The Vegan Way to Mindfulness: How to Incorporate Meditation into Your Plant-Based Lifestyle

  • Author: Ben
  • Date: September 10, 2023
  • Time to read: 10 min.
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Living a vegan lifestyle is about more than just diet. It’s a holistic approach to life that encompasses ethics, sustainability, compassion for all beings, and personal health. An essential part of achieving wellbeing as a vegan is cultivating mindfulness through meditation. So read on to find out about the vegan way to mindfulness.

Why Mindfulness and Meditation Matter

With so much focus on the food aspect, it’s easy to overlook the profound mental and emotional benefits of veganism. Here’s why mindfulness meditation is an invaluable practice for vegans:

  • Promotes self-awareness and presence. When we’re mindful, we become more aware of each moment as it unfolds. This helps us tune into our thoughts, feelings, and sensations so we can catch unhealthy patterns like stress and anxiety before they spiral out of control. Meditation trains our minds to stay present instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
  • Deepens compassion for all beings. Aiming to exclude animal suffering from our lives is honorable, but mindfulness meditation takes compassion further by extending goodwill to all living things including humans. With a peaceful mind comes greater empathy and concern for others.
  • Reduces cravings and impulsiveness. Research shows mindfulness meditation literally changes the brain by strengthening regions involved in regulation of emotions, self-control, and decision making. This helps vegans resist temptations like junk food.
  • Enhances mood and reduces anxiety. Mindful awareness of the present moment disrupts rumination and worrying that lead to stress. Meditation also boosts “feel good” neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
  • Promotes ethical living. A peaceful, compassionate mindset helps vegans make choices aligned with their values rather than acting out of anger, prejudice or blind habit.

In short, mindfulness and meditation help vegans embody the spirit of veganism and reap the mental health benefits that go along with an ethical, harmonious lifestyle.

How to Get Started with Meditation

Here are some tips for vegans looking to try meditation for the first time:

  • Start small. It’s easy to get overwhelmed as a beginner. Start with just 2-5 minutes per day of basic breathing meditation. Gradually increase the time as it starts to feel more natural.
  • Find the right space. Pick a quiet, uncluttered spot in your home to meditate, even if it’s just a corner of your bedroom. Make it cozy with a pillow and blanket. The right space sets the tone.
  • Use anchors to stay focused. Counting breaths, repeating a mantra or focusing on sensations are common anchors to keep your attention from wandering during meditation. Don’t get frustrated if your mind does wander—just gently return focus to the anchor.
  • Try guided meditations. If staying focused is a struggle, look for apps like Headspace that provide guided meditations for beginners. Having an expert guide you makes it much easier.
  • Be consistent. Like exercise for the body, meditation only provides benefits if you stick with it. Schedule meditation at the same time daily and treat it as any other important self-care ritual.
  • Have realistic expectations. The goal isn’t to “empty your mind” or achieve profound spiritual insight. Be satisfied with small improvements in focus, peacefulness or presence. Progress takes time.

Starting a meditation practice may feel awkward at first, but don’t get discouraged. Approach it with patience and curiosity. Over time you’ll start reaping the wellbeing benefits that meditation offers.

Types of Meditation for Vegans to Try

Here are some specific styles of meditation that are especially compatible with vegan values and lifestyles:

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Also known as metta meditation, this simple yet powerful practice involves focusing your attention on feelings of unconditional love, compassion and goodwill for yourself and others. Studying suggests metta meditation not only reduces depression but also makes people more likely to help others. It’s a perfect fit for vegans seeking to expand their circle of compassion.

Mindfulness of Eating

Tuning into the sights, smells, textures and flavors while eating trains your brain to become fully conscious of eating instead of mindlessly scarfing down food. Studies show mindfulness of eating reduces overeating and emotional eating—helpful for vegans looking to avoid junk food pitfalls.

Walking Meditation

Mindfulness isn’t limited to sitting still! Walking meditation lets you take mindfulness into everyday life. Focus your entire awareness on the physical sensations involved in walking. Breathe, slow down and become fully immersed in the experience. Use walking meditation to cultivate presence throughout your day.

Nature Meditation

Find a natural setting like a park, beach or hiking trail. Sit comfortably and let your senses expand to take in all the sights, sounds and smells. Become aware of nature’s aliveness and your interconnectedness with all living things. This meditation can deepen a vegan’s reverence for the environment.

Mantra Meditation

Repeating a meaningful word or phrase is a popular meditation technique. The mantra becomes an anchor keeping you focused in the present moment. Try mantras like “wisdom and compassion” or “health and peace” to cultivate virtues that support your vegan journey.

Breath Awareness

The simplest approach for beginners is to focus all your attention exclusively on the physical sensation of breathing. Observe each inhalation and exhalation without judgment. Use the breath as an anchor whenever your mind starts to wander. With practice, you’ll achieve a calm, clear state of awareness.

There are countless other types of meditation to explore as you deepen your practice. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find techniques that feel right for you and resonate with your beliefs as a vegan. Apps like InsightTimer offer guided meditations on every theme imaginable.

Integrating Meditation into Your Vegan Lifestyle

Here are some tips for making mindfulness meditation a sustainable habit within your plant-based lifestyle:

  • Set reminders to meditate. Put it in your calendar or set an alarm. Ritualize it like brushing your teeth.
  • Start small with mini-meditations. Take a few mindful breaths before eating or pause to notice sensations while walking from room to room.
  • Meditate after exercise or yoga. Physical activity energizes the mind for meditation.
  • Practice mindful cooking and eating. Stay fully present while preparing meals. Eat slowly without distractions.
  • Replace screen time with meditation. Cut back on TV or social media and use that time to meditate instead.
  • Join a vegan meditation community. Having social support makes it easier to stick with the practice.
  • Attend silent vegan retreats. Short 1-3 day retreats offer immersion in meditation free of daily distractions.
  • Read inspirational books like How to Be Vegan that motivate ongoing mindfulness.
  • Immerse yourself in nature. Parks, beaches, hiking trails and gardens are great mindfulness landscapes.
  • Experiment with yoga. Gentle yoga can prepare the body and mind for seated meditation.
  • Set monthly challenges like completing 30 meditations. Use apps to track progress.
  • Keep a meditation journal. Jot down observations after each session.

Integrating meditation into your routine takes some creativity and commitment, but the effort pays off in the peace of mind and focus you’ll cultivate over time.

Overcoming Obstacles to Meditation

It’s normal to encounter some roadblocks as you begin a meditation practice. Here’s how to troubleshoot the most common obstacles:

Problem: I don’t have time to meditate regularly.

Solution: Start with mini-meditations as short as 5 minutes during natural breaks in your day. Also look for opportunities to meditate while doing other activities like commuting or waiting in line.

Problem: I constantly feel distracted and agitated when I try to meditate.

Solution: Accept the distractions as part of the practice rather than fighting them. Note thoughts and feelings without judging them, and gently return focus to your anchor. Also try meditating after exercise when your mind is calmer.

Problem: I struggle with physical discomfort like back pain when meditating.

Solution: Experiment with different postures like sitting in a chair instead of cross-legged on the floor. Use props like cushions or back supports to get comfortable. Also try alternatives like walking meditation.

Problem: Meditation feels pointless or boring to me. I don’t notice any benefits.

Solution: Have realistic expectations for benefits, which can be subtle. Also try different types of meditation until you find a style that resonates. Apps make it easy to try new meditations.

Problem: I keep falling asleep when meditating!

Solution: Meditate with eyes open instead of closed. Sit upright without slouching. Meditate earlier in the day when you’re less tired. Splash cold water on your face beforehand or try meditating while walking.

Don’t become discouraged by obstacles. Remind yourself that difficulty and distraction are natural parts of the practice. Over time you’ll get better at working through challenges in a mindful way.

Meditation Retreats for Deepening Practice

Once you establish a regular home meditation practice, consider taking it to the next level by attending a retreat. Retreats offer total immersion in meditation free of everyday responsibilities and distractions. Even a weekend retreat can work wonders.

Here are some things to look for when choosing a meditation retreat as a vegan:

  • Vegan-friendly facility – Ensure the retreat has fully plant-based meals and snacks. Ask if they’re able to accommodate dietary needs.
  • Ethical considerations – Seek out retreat centers guided by principles of non-harm and compassion. Avoid any that exploit workers.
  • Silent or guided – Silent retreats focus wholly on self-practice while guided retreats offer some teaching. Choose based on your needs.
  • Accommodations – Make sure the sleeping, bathing and social spaces meet your needs. Ask about accessibility.
  • Teacher credentials – For guided retreats, vet the teacher’s background and lineage. Their expertise greatly impacts the experience.
  • Daily structure – Decide how rigorous you want the schedule to be. Less intense retreats allow free time versus a strict schedule.
  • Location – Nature-based retreats can enhance mindfulness while urban retreats provide community. Weigh options based on your preferences.

Even at welcoming facilities, advocate for yourself by communicating vegan needs ahead of time. With some diligence, a meditation retreat can take your practice to beautiful new depths.

Starting a Regular Sitting Practice at Home

Formal sitting meditation is the core mindfulness habit to integrate into everyday life. Follow these tips for establishing a regular sitting practice at home:

Pick Your Space

Choose a quiet space where you can meditate without distractions or interruptions. Make it cozy with a pillow and blanket. You may want to invest in a meditation cushion or chair.

Set a Duration

Start with just 5-10 minutes and gradually increase to 20 minutes or longer. It’s better to keep sessions short than to burn out by sitting too long before you’ve built stamina.

Find Your Posture

Sit upright but relaxed with your spine straight either on a cushion/chair or cross-legged on the floor. Avoid slouching or straining. The posture should be stable but comfortable.

Decide Your Technique

Try different styles like breath awareness, mantra, or metta meditation. Stick with one technique during a session for continuity. Apps are great for exploring guided options.

Establish a Ritual

Do the same sequence before each sit—maybe light a candle, ring a meditation bell, recite an intention, etc. This mentally prepares you to enter a meditative state.

Be Consistent

At minimum, commit to a daily morning sit. If you miss a day that’s okay, but regularity is key to progress. Complement with mini-meditations throughout your day.

Observe Without Judgment

Thoughts will drift in and out. Note them impartially without following or suppressing them. Stay anchored in your technique. Meditation is an exercise in awareness.

End with Gratitude

Close your practice by appreciating the chance to cultivate mindfulness. Be thankful for any small improvements gained during the sit.

Once you’ve made meditation a habit first thing in the morning, you’ll already be starting your day from a more conscious, compassionate place.

Guided Meditations from Vegan Teachers

If you’re looking for guided meditations that weave together vegan ethics and mindfulness, these teachers offer inspiring options:

  • Sharon Salzberg – A legendary Buddhist meditation teacher and author with an animal-friendly approach. She co-founded the Spirit Rock center.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh – This monastic monk pioneered “Socially Engaged Buddhism” focused on mindfulness as a force for global justice and environmentalism.
  • Victoria Moran – A longtime vegan meditation teacher and director of the Main Street Vegan Academy offering online meditation courses.
  • Dr. Will Tuttle – Creator of the Vegan Meditation Summit and author exploring the links between meditation and ethical veganism.
  • Dr. Jean Lotus – A vegan mindfulness teacher incorporating scientific research into meditation. She specializes in compassion and loving-kindness practices.
  • Ruth Lera – A Bhakti yogi and vegan meditation coach who infuses breathwork, mantra and positive psychology into practice.

These diverse teachers draw from Buddhist traditions, Vipassana, yoga, and more to present meditation through a vegan lens. Studying with them through books, blogs, workshops and online courses allows you to find a style of guided meditation that clicks with your individual spirituality as a vegan.

How Veganism Supports Mindfulness

At first glance, veganism and meditation might seem like unrelated endeavors. But adopting an ethical vegan lifestyle actually establishes optimal conditions for mindfulness to flourish.

Reduces Restlessness

A vegan diet enhances energy levels and mood regulation which leads to a calmer state of being—perfect for settling into meditation.

Boosts Compassion

Choosing a non-violent lifestyle fosters empathy and care for all beings. Metta meditation becomes natural.

Cultivates Awareness

Reading labels, asking questions, and planning meals trains vegans to become more conscious in daily life.

Aligns Values

Living according to your ethics—like embracing plant-based eating—creates personal harmony that meditation enhances.

Facilitates Presence

Not consuming animal products means vegans cook wholesome foods from scratch more often. Cooking and eating become more mindful.

Provides Perspective

Facing the realities of factory farming compels ethical reflection and spiritual questioning that meditation helps process.

Encourages Self-Discipline

Sticking to veganism requires patience, commitment and moderation—all traits strengthened through meditation.

So while meditation isn’t only for vegans, adopting this lifestyle generates inner and outer conditions highly conducive to mindfulness. The two practices feed into each other in a virtuous cycle.

Final Thoughts on Vegan Meditation

The synergy between ethical veganism and mindfulness meditation runs deep. Calm presence leads to greater compassion. Compassion inspires us to live gently. A non-violent lifestyle fosters inner peace.

By rooting your vegan journey in mindful awareness, you ensure lasting change that transforms every aspect of your life. With patience and practice, the mindfulness muscle will strengthen.

Remember that formal sitting is just the beginning. The real integration happens when you bring mindful awareness into your cooking, commutes, conversations, and community. Infuse the essence of meditation into all you do.

The stillness you cultivate on the cushion will ripple outwards. With mindfulness, your personal wellbeing and commitment to compassionate ethics will only continue to blossom.

What meditation practices most excite or intrigue you? How might a deeper mindfulness practice support your goals on the vegan path? The journey begins here and now—just tune into this present-moment experience with gentle, curious attention.