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Or ... tips for making spiritualtarian choices!

(An excerpt from the book Spiritual Rebel: A Positively Addictive Purpose to Finding Deeper Perspective & Higher Purpose)

Just as we choose our individual spiritual paths, we believe people should also make their own choices about what they consume. But we often make our decisions without complete information or in denial of the knowledge we do have. Or we think our actions only affect us, and remain oblivious to their impact on other people, creatures, and the Earth. While researching this subject, Sarah learned a lot of things she would rather not know, including the dark side to some of her own choices.

So, let's take a moment to consider how our choices expand outward. Don’t worry, this is not the part where we tell you that to live a spiritual life you have to give up all your belongings, get off the grid, become vegan, and stop having sex. (Of course, if you want to do any or all those things, go for it.) But we would like to share just a couple of the things Sarah learned that surprise her (and us!).

  • We currently use 1.7 Earths a year: The Global Footprint Network tabulates an “Earth Overshoot Day” each year to bring awareness to the day each year when all of humanity will have used more from nature than can be replenished in a year, through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than ecosystems can absorb. In 2018, that date fell on August 1.

  • We eat a lot of meat: The average American eats almost 200 pounds of animal protein each year per person (more than almost any other people on the planet and nearly twice as much as our ancestors ate 75 years ago). That’s 2,000 land animals for each person over a lifetime (and 9 billion animals each year in the U.S. alone.)

  • And it doesn’t come from idyllic farms: I spent many summers at my grandparents’ place in South Carolina, which looked like a storybook farm, and where all animals were treated well (up until their death, of course). In hindsight, it skewed my idea of where meat came from. Currently, industrial-scale factory farming ac- counts for 99.9 percent of chickens for meat, 97 per- cent of laying hens, 99 percent of turkeys, 95 percent of pigs, and 78 percent of cattle. I’d love to tell you more about the inherent cruelty in this system and the health issues for humans, but you might lose your breakfast.

  • It’s screwing up our environment: Globally, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all transportation systems combined. The amount we’re eating is also not sustainable. Animal ag is a super inefficient use of land, water, and creates an in- credible amount of pollution.

  • Switching to fish and seafood doesn’t solve all the problems: Because of commercial fishing operations, a lot of fishing now happens by huge nets being pulled through the ocean. Much of what gets in the net is “unintentional bycatch” and gets discarded. For example, for every pound of commercial shrimp, it’s estimated that up to 15 pounds of other ocean life are tossed back into the sea either already dead or dying, including seahorses, fish, and even large cetaceans like dolphins.

  • Fruits and vegetables aren’t off the hook. Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted. Although some of that happens before the food arrives in our homes, it is estimated the average person in the U.S. (and Europe) throws away over 200 pounds of food a year.


Okay, that’s enough of a slice to make a point: Our choices matter. Humanity’s overindulgence (whether intention-  ally or unknowingly) has us on a path that may lead to our own extinction.


So it’s not surprising that many people are embracing alternative diets and taking stock of their purchases and lifestyle. Which brings me back to today’s focus: seva. By far, the biggest act of seva we can give ourselves, others, our planet, and its many living things is to look at our habits.

From a spiritualtarian perspective, we try to bring our choices into close alignment with an understanding of the interconnection of everything. To ask questions, learn details, and make informed decisions. Not to shame myself, nor to blame others, but to look deeply at what is, and see how it feels.

Today, take a few minutes to reflect about your daily choices. Sarah calls these “Goldilocks questions.” As you might recall, Goldilocks was the hungry little girl who stumbled upon the home of the Three Bears. Wandering through their house, she tested their porridge, sat in their chairs, and slept in their beds, judging each along the way. (Too hot, too cold, just right! Too hard, too soft, just right!) Today wander through your own place, discovering what feels in balance and what might need a little adjustment.




  1. Take a few deep breaths to get focused, perhaps add a short meditation or add a blessing for the Earth and its many inhabitants.

  2. Reflect for a few minutes on what is important to you: Sustainable Earth? Animal welfare? Food availability? Worker fairness?

  3. Turn to your Reflections & Ahas pages (or journal, or digital file) and answer the following questions:

    • Kitchen: How do I feel about what I eat?

    • Bathroom: What do I think about the products I use? How is my water consumption?

    • Closet: Am I knowledgeable about how my clothing was made and what it is made of?

    • Home environment: How do I feel about my home furnishings, use of energy, and consumption of water?

    • Financial footprint: Do I know where my money goes, how much I donate, and what any investments support?

    • Online footprint: Am I comfortable with the con- tent of my postings?

  4. Throughout today, slow down your decision-making process. Use mindfulness to make choices that best serve your values. Gently question your decisions, allowing room for new answers if they arise. Resist the urge to shame or scold yourself. These are your choices, and your own process.

  5. Consider seeking information about anything that seemed too much or too little from your Goldilocks perspective. The Discover Deeply section below contains some favorite resources Sarah found on her own search.




One day at a time: If the list of questions feels overwhelming, do one item each day (or each Saturday for the next month or so). Strength in numbers: If the questions feel to difficult to approach on your own, gather a few friends for dinner and mull over the questions together.


For the decision perplexed: Read Ethics (for the Real World): Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life by Ronald A. Howard and Clifton D. Korver, with Bill Birchard.




May the fork be with you:

  • Watch Vegucated.

  • Read The Good Karma Diet: Eat Gently, Feel Amazing, Age in Slow Motion by Victoria Moran for help aligning eating and ethics.

  • Read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer for a fascinating many-sided exploration into today’s farming and food industry.

  • Help some of the 800 million people who go to bed hungry each night by redirecting a bit of your food budget to an organization such as Oxfam or the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.


Love your mother (Earth):

  • Find ways to reduce carbon emissions and energy costs at

  • Learn just how much water goes into powering your cell phone or making your sandwich—as well as tips for curbing your water usage—at

  • Read Taking on Water: How One Water Expert Challenged Her Inner Hypocrite, Reduced Her Water Footprint (Without Sacrificing a Toasty Shower), and Found Nirvana by Wendy J. Pabich.

  • Take the Order of the Sacred Earth vow: “I promise to be the best lover and defender of Mother Earth that I can be.” Seventy-six-year-old spiritual theologian and activist Matthew Fox joined 30-something wilderness activists Skylar Wilson and Jennifer Berit Listug to create a vision for sacred living steeped in deep love of the Earth and based on an accessible, common vow, independent of a specific building or community. Read Order of the Sacred Earth: An International Vision of Love and Action for more details.

If you love animals:

  • Download the Bunny Free app to find out if a company tests on animals.

  • Read Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy, Ph.D.

  • Get involved in animal advocacy with an organization such as World Animal Protection, Animal Equality, or Mercy for Animals.

  • Listen to A Plea for the Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion by Matthieu Ricard.

  • Read The Human Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife by Nancy Lawson.

  • Watch Speciesism.

Put your money where your mouth is:

  • Microlend with Kiva. For as little as $25 you can help someone create opportunity for a better life.

  • Run a check-up on the effectiveness of your charitable giving at or

  • If you have investment accounts, check into what your mutual funds fund to ensure that they support your values.

Read more in Spiritual Rebel the book.

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