I have always tended to be an introvert. I relish solitude. I prefer small groups to large crowds. I’ve lived a quiet life, not often sharing my views and opinions publicly.
But then 15 years ago, I had an awakening that was so meaningful, compelling, and life-changing, it has continued to impact me and to make me more fully human, more fully me. It revealed my deeply held values. And over time, I came to realize that these values are universal and encompass our physical health, emotional and spiritual well-being, and the survival of the planet. No longer could I keep this to myself as a private revelation. I realized that I had to find a way to share this life-changing discovery.
My awakening happened in stages. It started with learning about factory farming and the treatment of animals. I realized I would never want a dog or cat to go through that suffering. Why was it okay for a pig, cow, or chicken?
I read everything I could, filling my Kindle with e-books on vegan topics. Through my research, I learned about the healing benefits of a plant-based diet for many diseases that plague Western society. I also learned about the devastating effects of animal agriculture on the planet.
But I was most impacted by the suffering of animals treated as commodities rather than sentient beings. Gradually, I broke through the deep layers of social conditioning that kept me emotionally disconnected from their plight.
Much to my surprise, becoming vegan did not seem like a sacrifice. Rather, it turned out to be an experience of abundance and fulfillment, transforming my life in unexpected ways.
1. Veganism inspired me to find my voice
Veganism connected so many dots for me. I wake with a deep sense of purpose each day. Through my daily food choices, and my efforts to educate and raise awareness, I can be part of the solution for many causes that matter deeply to me: caring for animals and the planet, food insecurity, justice, and human health. Although I still think of myself as an introvert, my passion for veganism compels me to discover how I can use my voice and my gifts to make a difference.
2. Extending compassion to all beings
I have always viewed myself as an empathic person. However, for years I ate meat daily, and was seemingly unaware of the animals who suffered as a result of my choices. When I had my vegan awakening, I became aware of my connection with all life. I developed a deeper appreciation for the complexity and beauty of nature and the animal kingdom. Gradually, I realized that the kindest way of living and eating was also healthiest for me.
3. Greater peace
There was a sense of freedom, a weight lifted, when I began living in a way that was truly aligned with my values. An inner conflict that I had not even been fully aware of was resolved through the choice to not eat animals. This brought a sense of peace and inner wholeness.
4. Appreciation and gratitude
My world opened to greater abundance and appreciation when I became vegan. Yes, there is awareness of pain and suffering that is very difficult at times. But there is also an expanded sense of awe of nature and all life. There are the delicious vegan meals I’ve learned to create, with vibrant colors and delectable flavors. And there is appreciation for my body’s resilience and health, which has been strengthened by my plant-powered cuisine.
5. Connecting with like-hearted people across the globe
I have had the amazing experience of connecting with vegans around the world. Through groups, collaborations, and trainings, I have met courageous and compassionate people from across the globe.
There are challenges being vegan in a world that is not yet vegan. As someone who prefers harmony, it has not always been easy to live in a way that is at odds with the status quo. And yet each time I meet others who embrace and live by vegan values, I feel inspired and uplifted. And each time my example inspires someone else to consider the vegan path, it makes it all worthwhile.
Veganism is a path of listening to our heart’s guidance to extend kindness to all beings. Through our daily choices, we join others to become a movement that seeks a world of compassion, sustainability, and flourishing for all.
Note: This article was originally published on Main Street Vegan Blog on November 23, 2021.
Angela Crawford, Ph.D. is a psychologist and transformational coach. She is passionate about empowering people to create lives that nurture mind, body, spirit, and planet. Dr. Crawford is certified as a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, and has a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at e-Cornell. She is currently doing research for a book on the psychological and emotional benefits of a vegan lifestyle.