December 3, 2010

What Should a Yogi Eat? Why not ask your consciousness about that?

Why in the west do we equate food intake only with calories, nutrition, amino acids, vitamins and minerals?
Well, it’s because we’re reductionistic and materialistic to begin with – that’s the way science goes. And out of this our ontological conditioning tells us that we are body first, followed by a brain which produces a mind, and then some of us (rather embarrassingly) admit that a spirit comes out of all that bio-plasmic gunk.

From this perspective the world is an insentient and sentient mass of matter that eventually produces some random evolutionary order and then spirit. However yoga ontology presents and entirely different worldview – we are spirit first, and our mind and then physical structure comes out of that spirit. The matter of the universe is organized by Spirit – which is desperate to emerge from it – hence the burning desire of all beings to expand beyond the finite constriction of the material.

What that means is that Consciousness is driving the evolution of the universe (but not in a dinosaurs-lived-4000-years-ago sort of way, there’s no reason this contradicts evolutionary theory, in fact I think it bolsters it, but that’s another topic). Consciousness is the driving force behind all matter, sentient or insentient. So it would follow that the best thing a human being could do in order to align ourselves with the natural order, with this Consciousness, is try to preserve it. Don’t kill people, that would eliminate a lot of consciousness (except in the case of certain news broadcasters and politicians). Animals are only slightly less conscious than humans (ibid) so try not to kill a lot of them. When people or animals are at risk of dying, try to help them.

I’ve been training yoga teachers for the past 7 years and in my teacher training program when we get around to talking about the food, people get antsy.

“This is a yoga teacher training program so she’s going to tell me I have to be a vegetarian!”

“But I love pepperoni! “

“I can live without any of it, except bacon.”

But I don’t talk about vegetarianism. Instead I talk about ontology and consciousness. What has the most consciousness, a leaf or a cow? Now I can see the comments below bubbling up arguments that leaves have more consciousness. Okay, from a macro-perspective, leaves are a beautiful component of the larger macrocosmic beauty and certainly imbued with the consciousness of the Divine, but from a micro-perspective. . . do I really have to make a point here?

So why not eat to preserve consciousness? Plants have less consciousness, they also take less consciousness to grow (not to mention resources). And they can sustain your consciousness. If you believe that your consciousness can’t be preserved unless you eat a cow, then that’s your answer. You have more consciousness then a cow, you are dying, eat a cow to live. It works. (Where does that belief come from by the way? How many times did your mother or someone in a position of authority tell you you had to eat meat to be healthy. Our ideas are not entirely our own. Just sayin’!)

Eating animals strips the planet of more consciousness  than eating plants. And Goddess knows we need consciousness right now!

There are plenty of yogis who have lived on air and light for extended periods. Neem Karoli Baba took enough acid from Ram Dass to permanently institutionalize himself, but his demeanor didn’t change at all, and he wasn’t impressed. What they are pointing out to us is that we have the potential to change the material, to transmute stuff into what we need. Now I know western science is important to us unenlightened folk – it’s helps us figure out what to eat, I certainly need to know that my hemp protein powder will do the muscle-building, brain enhancing job I need it to.

But it’s not the end of the story. Mind changes matter. That’s what quantum physics has taught us. That’s why no specific diet which has come out of the medical labs works for everyone. We will not find the answers for what to eat in the molecules of our food – we’ll find it in the depths of our spirit. We have the capacity to change whatever we eat into what we need. I realize that’s a way off for most of us – but if we don’t think in this direction, we will forever be slaves to reductionism and forever be trading our fatfree cheese for oatbran for flaxseeds for whatever the latest craze is.

Nutritionist Paul Pitchford says it can take 12-15 years to successfully convert to a completely plant-based diet. Who knows, maybe that’s the amount of time you need to change your dna – and that of future generations.

Here’s another point: why not talk about what you get to eat, instead of what you shouldn’t eat?

During my teacher training, I bring in my yogi friend and natural chef extraordinaire Cindy Graham and she wows everyone with nut cheeses, flax crackers, raw-violi, quinoa rejuvelac and avocado chocolate pie.

Why do we have to focus on what we shouldn’t be doing? Almost 20 years ago, my meditation teacher said to me, “Don’t worry about whether or not you drink beer or eat meat, just meditate and see what happens.”

That was some of the best advice I think I ever received. How much of our lives are spent being told by others (and by ourselves) what we shouldn’t do? Why not think about all the cool things we get to do – like yoga and meditation?

So I meditated and did a lot of asanas and found that slowly things just seemed less interesting to me. Drink beer, can’t meditate, so I’m not really that interested in it anymore.

Oh, and as a random tangent (I love that I can be randomly tangential in blogs!) have you seen this one from NewsweAk? Hilarious.

I move to replace vegetarianism with “plant-based diet”. Then we can all say we try to preserve consciousness in a way that also preserves our own.

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Bob Weisenberg Dec 11, 2010 3:33pm

Thanks, karoverii.

Just want to point out to those who didn't see it already this related article and vigorous discussion:

Bob W.

Padma Kadag Dec 4, 2010 6:31pm

First off I like your writing and you have a likable face! For all of the "Yogis" that are talked about, addressed, self proclaimed not one of them ever mentions their Guru. The Yogic tradition begins with a Guru. I get it though. Americans are either Foodies and wanting to be French or do some Yoga and want to be regarded as Yogi. Maybe I give the term Yogi too much meaning…but I think not. The two Yogis from which I have received instruction upon my deaf ears are YOGIS. Yes they are Tibetan and yes they are low profile and yes they turn away students and yes it is one to one teaching. I say all of this because with all of the arguing I have read regarding diet and Yoga and Buddhism very rarely have I heard any mention about the :yogis"s teacher or Guru. How is one a Yogi without the Guru? In regard to diet ask your Guru what she or he recommends. Your teacher, if authentic, will not steer you wrong regarding your diet. Then don't argue with people about your diet. This is your path.

kaoverii Dec 4, 2010 7:46pm

Thanks for your comments Padma – and I'm sure if I saw your face it would be quite likable too. Guru kripahi kevalam. I agree: the teacher-student relationship is invaluable. Hard to find a good one though.

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Kaoverii Weber

Kaoverii Weber took her first yoga class from her hippy sixth grade social studies teacher in the 70s, when you actually were a dork if you did yoga. After checking things out in California and Asia for a few years, she went back to New Jersey and started teaching yoga in 1995. Currently she lives with her husband and a small but fearless Jedi Padawan in Asheville, North Carolina where she trains yoga teachers and fights the Dark Side. Check out her blog, workshops, trainings.