Compassion Files: Katie Van Den Berg

Katie & Gracie

This week I'm excited to have my dear friend Katie Van Den Berg as the compassion files feature. Katie and I co-founded Vegup London and she is the talented designer of our awesome VegFest logo. Katie's compassion and kindness inspires me and I hope you enjoy reading more about her and her compassionate journey. What does compassion mean to you? Compassion can be defined in so many different ways. For me, compassion means embracing, loving and caring for ALL living beings without exception, just as a loving mother feels love and compassion for all her children. No living thing is more or less important then another, they are all important. The teaching of compassion by Buddha, define compassion in a way that truly resonates with me.

"Compassion is a mind that is motivated by cherishing other living beings and wishes to release them from their suffering." - Buddha

What motivates you to make compassionate choices in your daily life?I believe all life is connected, and I strive to live in harmony with all life on earth from people, to the trees, nature, water, and animals. I have always been amazed by how powerful and yet fragile life, nature and our planet is. Since I was a child I have been inspired by the work and words of Jane Goodall. She has helped me learn to grow and become more compassionate, and truly understand how everything is connected, and everything matters and has a purpose. I have the choice to make a positive difference on the planet for me, for my family, for all life and for all life that comes after me. 

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Why is living a compassionate life important to you?Living compassionate is important to me because " You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you", as beautiful stated by Jane Goodall. The way we treat ourselves, others, animals and our planet is a direct reflection on how compassionate we are. "The greatest ethical test that we're ever going to face is the treatment of those who are at our mercy." - Lyn White I live with compassion in my heart, for in the end when I leave this world, all that will remain are the outcomes of my daily acts of compassion.

Share some examples of how you choose to be compassionate throughout your day.Being compassionate is an important value to me that I practice daily. Each day I choose to be compassionate, and to make a positive difference to people, animals and the earth.

My daily compassionate acts include random acts of kindness to complete strangers, such as paying for coffee for the next person in line behind me, holding the bus so that someone makes their connection, giving someone a compliment, and offering support to someone in need. I tread lightly on the earth by walking, biking or taking public transit, all the while enjoying the beauty of nature every time I commute.

I am compassionate and caring to all animals, and choose to eat a plant-based vegan diet. I support charitable organizations both financially and by volunteering that protect, conserve and care for animals and our planet. I have planted trees, cared for shelter dogs, collected donations at a women's shelter, and even founded VegUp London a community group that focuses on healthy eating. 

Each seemingly, small act such as the foods I eat and the clothes I wear, all add up to larger acts over time. With I wide range of compassionate, vegan and eco-friendly products, I can still be stylish and look great, while still maintaining my values. I found this amazing hair dye that is made of vegetables dyes, my makeup is vegan and no tested on animals, and I buy most of my clothes used to prevent unnecessary waste from ending up in the landfills. I recycle and even found beautiful cards that are biodegradable that you can plant to grow into wild flowers.

What advice would you share with people looking to practice compassion towards themselves, other people, the planet and animals? A great lesson I learned when practicing compassion is to start by completing small acts everyday to build into many acts overtime, and to always start with yourself first. "If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete." - Buddha

Find what resonates most with you and your values, and slowly add it into your daily routine. If something doesn't feel right, then don't do it, and don't feel bad about it. There are no rules to life, and each person is unique, so always do whats best for you.

Be open to trying new things, be curious, have fun and even challenge your old beliefs. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to make changes when you go into it with curiosity and an open positive attitude. Know that in a short period of time your tastebuds do change, and you with love healthy foods that you disliked in past, and even foods you haven't had before.

Another useful tip is to find ways to surround yourself with daily inspiration to keep you motivated, informed and to lift your spirits during rough days. Visit the library, read books, watch documentaries, join local groups that have like-minded people that you can connect with regularly, and subscribe to blogs and newsletters. There are hundreds of helpful phone apps such as 21 Vegan Challenge, Happy Cow, and PETA to provide you daily inspiration.

Quotes the Inspire Me: "The greatest ethical test that we're ever going to face is the treatment of those who are at our mercy." - Lyn White

"By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegan will make a difference in the health of our planet, and all life." - Thích Nhất Hạnh

A special thanks to Katie for sharing! Connect with Katie at @kvdesigns or check out her blog VegUP your life.

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Remember, compassion is not about being perfect, it's about making positive changes and being kind to others. I encourage you to reflect on how you can continue to create positive change and express compassion.

Share in the comments below, what compassionate choices do you make or how do you choose to live compassionately?