Photo: Christmas meal

by Alison Riggs

The political and environmental turmoil, economic instability, and information overload of 2019 has many people suffering from anxiety and stress. It is helpful to pause at this time of year to think about how you want to enter this Christmas season and start 2020 off with a healthier mindset. What positive experiences do you want for yourself, your loved ones, and for others around the world, and what can you do to make that happen?

Let’s enter this year’s Christmas season with a spirit of love and compassion. We love it when we are treated in this way and we know it is what makes this time of year so special. Why not pass it forward?

Paraphrasing the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, "…change begins within us," we cannot expect change in the world if we do not first change ourselves. Be the change you want to see starting at this special time of the year. Extend your compassion and respect to all living entities. Not only to those you love and your friends or people with whom you agree, but also to those with whom you disagree.

Take this spirit of compassion one step further and apply it to your lifestyle, even your diet. A compassionate, peaceful diet is one that does not involve cruelty to animals as they are needlessly raised under torturous conditions and killed for food.

A common refrain is to question, “If not animals, where do I get my protein?” Well, plants of course. Think about it. The biggest land animals are plant eaters. In prehistoric times, this included a wide variety of huge dinosaurs. Today, the ten biggest land animals, like the elephant, white rhinoceros, hippo, giraffe, horse, bull and cow, are all herbivores!

One of the most profoundly compassionate ways we can celebrate Christmas this year, and ensure a happier New Year, is by treating others with respect and kindness, and moving towards a plant-based vegetarian diet. Start with Christmas dinner! See some delicious meal ideas in the recipe section of this newsletter or search our extensive recipe database.

How can you experience peace if you don’t treat your body right? There’s no need to eat animals to live a strong and healthy life. Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including our country’s three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

Additionally, how will you find peace if you don’t treat the Earth (which sustains all of our needs) with the respect she deserves? Many leading environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth.

Each year in the United States, approximately ten billion animals are raised and slaughtered for human consumption. Given the suffering these animals endure, and that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, vegetarianism requires serious consideration. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes for us to live and thrive.

At this time of year, when the hectic pace of our lives seems to slow down slightly, if even for just a day or two, please take some time to consider that a vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society. While true “peace on earth” may be a pretty tall order, we can easily bring peace and compassion into our own lives and the lives of those around us. This Christmas, why not be good to yourself, be good to the environment, and be good to the innocent animals? Add more compassion and peace to your life by choosing a plant-based, vegetarian diet.

Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau'oli Makahiki Hou from our Down to Earth ‘ohana! We wish you a peaceful and kinder Christmas and healthier and happier New Year.