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Over the past few weeks I have seen a famous Oscar Wilde quote more times than I can count – “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” This quote seems to be somewhat of a universal reminder during the times I question, or more appropriately others help me to question, my life path.

Through efforts of being a more compassionate, loving, and open human being, it seems the floodgates have also opened to the human emotions I am attempting to keep at bay – emotions like judgment and condemnation. These emotions manifest in different ways and at different times, but lately seem to be most present in the themes of lifestyle choices and vegetarianism.

I have been a vegetarian for ten years, since the age of 18 after reading a Moby insert to an album in which he poetically discussed the harmful and ethical impacts of eating and wearing animals. I was so profoundly moved that I instantly gave up meat. Over this time, I have done my best to remain open to other’s lifestyle choices should they choose to live differently and to be aware of dogmatic tendencies – which we are all capable of. The guide in which I try to follow is what today, now, makes me feel morally okay to exist on the planet and that today means my efforts to do no harm against my brothers and sisters – which in my mind includes much more than the human species. Others feel okay about living on the planet in different ways.

Over ten years of being vegetarian, I have faced many questions, curiosities, and judgments, particularly in places like Africa where meat is the main staple and it is an elite thing to be something like a “vegetarian”! I am more than conscious of this and have questioned my own motives for the choices I have made, particularly in places where food is a daily struggle. Conversely, I have faced praise from Asian people “oh you are a good girl, pure vegetarian.”

As of late, the phrase I quoted above has been acting as somewhat of a test. For example, a close family member – upon my statement that I would be happy to sit down to a lovely prepared meal but that I would not eat a chicken dish – told me I was not welcome at the dinner table. My choices of “do no harm” seemed to have done harm to someone else’s way of being. Furthermore, I saw a naturopath who mentioned I may have low cholesterol due to my years of vegetarianism. She suggested I just go right ahead and eat ethically prepared liver to boost that cholesterol right up. Of course, why had I not considered that alternative?

The point is, the moment we attach ourselves to a fixed idea or a certain way of being, no matter how noble or worthy we think it is, the moment the universe will challenge our philosophies. The key, I have learned along the way, is to believe in the quote “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” but to be open and willing to learn from the messages others bring, no matter how wild or judgmental they may seem. To be self-reflective is one of the greatest gifts of all.

Here is a quote that I thought very appropriate to the theme I am discussing. Do my fellow seekers out there have any thoughts or comments on this theme?

“We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs – or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives.”

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