Will and Madeleine Tuttle have been traveling the United States and Europe for the last 15 years, inspiring audiences with Will’s music and talks, Madeleine’s art, and their workshops and individual healing sessions. They have shared their wisdom at progressive churches, human potential conferences, intentional communities, and many other venues. They have devoted their lives to teaching ways to transform the current world-view from one of dominance and exploitation to one of communion, cooperation and peace.
They live what they believe and are among the key cultural creatives who are shaping the future. But there is something even more special and unique about the Tuttles. Many of the great movers and shakers of our time are guiding humanity toward inner peace, international peace, an end to human hunger and poverty, an end to violence toward each other, and a reduction in our destructiveness to the earth. Yet curiously, within these discussions, we rarely hear reference to the immense suffering of animals at the hands of human beings.
The Tuttles are working to raise awareness about the plight of the animals and to help us all incorporate this expanded sense of peace and compassion into our own spiritual journeys and visions. Will’s newly released book, The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony (Lantern Books), is an essential tool for all those creating the new culture.
I spoke with them about their life’s journey.
Will and Madeleine, I understand that you travel full-time, offering inspirational music, art and workshops. Tell us about these and how you see your work fitting into the creation of a new, peaceful and compassionate culture.
Tuttles: Every weekend we’re in a different city, presenting a concert of original uplifting piano music together with an exhibit of Madeleine’s visionary watercolor paintings. We’ve found that music and art, as non-verbal expressions, can communicate directly and deeply to the hearts of those attending. In the ancient sacred and shamanic traditions, music and art are seen as vehicles of consciousness, and are used to build an energy field of healing and to extend blessings. It’s great to be able to continue this tradition in new ways.
In addition to the concerts, we also offer workshops on developing spiritual intuition. We share techniques of meditation and imagery, along with art and music, to help participants experience their intuition in action and to discover their unique way of accessing their intuitive wisdom.
We also offer individual sessions with people where we tune into the essence of a person or couple and Will translates this into an original 30-minute piece of piano music recorded onto a compact disc, and Madeleine translates it into a watercolor painting that incorporates a unique blend of archetypal symbols. We’ve done many hundreds of these over the years, and invariably find people to be deeply touched by the experience of receiving beautiful and evocative art and music that are inspired by their unique being. We’ve heard many stories of healing, inspiration, and transformation as a result of these sessions. The sessions are powerful, because music and art can provide fundamental vibrations that help us heal past traumas and open in loving and creative ways.
Why do you feel it is important to include the discussion of the rights of animals and the vegan lifestyle in your teachings?
Tuttles: To push people’s buttons! Just kidding. Actually, the wisdom traditions of the world all agree that practicing loving kindness to others is essential to spiritual growth and happiness. All life is interconnected. They also teach that as we sow, we inevitably reap. We are all born into a culture that teaches us as children to see non-human animals as mere commodities to be used, bought, sold and eaten. Their suffering inevitably boomerangs, and we reap cancer, heart disease, stress, pollution, crime, starvation, terrorism, war, consumerism, and indeed, virtually all of the ills of our speedy and unsustainable culture. People would probably like us more if we never brought this up, but somebody’s got to do it!
Our culture’s underlying mentality of commodification, exclusion and exploitation is the root of our unyielding dilemmas, and its opposite is a mentality that sees beings – all beings – as sacred and worthy of kindness and respect. This mentality of non-violence toward others is the essence of veganism, which is simply living a life where we strive to bless others, rather than harm them. It’s quite simple, really, but revolutionary! This mentality is the foundation of all human happiness because as we bless others, we are blessed. As we encourage others, we are encouraged, and as we are loving to others, we find that we feel loved!
In The World Peace Diet, it’s called "the taboo against knowing who you eat." It’s taboo to discuss the cruelty that we routinely perpetrate on animals for food, because it offends our natural sense of compassion. It’s taboo also because nobody wants to hear about it. It is like being in Alabama in 1820 and trying to talk about the suffering of slaves. The main way it continues is by being covered up. Paul McCartney put it succinctly, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian."
It’s also a taboo because it’s so much easier to blame others for our problems than it is to take responsibility for them ourselves. I remember watching a mother duck teaching her ducklings how to feed, and realizing that the most important teaching given in any species by a parent to its young is what to eat. That is why we resist questioning our culture’s food teachings at a deep, unconscious level. There are many other factors, as well, which are discussed in The World Peace Diet.
The upshot of all this is that we are taught to ignore the suffering of animals at our hands. The more forcefully we ignore something, the more it controls us. The only way to heal our culture and our world is by practicing a mentality of inclusiveness, kindness and respect toward others. Being a vegan is nothing to be proud of. It’s simply the inevitable result of our true nature functioning naturally and seeing beings rather than things when we look at others. We all know in our bones that animals suffer like we do, both physically and emotionally.
If we went to the grocery store and said that we wanted some pork and chicken, and then the woman at the counter grabbed a pig and a chicken and stabbed them right in front of us, most of us would be horrified and say, "No, I’d rather not have any of that!"
What occurred in your lives that led you to become vegan and adopt a non-violent life-style?
Madeleine Tuttle: When I was a 5-year old girl in Switzerland, I saw a dead bird, and it struck me to tears. I went running home and told my mother not to give me anything to eat that looked like that little bird. Meat was expensive, and from that time on, I was spared having to eat animal flesh, though I didn’t make the strict decision to go vegetarian until about 30 years ago, and went vegan when I moved to the States about 13 years ago.
Will Tuttle: I was raised in a typically heavy meat and dairy eating household, though when I participated in slaughtering cows on an idyllic, organic Vermont dairy farm in my early teens, I came face to face with the unavoidable fear and violence of our food production system. It was shocking, to say the least! Right after college in 1975, I went on a spiritual pilgrimage and ended up for a while at The Farm in Tennessee, a vegan community of nearly a thousand people, and became vegetarian. In 1984, while living in another vegan community, a Zen monastery in South Korea, I realized directly the interconnectedness of all life, and have been vegan ever since.
The main purpose of The World Peace Diet is to make essential connections that haven’t been made before. We have all been taught to disconnect and to practice disconnecting by our culturally mandated food practices. My book addresses this nearly invisible mentality of exclusion and its effects from many perspectives – the historic, psychological, sociological, spiritual and ecological. What I say is not new. Pythagoras, Buddha, Da Vinci, Tolstoy, Einstein, Schweitzer, Gandhi and many others have all said the same things, but more as aphorisms. The World Peace Diet is the first book to go into the connections in depth and show the big picture of our culture. To grow spiritually, I believe we must understand our cultural programming!
Until we become aware, it’s difficult to change, but with awareness, we can grow in wisdom and contribute to a healthier and more harmonious world. The World Peace Diet points out the roots of our dilemmas and suffering. Its main message is that we have been deceived by our cultural conditioning into seeing ourselves as essentially predatory, and by relentlessly eating like predators, we have created predatory economic and social institutions that create enormous suffering. When we awaken to our true nature, we see clearly that our greatest joy and satisfaction come in blessing, cooperating, creating, giving, encouraging, loving, protecting, and caring. We see the interconnectedness of all living beings, and can awaken to the deep spiritual truths that bring authentic freedom.
The book calls for a benevolent revolution, not just in our thinking, but also in the daily actions that condition our thinking. Through showing mercy to those who are vulnerable in our hands, we will find mercy, love, creativity and joy spreading through our human world.
Allowing animals, who cannot retaliate, to live their lives freely, we will mature spiritually to the point that we will be worthy of living peacefully together. In the end, what we would most want for ourselves, we must first give to others.
To learn more about the Tuttles and their work, go to www.willtuttle.com.