It was a huge celebration for me when an article that I had written, “A Call to Awakening,” was finally published in the Unity Leaders Journal, an online magazine. The Unity audience is comprised of spiritually minded people who already value Love, Peace & Harmony. On top of that, its co-founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, were ethical vegetarians at the turn of the twentieth century. They believed there was a connection between how we treat animals and our ability to achieve peace and harmony in the world. Getting published there should have been easy.
But it ended up being a long, long journey.
Over 18 months, I persevered and eventually succeeded in putting my ideas before this audience. For me this was a monumental personal accomplishment! It also demanded patience and turned out to be a journey of personal inquiry and spiritual growth.
The first article I submitted was deemed to be too judgmental and was consequently rejected. I had a hard time seeing this for myself. From my perspective, I had turned myself inside out to drain it completely free of judgment. I even asked several people to read it just to make sure it had the right tone before I sent it in.
The rejection email I received was accompanied by commentary that they “would be able to run with it if it were written more from the personal perspective of your own practice and why you do what you do ...and open up the possibilities of others to adopt what they feel resonates for them to consider without judgment.” Hmmm. That would be difficult, maybe impossible. How could I stay “open to the possibilities of others to adopt what they feel resonates for them” when those possibilities included killing my friends? I felt frustrated, hurt, and I wanted to walk away - not just from the article, but also from the organization that had been a foundational inspiration in my life.
After dwelling in this hole for a while, I raised myself up and decided to look at my article again. I did the usual ego-protection move of showing it to friends and family to seek validation of my position. I simply could not see judgment in it and neither could they.
I finally came to the realization that what I saw held absolutely no relevance if I was unable to successfully convey it. The only thing that mattered was being heard.
Not exactly sure of my next move, I went within and asked, "Is this mine to do?" My answer was a very clear yes. This is my calling. This is my audience. Keep at it.
But I would need to find a way to be heard while also staying true to myself and true to the plight of my animal friends.
I took another look at the article I had written. I clearly posed a challenge to my potential readers. That seemed fair and authentic because that is who I am. I am a person who empowers and challenges people to live in spiritual alignment and to be their best selves. I couldn't wimp out on that. I had to stay true to who I am.
But did the tone in my challenge hold a tinge of sarcasm? Or did I sound like I was exposing hypocrisy?
It was possible.
If I wanted to be heard, I would have to do my best to make sure there was none of that. Maybe there was room to reframe my message in kinder ways. After all, I wanted the world to be kinder.
Ultimately, everything begins with me.
With this thought under my belt, I mustered up the energy to do a rewrite. I rewrote, and rewrote and rewrote. I would leave my writing alone for long periods of time, then come back to tweak it a little here or there, then leave it alone again. After many months, I felt that it was in really good form. It touched on all the essential information while also being gentle. It was clear and revealing while also being understanding. I surrendered very little content, but compromised on approach. I resubmitted it under a different title and with a different slant and perhaps a softer tone.
I had done my work. It was Spirit’s job to take the final step.
Thirteen months after my initial submission, I received the good news that my article would be published the following spring.
I am writing about this because it is just one small example of how those of us with the passion to free our non-human brothers and sisters from a culture that normalizes their killing must persevere in finding ways to successfully be heard. And we must adapt to our audience because the best ways to be heard may be quite different from our normal methods of persuasion.
If we are honest about it, our message hits our fellow humans so deeply that it is nearly impossible to get traction right off the bat. Our audience will swiftly defend, rationalize and deflect. They will bring up every argument possible to support their personal choice to kill animals for food when it is simply not necessary. We have heard them all. Most people have great difficulty fathoming that something so deeply ingrained in our culture and everyday lives can be morally and spiritually questioned. What would that mean about them?
At some unconscious level, I believe that people experience shame when they get a true glimpse of the conditions and violence that farm animals endure as they are made into food and clothing. Not wanting to deal with this feeling of shame, it is projected onto the messenger - in essence, blaming us for shaming them. All listening is off when shame takes hold.
From our perspective all we are doing is desperately trying to give attention to a very important issue, because we are acutely aware that what our culture is blindly participating in is horrific, unspeakable violence. So many innocent, sentient beings are suffering every moment of every day at our expense and for our desires. We want to see drastic change, and we want to see it now.
But change happens in the heart. To have any chance at affecting change, we have to find ways to be heard by the heart. And we must never give up.
From start to finish, it took 18 months for my article to be published in the Unity Leaders Journal. There were so many times I could have given up and walked away. I certainly thought about it. But something deep within called me to persevere, be patient and grow myself.
In the end, an article was published, and hopefully it will serve to inspire those who are moved by it to dig deeper, do some self-inquiry and possibly shift to plant-based living. For many others it might just be one seed among hundreds that will eventually serve to awaken them. And others will defend, rationalize and deflect.
But as it turns out, the journey was less about getting my article published and more about my own evolution as a messenger. Through it all, something shifted within me. Having surrendered to the process of discerning how to best be heard, I find myself now strengthened and emboldened, but also humbled. My voice feels stronger. I am more aligned with my true Self. And I am open to continually evolving so that my message rings with increasing clarity and lands deftly in the hearts of those who are ready to hear...
...all in service to my animal friends and an emerging world of Kindness, Compassion and Peace. We are ALL One.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:9
Rev. Carol Saunders
I am an ordained minister, speaker, writer and lover of all life. In 2010 I founded a spiritual community in Deerfield, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and have recently transitioned it to a weekly interactive gathering and podcast called The Spiritual Forum. Being a voice for the animals and a light for the spiritually-inclined who are willing to seriously examine the self and begin to awaken, are what Spirit has called me to be. I am here to support anyone who wants to move toward living in closer alignment with their deeply held spiritual values. Our world needs more Love, Peace and Kindness. We can make that happen. But we won't be able to until we transform some of the violent and unkind ways of living we inherited from our culture. Be Love. Be Peace. Be Kind. Today.