Diet and LiberationMarch 26, 2009
Over on Takuin’s blog, he summarizes the results of a months fast. In the discussion, the question of diet and liberation came up. Many people consider a “pure” lifestyle to be necessary for liberation, with features such as sexual abstinence and a vegetarian diet.
I touched on sex in a prior post. What it comes down is that such choices are a very personal thing. They depend on who you are and what may be presenting barriers to your progress. What follows is a mixture of that discussion and some further points on the subject.
Ayurveda talks about body types. One type can fast for long periods, but Vata types tend to get spacey, etc. like Steve Pavlina because fasting is vata. I’m the same way, so I fast 1 or 3-4 days. I was once put on a veggie juice fast for several weeks to clear issues from working in a very polluted office. But this included a light dinner. Thus, I find it useful to know your type before you make diet and related choices. Much easier to tune to your needs and keep life in balance then. Especially if you are choosing a more potentially limited diet like raw or vegan.
Aside from the fact that it cleared up my issues, I like Ayurveda because it’s very balanced. Basically life is meant to be enjoyed, so if sometimes you overdo, here is the antidote. They don’t recommend red meat except occasionally. But if you do indulge, you want to increase the digestive fire to cope with it, so add something like pepper or ginger.
As for a spiritual connection with diet, the reasons I’ve seen for going veggie vary by the person. Some for political reasons. Some for ethical reasons like you mention. Some on consideration of body as temple. Some practices or health issues prescribe it. And many because they simply come to find meat heavy. When the digestive system is busy digesting heavy food, you may not experience with as much clarity. If inner clarity is important on your path, you may shift to a lighter diet.
At a certain point, the inner connection becomes more solid, so tends to be less influenced by things like diet. Experiencing greater energy depends again on body type. I know a couple of people who eat heavy foods to ground. They have the reverse issue. Then there’s the saints who eat meat, smoke like a chimney, curse, and so forth. (laughs) So it’s a very personal choice.
A couple of other points I find useful – overeating can have the same kind of effect as meat. So being mindful when you eat is valuable. And a bit of apple cider vinegar in water can help too. While you may have been able to eat massively when you were young, times change. The metabolism slows with age, when you’re not growing. Also, careful with sugar and low quality carbs. They’re addictive and throw off the bodies intelligence. Then you don’t get the natural signals of what the body needs. With reasonable diet and volume plus a little mindfulness, you can tell what your body calls for. It may not be what you expect or your mind-determined diet prescribes. Pregnant mothers are an exaggerated example of that.
Oh, it’s also worth mentioning weight loss diets. If you know your body type, crafting a sensible diet is simpler and can last. If you eat what your body needs, you’ll have no trouble with weight. With one exception. It’s important to note the role of stress. Some people eat to manage stress. If you don’t find a better way like meditation to resolve stress, nothing will work. A diet itself can be a source of stress, counteracting it’s benefit. I recall a study that demonstrated a person eating a piece of chocolate cake without guilt gained no weight but the person with guilt did gain. The mechanism is simple. Many bodies will add weight if they’re under stress. Its a natural response.
Does diet have anything to do with liberation? No. Liberation is in your relationship with source. If you find what you eat affects your clarity, you may find tuning the diet useful. But liberation has nothing to do with being pure and perfect. At least in my experience. (laughs)
As for spreading love and joy, how you take care of yourself can influence that prior to liberation. But when you become love and joy, you will spread it just by being. In fact, you already are. Part of liberation is discovering what’s actually going on. (laughs)
Looking at how you’re taking care of yourself can be useful periodically. Look at what you can do to make your life more enjoyable. But if it’s an exercise in self judgment, you’ve missed the point. The key is in making it a habit, so make a short list of things you can do for real joy, then pick one to add to your routine. When that’s a habit, pick the next one.
What points to happy and healthy – that’s the path to take.