The Value of Standing in Integrity


There’s a Buddhist story about a boy who fell off of his horse:

On his sixteenth birthday, the boy gets a horse as a present. All of the people in the village say, "Oh, how wonderful!"

The Zen master says, "We'll see."

One day, the boy is riding and gets thrown off the horse and hurts his leg. He's no longer able to walk, so all of the villagers say, "How terrible!"

The Zen master says, "We'll see."

Some time passes and the village goes to war. All of the other young men get sent off to fight, but this boy can't fight because his leg is messed up. All of the villagers say, "How wonderful!"

The Zen master says, "We'll see."

The lesson in the story is pretty clear: no situation is inherently good or bad, it just is.

Ever since a very young age, I couldn’t eat eggs, dairy, or meat. Don’t even get me started on seafood, the smell alone while living in Chinatown, NYC, was enough for me to never put that in my body. My body simply rejected these foods, long before I even knew what they were.

When I was 6 years old, I learned that a friend of mine was a vegetarian. This news was amazing, I knew immediately that this was me. However, like my understanding of religion, I thought my parents had to be vegetarian for me to be one, I was bummed, to say the least, since my family members are omnivores. I asked my mother anyways, to which I received a firm no, likely due to her own conditioning and experiences.

During my childhood years, anytime I was fed meat, I would put it in my mouth, pretend to chew it, and spit it either into my sleeve or my napkin. This ritual was performed in restaurants, dinner tables, and cafes worldwide. I seemed to be the only American child that didn’t like mac n’ cheese, burgers, or hot dogs, so I ate fruits and vegetables, french fries, and bagels, with the occasional chicken nugget that was fried out of resemblance to the animal.

By my 14th birthday, my family and I were on a holiday in Greece. This holiday crossed dates with both Greek Easter and the American Easter Holidays, which meant there was a lot of meat to eat. I had never seen so much meat in my life actually, and I became so disgusted with the food given to me to eat that I finally called it to a stop, and decided to ask my dad if I could be a vegetarian.

“Of course, why don’t you try it for a week?” My dad replied. He was always so open-minded.

This week turned into eating mostly vegan, cold turkey, for now, 12 years. It started with eliminating meats, seafood, and eggs, which wasn’t hard at all because I honestly detested the foods anyways. I didn’t drink milk, but allowed for dairy to be in some foods I ate, as long as I couldn’t taste it. Although this wasn't fully in integrity with my being, I practiced full veganism as much as I could, with the resources available. Back then, although growing up in an amazing food capital such as NYC offers a lot of options, veganism still wasn’t popular.

Going to restaurants and celebrating holidays with some of my family members became a nightmare. I constantly felt their annoyance towards my dietary choices, whether they were taking them personally and offering a reflection to their own choices, or they simply wanted to have a daughter that could order a burger from the menu, instead of a specialized vegetable meal made personally by the chef, I started to feel like a burden in these environments.

What some family members thought was a phase, quickly became a passion. I wanted to be a holistic nutritionist more than anything. My dad bought me several books on vegetarianism, veganism, and nutrition so that I could educate and feed myself properly. This began my journey of awakening or maintaining wakefulness.

As a teenager, I became passionate about animal rights, and briefly became an imposing vegan that wanted everyone to watch “Earthlings.” I slowly became aware of the world outside of the bubble I was raised in and learned there were people and communities with similar interests, I just wasn’t living in one. I undulated between enjoying the feeling of uniqueness and the feeling of being the oddball out.

For college, I moved to Boulder, CO, and for the first time, I saw vegan options on the menu and I was living around people who also enjoyed yoga and meditation. Although I was still attached to some unhealthy lifestyle choices I picked up in NYC, I intuitively knew this was in my best interest to live here.

Now, over 12 years later, veganism is HUGE.

“There’s been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S in the last three years. According to a report by research firm GlobalData, only 1% of U.S. consumers claimed to be vegan in 2014. And in 2017, that number rose to 6%.”

Fortunately, restaurants like ByChloe, and Celebrities like Miley Cyrus, have made veganism much more popular and accessible. Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s have made eating vegan affordable and accessible as well.

The beauty of the Buddhist story of the boy and his horse is how relatable it is for all of us. Although my sensitivity was experienced as a burden growing up, 12 years later, it is highly valued by awakened thought leaders and communities to eat a plant-based diet and is made much more accessible due to the rise in interest.

For anyone who is told, either through words, emotion, or how they are treated, that their sensitivity or their unique expression is a burden, the value of standing in your integrity and your truth will only lead to greater personal happiness. The world around us changes to adapt to those that lead with their love.

Lexi Faith