Michael Pollan is a fine investigative journalist who writes musical prose.
In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he writes about the danger of ridiculing something that is not necessarily measurable with the scientific method:
“Reading the Davis study I couldn’t help thinking about the early proponents of organic agriculture, people like Sir Albert Howard and J.I. Rodale, who would have been cheered, if unsurprised, by the findings. Both men were ridiculed for their unscientific conviction that a reductive approach to soil fertility, would diminish the nutritional quality of the food grown in it and, in turn, the health of the people who lived on that food.”
Controversy and ridicule often correspond with things that are impossible to quantify. For example, the truth of my own experience is that I’ve eaten food that feels as though it’s singing. And when I eat that kind of food, I’m amazed at how vital and alive I feel. This is such an intangible, unmeasurable quality that it’s impossible to quantify. But it exists. Just because we can’t measure it, does that mean we shouldn’t pay attention to it?
Even my scientifically-bent, rational-minded husband will remark when a meal was “singing.”
My own mother prided herself on being an “alchemical cook” and I thrived on her cooking as I grew up. Perhaps this elusive, magical quality she claimed to have with her cooking intimidated me, so it wasn’t until I was much older that I began to find my inner alchemical cook. But at the age of sixteen I visited a commune in Portland, Oregon, and the food I ate there felt so extremely vibrant and alive—I couldn’t help but feel that way myself after eating it.
All the times I’ve experienced this kind of food, there seem to be a few common elements. Most often the food has been grown with love, care, and attention to the nutrients in the soil, and then prepared in a fully conscious manner with a conscious intention to nourish the person eating the food.
Perhaps because this quality is so elusive and impossible to measure, people are wary: it’s too easy to sell us snake-oil. In recent history, we’ve been taught not to trust our own bodies and listen to our intuition, inner-knowing and wisdom. We’ve been conditioned to listen to outside authorities—from our earliest childhood memories, we’ve been taught to listen to others telling us what is right and good.
So with this conditioned reliance on outside authorities, how can we trust what we secretly know to be true?
How can we sense that a particular food is singing—that is, so vibrant and alive that it nourishes us on all levels of body, mind and spirit?
We’ve been conditioned to believe that we can’t, but the truth is that we can.
Since the inception of Western allopathic medicine, it has become a controversial idea to trust our own inner knowing of our bodies versus listening to an outside authority. From the fields of medicine to education, and religion, we’re taught and conditioned that outside authorities know what is good for our own bodies, better than we do. But the patriarchal hierarchies that exist in these fields are crumbling. And people are beginning to select for themselves elements that resonate on a deeper level, and leave the rest.
Religion had its time and place. It helped civilize the uncivilized world. It provided a system of morals and ethics. But we’ve evolved to a time where we’ve outgrown the use of the dogmatic rules and regulations that exist in so many patriarchal hierarchies. This doesn’t mean we’re not going to cultivate our own regular spiritual practice, which may include elements from a variety of spiritual traditions. My own practice includes a Sikh breathing meditation, Sikh chanting, and Centering Prayer (which is akin to meditation.)
Medicine is an area where we’re beginning to finally see more doctors wanting to treat patients as a whole being—body, mind and spirit.
In the past, Western medical doctors would provide treatment for the physical aspect only—often even just one part of the whole person, not recognizing the interconnectedness in our whole bodies, let alone the non-physical aspects.
For example, in my mid-twenties I had severe stomach pains. New York City doctors tested me for a stomach ulcer, for cancer, and a myriad of other tests, but they couldn’t reach a diagnosis.
No one seemed to pay attention to the fact that I was severely stressed in my job at the time and horrifically, Western medical doctors are not even trained in nutrition (although I believe this is beginning to change.)
It wasn’t until I began a daily consumption of a macrobiotic drink of kuzu (a root starch) dissolved in water then heated and flavored with umeboshi plums and a touch of soy sauce, that was suggested to me by my mother-in-law, that my stomach began to heal. Just the very act of getting up a little earlier in the morning to cook this concoction for myself was an act of self-care, which helped me to heal my body.
While it’s true that I’m only providing anecdotal evidence, if what we read resonates with us, shouldn’t that be the measure?
We don’t only consist of our mental faculties, fine though many minds may be. Our hearts, emotions, and souls are all part of our human experience. I believe we’re at a point in history when it will prove crucial that we pay attention to all the aspects and senses of our being-ness on this planet. As such, it’s an exciting time to be alive.
Author: Camilla Sanderson
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: adactio at Flickr
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