expensive (!) but I justified buying them since they're something you buy once and use for many months.

Amazingly, the 1 cup (dry) of red lentil dhal I used contained a whooping 48g of protein! The dhal was so good I ended up finishing half of it last night and the other half for dinner this evening. For those wondering what exactly "dhal" means, the best way I can describe it is by saying it's an Indian soup. You can read more about dhal here.

It took me over an hour to cook, but it was well worth the wait! Theres something enjoyable about sitting down to eat what you put time and effort into preparing. Perhaps I'll start cooking more often.

Fruits and Veggies for a Week

I went food shopping today, at Whole Foods. It's not the cheapest place to shop, but they certainly have good stuff. I always shop for the current week, nothing more. By the end of the week everything in my fridge should be gone (besides peanut butter, jam, flax oil, etc).

The rest of my diet includes whole wheat bread, tempeh, brown rice, beans, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereal, assorted nuts, and soy milk. My fruits I eat raw, and I usually steam veggies in the microwave (1 inch of water on the bottom of a bowl, add washed veggies and microwave for 5 min). Although I've been avoiding all dairy for the past few months, I've recently introduced whey protein back into my diet to help with my muscle gains.

This week I'm also trying something new, soy yogurt. I've read the live cultures in yogurt are really good for your digestive system and since I've been having odd digestion issues, I'm going to see how that helps.

Deadly Food

What would happen if the makers of popular cleaning chemicals modified their products in such a way so that the chemicals tasted, and smelled, just like food? What if bleach smelled, and tasted, like cotton candy? Activists and health organizations would go crazy. Children and pets who don't know any better would get sick and start dying from chemical ingestion. You're probably thinking, "What a crazy thing to even suggest!".

Well, lets see: scientific studies have shown that it's a scientific fact that soda, donuts, cheese burgers, and other unnatural and unhealthy so called "foods", will kill you over time. Yet the better tasting and more appealing the food companies make their "products", the more money they make! The foods are shown to eventually lead to obesity and death and yet it's totally legal and OK for them to market and sell them!

Did you know that the food companies aren't even required to run any kind of trials to test the safety of a new food or product? The foods available on the market today are more dangerous for you than the chemicals and drugs in a pharmacy! Ingredients in foods should be as carefully inspected as chemicals are in new drugs and overly unhealthy foods should be outlawed.

I saw a box of donuts this morning. I wasn't offered any, but that's because everyone already knows I'll simply smile and say "No thank you.", turning away with my feeling of health and motivation still 100% intact. Then I thought, "How much would I need to be paid to eat a single donut?" $10? $25? $50? $100? I finally settled on $150, no less. Call me crazy? Well that's what the extra one hour of intense running, required to burn those calories, is worth to me.

It costs me hours of strenuous physical work to burn extra calories, but it costs me nothing to reject unhealthy food. Thats the way I see it whenever I'm presented with an unhealthy choice.

Don't eat something unhealthy and then ask yourself 15 minutes later "Why did I eat that? It was so unhealthy for me!". Ask yourself "Do I want to eat this?" before you eat it. Create the habit of reading how many calories are in something BEFORE you put it in your mouth, not 10 minutes later.

Eat healthy and don't be a hypocrite. It's your body, and it's your life.