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Part I: Will Tuttle
Dr. Will Tuttle is an award-winning speaker, educator, author, and musician. His music, writings, and presentations focus on creativity, intuition, and compassion. Dr. Tuttle presents about 150 events yearly at conferences, retreats, and progressive churches and centers throughout North America. A former Zen monk with a Ph.D. in education from U.C., Berkeley, he has worked extensively in intuition development, spiritual healing, meditation, music, creativity, vegan living, and cultural evolution.
For more insight from Will Tuttle listen to the last year’s interview on June 8, 2011 HERE.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. It is Wednesday, June 13, 2012. And here we go with another hour, talking about something that I think is really very important: food. And I know that so many of us out there feel so frustrated. We all want to live good lives; at least I think most of us do. And one of the most obvious places to start in making a difference is with what we eat everyday. Food is connected to so many things. And so if we really want to make our lives meaningful, and better, and feel good, spiritually, emotionally, physically, food is the best place to start. And one of the things that I find so crazy these days is that so many of us are always looking for the best deal when it comes to food. We want food that’s cheap. And certainly food should be affordable and food should be accessible. But shouldn’t we put value into having quality, nutritious food? There’s a little food for thought.
Meanwhile, I want to introduce my first guest, the absolutely wonderful, fabulous, compassionate, brilliant Dr. Will Tuttle. He’s an award-winning speaker, educator, author and musician. His music, writings and presentations focus on creativity, intuition, and compassion. He presents between a hundred and a hundred and fifty events yearly at conferences, retreats, progressive churches and centers throughout North America. A former Zen monk with a Ph. D. in education from UC Berkeley, he has worked extensively in intuition development, spiritual healing, meditation, music creativity, vegan living, and cultural evolution. Get ready to be inspired.
Welcome to It’s All About Food, Will!
Will Tuttle: Hi, Caryn! Nice to be with you. Wonderful! Thank you so much.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it is. Thank you. So, I haven’t seen you in a few years and I’m just wondering, what’s new? What’s good, going on in the world? You travel all over the place and I want to hear some good news.
Will Tuttle: Right. Yeah, actually, Madeleine and I are now in our seventeenth year living on the road in our solar-powered rolling home here. We’re in Massachusetts at the moment. And we are doing still lots of advance. I have a lecture here in Cape Cod tomorrow night on promoting the vegan living. And I would say that the momentum is definitely building for veganism, and for compassion and health, understanding the critical role of eating a plant-based diet and living lives that reflect what we yearn for, which is a world of kind of compassionate freedom and equality and justice. And that as we give those qualities to animals and to other people, hungry people, and for so many million that are harmed through our daily food choices and our product choices, that we are sowing the seeds of a new world, of a much better world. And I think the momentum is like exponentially increasing…
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
Will Tuttle: I mean, a definite pushback. You know, I can feel this pushback from the industry and from just the long engrained habits. But more and more people are really excited about the possibility of plant-based diet. I get emails, really a lot, saying that people have read the World Peace Diet and gone vegan, and I just got one today. And so I think more and more people are waking up and that’s the good news.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, the World Peace Diet is a fabulous book. You wrote it in 2005?
Will Tuttle: Right. It took me five years. But yeah, I published it at the end of 2005. And we’re still, actually, it seems to be…nearly…I wrote it in a way not to be something that would be sort of an evergreen. I mean it’s not really dated, I don’t think.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, absolutely not. I think it’s a great handbook for humanity.
Will Tuttle: Thank you. Thanks. Thanks very much. The main idea there is to understand that whatever we sow, we will eventually reap the consequences of our actions. And mistreatment of the animals routinely for food, and especially for food, but for products and experimentation and everything else, has consequences that we’re taught not to see. And so this is like this, essentially, this hidden cultural program that is forced on all of us, when we’re born into this culture to see animals merely as things and to actually eat them. That’s what really gets that way of seeing deeper into us. And so it’s only when we are able to actually help each other, I think it’s really what it is, help each other see this, you know, create communities, ways of bringing this understanding to each other, like you’re doing with your radio program. To help people see that we’ve all been indoctrinated with a program in food rituals, which are the most powerful rituals in any culture really are the meals. And it’s not in our best interest.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you have, you have a very interesting history and your path, lots of colorful experiences, lots of meditation. You were in Korea as a Zen Buddhist, you’ve taken long walks to Tennessee, where you went to The Farm and became vegetarian. I mean you’ve done a lot of searching and spiritual work. Does everyone need to do that?
Will Tuttle: I think, in a way, we all need our own unique journey.
Caryn Hartglass: Because I can hear some people saying, “That’s too much trouble.”
Will Tuttle: Right. It was definitely a lot of trouble but it actually wasn’t trouble; it was actually fun. But I think we all have our unique way of getting to wherever we’re going. We have, in a sense, like the Beatles talked about the long and winding road that will lead us eventually to the door. And I think we can speed up the process, in the sense, by cooperating. I think the best way is to help each other. But for me it was, I can’t really separate the inner work from the outer work. I think, for me, it was really always about trying to quiet my mind, and trust an inner knowing rather than trusting the cultural program, all the voices in my head: from my parents, and the ministers, and the teachers, and the doctors, and the lawyers, and the media, and the Wal-Mart ads, and everything. To separate that out and not have my life be propelled by those things, and my goals be dictated by those things, and to connect with my own inner knowing. And I really think that veganism, vegan living, essentially has to be that. I think for us to be healthy and whole and complete and creative and to be participants in our society in a positive way, each one of us has a unique contribution to give that we’ll only be able to give, as we are successful in connecting with the truth that is within us. So I think veganism comes to us naturally when we begin to do that, when we actually begin to question this violence and the incredible wastefulness, the sheer…it’s just so irrational, and unloving, and ineffective to be confining and feeding animals, and cutting down forests and destroying the oceans to feed animals fish meal so they can give more milk. And all these things are extremely ineffective, and violent, and cause disease and war. I think as soon as anyone begins to connect basically with their inner wisdom and compassion, they naturally question these things. The difficulty is they go very deep. And even people on a spiritual path, very often have difficulty questioning the de-program of food. It goes right back to right after we lose our mother’s breast and we start eating, and we have very deep memories.
Caryn Hartglass: If we even had our mother’s breast.
Will Tuttle: Yes, if we ever got the breast. Most people don’t.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. I think this is the most important work, and probably the greatest work, this internal work, listening to our voices and choosing the ones we want to hear, or at least scripting the ones we want to hear, and erasing the ones that are meaningless. This is really important work and it’s very, very challenging. I think once we get to the point where we have shelter and food and we don’t have to focus on survival, then this is the most important thing we can do.
Will Tuttle: Absolutely. Right. And it’s all connected. I think it’s very important for us who have the means to have food and basic needs met, to take the next step and try to connect with the purpose of our lives. When we do that, we’ll begin to live in a more kind and compassionate way for ourselves and for others around us. And we’ll be able to then create the same opportunity for others, who are, right now, are just trying to get food in their mouths. And we can’t because of the inequality in the system.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s so nutty because we’ve got about, what, a billion people who are starving, and then a billion people who are obese . . .
Will Tuttle: Right, right. We got plenty of food to feed everyone. Actually, they say more than twice as much as they can possibly eat if people are actually eating a plant-based diet, we can feed the whole…twice as many people as we have. So that’s a wonderful…Every time I think about that and articulate that to groups, the basic message is: we live on a beautiful and abundant planet. There’s no reason for anyone to be hungry. There’s more than enough to go around for everyone. And it’s simply a matter of not believing the official stories that are drummed into our heads over and over again: that we need to eat meat to get enough protein, we need to eat dairy products to get enough calcium, that there’s just not enough to go around, that there are always be people who are hungry and starving. They’re all official stories that benefit perhaps a tiny minority, a tiny, tiny minority of people. But for all of us who are actually living here, animals and future generations and so forth, they are absolutely counter-productive and they’re not true.
It’s being more and more understood. It is sort of people are looking behind the curtain, like in the Wizard of Oz.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s funny you brought that up. We were just talking about that yesterday. The man behind… “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”
Will Tuttle: Right, right.
Caryn Hartglass: What we need to do is click our ruby slippers together three times and say, “Go vegan, go vegan, go vegan!” Something like that.
Will Tuttle: Exactly. That’s actually… I think that would probably do it.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m looking at your schedule on your website willtuttle.com/schedule.htm; and you’re amazing! So, you’re all over the place. I see that there’s some consistency here where you speak at a lot of Unity churches and Unitarian. And it always struck me as another part of the bizarre world that we live in where religious groups, and I’m not someone who follows any religion, but where religious groups will promote or say they do, kindness and compassion and “Thou shalt not kill” and yet they’re not promoting, for the most part, a vegan message.
Will Tuttle: Yeah, I know. It’s something I’m actually faced with, constantly, over the last twenty years. Pretty much every Sunday for the last twenty years, I’ve been going into very progressive churches, where the people are talking about the most progressive things really, and yet there is this universal resistance to looking at the food choices. Even when they get together in conferences that are specifically for world peace and for social evolution, for cultural evolution, for cultural transformation, all these things, they … and if I apply to these conferences and say I’d like to bring the message of compassion for animals and veganism, they turn me down. They say, “No, we don’t want to discuss that. We don’t want to bring that into the equation. That’s not important. That’s too divisive.”
Caryn Hartglass: That complicates things.
Will Tuttle: “That’s complicated. We want to be able to eat our meat and dairy products and have peace and transformation.” We don’t realize that that’s a recipe for disaster, really. Whatever we sow, we reap. So I see some help. I see some changes happening. And that’s good, that’s great, I think. There are changes happening.
Caryn Hartglass: I remember the Unitarian Church put out a some sort of, I don’t know what to call it, but a few years ago they came out and said all the churches should have this thing about sustainable food or something like that and …
Will Tuttle: It was actually ethical eating.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s it. Ethical eating.
Will Tuttle: It was actually denomination-wide, the entire North America. All the ministries were focusing together on a study action issue. It’s what they do every like eight or nine years, study action issue. They chose that at the big meetings. And again, what was interesting because I spoke at quite a few Unitarian churches during this time on ethical eating and I still found that there was quite a bit of hemming and hawing about actually looking at it, a reading of animals for food. But I will have to say to their credit, they did struggle with this and they did create a statement, finally, that as a denomination that our treatment of animals for food is something that has to be taken seriously, we should move towards a more plant-based diet essentially. So they did come up, finally, with that statement. And so that was heartening to see. So I think again, that’s a sign of some of the progress being made.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Okay. So you talk a lot to many, many, many people. What seems to be the biggest concern with people, or their biggest struggles these days?
Will Tuttle: Well, I think a lot of people it’s, right now, of course it’s economic, the economy, and health, and so with Forks Over Knives and some of the other things coming out that are helping people to basically have better health and save money there, too. I think that’s helping a lot of people move toward a plant-based diet. They can rationalize it and understand it in those terms. It’s also great to see organizations releasing undercover video footage of the violence and atrocities committed routinely against animals and stockyards and factory farms, and slaughterhouses. And I think that’s getting more and more play and people are eating less meat. I mean that’s one of the things that is undeniable as the per capita consumption of meat is really declining. The number of animals, land animals, being killed is declining in the United States, anyway. And this is definitely seems to be increasing and the number of vegetarians and vegans are increasing. I think those are the things that we want to really work to keep the momentum going, and keep the education going. And that’s one of the reasons we do the lectures that we’re doing. We have this online training for World Peace Diet facilitators and we’re doing a thing called Veganpalooza, which is where we’re going to be interviewing online, it’s an online program, a lot of well-known people in the vegan movement like Neil Bernard, and John McDougall, and Laurie Friedman, and …
Caryn Hartglass: Where can we find out about that?
Will Tuttle: Well, we’re just setting it up but it’s Veganpalooza. It’s on my schedule, if you look down a little bit there, July 12th-15th. And veganpallooza.com is the website. We just have it coming up right now and but in the next week or so, it’ll all be up there. We’ll be sending e-mails out and letting people know. I think it’s basically about getting information, really, to people so that they can understand because we get so much misinformation…
Caryn Hartglass: So much. I want to underline that. So much misinformation.
Will Tuttle: Right. Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about something a little…I want to touch on meditation because I know that’s been an important part of your life and I know you talk about it with people. Can you just give us a little idea of what it is and what you do?
Will Tuttle: Meditation…
Caryn Hartglass: And how important it is?
Will Tuttle: Right. To me, even though in our culture it’s considered sort of marginal thing typically in our culture, I believe that it’s essential as part of our fundamental human heritage, as human beings to be able to enter into states of consciousness where our mind is not dominated by the relentless thinking that goes on based on our conditioning. And so meditation is simply bringing our mind in the present moment in a relaxed and present way, where we’re not thinking about what we did in the past or the future, what’s going to happen, that kind of thing. We’re not posting our attention there, rather being open and quiet and receptive. It’s sort of this ultimate receptivity to me. It’s being receptive and quiet. And it’s essentially contacting what I refer to in the World Peace Diet, as Sophia, the sacred feminine dimension within us, whether we’re men or women. I think we this capacity to be receptive to a higher knowing, which is really our own true nature. If we don’t cultivate that then we’re simple being propelled through life by this programming. So meditation is really the daily practice of consciously letting go of this program, constantly letting go of this narrative that I’ve always got going, sort of running in the back: why I like this, or why I don’t like that, or why I’m going to do this, or why I’m going to do that, or I wish I would’ve done that, or I wish I would’ve done this. That whole story, just letting it go and just connecting with being, not trying to change anybody, not trying to change ourselves, not trying to attain anything. Just to experience “being.” And I think when we’re able to do that, we’ll realize that what we are right now, in this moment, is whole, and complete, and aware, and is of the nature of eternal consciousness. We are manifesting through a physical vehicle, and we have a name or a form that we identify with. In many ways, that is a delusion that we’re just that. And we’re taught by our culture that we are just an object, just a thing that was born and will die. Through meditation, we can experience this directly that what we are, in fact, is actually eternal consciousness, manifesting through a vehicle in a physical body that may be a certain age, weight, gender. But actually, we are of the consciousness that makes this possible. And when we do that, we begin to see others as consciousness. And we begin to, the term I think, a blessing in the world in the sense that we don’t just limit people; we don’t see other beings merely as pieces of meat. We see them as sacred manifestations of consciousness. And we begin to have some self-respect; we begin to have more self-confidence because we realize we’re more than just this programmed object that’s going to live a little while, and then die; therefore, we have to try to get what we want and keep away what we don’t want, even in this constant struggle. That is really an inflating mentality; it’s a prison. And so the idea is to free ourselves from that prison. And the main way out, actually is two things: one is consciousness: meditation, being aware and the other is compassion: being kind and loving, and actually seeing other beings as worthy of our kindness and respect
Caryn Hartglass: This is the secret to life, folks! I really think so. I think it’s so unfortunate in our society that we don’t meditate and it’s something that babies and children should be brought up with. It should be a normal part of life when we all have our moment to go within and be quiet and learn how to turn off all that junk.
Will Tuttle: Right. Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: I know that meditation has really…It was one of the important factors in saving my own life, and really focusing on my own intention and what I wanted. One thing was to live and living, because I started meditation during a serious moment of crisis. But it’s such a wonderful thing because it’s free and it provides so much benefit. I would really love for all of us to be able to take a moment; we deserve it and just be with ourselves. And in so many intense, stressful moments, when we think, “Oh, but I can always meditate.” It really brings us calm, and sometimes answers to some questions that seem so overwhelming.
Will Tuttle: Right. Exactly. Otherwise, if we’re not meditating, we usually don’t know who we are, what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. We’re kind of on automatic pilot, just being driven along by the forces of conditioning that have been just overwhelming us since we were born. So meditation to me is opening a door of consciousness; really, opening the door of the prison and walking out and seeing life and myself from another perspective. And like you said, the benefits are many levels. There’s a lot of research showing that meditation helps us physically. We have lower blood pressure, and just more physical harmony. It helps us psychologically. There’s a lot of studies that show that it helps with stress, and anxiety, and depression, and those kinds of things. And then I think it’s also important to realize that it helps us on the spiritual level as well. I think also ethically, we begin to connect with this inner sense to being part of something greater and so we begin to become more kind and loving in our relationships with others, more harmonious. We begin to see their perspectives, not just our own, in a certain sense. I think culturally, it’s very helpful. It would really help our entire culture if more people took time to meditate. And I think it’s not something that’s religious in a sense. You don’t have to belong to a particular religion. It’s more just a human activity. I don’t think it’s just humans; I think animals also meditate. I think that’s one of the reasons they’re, in some ways, a lot more harmonious and connected to their purpose. I love watching animals: birds and wild animals, in general. To me, when I see them they’re very much in the present moment, and conscious and aware and fulfilling something. I think we could learn a lot about ourselves if we pay attention to animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. One of the things I like to do when I look at any animal is to look in their eyes. There’s so much in their eyes and I like to have that communication saying, “I don’t eat you.”
Will Tuttle: Exactly. Right. “I respect you and appreciate you.”
Caryn Hartglass: Right. “You are not food. You are someone.”
Will Tuttle: Right. And animals are intuitive. I think, very often they pick up on that.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, they know. Absolutely. So have you ever lead a meditation with a gazillion people?
Will Tuttle: Actually, I’ve led retreats where people would come and we would do a meditation retreat for a weekend or …
Caryn Hartglass: So here’s something I want to see you do, if you ever get motivated to do it, but some sort of World Peace Diet meditation where we all, at some designated time, for ten minutes or something, do something all together everywhere, lead by you.
Will Tuttle: All right, that’s a great idea. We do have something that’s approaching that but it’s… I tell you what’s interesting. We have a website called circleofcompassion.org. There’s a worldwide prayer circle for animals and everyday at noon, hundreds of people all over the world that have signed up and put themselves on the world map, and everyday at noon, wherever we are we all join together in prayer and basically in a form of prayer and meditation for animals, seeing animals as part of … Basically, the actual thing we say is: “Compassion encircle the earth for all living beings everywhere.” That’s the basic formula, in a sense. But the idea is to feel and see the energy of compassion encircling and embracing all living beings everywhere. And we just join in that at noon. We thought that’d be the easiest thing if we all do it at noon, so it’s kind of a rolling, moving across the time zones kind of thing. But you can also do something where on a larger scale …
Caryn Hartglass: So where do we find that? What’s the website?
Will Tuttle: The website is circleofcompassion.org. You just go there and it says, “Join us” and then there’s a place where you can find out. But it’s right there. It’s very much available. We’d love to have people join.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well, now I know what I’m doing at noon tomorrow.
Will Tuttle: Right. It’s a nice rhythm in our lives. Every day at noon, we just pause for a few minutes and connect with others.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good. Well, we have just a couple of minutes left, Will. What do you want to share with us in these last few, wonderful, loving, peaceful moments?
Will Tuttle: Basically, I want to thank you, of course, Caryn, for just keeping the flame burning so beautifully. And I want to thank also everyone who’s listening for the efforts that I know you’re making. I think it’s important for us to remember that no effort we make is ever lost when we do something to try to spread this message or to live this message because what veganism is essentially, it’s nothing to be proud of, it’s nothing special or different or anything. It’s just simply coming home to our own true nature, coming home to our own heart and looking out with a mind that when we see beings, we see beings rather than seeing sayings. So it’s simply, in a sense, coming back home. I think every time we make an effort to bring this message to others, even though it may seem that they’re rejecting it, or they didn’t like it or they didn’t hear it, to know that we did plant a seed, to not be attached to the fruits of our actions but just plant the seed as best we can. And within the fullness of time, all these seeds that we’re planting will bear fruit. The whole idea, I think, is to adopt this mentality of radical inclusion. That’s really what veganism is: to include all beings in a sphere of kindness and compassion. And do the best we can to find our unique way to bring this message to others, however that is: through art, music, education, writing, whatever. I think as we do that, for the few years that we have on this beautiful earth, we’ll be living our lives with purpose and meaning. And I don’t think there’s anything more important that anyone can do than to help spread this, this vegan message of compassion and kindness for all life.
Caryn Hartglass: Radical inclusion. I like that. Thank you so much. Everyone, read the World Peace Diet if you haven’t and if you have, read it again. Thanks for joining me on It’s All About Food. The best to you on your journey.
Will Tuttle: Great. Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. We’re going to take a quick break and then be back with another very lovely individual, Victoria Moran.
Transcribed by Diana O’Reilly, 1/22/2013