Although it wasn’t too long ago, I can’t recall the first time I met Shahab. But I do remember when I met him again after a long time. Although I met him as a vegan on both occasions, it still almost felt like meeting two separate people. From a regular Joe, Shahab now emanated the presence of someone who found some sort of truth and a new way of being.
Many people, myself included, thought that turning vegan was like hitting the jackpot of freedom: freedom from the Matrix, no longer needing to worry about being a part of a twisted system. But what I have learned along the way is that veganism is just the beginning of a new awareness. There is no end to learning and growing.
I don’t know Shahab’s jourrney on a personal level, but I have sensed growth and a keenness to keep growing. And I do know him well enough to be motivated by his wisdom and calm, bright energy… Things definitely worth sharing with others. Interviewing him was a no-brainer.
Shahab can be found on Instagram here and is a co-admin on the Vegans In Malaysia FB page. He is the fourth featured profile in the ‘Vegan Vantage’ series on this blog, celebrating how the plant-based lifestyle has transformed Malaysians – or in this case, honourary Malaysians! – in positive ways. Thank you for answering these questions with so much intent, Shahab, and may your intents continue to resonate in others.
1. What was your health and outlook on life like before going vegan?
Before going vegan, I didn’t know much about health and wellness… although by many standards I was considered a healthy person by societal standards (which in hindsight seems funny). It wasn’t totally unfounded though. I was an avid hiker and that’s actually how I came across veganism. I used to lead groups of hikers up Bukit Tabur West every Sunday morning. That’s where I met a particular vegan hiker whom for the first time explained to me all about the lifestyle.
After learning about veganism and becoming a vegan myself, I have since learned so much about health and wellness. You see, veganism is like a gateway to a lot of good information that is actively kept a secret from the public.
After learning all that I have learned since going vegan, I know that I can take control of my health by choosing the right food which is nutritious as well as cruelty-free.
2. What was the strongest motivation for you to try out a plant-based diet, and the breakthrough moment when you realized it was the right decision?
When I found out about veganism for the first time, it made perfect sense! But the first thing I did before becoming a vegan was to look for arguments against going vegan. I spent two days straight looking everywhere for evidence that would suggest that veganism was not right for me. I couldn’t find anything at all.
That’s when I concluded that going vegan was the right decision. It has been the single best one that I have made in my whole life. By going vegan I help myself, others, animals and the planet. What more can I ask for?
3. You’re an avid yoga practitioner. From your experience, what kind of meals (e.g. food sources, types of carbs etc.) have contributed the most towards progress in your practice?
One of the main tenets of yoga is ‘Ahimsa’, which is the principle of non-violence or causing no harm. We all know that animals go through pain and suffering when being slaughtered or being farmed for milk, eggs, and other byproducts. I can’t imagine myself being able to reach higher levels of spirituality whilst contributing to suffering to other fellow sentient beings.
As an avid minimalist, I try to apply the same rules to my food too. In my opinion, the simpler the dish in terms of ingredients and the process that it goes through, the better it is. You generally can’t go wrong with food that is whole and plant-based. In short, the less processed, the better. And what better than fruits and vegetables?
Mono-mealing, or eating only one type of food at a time (for example, having just papayas for breakfast) is another way of giving the digestive system a break.
4. How strong do you feel is the link between diet and spiritual growth?
I strongly believe that there is a karmic value as well as nutrition value to the diet one chooses. Being mindful of what we consume through our diet is the least we can do to move things in the right direction, if we wish to positively grow in our spiritual practice. With every bite we take, we consume not only the nutrients present in the food but all the pain, suffering or the blessings the food absorbed prior to reaching us.
5. You’ve been living in Kuala Lumpur for some years now. What’s a vital tip you would share with Malaysian friends who are skeptical or worried about going plant-based?
It’s never been easier to make the decision to go plant-based. Today, we have so many local individuals, from many different walks of life, thriving on a vegan and plant-based diet. From professional runners, fighters, swimmers, models, actors to medical doctors, engineers, teachers, chefs, homemakers – you name it! – chances are there’s at least one local person who is vegan and thriving on it. I personally find it very easy to be vegan in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur in particular. But you first need to learn about veganism yourself, and then be ready to educate others. So if I were to give only one tip, it would be self-education. Invest some time into learning, and be patient with yourself and others.
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