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April 2004
Everyday Casualties: Notes from a Yogi’s Journal

By Diane Spodarek

‘When is violence okay, if at all?’ Never! I am a vegan and a yogi. I practice the Yamas and Niyamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The first Yama is Ahimsa, nonviolence. This is what I believe. This is what I practice.

But do I? I believe in karma: all action causes reaction. When I analyze my motives behind an action, I know the consequence. To wit: if I eat a whole box of cookies, I will get sick. Many sages say peace begins within. Meditation and yoga bring peace, but what about the day-to-day little things?

I wake and stretch and millions of dust mites bite the dust. Behind the dresser and in the closet small white mounds of boric acid keep the roaches and fat water bugs from skittering and shuffling back and forth across my bedroom floor. The duct tape is still tight on the radiator opening, placed there to prevent a little brown mouse from entering and exiting after midnight. As I shower, thousands of parasites depend on me as their host and they hang on for dear life. Some don’t make it, especially on the days I use the natural fiber brush. I lather with Dr. Bronner’s eucalyptus soap, which is free of tallow (a beef product), so I’m doing good here.

In the kitchen I prepare a daily morning drink of water and Jarro Dophilus, a nondairy supplement that has 12 billion probiotics per gram (one-quarter teaspoon). The label says there are six species—they’re alive! I don’t know how they do it, but these guys are in there: living, eating, drinking, hanging, dating, and replicating in my tummy, enhancing the proliferation of beneficial bacteria. At the bottom of the glass a small milky-white drop lingers, it could contain hundreds, probably thousands of them. Would they live longer in my refrigerator?

I sip green tea and read ingredients itemized on my soy cheese. I discover it contains casein, a dairy product (and known addictive substance). I toss it out. It may have come from a cow tied to a stall his entire life. I mean her life. Dairy cows are female.

It’s easy to be a vegan and not eat animals, I don’t even eat honey, but food is only one part of my life.

I read from my book of spiritual aphorisms: ‘If you want to see peace in the world outside, you must first see to it that your own mind is at peace. If you want to see a world free of greed, hatred, and jealousy, you must first see that your own mind is free of those qualities…’—Sri Swami Satchidananda.

So, if someone I know gets a great part in a film, I should be truly and sincerely happy for his or her success. But what about Mel Gibson? Not that I’m judging, but he said, “I want to kill [Frank Rich], I want his intestines on a stick… I want to kill his dog.” (September 15, 2003, New Yorker.) Frank Rich responded: “Members of PETA may be relieved to learn that I do not have a dog.” (September 21, 2003, New York Times.) I don’t know if Frank Rich supports PETA, but he sure supports himself by killing the livelihood of actors with his caustic reviews of Broadway plays on opening night.

Violence is never right. Except in extraordinary circumstances. Right? Like smacking my three year-old daughter’s bum when she ran into the street. This is just a mother’s instinct to protect her young. Violence begins at home?

We all want peace, so what is the cause? Fear? If we are what we eat, then we are what we consume. They say ‘follow the money and you will find the cause.’ So, the cause is…consumerism? We are the violence: in our movies, on the Internet, in our sex, in our bars, in our food, in our jobs, in our stores. We are the violence. (Now I’m humming that song “We are the World.” I hate that…)

We can fight violence with our own money. Every action counts. So, the next time I attend a protest rally I won’t slip into Starbucks for a pee and a two-dollar cup of tea. When I go into a deli and they only have styrofoam cups, I will tell the clerk styrofoam lasts for hundreds of years. I will wear my black Levi’s for 25 years or longer, whichever comes first, and keep resoling my 20 year-old cowboy boots. I will never buy anything new that comes from an animal and get all my books from the library.

Social interactions can be violent. Like that man at the bus stop who was staring at me. He said, “It’s a sad day in this world when a woman has a hair cut like that.” My head is shaved. I could have said: shutthef--upmotherf--er. (This doesn’t count as using the ‘F’ word because I’m imagining what I would say—if I was angry.) It could have been violent. My hair bugged him. He was drunk. Drunk is violent. (I know drunk.) Why should I care what a stranger says about my hair?

Activism begins within. Peace begins within.

After Dinner
I admire “big” activists. I give money to Farm Sanctuary, Greenpeace and PETA. But that’s armchair activism. I have to do more to be part of change—now. I may not have a lot of money, but I can make a difference with what I do have. Every time I spend money: pay the phone bill, buy food or a cup of tea, ride the subway, see a movie, or make eye contact with the homeless when I give them money, I can be conscious of my actions.

I am inspired to take action.


I cancelled my cable and put the TV in the closet. TV makes me crazy. It’s a better world today because I no longer have cable TV. Believe me!

I hear rummaging in the cupboard. Looks like the little brown bugger has found another way in.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us and the world will live as one.” (From “Imagine” by John Lennon.)



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