October 31, 2011

The Spirituality of Food and Discipline.

A great way to cultivate spirituality is through a rigorous routine.  Specifically, the foods we put in our bodies are very connected to how spiritually grounded we are on any given day of the week.

One way to cultivate your spirituality is selecting one day out of the week to fast from something.  For example, every Monday for two straight years, I fasted completely from food—in an effort to experience solidarity with those who are hungry not from choice—for two years this was the cornerstone to my spiritual development and practice.  At some point I found it difficult to stay with it, so I remained flexible and slightly changed my routine.  Now, I eat one meal every Monday—since many people live off one meal a day—I keep this meal as simple as possible, beans and rice or lentils.

That may not be for everyone, so there are always variations that you can try.  For example, you may want to select one day a week when you ingest only juices or perhaps only fruits and nuts?  Or maybe, one day a week you decide you will go without turning on the television, or, for coffee drinkers, that may be the day you do not have coffee?  Some, who are more adventurous, may want to spend that day going to somewhere they’ve never been before, even if that is a place down the road from where you live.  Not only will this augment discipline, in the case of food, it will give your internal organs a necessary space and time to cleanse and release toxins from your body.

No matter what it is, fasting from something, or, trying something new one day a week, allows us to explore different perspectives and ways to see our lives and hence the world.

Another practice to experiment with is not eating out more than once a week.  Personally, I feel better about myself when I’m not spending money lavishly.  For those living in the western, industrialized world, we must constantly remember that 8 or 9 US dollars on a meal is what many families around the world have available to them for an entire week of food.

Not snacking between meals is another steadfast way to increase one’s awareness and discipline.   No matter what you strive to do it is important to stick to a practice because that cultivates will power, which will help us grow spiritually.

Sometimes denying ourselves what we WANT in a particular moment and seeing that it may not be what we NEED, is what allows us to fortify our values/ principles. 

I also understand that sometimes (for our own sanity) we’ve got to treat ourselves.  This means that the lines may occasionally blur at midnight, when we don’t need that apple and peanut butter to stay alive, but we do need that apple and peanut butter to help us smile… and that’s okay (except maybe for the most ardent spiritual seekers)!  It’s important to have faith that we will make the right decisions, especially in those moments, and have to be kind, gentle, forgiving, and open to accepting the occasional exception to the rule.

My most important rule in life is to always bend and at times break the rules.  To stay fluid, agile, flexible, and willing to utilize sharp discernment from circumstance to circumstance.  This is the goal of my refinement.  Not every rule is applicable to every circumstance.

No matter how you chose to develop your spirituality and discipline, two of the things I have been meditating on extensively over the past years, is one: consistently remembering how thankful I must be to have food to eat.  And two: checking consumerism and excessive use of resources that keeps others in the world oppressed and exploited.  It’s important to find out where what we’re buying is coming from; and then, finding alternatives to that which is damaging to the environment and the lives of other people.

Maintain your composure and transform the self without being motivated by guilt.  Transform your being patiently, and for many, you will find it necessary to isolate the self in order to explore it more freely and intimately.  Isolation means spending time alone.  This is always an essential part of spiritual growth.

Stay balanced.  Focus on how your life is part of something greater, and allow tremendous spiritual experiences to flow.

I encourage exploration of self and trying something new whenever possible.  In the season of plenty large meals and many gifts to give out… make sure you are able to wake in the morning feeling good about your decisions the previous day.  In other words, indulge with intelligence and discipline.  The universe is filled with possibilities for endless growth, seize them and transform!

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