Saturday, August 11, 2012

3rd Annual Vegan Spirituality Retreat

Today is the 3rd Annual Vegan Spirituality Retreat in Philadelphia, presented by Public Eye: Artists for Animals and We welcome Rae Sikora, founding director of Plant Peace Daily, as our featured speaker and Anne Dinshah, author of “Dating Vegans,” for a book signing. Neal Sehgal introduces his new organization, “Evolve For Animals.” The Retreat includes group discussions, guided meditations, yoga classes with vegan yogis John Calabria and Derek Goodwin, a delicious catered vegan lunch prepared by The Nile Cafe, a nature walk, and an Animal Blessing with rescue donkeys from La Ronda Stables. 

Yoga class with vegan vogi Derek Goodwin

The Blessing offers opportunities to celebrate animal companions, honor those that have died, empathize with animals suffering around the world, and create a vision of harmony between humans and other animals, complete with a vegan drum circle led by Lonnie Davis and the One Nation Ensemble!

Blessing rescued donkeys from La Ronda Stables

Below are the Retreat presenters & a brief bio for each:

Rae Sikora relaxing with a good friend
Rae Sikora has been a full-time spokesperson for other species for over 30 years. She is co-founder Plant Peace Daily, Vegfund, and the Institute for Humane Education. She leads compassionate living and ethical consumerism programs for diverse audiences ranging from schools and prisons to businesses and universities in the United States and abroad. She promotes healthy, sustainable, compassionate living through everyday lifestyle choices,

Anne Dinshah

Anne Dinshah is a rowing coach, lifelong vegan, author of Healthy Hearty Helpings and co-author The 4-Ingredient Vegan. Her latest book Dating Vegans: Recipes for Relationships is a collection of witty, suggestive stories from real people, advice, and delicious recipes endorsed by both vegans and nonvegans,

Neal Sehgal with his beloved animal companion
Neal Sehgal is an educator, animal rights activist, and founder of

John Calabria
John Calabria weaves Ahimsa (Nonviolence) teachings with a series of accessible yoga postures while singing and playing music, "If you can breathe, you can do this Yoga." 

Derek Goodwin

Derek Goodwin is a photographer, Jiva Mukti yoga instructor, and media-savvy NYC artist who specializes in people, animals, and events. He founded Vegan Radio, The Vegan Bus, and Veganica,

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vegan Missionaries

Our second annual Vegan Spirituality Meetup was a vegan-only event and was more focused than our first meeting. We discussed the essential qualities of Vegan Spirituality, such as compassion, empathy, and respect for all life. Despite our diverse views about God, we found common ground in our connection to nature.

We discussed the concept of being Vegan Missionaries. Each person shared how they spread the message of kindness and compassion, whether by blogging, sharing vegan food with friends, or writing books about veganism. At first, I resisted the idea of being a missionary. I reconsidered after realizing that we all felt a moral obligation to raise awareness about the impact of our lifestyle choices on other living beings. Now I can embrace my calling as a Vegan Missionary!

Group photo after a very lively discussion on Vegan Missionaries!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

First Vegan Spirituality Meetup in LA!

We had our first Vegan Spirituality Meetup in Los Angeles yesterday. It was fun to meet other vegans and start the conversation about Vegan Spirituality! Nonvegans attended the potluck as well, which was an interesting challenge. The discussion shifted from defining Vegan Spirituality to defining the qualities of a good person. 
I find it challenging to define "good" in mixed company without offending anyone or compromising my beliefs. Our discussion soon became a debate that ended with the typical "agree to disagree." Although we never returned to our original topic of conversation, we ended on a positive note with a relaxing guided meditation.

To cultivate Vegan Spirituality, we need to begin with common values. From there, we can create a safe environment to explore the deeper meaning behind our ethical choices. We can identify the subtle nuances between our individual beliefs and establish a spiritual common ground. I look forward to these conversations at future VSG's and Retreats.

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Members of the LA VSG!

Our welcome committee :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Story of Vegan Spirituality

In this blog, I will explore veganism as a spiritual practice. My long-time vegan friend, Sandi Herman, and I first discussed the concept of Vegan Spirituality several years ago, longing for a group that united our most precious beliefs. We decided to create one and the first Vegan Spirituality Group (VSG) was born!

Under the auspices of Public Eye: Artists for Animals, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that I co-founded to teach compassion for animals through the arts, we started monthly meetings to build a vegan community. Our first mission was to define "Vegan Spirituality." Although each of us had a unique definition based on our religious and personal backgrounds, we agreed that compassion for all living beings was essential to our spirituality.

Soon other vegans joined us for discussions, events, and annual retreats. We found people who didn't know another vegan soul and were delighted to meet vegans like them! Others were familiar with the animal rights movement, but missed a spiritual connection. Some remembered feeling estranged at Temple or Church when spiritual rituals were followed by eating meat. We shared stories and received support from each other.

Over time, we became a close-knit group and began to create our own community rituals, like honoring the death of a beloved companion animal and celebrating vegan holidays together (Vegan Thanksgiving, Independence Day for Animals, Vegan Holiday Parties). Our annual Retreats drew vegans from surrounding areas for yoga classes, guided meditations, speakers, discussions, catered vegan meals, nature hikes and animal blessings.

Now we're expanding from the East to the West Coast, with the first Vegan Spirituality Meetup Group and a Los Angeles Retreat in the spring of 2013! I look forward to sharing more reflections on my vegan journey and the evolution of Vegan Spirituality.

Saying grace at our first Vegan Thanksgiving

Having fun at our monthly Vegan Spirituality Gathering (VSG)!

Dining on delicious vegan food at our 2nd annual Vegan Thanksgiving

Dancing at our Holiday Party!