The Ahimsa Traveling Superhero
It is always a wonderful, yet slightly stressful situation to travel. Not only do you have to deal with the mess at the airport, but you also have to deal with sick people, angry people, drunk people, stinky people, and, well, just people (your self included). And this small toil becomes even greater when you have any type of dietary restriction because it isn’t always possible to get food where you go.
This being my very first year as a traveling yogi, and committed as I am to remaining ahimsa as far as eating a vegetarian diet to stay healthy, it has been an interesting experience to say the least.
The easy part was calling the airline and ordering a special menu for the long flights. I also took some other yogi’s advise into consideration and opted to bring my own snacks in case I got hungry and/or ended up in a place where nothing was available for me to consume. Nothing really complicated or stressful about it, as, thankfully, in many places in Europe, there are now more and more vegetarian options on the menu, which was very helpful, and for the places that didn’t have these options, well, there is always the standard salad to munch on, which is great.
But as the trip went on, I was about to be taught a lesson on ahimsa towards others, as well as (ironically enough, because I have been trying to get a yoga class ready about this topic) learning how to be a superhero for others.
On the third day of this amazing adventure that my family and I have been blessed to be able to embark upon, we were invited to the home of a very dear friend. We have made it a tradition of sorts, in fact, to always stop by her place when we visit the lovely St Petersburg because she is an amazingly gifted chef, and because she is also the sweetest human being you will ever meet.
So, I woke up knowing I would eat some fish (as fish is a big part of Russian cooking, and typically the main, superb dish at this lovely abode) and was at peace and happy with it. I was very excited to be going back to our friend’s house for some lovely company and yummy food.
As expected, the house was as lovely as I remembered, and our dearest, dearest friend was so very happy to see us J (I can assure your, we were just as happy to see her after so many years). It was hard not to smile and laugh, really. We all talked a while, and then proceeded to the table where this master of the kitchen had prepared the most beautiful banquet for us. It was a joy to simply hear her talk about how she had prepared the food, and how long it had taken her, or how much love she had put into every little detail. And as she begins serving the first course (a traditional sour soup) the thought that the soup might have been made with some kind of animal broth came to mind, but was quickly dismissed as our hostess told the story of the Russian soup, and then, the dreaded words no vegetarian, vegan, or ovo-lacto-pescetarian wants to hear… “It has pork” came out.
My heart dropped to the floor. My stomach churned with dislike, and my poor, poor mind was being torn apart. I can’t really explain what went on in my mind. All I can think to say is that all at once, I was in panic mode. Thinking about how I am Jewish and I haven’t had pork since I was six or seven, how I haven’t had meat in ten months, how I am allergic! to pork (not a break out into hives kind of allergy, but a, puke like crazy, get a migraine kind of allergy, which to me is just as bad, since my migraines tend to be horrid). I was simply a mess. A hot, stressed out mess. And I had a matter of seconds to make a choice. I could break my friend’s heart (mind you, she spend all her time, money, effort and love to prepare this banquet, and it was a banquet, just for us… she went out of her way in more ways than I could ever explain in mere words to do this for us) or, I could realize that there was another opportunity for me to be ahimsa toward someone I love. To be a “superhero” for someone who needed a different type of rescuing in her own home.
I looked at my mom (who was also mortified, as her Jewish nature was taking hold as well) I looked at my husband, who looked at me, pleading not to break her heart, and finally, I looked to my brother, who very calmly told me to take out the chunks of piggy off my plate.
Yes, the whole thing had me freaking out bad. And, although everything happened in a matter of seconds, it felt like a lifetime to me. I literally, somehow, had time to think about which ahimsa would be most important, and why. I had time to look at the whole situation through other people’s eyes, and after feeling all the love and all the care our friend had put into the whole thing, I smiled, took the actual meat chunks out of my plate, and ate the typical Russian soup.
I can see how this whole ordeal would make absolutely no sense to most people. In fact, by most people’s standards, I am being a whinny, crazy, drama queen who needs to get off her high horse and simply deal with life. But to someone like my mom (who by the way was also a superwoman this evening by eating the non-kosher soup with a smile on her face… man I love my mom, the woman is so brave) or like myself, this whole ordeal was simply beyond anything we ever imagined, or wanted to endure.
However, what I can say for the both of us; is that we love our friend so much, we were highly aware of what a refusal would have meant. We realized there are different ways of being kind, non-violent, pure, loving, and super.
Sure, the idea was killing us a bit, and lets not even talk about how our stomachs felt, but our souls and hearts were beyond fine; they were uplifted.
We were happy; felt honored, and had saved the day one more time.
It’s amazing what one can learn from life, if one is openhearted enough to learn.
One root of the tree has many ways to feed the whole tree.
OM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTI