For fifteen years, using her unique blend of passion, humor, and common sense, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has empowered and inspired people to live as healthfully and compassionately as possible. Colleen is an exhilarating speaker, powerful writer, talented chef, and persuasive advocate whose success can be measured by the thousands of people whose lives have been changed by her compassionate message. Colleen is the award-winning author of five bestselling books, including The Joy of Vegan Baking, The Vegan Table, Color Me Vegan, Vegan’s Daily Companion, and The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. She’ll be joining us again on the March cruise.
We sat down to discuss the motivations and meaning behind the work that she does on the behalf of animals.
1) Have any of your views evolved over the course of your career in regards to healthy living?
My views around healthy living have stayed very much the same: they’re very practical and based on giving people the information they need to live healthfully. They’re not based on doctrine or dogma or the latest science, but common sense and eating whole foods. For me, it’s certainly not about a specific kind of diet. Of course, you can eat 50,000 ways as a vegan, just as you can eat 50,000 ways as a non-vegan! The philosophy that I teach is the philosophy that I live. I try to eat whole foods as much as possible, and I want to take care of myself. My approach to healthy living is very basic and very holistic.
2) What do you think are the ingredients for a life well lived?
My approach to healthful living comes from a mind, body, spirit perspective. I believe in taking care of all aspects of who we are which is why I run and hike several times a week, why I love being outside, why I take the time to be with my husband and to nurture my friendships, why I take time to spend with my cats and play with them and give them what they need, why I eat whole foods as much as possible…Everything I do is to reflect that I care about my mind, body, and spirit. But it’s not just about me. I think that’s where I differ from people who focus on this work as a diet. It’s not just about me improving my running: that’s not where I see a healthy life for me. A healthy life for me is having healthy relationships and a healthy outlook, not being a judgmental person, not speaking ill about other people, being kind to everybody I meet, fostering relationships whether they’re in my neighborhood or the person I meet at the store counter or at a restaurant. It’s about nurturing relationships. I nurture myself, but I also nurture my relationships with other people. For me, that’s what healthy living really is: understanding how important our relationships are and the footprint we have in this world. It’s not just those we care about or we know or who agree with us that it’s important to communicate with. It’s really everybody we meet every day…and everybody includes human and nonhuman animals.
3) Your keynote address on the cruise will touch on this, but what are some of the bigger issues facing vegans in this largely non-vegan world? What are a few tips for remaining a joyful vegan?
Because we live in a non-vegan world, a world that in many ways supports violence against animals, once we are awakened, we are constantly confronted with all the ways that we exploit animals. This can become soul crushing from a perspective of sustained happiness and joy. It can also impact our relationships between one another, our relationships with the people in our lives who might be participating in this exploitation and violence, directly and most likely indirectly: neighbors, family, friends, coworkers, etc. And so what we have to learn as vegans, as people who have become awakened to violence against animals, is how to communicate our concerns, protect animals, and change the paradigm from one that sees animals as here for us to do with as we please to one that sees animals as here for their own reasons, interests, relationships, autonomy, desire to live and to keep their young, and the desire to do with their bodies what they want. That for me is the real crux of the work that I do: shifting this paradigm.
But how do we communicate that in a way that is effective for us and effective for the animals but maintains the relationships that we have? We’re not looking to make enemies. How do we walk that line between speaking our truth and realizing that that truth might make some people uncomfortable? For me, a lot of that is knowing where we end and another person beings. And knowing that when we express our concerns about animals or our joy about being vegan, that if someone gets upset about that, that’s not ours to carry.
Drawing that line and walking that line means being confident in our perspective, in the way that we see the world, in the work that we’re doing and in the lives that we’re living. We have a huge part to play in how people take that message. I think it makes a huge difference when we present it in a way where the intention is to plant a seed rather than to dictate what someone should be doing. But I also think that, on the flipside, we should not be apologetic. If we think we’re doing something wrong or inconveniencing people, then that’s how people are going to take it. When we appear in this world and ask for what we want joyfully and confidently, I think that’s when people respond to us.
4) Compassion for animals seems to be a central tenant of your message as a vegan author and speaker. Why?
Compassion for animals is central to everything that I do. I’m a vegan author and speaker because of the work that I do for animals. One of the biggest misconceptions is that veganism is an end in itself when really being vegan is a means to an end, and that end is unconditional compassion. For me, I’m vegan because I don’t want to hurt animals – it’s just that simple. I don’t want to participate in a system whereby animals are systematically hurt and killed every second of the day. The best thing we can do to not be a part of that is to not participate in these industries that thrive on consumer dollars supporting that violence.
My work is about shifting that paradigm and giving people the tools they need to manifest their values of compassion for animals. I believe that most people are good people and don’t want to hurt animals, but that violence is kept so hidden from us that we don’t know what we’re participating in. We’re doing it unknowingly really. My work is about helping people to awaken to the compassion that’s inside of them and to be able to manifest it in a way that enables them to thrive in this world. Becoming vegan is the practical way to manifest that value of compassion.
To read more about Colleen, visit www.ColleenPatrickGoudreau.com.