Thanksgiving is a beautiful opportunity to celebrate peace, kindness—and turkeys. Each year, I try to find a way to celebrate compassion on this special day. Last year, I joined Gene Baur and Farm Sanctuary at the Celebration for the Turkeys in downtown San Francisco. This year, I plan to share an array of delicious homemade vegan dishes with my family and friends.
Though some people may give you a strange look when you mention you plan to celebrate a vegan Thanksgiving, keep in mind you’re in good company: Beyoncé, Russell Brand, Ellen Degeneres, Liam Hemsworth, Jared Leto, Alicia Silverstone, Gwen Stefani, Carrie Underwood and Kat Von D will be enjoying a cruelty-free Thanksgiving, too.
With the new year just around the corner—in a few hours it will be 2016!—it got me thinking about my hopes for the coming year. 2015 was a mixed year for the animals—we lost Cecil the Lion, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally added African lions to the Endangered Species List. My parents lost their beloved black Lab, and my sister her cherished kitten following a deadly illness, but I also have many friends experiencing great joy by opening their homes to welcome new animal companions. New Jersey passed a comprehensive dog-fighting law, but the state, like many others, still allows bear hunting. Oklahoma and Pennsylvania boosted penalties for harming a police dog; meanwhile, France lost a brave 7-year-old police dog named Diesel, who was killed in a raid on apartments following the Paris attacks.
I suppose that with every year, for animals there is good along with the bad—but sometimes, when we lose animals we love or witness cruelties or abuse to animals, it can be hard to focus on the good. With that in mind, I would like to wish all of my heartful tribe a happy 2016 filled with the peace and light of Reiki and the companionship and wisdom of your favorite animals. Here are some of my wishes for 2016, a year that I hope holds more good than ever before for our animal friends:
Wish #1: Compassion. Meeting Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary this year was such a tremendous honor for me. Knowing there are articulate, passionate animal advocates such as Gene gives me real hope for the animals of our world. I know people who aren’t “animal people” are not going to change overnight. But my hope for 2016 is that we can continue to work toward changing people’s collective consciousness when it comes to animals. Maybe one day, animals will be regarded with the same dignity as humans—and 2016 can be a true beginning to meeting that goal. Helping children learn to love animals is a start. The Meat Free Monday movement is another small change that can greatly impact the animal world. I yearn for a time when people realize they need to bring their animals inside during inclement weather, and not leave them panting in hot cars. I hope we can begin to awaken to the understanding that perhaps animals are not products for us to consume, but rather beings worthy of our respect and protection.
Wish #2: Gratitude. My wish for 2016 is that everyone (myself included) can remember to find gratitude in each day, even when life feels like it’s falling apart around you. That we can look into our animal’s eyes and feel grounded again, at least for that moment. That we can make time to count our blessings and feel in our hearts that each day truly is a gift, because it may be our last. Life is such a blessing; may our animals help us to realize this each and every day.
Wish #3: Unity. When I spoke at the ARC International Reiki Convention in Australia in October, I was struck by so many Reiki teachers from different lineages coming together for a common goal. The experience actually inspired me to create World Animal Reiki Day, which will fall on February 5 in 2016 and beyond. Make sure to mark your calendar—animal lovers around the globe will be coming together on this day to celebrate and honor all animals as our spiritual teachers.
Wish #4: Generosity. Animals are often forgotten when people open their pocketbooks to give money to charity. According to the most recent statistics available, charities classified as “animals/environment” received just 3 percent of the $358 billion donated in the U.S.—compare that to 32 percent given to religious institutions. My wish for 2016 is for generosity toward animals. That more people will remember the animals when they think about which organizations they want to support. To those who argue that nonprofits helping people need to be the top priority, I answer: They already are. So now it is the animals that need us so much. They are living beings who share this world, too, after all.
Wish #5: Mindfulness. Living mindfully boosts your health and heals your soul, so let’s all reach our wellness goals in 2016 with our favorite animals by our side to support us. They really are an amazing help: As I wrote earlier this year, here are 5 mindfulness lessons from our animals, and tips on How to practice mindfulness with our animals.
Happy New Year to you! Share your wishes for 2016 here. I’d love to be inspired.
I love the holiday season; it’s one of my favorite times of year. If you’re still shopping for the perfect gift for your animal-loving friends and family (as I am), check out my best picks for any budget:
1. An artful animal pillow to dress their living room or bedroom ($30; order by December 10).
In the middle of a crowded Saturday afternoon in San Francisco’s Mission district, I found the wisdom of the farm: peace, compassion, presence.
I decided to participate in Farm Sanctuary’s Celebration for the Turkeys—a beautiful gathering of animal lovers, a delicious vegan feast and a live video feed of the sanctuary’s turkeys eating delicious platters of lovingly prepared food. Thanksgiving feasts “for” turkeys, instead of “of” turkeys—what a concept!
I was deeply touched and honored to meet two of my personal heroes: Gene Baur and Susie Coston of Farm Sanctuary. Gene gave an amazing speech about compassion, and Susie shared photos and stories of some of the many turkeys she cares for at Farm Sanctuary in New York.
I can’t believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner! This day truly is one of my favorite holidays, even though I gave up eating meat decades ago. That’s because Thanksgiving really isn’t about a specific menu; the day represents enjoying the company of friends, family and loved ones. But how can we celebrate animals next week when we are surrounded by well-intentioned meat-eaters? Here are a few tips to help you not just survive the day, but even enjoy it (and make it as animal-friendly as possible):
1. Show off your bounty. If you are the one hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, lucky you! Move over, Tofurkey: There are so many wonderful options for a Thanksgiving feast, how does one choose? This article rounds up awesome recipes, such as Squash and Apple Puree (which looks delish!) and Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Chimichurri and Almonds. Oh She Glows, one of my favorite sites, shares a whole host of inspiring dishes, including Crispy Smashed Potatoes With Avocado Garlic Aioli and Gooey Pumpkin Spice Latte Pudding Cake. And don’t miss One Green Planet’s “25 Soups, Salads and Starters for Your Vegan Thanksgiving.” (The Buffalo Sweet Potato Stuffed Mushrooms look amazing!) Of course, if cooking’s not your thing, consider catering a few courses from Whole Foods or your local vegetarian restaurant. I promise you: No one is even going to miss the meat.