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Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 95

Meredith Marin on mindfulness, how it can help us as vegans, and more

Karina Inkster:

Hey, thanks for joining me today. I'm Karina, your go-to no-BS  vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Hope that you and your family and friends have been doing well and staying safe and healthy. And I don't know about you, but I've been coming up with new pandemic safe activities to do just for fun. So, last week, my accordion teacher and I set up our instruments, which collectively were an electric piano, three different accordions and a trumpet on the lawn in front of my house. And we performed music for an hour or so for the neighbors and passersby. So that was super fun. But I have to tell you about my latest shenanigans, which involve two giant inflatable T-Rex costumes - such an excellent investment, I have to say. So here's what happened in a conversation with my friend, Vanessa, who is one of my regular workout buddies.


I mentioned that one of our neighbors has a wildlife cam in his backyard. Actually they have six wildlife cams, that family, covering their entire property. Now we get all sorts of wildlife here in Powell River, like black bears, deer, raccoons, even the occasional cougar. So it makes sense to have wildlife cams. Now, when I told Vanessa this, she said immediately, “Oh my God, we need to video bomb Rob's cams in the middle of the night.” And I, being a shenanigans enabler, said yes, and we should do it in T-Rex costumes. So I ordered the costumes online. And recently we suited up, snuck into our neighbor's yard and tripped their wildlife cams. And apparently they were just drifting off to sleep when their iPad flashed on and showed a preview of two giant T-Rex’s creeping around their yard. And they eventually found out it was us.


But during the planning of this whole dino invasion, I actually ended up buying two wildlife cams of my own. And we have seen an absolutely massive black bear a few times now. So if you want, you can actually see some of the wildlife cam footage of this giant bear and other things like deer and the T-Rex’s in the wild on my Instagram at Karina Inkster. And we do actually have more shenanigans planned. I just found out yesterday that my tiny little town has a herd of dinos who go out and do hospital visits from outside, at the moment, playground surprises and things like COVID safe kids birthday drive-bys and whatnot. So I'm looking forward to joining them for some T-Rex ridiculousness. Anything we can do right now to entertain ourselves and make others laugh, I think is a positive. So if you have any ideas for what we should do with a crew of five or more giant T Rex's, let me know, get in touch. We did a lap of the running track the other day, but we haven't really done anything else. So I'm looking for some genius ideas, get in touch any time.


All right, let me introduce my guest today: Meredith Marin. She's a vegan entrepreneur with a background in social work and community organizing. She's known in the vegan community for her work that transformed Aruba into the most vegan-friendly Island in the Caribbean. Meredith's current mission is to share mindfulness and community organizing tools to help vegans become more effective activists and entrepreneurs. She currently lives in Florida with her small vegan family and virtually coaches and teaches vegans all over the world to make an impact. When I asked her about her favorite vegan meal, she said anything with a delicious sauce, peanut noodles, nacho, cashew cheese, it's all about the sauce. Enjoy our conversation.


Hey Meredith, thank you so much for joining me on the show today.


Meredith Marin:

Thank you. I'm so excited to be here.


Karina Inkster:

We're excited to have you. And like some of our guests with whom I have not had a conversation before, I'm going to be learning about you and the work that you do along with our listeners. So why don't we start? I know before we hit record, you mentioned that your vegan story is kind of long, but I'm still curious. I know I'm sure everyone else who's listening who is vegan or vegan curious is kind of thinking like, well, Meredith is vegan. What's the deal here? How long has it been? What was the catalyst? So can you give us at least a little bit of a backstory, origin story if you will, on how you came to veganism?


Meredith Marin:

Yes. I'll try and give you the short version. So I'm actually from a family of butchers. My grandfather's a butcher, my, my uncle. I grew up going to the butcher shop and being around refrigerators full of dead animals to put it bluntly. So I never really had a taste for meat as a child. I think probably because I saw what they looked like dead and I didn't eat that much meat. I was always not super interested in it. So I, I also just ate what I was told and didn't really know how to advocate for myself. So I didn't go vegan as a child. But when I was in college is when I went vegetarian and I feel like my vegetarian story is even more interesting than my vegan story, because that really was the catalyst for my vegan journey. And I think I was on a vegan journey for a very long time.


I'm not like other people that have this specific date, like a vegan anniversary, veganversary. I don’t have that because it was such a journey for me. So I went vegetarian when I was 18, because one day I was in my college dorm room and a friend knocked on my door and he told me this crazy story that happened to him. He was in the subway in New York City and he saw a man walking on the tracks and he went over to try to help the man. And he grabbed the man, but it was too late. So the subway hit this guy, threw him across the platform. And my friend followed him to the hospital, found out that he was an immigrant from Bangladesh – sorry this is the shortest way I can tell the story. He started a charity for the guy's family to send money back to Bangladesh.


And he had knocked on my door to ask if I would give him money or help them raise money. So I said, yes, of course I was really touched by the story. And I started emailing everyone I knew, my whole family, my friends, going door to door with him in the dorm rooms. By the end of the night, I think I had raised about $30 and I just felt devastated and helpless. Like, this guy died for no reason. I said, all I can do is give him $30. That's not going to help. So what can I do? And for some reason, in my 18 year old brain, after you know, a lifetime, I guess, maybe wanting to go vegetarian and not knowing what veganism was at the time, I connected the dots. And I said, well, if I want to end suffering or not contribute to suffering like this guy suffered for no reason, I don't have to do what I do three times a day, which was eat animal products.


So, if I stopped eating animal products, at least I'm doing my part, you know, whatever I could do to stop the suffering. So that's what I did. I went vegetarian overnight. And then a couple of years later, I wasn't so healthy. I wasn't a healthy vegetarian. Let's put it that way. I was just eating takeout, Chinese food, every single night fried tofu, didn't have a kitchen in my dorm. Didn't know how to cook. Didn't know how to take care of myself. Was like the beer and pizza diet, just like every other college student.


Karina Inkster:

Hey, it's vegetarian.


Meredith Marin:

Exactly. So, I went back home, which was Atlanta at the time. So my family doctor, and the doctor just like so many other people, you know, they go to the doctor and the doctor says, “Oh, it's because you're not eating meat. That's why you're unhealthy now.” That's the reason. So the quick fix is like, eat some meat. You'll feel better. You'll look better, you'll be better. So it was pretty confusing, and I ended up starting to integrate some meat back into my diet, that lasted for about a year. And, of course, didn't solve all my health problems because that wasn't the problem in the first place. I mean, you know this. So, I ended up then really starting my vegan journey. So it was a whole, like I said, long story, but I went to Aruba, this beautiful Caribbean Island, on vacation the year after I graduated college.


And that's where I met my husband. Although at the time he was just a guy working at a restaurant, didn't know he was going to be my husband. We fell in love immediately. And we ended up moving to the Netherlands together because that's where he was going to go to school, in the Netherlands. I don't know if you've ever been there, but it's like the agriculture capital of the world. They have beautiful, amazing produce. I was able to go to the farms and pick my own produce and really see where my food was coming from for the first time in my life. Because coming from New York City where I grew up, I was so detached in a way I didn't even realize from the food system. So I was picking my own produce. And then I was actually riding my bike by the farms and seeing the cows grazing and making the connection.


Like, those are cows that people are going to eat. And I ended up moving in, we moved in with a vegetarian family at the time. It was the only way I could stay in the country. I had to become an au pair. We moved in with a vegetarian family and they helped me get back to my ethics. They helped me get back to going vegetarian and then starting the vegan journey with just making swaps. So getting rid of dairy making a bunch of swaps. And then my husband did it with me. So we were on this journey together and we lived, I would say, like 99% plant-based for about seven or eight years where we were we were essentially vegan at home, but like if we were at a party or at a restaurant and we didn't know what was in the food, we didn't ask, like, “did you put butter in that or something” the way I do now, because we're very particular about it, but I didn't, we didn't do that.


So, I would say we're like 99%. He lived that way for a long time. And then it was finally, once we moved to Aruba in 2016, when we realized and again, we really went on this journey together. We realized that we needed to take a stand and identify as vegan. Whereas before we, you know, we were kind of saying we were vegan, but didn't really understand what it was. Didn't know how to explain it to people because when we moved there, this is where my husband is from. So he's got like the cultural connections and the family, and we would be eating at my mother-in-law's place and she put fish on her plate and thinking that that was vegetarian, didn't really understand what we could eat and what we couldn’t eat. And in the beginning it was very awkward and I'm sure other people relate to this.

Like, you don't really know what to do. It's a new family. It was kind of like pushing it around on my plate, putting it to the side, pretending to eat. And then similarly, when we went out to restaurants, we would go out to eat and all the vegetarian options work creamy based things that we just were like, we can't do this anymore. We need to be really vocal about it. And so for me, the vegan, the vegan switch and the activism switch happened at the same time, because for me in order to go vegan for real, for good, I had to be really vocal about it, to get my needs met and to set my boundaries. And so that happened, yeah, I guess around 2016.


Karina Inkster:

Gotcha. Wow. What a journey. Hey, your story is probably the first one that I've heard where one of the main catalysts was human related.


Meredith Marin:

It's really interesting. I was thinking about it today because you know, I get messages from vegans all the time about various things asking me for support. Cause I was a therapist and now I'm a coach and people want support on all the, the tough parts about being vegan, but thinking about the animals and the suffering. And I really identified that there's such a helpless feeling sometimes around being vegan and that a lot of people go vegan because they feel helpless and they want to feel empowered. They want to feel like they have control. So even though my switch was because of humans, it was really because I felt helpless. I was like, I can't do anything here. What can I do? And I think a lot of people do the same. They feel helpless and they want to do something. And so they want to overcome that helpless feeling. And they're like, okay, I can go vegan. That's something, and I'm not helpless anymore. And it's really empowering to go vegan.


Karina Inkster:

That's a really good point. And I think that could be applied to a lot of things, helpless feelings about the environment, about climate change, about like, oh, I'm just one individual, you know, and what difference can I really make? But these things add up and, you know, taking a stand like you did where you're like, okay, I'm a hundred percent vegan now. I'm not going to just eat things that I'm not a hundred percent sure about. Like, you know, that's, that's making sure that your actions are in line with your values. And even that is huge on an individual level. I'm sure just having your values and your day-to-day basically align. So that's awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. That's quite a journey. And I think a lot of our listeners will be able to relate actually to being vegetarian and then kind of moving into the vegan realm where it's not a hundred percent, and then taking that stand, you know, like it's, it's always a journey. Folks who have been vegan forever are still always learning. I mean, I've been fully vegan for 18 years and I still feel like I'm learning new stuff every single day.


Meredith Marin:

Yeah. And I mean, I have such compassion for the people that say, you know, like the, the doctors told them to do something else and they fell for it. I mean, cause that happened to me and I'm one of the most like staunch vegans. Most people know these days, they're like, you're so vegan. You know, they look up to me as being radical and like I fell for it too. It can happen and shame those people and turn them away from veganism. They may not want to come back. So I really believe in embracing everybody's unique journey. I'm just supporting them to, like you said, align their values with their actions because we're all coming from a different place with a different ability to make that change, you know, at our own speed.


Karina Inkster:

Totally. Well, on this note of helping folks make changes, and you've got a background in therapy and coaching, I'm interested to hear about the work in the vegan sphere that you're doing now. So, we actually met through a mutual friend of ours. So she's a colleague/client in, in various capacities. Amanda Rose, hey, thank you for the connection, by the way, if you're listening. So she mentioned that you do vegan hospitality consulting. And so that's what I was looking at on your website and reading about the work that you do in Aruba. So can you tell our listeners about this work? Like what you're doing now, how you've changed the vegan scene in Aruba? Because I know it's been a huge process. It's super interesting. Can you tell us a little bit about that?


Meredith Marin:

Yeah, I'd love to. So it's always interesting to share what I'm doing. People ask like, what's your job? And I say social worker and entrepreneur. But I'm really a lot of things and they've all kind of connected. It's one of those stories where, like, I didn't choose this career when I was a kid. I didn't say I wanted to be a vegan hospitality consultant. I didn't know that was a thing. Nobody knew that was a thing. So it's interesting how the paths, the stars align to like get you somewhere based on your experience and your passion. I started consulting for restaurants after I moved to Aruba. And like I said, we were eating out and there wasn't anything for us. So out of necessity, I started to develop relationships with the people who own these businesses. I would have to call restaurants in advance to get served.


I'd have to unofficially consult for chefs to help them understand how to put tofu on the grill and season it and, you know, make something exciting for me that was worth the money they were going to charge. And we would go out to eat a lot because I had a lot of family coming to visit me all the time. So we were just eating out constantly. I think a lot of vegans, especially in the beginning, they just cook at home because it's so overwhelming to try to get served, to go out, to eat and feel like you're paying a lot of money for something that is a good. But I didn't really feel like I had that option. Because we were visiting. We had all these visitors. So I was forced to go out to eat at all these different places and get served at the same penna pasta and marinara everywhere I went.


And ended up after several months of this, getting invited to give a presentation at the Aruba Restaurant Association. And when I had that opportunity, I was just presenting as a customer, and I was just there really to share the vegan message and to say, there are people who want to eat this way, here's what you need to know about it. And really encouraging restaurant owners. I was in a room speaking to 25 restaurant owners that I had really never met before. I knew some of the chefs, but a lot of these people, I was like, this is going to be awkward because I'm funning about your restaurant, that I've eaten at and I'm going to do it in a really brutally honest way. I wasn't there for a business purpose. I was there to say, here's what you served me and it wasn't good enough and you can do better.


So, I encouraged them. I gave a little lesson and at the end of this speech, I had everyone in the room lined up to talk to me and they were handing me their business cards and they were saying, can you help us? We agree with you. It sounds like a great market to tap into. We don't know what to do. We don't get a lot of professional development opportunities like this. Can you help us? And I was just, my first instinct was…me?? I'm a social worker. I don't know how I can help you. What do you mean? And through this time I was also teaching social work at the university. I was a professor at the university of Aruba, teaching social work, psychology, community empowerment, advocacy. And you know, I really identify as social worker. I'm not a chef. I said, I've never been culinary trained.


And one of the owners of one of the restaurants said to me, well look, let me put this straight. If you don't do it, no one else is going to, and we need your help. So why don't you give it a try? And I said, okay. So I showed up at his restaurant a week later, he was like we’re redoing our menusnow. So this needs to happen now. So I showed up, he really pushed me to just get things going. And I evaluated his menu just as a customer, looking at what he could veganize. He said, great, this sounds interesting. Can you now go to the supermarket, buy the food we need and teach my chefs how to cook it because they've never seen tofu before and they don't know what that is or how to make it taste good. It's like, okay, I can do that.


So, I had my first kitchen training without even knowing how I was doing it, which is something I do professionally now and ended up basically creating my method for what now is called High Impact Hospitality Consulting, which is a signature method that I've taught two 55 vegan consultants all over the world now. And you know, really changed the Island of Aruba. So that was my first restaurant I worked with. And after they launched their menu, I had a wait list of other restaurants who wanted to work with me. And I started this dual career path of being a social worker and in hospitality. And it's interesting because I never really felt like I was in hospitality, even though now people see me as some hospitality expert. But I still feel like a social worker working in the hospitality industry because social work, my mindset, my framework just affects everything I do. And the way I go about the business and my mission is, is to make veganism accessible and acceptable around the world. And that, to me, is a more social working mission than a hospitality mission.


Karina Inkster:

Social worky.


Meredith Marin:

Yeah. So it's, you know, it's altruistic. It's not like I necessarily want to make a bunch of money working for myself or anyone else. However, you got to get paid for your time. And there's a great incentive for hospitality businesses to make a shift and to serve more customers, especially now so that they can be profitable in serving future generations. So that's how I started with the hospitality consulting. Aruba was named in 2019 by Happy Cow most vegan-friendly Caribbean islands, most vegan-friendly spots per capita. So things happened pretty quick. And like you said, Amanda Rose. I met her because she was a visitor to the Island. She stayed at one of the most beautiful boutique hotels. And I had just trained their staff and created their new menus. And she, she asked, she just found me online and said, can I take you out to lunch and thank you for all the work you did because now I can eat vegan meals five days a week while I'm here and feel really good about it.


And then yeah, she ended up becoming my business coach and speaker coach. So that was a great connection to have. But yeah, it's such a amazing thing to have happened. I can tell you the rest of the story, which is that after working in Aruba I ended up starting a more global business called Vegan Hospitality because I was getting messages from vegans all over the world saying, can you come to my country, my state, my Island, and do this work there? And as a social worker, it didn't feel right to say, sure, I'm going to be some traveling vegan to go veganize other people's countries. That already felt weird enough that I have made such an impact in a country that wasn't my own.


So I said, well, what would a social worker do? A social worker would train locals, would train people from the communities to do the work themselves and support their own cultures and, you know, make the change themselves. And so I started a program to do just that. And now I certify vegan hospitality consultants around the world. And I've worked with people from almost every continent at this point in, you know, at least 20 countries, 15 US States. And it's, it's been an incredible, incredible journey. I started this about, I think, a little over a year and a half ago. So it's been a journey of being an entrepreneur during a pandemic as well and working in hospitality when half the time the industry has been kind of shut down. So that's been a challenge, but it's, it's still going. And that work also led me to what I'm doing now, my new project, which is more of life coaching for vegans and mindfulness training for vegans.


Karina Inkster:

Right. Yes. Which we're going to talk about as well, because this sounds super interesting. That's pretty crazy how, just like an experience, clearly there was a need already with folks in Aruba, restaurant owners, who agreed that having plant-based menu items was a good idea. I mean, it could have been, the reception, theoretically, could have been the opposite where they're like, now this is a dumb idea, I'm not into it. But you know, the timing was right. They saw it probably as a business opportunity, which makes sense. Nowadays, a lot of businesses have plant-based products because they know they're going to sell, but also to serve their existing customer base. You were going into all these places, eating the same fricking thing over and over again, which isn't really adding much to your experience. So it's amazing how that all kind of came together and, and where it's gone since then, which is absolutely incredible. Very impressive.


Meredith Marin:

I feel very grateful that my path just has evolved in a way where, you know, people ask me, how did you get into this? And I'm like, kind of on accident, but in an intentional way that I got opportunities. And I said yes to them.


Karina Inkster:

Exactly. Yeah. I mean, that's also part of the picture is, is you're the type to say, sure. I'll step outside my comfort zone. Sure, I'll do a presentation to these 25 folks. I don't know. Yes, I will consult with you and show you how to cook things. You know, when that's something at the time that you haven't done before. Super awesome. Super interesting. So, Aruba as one of the top Caribbean vegan-friendly islands and Happy Cow, I mean, all of our listeners know what Happy Cow is. It's huge. Getting, you know, recognized as one of the vegan friendly hotspots, right? How long did that take from no vegan options essentially to listed on Happy Cow?


Meredith Marin:

Two years.


Karina Inkster:

Is that it? Only two years?


Meredith Marin:

That's it. Two years. Now, Aruba is a small place. So the entire population is about 150,000 people. Although they're getting millions of tourists, several million tourists a year. So, but you know, think of it like a small city, like a really small city - it's a country - but it's like a small city and so it's possible. And that's why I believe it's possible. It's possible for anyone to do. And like I said, I didn't have a culinary background. So really you need, you know, the confidence to put yourself out there. And like you said, the confidence to say yes and step out of your comfort zone when necessary.


Karina Inkster:

No kidding. You're inspiring me. Cause I live in a tiny little town. It's only 13,000 people here, so it's not an entire country of course, but it's very cut off. There's 13,000 people here. It's okay in the vegan department. We're on the west coast in BC. So there's just already kind of like a background, you know, Vancouver is relatively close, which is amazing for vegan food. But I'm kinda thinking now, based on what you're saying, man, we need someone like you here. Someone who's just like, go get her, has a plan, has a background, you know, has connections in the hospitality industry. Our restaurants are all open right now. You know, outdoor seating and take out and that kind of stuff. But I think having someone with your training, someone that you have trained, perhaps, that would be so cool to have someone like that in our tiny little town. So I'm going to think about this, it’s very inspiring.


Meredith Marin:

Yeah, I don't have anyone currently trained in your community, but I do open up the training now twice a year. So I'm currently in a training right now that's going to finish in a couple of weeks and then the next training we'll probably start in July. So if any listeners want to apply, you can just go to veganhospitality.com and connect with me. And then I can let you know when the next training is and we can chat about it. But in the meantime, there's things that you can do as a consumer, just as a regular customer, to advocate for more options. You don't necessarily have to take it on as your whole job, but if there are one or a couple of restaurants you would really love to eat at, like, let's say there's a restaurant on your block that you never go to because they don't have vegan food. You can have conversations with them. And, and really like, I really encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and have these conversations and think positively about it. Like go in with the assumption that you're going to be taken seriously and go into it with the assumption that what you have to say matters to the manager or matters to the chef. And that they're not going to just dismiss you, but that they're going to value you because you're a potential customer, and then hear your honest feedback. Like just ask, would you consider having a vegan option on your menu? And if not, then why not? And do you ever get vegan requests or am I the first person who's requested vegan food here? And if you don't get vegan requests, why do you think that is? Do you think that's because you don't have any options for people and they're just bypassing your restaurant and you know, there's so many conversations we can have. But we have to approach it with a way where, like, I think a lot of vegans see restaurants that are not serving vegans as kind of evil or against us, and they don't want to serve us.


And we come with this assumption that they're not vegan friendly for a reason. And sometimes that's true, but very rarely. I think most of the time they just haven't really thought about it yet. And haven't figured out how to make that change. And they also don't think that there's a demand for vegan food. They don't, they don't have people requesting it because they're not vegan friendly. And so no one's going to bother, but if you're the one that bothers and then you have a couple of friends that both to say, “Hey, we'd love to eat here. You know, your your pasta dish looks good, but it's full of cream. Can you fix that?” Then you could see, you could start to see restaurants changing in your neighborhood without you even having to go in and get hands-on in the kitchen with them.


Karina Inkster:

That is so true. That's such a good point. There's one restaurant I really love eating at here. A local family owned where they always make off menu things, which is great. I mean, it means they're open to the vegan option. They're open to like experimenting and creating something that isn't officially on the menu. But I think what it means is there's room for the official vegan section in the menu, or at least having an official option or maybe even labels on the menu, you know, like this is vegetarian, this is vegan. So yeah, I think you're making some good points.


Meredith Marin:

That's like an ideal of what I call an ideal client, like a place that's willing to make the options. But they're not attracting guests, they're accommodating guests. So they're not getting new clients. They're only getting people that happen to stumble in there and it's not really helping their business. And it just makes more work for their chef, because probably the head chef is the one that has to make the vegan option. Usually the rest of the cooks in the kitchen, when it's not officially on the menu, they don't know how to accommodate the vegan guests. And so it's just a lot more work for the kitchen to be doing that kind of thing rather than actually promoting real vegan options that are, you know, that are showing people that they're welcome there.


Karina Inkster:

Absolutely. So many good points. I'm going to be thinking about this for a while and putting it into practice. How does this kind of work relate to what you're doing now? I mean, obviously you're still active in training the community and, you know, having folks who are certified out there doing this work, but how does that relate to the mindfulness piece? And I know that that's kind of something that you're working on currently.


Meredith Marin:

Yeah. So when I started the training program to train vegans around the world, I had to slow down with my restaurant consulting because I couldn't manage both. I'm also a mom and like a full-time caretaker for my child. She's five years old now. So I was never really able work at a full-time capacity. And I was working at the social work school in Aruba, so I had to slow down on the consulting in order to train other people to do it. And I was fine with that because at that point there were so many great options in Aruba that I was like, let's let these places do really well and stay ahead of their competition and just show them how, like, how worthy it was for them to make these changes without over-saturating the market right away. So I was really happy with where that, where that ended and back then they were named, you know, the most vegan friendly islands.

And through my vegan hospitality training, I was building in coaching to it because I knew that people were coming into this training with, similarly to me, little experience in hospitality. Most people, some people had experience, but most people were just people like me who wanted to make a change and wanted to be able to eat at their local restaurants. And I built coaching into the program from the beginning because I knew that a lot of the reasons I was successful was because of the things we've talked about, being able to step out of my comfort zone, being confident enough to communicate with people effectively, to stand in front of a room and give a speech. And then my mindfulness training. So being able to be present in the moment and to not judge the people I'm speaking to and to not judge myself.


So, to be able to have a conversation with a chef and talk to them about their menu without getting overly emotional or judgmental about the animals on the menu. So for example, I would have to say to a chef during the menu evaluation, oh, what's your best seller? And they would say, oh, it's the pork chops. And I would have to not react to that. I'd have to be mindful. I have to say, okay, well, how do you season the pork chops? Because I'm going to make a vegan version of it and I need to know what flavors go into it. And so that mindfulness component was, I think, such an integral to my success that I wanted to make sure that people I trained have that as well. So, I built in coaching and I noticed in my trainings that what people were saying, what they got out of the program at the end of it, at the end of this three-month program, wasn't necessarily, oh, I learned so much about hospitality. But it was like, I gained so much confidence in myself. Like I believe I'm more capable than I ever was. I don't feel helpless anymore. I feel like I have a future. Again, I feel more clear about my path. I feel like I have a purpose and yes, they learned a lot about hospitality and they loved the training for that too. But I was getting like so much of this social, emotional stuff that I was like, there's something here because a lot of people, they want to work with me in that way. They want to learn their confidence and be more of a confident vegan, but not necessarily learn the hospitality part of things. Not everybody wants to be a hospitality consultant. So that's where my first mindfulness program came in.


I decided, this was back in September, to start a vegan group that was really similar to, similar in the sense of the hospitality group is a three-month program, it's group coaching, but I created a new course. So instead the hospitality course, these people are taken through a mindfulness course. And the course includes mindful awareness and practice. It starts there and it really goes into life design. So goal setting, time management, productivity, mode of finding your motivation, building your confidence, being able to set goals and make sure that they're effective and match with your values. So it became like a whole life design course. And I did it through coaching as well through group coaching. And it was so powerful and so incredible. I had eight people in the first round of the program. I'm going to make the programs even smaller moving forward because eight people was a lot to coach at one time, our calls were three hours long.


So, it's going to be smaller groups next time around. Yeah. But it was so powerful. And I decided to really move more into that space and do more of those kinds of programs, do more mindfulness because I'm getting just such a powerful response. And so now I've even merged that training with my vegan hospitality training, and everyone who may be in hospitality program also gets access to that course. So they have the mindfulness training as well. And then I have the mindfulness program where I do more of like the personal, personal side of things, the personal coaching. So it's, it's all been just a whirlwind of being able to actually express my passion through my work. And it's, it's the best feeling.


Karina Inkster:

Well, you're expressing your passions in your work, but you're also listening to the needs of folks who are already in your network or coming into it as, you know, somebody who's, who's new to your program. So you're, it sounds like you're properly expressing your passions, but also really listening to what it is that folks are responding to and what people might want moving forward. And then you're responding to that in turn, which is pretty much how successful businesses are built. So that's awesome. And it's, it's all related. I see what you mean. Like when I was first thinking about this, I was like, oh, mindfulness and hospitality. How does that relate? But now it makes sense because in the hospitality program, of course, individuals are learning things like confidence and mindfulness, and it's all kind of an important part of the whole process. So that makes sense. I was confused at first, but not anymore.


Meredith Marin:

Well, that's why when people ask me, what do you, what do you do? I don't have an elevator pitch.


Karina Inkster:

Totally. So where does mindfulness or how does mindfulness connect to veganism in particular? Is there a connection there, like, are you mostly working with people who are vegan already? What's the connection between the mindfulness piece and veganism?


Meredith Marin:

Yeah. So I've only worked with vegans so far. Although when I was a therapist I was obviously working with [non-vegans], but I don't do clinical therapy anymore. I'm all virtual and I'm really just doing coaching. So I've only worked with vegans and I am going to be opening up my programs to non-vegans soon, but I will always have vegan specific groups because I really believe that there's something really special about being in a group of people where you just feel understood in a way that there are similar things are going to bring up similar topics, and vegans deserve to have a space where they can talk about those things and feel safe. So that's always going to be part of my, my program offers. So maybe I should describe what mindfulness is first.


Karina Inkster:

That's a good point. Yeah. Let's, let's rewind a little bit. So what the heck is mindfulness to start off with? Yeah. Good call.


Meredith Marin:

Okay. So mindfulness, I think most people equate it with meditation. They think, oh yeah, it's all a meditation. But really meditation is just one tool or one practice that can help you become more mindful. But mindfulness is about really how you live your life and it's related to living in the present moment. So, it's paying attention in the present moment and observing who you are and what's going on around you. So, for example when we're practicing mindfulness, we can notice our thoughts so we can notice thoughts going through our head. We can notice sensations in our body. Like I kind of have like goosebumps now on my arm. I don’t know why, but that's a sensation. So I'm being mindful right now and noticing that, could notice any feelings coming up, any emotions coming up, sounds in the room. It's really about noticing.


And then the second layer is who are you in that process? So, detaching yourself, detaching your identity from your thoughts or from your emotions or from any storyline. That's supposed to say something about who you are and realizing that you are the person who's observing and experiencing all of these things. So you're not your thoughts, you're the observer of your thoughts. You're not like, I like the example: So somebody who's, who's single, like living the single life, right. They might say, oh, I'm single. I've been single for so long. It's really rough for me. I'm just going to be single forever. It's like this very over attachment. So that as an identity. So I'm single when you're not single, you are you experiencing being single. You're having an experience with being single at this moment in time. And so that's all we really know and that's all we really need to know.


We can't tell the future, what's going to happen to you by the fact that you're saying you're single. All we know is that that's an experience you're having. And so a lot of the work I do with people is to help them cultivate this mindfulness attitude and, and skillset. So they can start to detach themselves from the stories that aren't working for them. And just be, be more present, be more confident in who they are in the moment. So they can start to see the possibilities, see the opportunities in their life that they're missing out on, because they're over attaching to these storylines of who they think that they are.


Karina Inkster:

Hmm. Interesting. Interesting. Yeah. I think you're right. I'm glad you actually kind of, you know, brought it back to the, what is mindfulness part of the discussion, because I think you're right. A lot of folks do see it as just meditation or just as something you do part of the time in your day, like, okay, I'm going to be mindful for five minutes, you know? But I really like how you described it and it's something that you can do at all times, but a lot of people might feel a little bit overwhelmed or they don't know where to start. So what would you say are kind of some things to, if you're completely new to this concept, where, where would we start?


Meredith Marin:

I could guide you through like a 90 second practice if you want.


Karina Inkster:

Okay, let's do it.


Meredith Marin:

So, this is one of my favorite ones, it's called the cloud meditation. And remember, if you're doing a meditation, you're not necessarily practicing mindfulness meditation. There's like so many different kinds of meditations you could be doing. Could you be doing mantra meditation, transcendental meditation. So you really want to practice mindfulness. You want to look for a mindfulness meditation. So here's an example of what it would be. So first just get comfortable. So ground your feet on the floor, you can feel your back on the chair, feel your butt on the chair, start to connect with the earth underneath you. So that's the first step is just grounding your body wherever it's at, and then start to connect with your breath. So we connect with our breath in different ways. Some people really feel the breath when they put their hand over their chest. So you can try to take a deep breath through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. And you might feel your chest rising and falling. Other people feel their breath more when they put their hand or their finger under their nose. So you can actually feel the breath coming out of your nose. And another really nice way to connect is to put your hand on your belly so you can feel your belly rising and falling. So why don't we take three deep breaths together and you can put your hand wherever you feel your breath most.


So for the next portion, you can close your eyes or just look down so that you're not distracted. What we're going to do is just notice. Notice if you're having any thoughts. Maybe you're having the thought, “I thought I was listening to a podcast and I'm doing a meditation, what has happened? Do I really want to be doing this?” Maybe you're thinking about what you're going to eat for lunch. Just notice if there's any thoughts going through your mind. Notice that you're still breathing, that you don't have to try to change your breath, that it's happening. Naturally notice any sensations that you're feeling in your body. Maybe you're in a public space and you're wondering if people are looking at you. You're having that thought come up or you're having maybe a feeling come up like a feeling of embarrassment or confusion. Just notice, continue to breathe.

When we're mindful, we're noticing without judgment. Anything that happens. Anything we notice, we don't let it mean something about us. So if you have a thought, it's not a bad thought or a good thought, doesn't mean you're not good at meditating. If you're having thoughts, if you have a feeling come up that doesn't feel very good, doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. Just notice. And now we'll start the cloud practice, which goes like this. I want you to imagine you're staring up at the sky and you're watching the clouds pass you by. And kind of remember when you were a kid and you saw animals in the clouds, were trying to figure out which animal that cloud looked like.


Just watch the clouds pass you by. And what you can do, you can start now, but you can continue later on your own for as long as you want is, as you notice thoughts coming into your mind, you can place each thought on a cloud. So one at a time. So a thought comes in, you imagine that it goes up on that cloud. And watch the clouds continue to float by. So, your thoughts are floating by. You're not taking them down. Any thought train. You're not seeing where they're going. Just letting them float by. Let's do this on our own for about 60 seconds. So you can practice and I'll let you know when to open your eyes. If you catch your mind wandering away, just remember to bring yourself back to your breath, bring yourself back to the action of putting the thoughts up on a cloud and letting them pass by. Okay. Before we open our eyes, let's take one deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Really let it out. When you're ready, you can open your eyes, bring yourself back to the room. Bring myself back to the Zoom, back to the podcast. How are you feeling after that?


Karina Inkster:

That’s amazing. It's very similar to some meditations I've done where you become the observer. You imagine your thoughts as objects. Like, so there's one where it's an assembly line that's going by and your thoughts are just carefully placed on the assembly line. And then you watch it go kind of off into the, into the distance. I've never done one with clouds, which is kind of nice having that natural feel to it. But yeah, I think a lot of our listeners are going to be surprised, first of all. And second, it's something that you can do throughout your day, right? I mean, I do think that there's, there's a time and a place. I mean, I think, you know what, I'm just going to check my phone right now. Let me tell you I'm on day 675 today of meditating in a row. And so, yeah. Mindfulness meditations mostly is what I do, but for a lot of folks who don't have that experience, the little intro is super appreciated and it's something that you can take and do later. Nobody has to know, you go through your day, you're not like sitting in lotus position, making it really obvious necessarily. But I think it's really important to keep in mind that it's, it's something you can do at any point, even though it is important to, to practice your skill and, and to be intentional.


Meredith Marin:

When I was first learning mindfulness training more formally, and when I was in my graduate program in social work, I had been practicing it sort of informally just to manage my own anxiety, but I didn't have the proper training. And once I learned it, I was doing it everywhere. Like I was on the subway on the way to work in the Bronx with a train full of people. And I would do my practice. Mindfulness just like that. And arrive, arrive in the moment and then arrive where I was supposed to be. It didn't matter how many, how much noise was in the room. I just, it went away from each…didn't matter. Yeah. It's an amazing practice. And I think you can practice mindfulness when you're in conversations with people too. It's really about responding rather than reacting. So when people are, when people say something that might trigger you, you probably have a reaction that you want to just automatically go for. But when we're mindful, we're able to be like, okay, well, how do I actually want to act in this scenario? How do I want to respond? And sometimes that just means saying, I need some time to think about how I want to react to this, rather than reacting in the moment. So it really brings us into, into ourselves and into what our potential is and not so much like what our automatic patterns are, but how do we, how do we live more purposefully?


Karina Inkster:

Right. That's massive. That's massive. And especially now I think given what's going on in the world and levels of stress and anxiety are heightened, very understandably. You know, it's never too late. Now's a good time to start. If you haven't considered doing this kind of work or this kind of awareness.


Meredith Marin:

You had asked me, how does it relate to veganism? So I guess I can answer that now. I mean, vegans are just people, so we have to do what other people do. There's nothing necessarily special about, you know, like vegans need to practice more mindfulness than others. I don't think that's the case. But I do think that as a tool that can be helpful for the vegan lifestyle, at least at this point, when so many of us are living in communities where we're not around a lot of other vegans all the time. I mean, I'm very lucky that my family, like my immediate family, is vegan, but there's times when I'm at a dinner party and, not that I've been to a dinner party in a year. I know there will be a time again, and I'm going to be around people who eat meat.


And that's where mindfulness comes in handy, to be able to remove the judgment or reduce the judgmental thoughts going on in your head to really enjoy your life in the moment. And you can be an activist and you can still accept the reality of the world that we live in, we can push for change while we're accepting our current situation. And I think that's actually what you do as a person too, when you want to change as a person, we need to accept who we are right now as good enough so that we can be good enough to make a change. So like if we're seeing the world as not good enough…people have thoughts, the world is doomed, people are evil. I mean, I hear this all the time from vegans. They've lost hope in the world and nother people. And we come at it with that framework. We're not going to be really effective activists because we're not going to believe that change is possible. We're going to think it's a long shot. You know, so it's in order to really create change. 


I think we do need to be optimistic, not, you know, not toxically positive, but optimistic in that we, we do believe it's possible. We do believe it's possible. And that you know, we're really, really focusing on what's going to be effective about our work.

So, other times mindfulness can be helpful for vegans is like, I just got a message from a vegan the other day. She said I get really emotional when I'm driving on the highway and I see trucks that are taking animals to the slaughter houses. And I've heard this from several people. I luckily don't live in a place where that's happening. But there are people living in these more farm areas where they're seeing trucks, every time they get in their car, it's devastating. And so she's like, what do I do about that? How do I, how do I live? It's depressing. So what I told her, I'll tell the listeners, if you know, you can also think about it. If you're scrolling your Instagram feed and you're seeing slaughterhouse footage all the time, it doesn't need to be that it's in your present life, but it's maybe on your phone and you come across these things and it just makes you feel terrible in the moments, to really start being mindful in that moment, first stabilize yourself. So if you're crying, you're bawling or sobbing, you know, make yourself safe when you're driving and take some deep breaths and focus on grounding yourself.

But when you're ready, just start practicing mindfulness in noticing your thoughts, what thoughts are coming up for you around what you've just seen? So a lot of times the thoughts are really around hopelessness. So the animals are trapped. I can't do anything about it. I'm helpless. Things will never change. Like that's the storyline I hear from a lot of people. It feels terrible. And the thing about helplessness is that it creates anxiety and depression and it doesn't feel good for us. And so we start to withdraw from life rather than being active and living it and wanting to make change. And, you know, being that joyful vegan that can go out to a dinner party and inspire people with their delicious food. So what I had said to her was maybe, you know, maybe this is about helplessness and maybe there's, you're feeling helpless in other areas of your life and you're kind of projecting it onto the animals.


So, you're feeling like, okay, I can't control these other areas of my life. So I'm just going to like wrap up all my hopeless feeling in this situation of like, Oh, it's so clear to see that these animals are helpless. And if people don't care about their suffering, why are they going to care about mine? And it sounds strange to, like, we want, we all want to believe that it's all about the animals that we're so compassionate. We're just like overly empathetic. And we just love animals so much. But a lot of it is wrapped up in our own egos as well. And that's not a bad thing because like, we're the ones who have to make the change, right? The animals are trapped and we have to be the ones to step up and make the change. But I think instead of saying we're, we're some sort of savior or voice for the voiceless, because that's like just a reaction to helplessness. We can use mindfulness and we can help ourselves stay present and really be strategic about it and try to do what's affected in the vegan movement to make it, to make a change. And yeah, I really believe in, I know you believe in like evidence-based stuff and, you know, being effective and as a social worker researcher, so important to me that what I'm doing, it has to be effective. Otherwise, why would I bother, you know, it has to work.


Karina Inkster:

Yes. I love all these points. Wow. So many important ones. And I think mindfulness to inform our activism, our work, whatever we're doing in the world as vegans. I mean, not every vegan identifies as an activist, not every vegan identifies as someone who's like spreading the vegan word even, but we kind of are just by existing, honestly, whether you're out there canvassing or whether you're just doing your own thing, it does make a big difference. And so I think the mindfulness piece, it can apply in so many different ways, right. It's keeping ourselves grounded on an individual level, but at the same time, it's probably making us better vegans as much as I don't like that term, like more effective in spreading the vegan message.


Meredith Marin:

I think so. So it doesn't make us better people. And I also don't think being vegan makes you a better person either. I think we fall into that trap all the time. I think like anything you can do to, to inspire self-awareness and know more about yourself, it's just going to make you more of an effective human, like more effective at living life the way that you really want to live it. And when you're doing that, you're going to just be able to portray more of your values and put more of your values into the world, whether that's through your work or through veganism or, you know, just through your relationships.


Karina Inkster:

Absolutely. Wow. Well, there's so much that we can take out of this. I'm going to listen to your meditation and your ideas for how to get out there in your community and step out of your comfort zone more than once. I'm going to tell you probably like three times at least. And I'm sure a lot of our listeners are going to do the same. So thank you so much for coming on the show, Meredith. Where can our listeners go to connect with you? What's the best spot? We're going to have links in our show notes.


Meredith Marin:

You're welcome, I've really enjoyed this conversation. So I love connecting with people and I answer all my messages. So the best way to connect with me immediately is through Instagram at Meredith Marin. It's just my name. If you're interested in the vegan hospitality training, there's an Instagram for that too Vegan.Hospitality. There's also a website, veganhospitality.com. And I also have my own personal website, which is meredithmarine.com. And if you want to start working with me right away, I actually have a free course right now. It's a confidence building course, it's called Worth It: Your Crash Course to Confidence. And it's really about building your self-worth, self-esteem, and living your most confident life. It's a four week course. It's completely free. It's got videos of me talking about the framework for confidence. You'll get another mindfulness practice in there, a longer one.


And you'll also get worksheets with action steps to take you through the four weeks. So I think that's like the best way to get started if you want to learn more and start working on this stuff. And then I will be doing another vegan mindfulness group probably toward mid-April or early May. So you can just connect with me if you're interested in that and we can do a call and we can figure out if it's right for you. I do have a limited amount of private coaching spots, but that's something you can just chat with me about.


Karina Inkster:

Amazing. That's fantastic. Well, it was great to speak with you. I learned a lot and I, I really appreciate you coming on the show. I also appreciate Amanda Rose connecting us. So thanks again. Shout out to her. She's so awesome. And yeah, we are going to have show notes where we'll have all of your links in one place for our listeners to connect with you. Of course, I think the episode will be out pretty close to when you're starting the intake there. So that'll actually be pretty good timing. But thank you so much. It was fantastic speaking with you.


Meredith Marin:

You're welcome.


Karina Inkster:

Meredith, thanks again for joining me, much appreciated. Make sure you check out our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/095. And if you haven't yet, I would really appreciate a quick star rating and review of this show on Apple podcasts or any other platform you use. I do read every single review and it helps others to find this show. Thank you so much.



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