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.