I have been questioned by some colleagues and criticised by some readers of my blog about promoting a vegan diet on the retreat I am leading this week and in my blog. When I was discussing this with colleagues last week, the view I arrived at was that within the Mindfulness Association ‘Compassion is at the heart of everything we do’. So what does compassion mean? Well the definition of compassion that we use in our training is a ‘sensitivity to the suffering of ourselves and others, with a deep desire to relieve that suffering’, which is attributed to the Dalai Lama.
Then what causes us to suffer? Poor health, lack of vitality, hopelessness in the face of the impending climate crisis? So, I look to the scientific evidence to explore the causes of suffering and how to relieve that suffering. What I am advocating, as a lifestyle change, to move towards more of a plant based diet, is a scientifically evidenced way of increasing our health and vitality and making a personal contribution to help address the climate crisis. If it relieves suffering, of ourselves and the planet – it is compassion in action!
This week I have been delivering a compassion in action online retreat. I have been very much enjoying sharing some compassion practices and doing a lot of practice at home. The part of the day I have found particularly enjoyable is the discussion at the end of the day. We watch 30 minutes of a video around the benefits of a whole food plant based diet and then spend 30 minutes discussing it.
On Saturday evening we watched 30 minutes of Dr Gregor’s video ‘How Not to Die’ (https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-not-to-die/) where he looks at peer reviewed scientific literature on nutrition to show how fourteen of the top fifteen diseases that kill us in the West can be halted or reversed by switching to a whole food plant based diet. And what is the one out of the fifteen causes of death in the list which cannot be halted or reversed by a whole food plant based diet? It is accidents!
I think many of us know that moving towards a whole food plant based diet can help with circulatory problems such as heart disease and stroke, etc. But there is growing evidence that it can also prevent certain cancers and even support recovery from some cancers. Our discussion was around how we don’t all know this information. For example, processed meat is listed as a carcinogen, equal to asbestos, by the world health organisation. Think of the outcry if a school was found to have asbestos in the roof. Meanwhile in the packed lunches and in the cafeteria ham and bacon are still being served. This is a crazy situation!
What is particularly relevant now is that a whole food plant based diet can reverse many of the risk factors associated with being adversely affected by the current coronavirus, such as heart disease and diabetes. Have a look at this recent video from Dr Gregor (https://nutritionfacts.org/video/modifiable-risk-factors-and-comorbidities-for-severe-covid-19-infection/).
As I have said above, I have been questioned by some colleagues and some readers of my blog for promoting a vegan diet on this retreat and in my blog. But let’s go back to the 1950s. What would you do if all the people you loved and cared about were smoking 20 cigarettes a day, oblivious to the detrimental effect on their health? Would you tell them or would you keep quiet? We are in the same situation now, with powerful lobbies trying to confuse the issue of what a health promoting diet is. The evidence is unequivocal. Have a look at the video documentary Vegan 2019, which we watched last night for an overview. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AYOViszK_A.)
I always go back to evolution when deciding on what lifestyle to lead. We are evolved to live mainly on whole plant based foods. We are not evolved to eat lots of meat and in particular we are not evolved to eat large amounts of dairy. When we add to this that moving towards a whole food plant based diet is the biggest thing we can each do, as individuals, to contribute to reducing the climate crisis, then it seems a no brainer to me. This is the topic for our video this evening (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSjE8xw_-Dg).
Let’s walk our talk if we care about our health and wellbeing and if we care about the planet. Is it possible to at least make a few tentative steps?
As it says on the page of my blog on the website. What I write in this blog does not represent the views of the Mindfulness Association. I am just hoping to help.