In one of our last postings there was a beautiful poem, from Chad, which noted the importance of nutrition– as it relates to sadhana. The way we approach eating, furthermore our perception of food, is integral to our spiritual development. Naturally, this creates space for a lot of debate; including: morality, the karmic energy of the food we eat, and meeting our nutritional requirements.
In this tradition we subscribe to the idea that we are not merely a body (I use the word “merely” because it is not that the body is unreal– it is simply not who you are at the deepest level). In this tradition, and many other mystical philosophies, the body is the outward, gross, and transient projection of an eternal and perfect source. The body is an instrument in which to experience this world. If one’s goal is enlightenment, like a virtuoso, one must tune, clean, and treat their instrument with respect.
I work in health and wellness as my profession, although I am not a nutritionist, and I have a strong understanding of the purpose of food. As my teacher says, “food is for the cells“; ironically, a baby knows this– they do not come into the world wanting chocolate or candy. However, somehow along the way– we lose sight of this and we begin to look to our food to fulfill a longing in ourselves.
In the Yoga Tradition, the desire to eat is considered to be one of the four primitive fountains: sleep, sex, self-preservation, and food– these are the primal urges from which all other desires “spring forth”. These impulses are inherent to the souls incarnation in a human body.
The problem is that we are so deluded, so entrenched in our body identification that we let these urges, which help to keep the body functioning, run amok. We say things like, “I want sweets, I want alcohol, and I want to lie on the couch”. Truthfully, the urges are imbalance and unchecked– “I” never wants for anything because “I” is a manifestation of the ego. “We” are perfect and whole; the body needs sustenance to function optimally. But, we are looking outside and finding disastisfaction. Then we indulge these cravings and we are sad and disappointed– they do not bring us true joy.
If we are seekers, then we begin to revere the body as a great gift and we want it to assist us in pursuing our spiritual endeavors. In order for the body to facilitate the pursuit of transcendence, we must consider the significance of the foods we ingest. Ann Wigmore aptly said, “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
Yet, it’s more than the nutritional content of the food that must be considered. Most of us are intelligent enough to know if our food promotes health or harm. However, it is also the sensory experience we are trying to derive from our fuel. We want food to be exotic and fascinating. Since we are all one, we must consider the impact, environmentally, on the quest to have a mango in December. Consider eating in a monastary, food is simple and often taken in silence. When we eat slowly, mindfully, and with gratitude we may discover untapped joy in taking in the energy of God to reconnect us with that which we are.