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Going vegetarian and the concept of spirituality

Spirituality. What is it really? It is not religion, that’s for sure. But all religions promote spirituality. Sounds confusing?

It never was to me. I have always considered myself a spiritual being. For me, spirituality is a personal journey of knowing and understanding myself and what sits well within my soul. Yesterday, I delivered a talk about vegetarianism and the benefits of organic gardening at the Festival of Chariots in Durban hosted by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. It got me thinking about my personal spiritual journey.

I call it the biggest truth of life…. my decision to become vegetarian. I was just 11 years old and I realised I was not happy eating meat. It didn’t sit well within my soul. I have never looked back. When people ask me if I became vegetarian for religious reasons, I tell them it was more a spiritual decision. Often, I don’t think they understand the difference between the two.

I have no doubt in my mind. At that age I was drawn to the teachings and practices of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. I also spent a significant amount of time reading and absorbing the teachings of passive resistance icon Mahatma Gandhi – who espoused non-violence against humans and animals. It resonated with my soul. And so becoming a vegetarian was a natural consequence. That’s another thing about spirituality. It needs to come naturally.  It cannot be forced, it’s not prescriptive…it’s about what works for you.

Being a vegetarian made me feel good. And it wasn’t just about what I was putting into my body. My mind too needed to be fed. I started chanting and meditating. I still chant and meditate today. When situations arise, good and bad, when I am happy or sad, I find myself chanting, and it is an affirmation that all will be well.

As much as I enjoy chanting and meditation, I also find spirituality in silence. Those stolen moments of silence when all you hear is your inner voice should never be taken for granted. It is the ability to listen to that voice that will help you make decisions that will continue to feed your soul spiritually.

Spirituality was the first step towards better understanding my religion – the practices, the prayers and holy texts. I am proud of my religion but I don’t like engaging in discussions about different religions. Often, a discussion turns into a debate and harsh words are hurled. In that heated exchange, people often insult another’s religion. It’s all very disparaging. It’s as if people forget that every religion promotes love, peace and harmony.

How do we overcome this?

My own journey teaches me that if we become spiritual first, we will be able to see the beauty not only in our religion but that of others too. That’s the power of spirituality.

It is a process… it is about how you evolve. And you can decide what works for you and what does not. There is no right or wrong way. Spirituality is about the individual. It gives you a sense of freedom too, that is immediately uplifting, like a catterpillar that has gone through the process of metamorphosis to become a butterfly.

I am constantly learning in my journey of spirituality. I have learnt how to hold my tongue at times, but I have not mastered that art. I have learnt to pick my battles. I have learnt to walk away from toxic situations. I have learnt that there are times when you absolutely must speak your mind. I have learnt that the greatest confidence in life comes from speaking the truth.

Sounds like universal teachings? Yes, and that’s what I love about spirituality the most… the universality of it. We can be anywhere in the world and still connect with others on a spiritual level.

Writing on my blog is also a form of spirituality to me. I have in the past likened the physical process of putting pen to paper to mediation – breathing in and out, with the strokes of the pen. The thought process behind my blog posts entails a series of pointed questions – what will I achieve by writing this, can it do more good than harm, can I uplift people and am I being true to myself as well as my readers? If I am not able to tick all these boxes, then it’s not worth writing about.

As I write this, it is the long Easter weekend. My pen is soaked with the spiritual vibrations overflowing from churches, temples, mosques and synagogues. This atmosphere inspires me. The tolerance among different religions and faiths during this period is what we as South Africans should aspire to throughout the year.

For me above all, spirituality is about happiness… happiness that is not physical, tangible or materialistic but happiness that can be felt and shared. If that idea sits well within your soul, then you are already on your spiritual journey… Keep moving…

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