My journey began in the summer of 2014, when I decided to take a trip to Hawaii with my two best friends.
A place called Gentle World came up in my research, and I decided to send them an email to see if I could come and visit.
“Gentle World,” I thought to myself… “What does that mean?” I told my friends, “I think it’s a vegan place or something.” That night with my friends, I ordered chicken wings because that was one of my favorite meals.
When I arrived at Gentle World, I was welcomed like family, and introduced to the whole gang. They showed me around their beautiful land and we spent the whole day talking. I learned about their way of life, what it really means to be vegan, and how much more their philosophy is than diet.
I took in as much as possible, engaging in the most real conversations I had yet to experience, with beautiful people whom I respected for their wisdom. They welcome people of all ages and from all walks of life, in order to give people an understanding of their way of seeing the world.
Gentle World is not a group of people trying to force veganism on others. They are a beautifully intelligent, awakened group of people, working together every day to make Planet Earth a better place. In doing so, they are bringing light into their own lives and spreading this light to anyone who gets the chance to meet them.
Even though becoming vegan is the number one change you can make to benefit the animals, the environment and your health, Gentle World doesn’t cut out all animal products and believe that’s enough to benefit the world. The Gentle World members also grow their own food, conserve water like I have never seen before, conserve energy by living off the grid as much as possible, limit their material consumption and shop second-hand, and reuse and recycle fanatically. The list could go on forever, but most important, they spread so much love and peace into this world.
When I went home, all my friends said there was no way I would stay vegan. Vegetarian maybe, but vegan would be impossible. A whole year went by, and guess what? I was still vegan.
When people ask me, “why vegan?” I always give the same response: Because I went to a vegan center three years ago, and I saw how this beautiful group of people not only lived but thrived. I watched the movie Earthlings narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, and something changed in me, as if a light switch in my brain had turned on and could never again be turned off. Instead, that light in my head kept growing, and will continue to grow each day, as I keep walking down this awakened path.
About one year after I first went vegan, I was thinking to myself, “Wow, this last year I have felt a happiness I had never felt, a sense of peace inside that was never there before. Not connecting this happy year with my “dietary change,” I was slapped with reality when I remembered a conversation I had at Gentle World, about veganism bringing peace within.
The more I learned, the more excited I became, because I now knew I was able to make a difference. I had been fortunate enough to come out of my ignorance. I was able to see other people change before my eyes, not because I forced them to, but because they saw the light in me, and they wanted to be a part of it.
Veganism is not a label or a hip trend that you only follow because it seems like it’s the cool thing to do (even though it totally is). Being vegan is not strictly about what you eat. Being vegan is a way of life. Yes, changing your diet is where veganism generally begins, but it also awakens your soul and makes you more in tune with every aspect of this earth.
Isn’t being vegan hard? What about protein? Where do you get your calcium? What about cage free eggs? Why not dairy, they don’t hurt the cow. How do you eat out? What if you were stranded on an island and had to kill an animal to survive? Doesn’t peanut butter have butter in it? What about fish, you can eat that right? Do you ever miss or crave anything? We have been eating animals since we were cavemen, you know? We’re at the top of the food chain. What about plants, they have feelings too. What does vegan really mean anyway?
The list could go on forever about all of the questions I get in my everyday life. But honestly, when people ask if being vegan is hard, I say no, because nothing feels hard about doing the right thing. The hardest part would be constantly having to explain it to people who don’t care and will never grasp the concept. I feel like a broken record player sometimes.
The way I speak about my lifestyle is never judgmental or targeting another person. Yet almost every time the person becomes aggravated or tries to prove me wrong, obviously feeling as if they are being attacked when nobody is attacking them, except for maybe their own conscience.
We humans like to live in denial and we wonder why so many people suffer and can’t find happiness or peace within. If we keep lying to ourselves, we can never be set free. If we keep putting into our bodies tortured souls who only knew stress, fear and anxiety, we are going to keep feeling stressed, scared and anxious.
I could write hundreds of pages of why veganism is fun, or how the animals are treated or how you can get all of your nutrients from a plant based diet, but that’s not what this paper is about. I wrote this for my vegan family Gentle World. The connection I made with them has allowed me to make so many other beautiful connections in my life.
Gentle World changed my life’s path, and showed me the light that we all have burning inside us. My journey does not stop there; every day I learn something new. Every day I work on something I can do to better myself, so I can better help the people around me. Every day I think about what I can bring to this world to make it a better place. The root of all of these desires is truly from opening my eyes and making the first step in becoming vegan.
Open your eyes and see what is really going on in our world today, not just with animals, but with every lie we have been told. Your light will shine brightly, and you will be radiating that light outward to everyone who may cross your path. I want every person in my life to feel how I do. Truth is not about proving people right or wrong. Truth is about finding out what you believe, and practicing that every single day, hoping the people around you will slowly start to see what you see.
People take different paths in life and I feel so lucky to have crossed paths with Gentle World. Anybody who wants the next leap in life should take a visit to one of their beautiful places, in Hawaii or New Zealand. Gentle World Community, I thank you for being you.
by Taylor Dawn Bernarda