PART II: Main Meal
Experimenting with Diet
Over time experiment and see what happens with fasting, eliminating meat from your diet, likewise eggs and cheese, wheat, and sugar. Consider what amount is sufficient for your needs, for your stomach and well-being (almost always far less food than you imagine). Try experiencing meals where you stop eating before you feel full. Tolerate hunger and see what insights it yields.
Notice your addiction to experience, to distraction, to eating as entertainment around food and the satisfaction and fulfillment you may experience from eating itself.
Now spiritually you may move gradually, slowly, and intentionally toward a more pure, more nutritious, more wholesome and balanced diet. Eating can be a sacrament and spiritually -- leading the sacred-spiritual life -- this is how it should be conducted. Eat mindfully, intelligently, with great awareness. Avoid over-stimulating foods.
Eating consciously is much more important than what you eat. For example, although Buddhists are popularly thought to be vegetarian, the instructions of the Buddha were for his monks to accept whatever they were given to eat and not reject the food that was offered to them.
This was the experience of a friend of mine in his days as a Theravadin Buddhist monk in Burma. One day he was among the monks as they ventured into the town with their begging bowls. Some American tourists happened to be there and they placed a portion of Kentucky Fred Chicken in each of the monks' bowls. My friend was unsure about how to proceed until he looked round to see the other monks eating the chicken and he followed their example.
So this is one of the principles of eating and diet in spirituality: do not be enslaved to ideals. Establish positive good intentions, but be prepared to adapt and modify your dietary practice when necessary.
A Moderate Diet
You should strive for a moderate diet, paying attention to quantity and quality. Spiritual practice is aimed toward self-realization, so do not let your food intake become burdensome to your body or enslave your mind.
The optimum diet therefore is vegetarian. Fruits, seeds and nuts, sprouts, greens and grasses, vegetables, legumes and grains, all in moderate amounts. You should minimize or eliminate social habits like alcohol intake, tobacco, and social-recreational drug-taking, as well as stimulants like tea and coffee. Junk food and fast food should be entirely removed from your diet.
How to Eat
When you sit down to eat, feel composed and peaceful, not rushed, but relaxed and receptive. In this equanimous mood you will avoid associating eating with consolation and comfort, since you will already be at rest in your being. Nothing about eating should be careless. Preparations for mealtimes should be a discipline of awareness. Always chew your present mouthful of food thoroughly and allow your conscious awareness of ingestion, chewing, and the other digestive processes.
Breathe steadily and fully as you eat. Don't rush, but neither overindulge -- the way is through the middle. Satisfy yourself, but do not overeat. Over time become used to the feeling of satisfaction without being overfull.
Certain foods incite desire, internal restlessness, or negative states. Try to identify them in your individual case. Then free your energy and cultivate fresh, healthy habits by eating a sufficient amount of natural, fresh, wholesome foods that are purifying for your body.
We seek stimulation in many ways, including food and through imbalance and overindulgence in diet. We may sometimes eat to avoid discomfort, boredom, or uncomfortable mental-emotional states. Spiritual practice brings us to a deep confrontation with distractions of all kinds. This how, why, what, and when we eat are all subjects of examination, exploration, and transcendence for us in spiritual life in order to discover the source of negative tendencies rather than flee from their symptoms.
Changing Your Diet
Alterations in diet should be gradual and well thought out. There is no absolute right diet for everybody. Your individual needs and state of heath must be considered, through gentle and informed guidance.
Do not rush changes in diet. Extreme and swift changes are likely to induce a backlash of some kind and are therefore counterproductive. So don't force or coerce yourself. Instead be gentle and gradual. Blood, tissue, and cellular changes after purification lead to regeneration of the entire organism and these processes cannot be hurried.
Your spiritual practice should be an aid in your conversion to a good diet. Let the adaptation of your dietary regime be integrated into your overall sadhana as part of your commitment to a sacred-spiritual life.
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [email protected]
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at [...]