The Power of Story

Lately I’ve been pondering my effectiveness as an animal advocate. A good friend reminded me of the impact I have had and that I will never really know the full impact of my advocacy for animals. We hear time and again that a person has to hear something 3 times, 4 times, 7 times, before they remember it and take action. It doesn’t really matter if my conversation or comment was the first time or the last time that someone heard the information. What matters is that my voice played a role in them taking action that directly or indirectly made a positive difference for the animals of the world.

Our conversation led to exploring stories people live in; the things we tell ourselves. Things that allow us to continue lifestyle practices that, on some level, are not aligned with our values. When we take a close look at the troubles of the world we can easily become paralyzed into inaction.

I invite you to take a peek at how stories keep us operating from complacency and how we can lean into actions that align with our principles and actually energize us, rather than drain us.

1. Recognize what our story is. Have we come to believe that we have to drink milk in order to develop and maintain healthy bones? Do we believe that cows naturally lactate year round?

2. Understand how that story impacts our lives. If we have come to believe we need milk for strong bones, has this led us to regularly consume dairy products? Are we comfortable consuming milk from a cow because we believe she naturally lactates all year round?

3. See the story for what it is…a story! It’s something that we, with tremendous influence from society and industry, have made up and adopted as an absolute truth. We will only understand if our story is story after we educate ourselves about the truth behind the practices we have come to believe are necessary for normal, healthy living. In this process we might discover a different truth and see how this new truth inspires change in our daily practices.

Once we expand our sources of information we find that we don’t need to consume dairy to meet our calcium requirements for strong bones. A plant-based diet rich in greens, seeds and other whole foods provides the calcium we need. We also learn that cows are consistently impregnated in order to keep producing milk. A cow, like any mammal, only produces milk after giving birth. In order for cow’s milk to be available for human consumption the calves are taken away from their mothers within 24 hours of birth and given a milk substitute. The females are raised to be used as their mothers have been used and the males are raised in high confinement pens and fed an iron-deficient diet to produce pale, soft flesh for veal.

4. Recognize and believe that we get to rewrite our story and that this new story can align with our core values. If recognizing that humans do not need to consume dairy products to be healthy, and that cows don’t naturally produce milk year round, and if understanding that a mother-child bond is broken numerous times throughout the lifespan of a dairy cow does not align with our core values of peace and compassion, it may empower us to know that there are delicious and nutritious ways of feeding ourselves that do not involve the use of dairy products.

5. Take joy in rewriting the story and “leaning in” to our new practices. To do this effectively we want to be sure to remove guilt and shame from our previous choices and to take this journey one step at a time. It is of no value to step in so quickly that we become overwhelmed and give up. With an increase in plant-based milk and cheeses, the explosion of vegan cookbooks on the market, and an ever-increasing amount of vegan food offered in restaurants and natural food buffets, it is getting easier and easier to begin and maintain a plant-based diet. If we need an extra boost, we can take vegan cooking classes and receive personalized coaching. We may feel a need to jumpstart our new eating habits by having a nutritional consultation with someone who specializes in plant-based nutrition. We just may find a sense of empowerment and peacefulness that we can make a difference by living into our values.
As we continue to embrace our new practices we just might be surprised by the increased ease in our breath as we begin to live into our deeply held values.

While this is just one example of empowering ourselves to live according to our values, it can serve as a model for any area of our lives that we wish to transform. It is critical to remember that while each of us is just one person making these changes, that is all we can ever be. We serve as inspiration to others to make their own desired changes. Then we will be the ripple effect in the pond that expands to become the ripple effect in the ocean.

Have faith my friends. Follow your heart. What is one story you are telling yourself about the foods you eat? Share with us by leaving a comment on our blog.

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