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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.)