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April 21, 2009

Eating With Maximum Intelligence, Eating With Maximum Joy

1. Food, The Most Basic Element Of Life

Everyone needs food to live, so it is not too far fetched to say that food is life.

It is one of the most basic aspects of life that most of us know about. From the time that we are born until the day that we die, our relationship with food helps to determine most every part of who we are and who we become.

In my experience, the work that we do with our diet and nutrition is the single most powerful agent of change with regard to the overall quality of our life and whatever practice we may participate in.

What we eat and how we eat it determines so much of who we are on almost every single level of our being. How we express ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually is intimately tied to our relationship to the foods that we eat.

Our choices of what we eat and how we eat those foods indicates how we see ourselves and can show us some very intimate truths about how we relate to ourselves and to the world.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, it is evident that most of us do not eat simply to nourish our physical bodies. In fact, most people eat primarily for mental and emotional reasons far and above for the purpose of merely supporting physical health and well-being.

For most of us, food serves many different purposes. One of the primary purposes that food serves is to help us deal with our lives and the world emotionally. When we are feeling anxious or emotionally uncomfortable in any way, one of the primary ways that most people deal with those discomforts is to eat. Each of us has our own favorite "comfort" foods. These are certain kinds of foods that help to mask or to suppress certain feelings and emotions that we do not want to feel.

Interestingly, the foods that are the best "comfort" foods are oftentimes, not the best food for the best health and well-being of the body and spirit. They are foods that make us feel some temporary pleasure for a short period of time, but they are not foods that contribute to overall well-being and authentic balance.

Our true happiness always depends on the clarity and balance of our mental and emotional lives. Clarity and balance in our mind and in our emotional lives is always dependent on awareness and honesty. If you look closely enough, you will see that what you eat and the way that you eat it is intimately tied to the degree of mental and emotional balance and clarity in your life.

2. Why Should You Change The Way That You Eat?

What we eat and the way that we eat it are deeply ingrained habits which have been formed over our entire life. These habits are determined by the way that we grow up, by our families, by the culture that we live in.

And again, it is not simply about the eating habits that are deeply ingrained in us, but it is also about the strong mental and emotional tendencies that, in many ways, cause us to eat the way that we do.

Given that these habits and tendencies are so deeply rooted in our minds and bodies, it is no wonder that it is normally very difficult to make any kind of significant changes to our diets and the way that we generally relate to food in our lives.

Only those people who are willing to invest the time, energy and intelligence to make truly deep changes in themselves can make major changes in their diets.

If you are not willing to go through the work and the discomfort of making fundamental changes in yourself, then I do not recommend that you even try to make big changes to your dietary choices.

As I said before, many people eat as a way to deal with hidden and uncomfortable emotions and feelings within themselves. Anytime you begin to eat in a lighter and healthier fashion, you will almost necessarily begin to unearth some very powerful emotions and feelings in yourself that you previously had been unable or unwilling to experience.

When you begin to honestly face these kinds of emotions and feelings within yourself without hiding or running away from them, you will find that you will begin to change in some very significant ways.

When we suppress strong emotions and feelings within ourselves, we create emotional and energetic blockages in ourselves. This potential energy is the power of creativity, self-expression and intimacy. As long as this kind of power is blocked within us, we are generally more subdued and predictable. In many ways, this kind of subdued state feels "safer".

As soon as we feel fully these kinds of suppressed thoughts, emotions and feelings, the potential energy within us is liberated and we become much more "alive". We become far more emotionally and psychically sensitive. We can feel many things we could not feel before. We can also touch others much more deeply.

Our very presence adds greater life and energy to every place that we are. It is an exhilarating experience to feel this kind of life energy coursing through our minds and bodies. At the same time, if we are not used to this level of energy, it can be overwhelming and frightening.

There is a greater level of responsibility with this kind of additional energy because not only can we create greater good, but we can also do greater harm. Surely, not very many people are comfortable wielding this kind of additional power.

The purification of our bodies and minds through diet, lifestyle and practice for the purposes of awakening this potential power within us with the aim of a deeper awareness of one's self is what yoga and spiritual realization is all about.

One should never practice yoga or even to make major changes to one's diet without understanding this greater purpose.

If you are a person who feels ready to honestly face yourself and you are willing to take on a greater level of responsibility for who you are and who you might be, then certainly the combination of diet, lifestyle and yoga practice is one of the most powerful ways that I know of to reach that end.

3. How Do I Know What To Eat?

Even though we, as human beings, share a similar physiology, there are countless variables that make us all unique from one another. Everybody is in a different physical, mental, emotional and spiritual condition. Therefore, everyone, in any one moment, also has unique dietary requirements. A particular diet that may work for one person, simply will not work for another.

As a result, each one of us must develop the intelligence, understanding and sensitivity to begin to determine just what the ideal diet is for ourselves at each moment in our lives. The capacity to know what you should eat, when you should eat it and how much of it you should eat is an instinct and a skill that is invaluable. Very few people actually take the time to develop this kind of sense about themselves. Most people eat according to largely unconscious emotional patterns that they have had most of their lives. This means that most people eat from an impulsive place and with very little intelligence. This is the reason why we are faced with so many problems with regard to health and disease.

The best thing you can do as you first begin to work seriously with your diet is to simply begin to pay attention to exactly what you do eat day to day. Additionally, you should begin to examine your motivations for eating what you do eat and when. Also, see if you can begin to carefully observe and be sensitive to how eating a particular food makes you feel and how it affects your mental and emotional state.

I often recommend that people begin to keep some form of food journal, so that they can begin to write down their reflections in these areas. The act of writing down your thoughts and feelings is a very powerful way to bring a much higher level of awareness and consciousness to yourself and how you do eat.

Being increasingly conscious of what you eat, when you eat it and how you eat it is an essential aspect of developing an optimum diet for yourself. It is so important that I even recommend that you do not even try to change what you are eating until you begin to develop the habit of being more aware of what you do eat and how you eat it.

With increasing awareness and sensitivity of yourself and your own habits, you can begin to know internally just what direction you need to go to develop the best diet for you.

Each one of us has a strong kind of internal wisdom and knowing that can inform us of what is best for us. The only thing that keeps us from accessing that kind of internal wisdom is unconscious and conditioned emotional and mental patterns that we are impulsively chained to.

Once we begin to carefully examine and become aware of these pre-existing patterns, we can begin to free ourselves from them. Once these patterns begin to lose their hold on us, we immediately begin to gain access to a deeper kind of knowing that exists deep within each one of us.

4. Some Basic Truths About Food

As you begin to become more aware of your current eating habits and become more sensitive to how each particular food makes you feel, you will naturally gravitate towards foods that are of a certain nature.

We are all children of the earth, which means that we are all part of nature.

Many of the problems that we face today from most any perspective (physical and psychological health, environmental and social health, etc.) can be traced to the fact that we have fallen seriously out of balance with the natural world. Many of the ways that we interact with the environment, many of the ways that we live and grow food are basically harmful to the environment and are generally out of balance with nature.

Thus, it makes perfect sense that many of the ways that we eat and treat our bodies are out of balance with the natural world and with natural law.

We treat many of the foods that we eat with deadly chemicals. We process many of the foods that we eat to the point where they have minimal nutrition and wreak havoc on our digestive systems. Many of the foods that we eat today are filled with too much sugar and/or processed fats and excessive salts. These foods produce intense levels of sensual pleasure in our bodies and minds, but do not contribute to the overall health and well-being of our bodies, minds and spirits.

We have gotten so out of touch with nature and the natural world that most of us have very little knowledge of what is exactly in what we eat and have very little clue as to where what we eat came from. It is rare in this modern world of ours to meet someone who actually grows and harvests their own food.

As you begin to be more in tune with your own body and mind, it is natural that the foods that you will begin to choose will be those foods that are more in balance with the laws of nature and with the natural world.

These foods would be those that are grown in harmonious natural environments without the use of harsh or harmful chemicals and other artificial substances. These foods would be those that are closest to their original form and have not been overly processed in any way. These foods would be those that are grown and prepared with great love and care.

The purest diets always contain a large amount of organically grown raw fruits and vegetables which come from soil that is rich in minerals and has a high diversity of soil born organisms. Soil of this kind always comes from an ecosystem which has a high diversity of different kinds of plants and animals.

Now, it is important to stop here and explain that a diet of high purity is not necessarily good for everybody. The more pure your diet is, the more energy and sensitivity you will have. That means that you must be prepared to deal with and process many feelings and emotions that have been hidden deep within yourself perhaps for your whole life. You must also have developed the psychic and spiritual strength to deal with the added energy that you will have in your life. Shifting to a more pure diet precipitates very strong changes in oneself, both internally and externally. You must be prepared to deal with these changes.

This is why it is almost always recommended that any significant changes in one's dietary regime be enacted with great care, patience and at a pace that is in tune with the personality and capability of the person who is making these changes. In other words, when making any kind of significant change to your diet, go very slowly.

Do not make big changes all at once. Determine how quickly you want to move and begin to make small changes slowly over time.

In the beginning the best way to make changes is simply to think about adding the best foods and supplements that you can find first. Do not even think about what to remove from your diet. Trying to remove negative elements from your life and diet before adding powerful positive elements is almost always a formula for failure.

Remember, balance, sensitivity and intelligence are always needed in making a successful transition to a healthier diet and way of life. The process of real growth and change must always be a process that is infused with much joy. And, for joy to be present, there must not be any excessive stress or anxiety involved. When you try to change too impulsively, too fast, you will introduce a strong element of stress to the process. Stress, in any form, is almost always detrimental to the process of real change.

This does not mean that you need to forgo effort and discipline. Just be sure to be disciplined in a way that does not involve too much force and lacks joy and compassion.

Okay, so you want to know what are the best foods and supplements to add first? If you will add these foods to your daily life as small rituals and habits, you will be amazed how your quality of your health, your life and your whole sense of well-being will shift.

The Best Foods to Add To Your Diet

1. One large green organic salad per day. Include as many dark, leafy green organic vegetables as possible.

2. One large green organic juice per day. Either use a mixer or a juicer to create one large glass of green juice. A good starting mixture is spinach, celery and parsley. If you want or need a little sweetness to help it go down easier, than add the juice of one apple. Green juices are not only extremely nourishing, they are also very hydrating and help to detoxify the body as well.

3. Sea vegetables. Add as many vegetables from the ocean into your diet. Nori, arame, wakame, hijiki and kombu are all excellent choices. These vegetables from the sea are all high in trace minerals and vitamins.

4. Green powders of any kind. Make yourself a big drink including 2 heaping tablespoons of any kind of green powder. Choices would include chlorella, blue-green algae, spirulina and barley grass powder. This is some of the best and nutritious food on the planet. Also very good for increased mental clarity.

5. Best quality sea salts. Find the best sun-dried sea salt and use to taste in all your food. Sun-dried sea salt is an excellent source of trace minerals and vitamins.

6. High quality fats. Not only are high quality fats very healthy for body and mind, they will help you to make the transition to a healthier diet and lifestyle much easier. Choices include avocados, organic virgin olive oil and organic nuts.

7. Best quality spring water. One of the most powerful things you can do for your health is to drink only the very best quality spring water. Try to locate a local spring near to you and go and collect your own water. You will be surprised at just how easy and close many local springs are to you. There is something magical and truly life affirming that happens when you stop drinking poor quality water that comes in plastic bottles and you go and harvest your own water. Don't take my word for it. Go out and try it for yourself!

This is only a partial list, but a good starting one. Add these elements into your diet on a daily basis and you have a good starting foundation for the transition to a truly optimal diet for body and for mind.

The move to a lighter and healthier diet is only initially for the purposes of creating greater vitality and physical health. The deeper benefits of a diet that is tune with the laws of nature is that it will ultimately affect the higher functioning and clarity of your mental processes. What you think about and how you think will be dramatically affected. You will notice that the clarity of you mind and your emotions will begin to change in some very deep ways. Your capacity to see yourself and others clearly will be much improved. You will begin to have access to some higher level intuitive functions that you may or may not know that you had before. It really is remarkable what is possible through the transition to a diet that is balanced and harmonious with the natural world.

Remember, this process is not an easy one. Our habits, especially when it comes to our relationship with food, are deeply ingrained. Deep changes take time and patience, sensitivity, intelligence and great care. Enroll as much support and assistance from available experts, friends and family as is possible. To try to make a move to a healthier diet is very difficult, if not impossible for some. You will encounter many challenges and obstacles along the way, both internally and externally. You will experience many disappointments and letdowns. Try not to be discouraged, as these kinds of things are all part of the process. When you fall down, simply dust yourself off, get back up and continue along the journey. There will be times when it will seem very dark, but these times of darkness are only temporary. Each moment of darkness, no matter how dark, always will come to pass.

The rewards of taking this kind of journey towards a diet of great harmony and balance are immense. For every small amount of effort you put in, you will be given great gifts and blessings of vitality, energy and magic. I send you best wishes on this great journey!

Hari OM!

Govinda

April 10, 2009

Reading from "Words From My Perfect Teacher", Part 12

A continuation of the readings on the importance of developing Bodhicitta or compassion for all living beings and the understanding of the essential emptiness of the phenomenal world.


Reading from "Words From My Perfect Teacher", Part 11

The subject here is the importance of what is known as Bodhicitta...developing compassion for all living beings and understanding the essential emptiness of all phenomenal objects and experiences.

Reading from "Words From My Perfect Teacher", Part 10

More on the interconnectedness of all life and how all actions no matter how small have significant karmic consequences.


April 09, 2009

Love & Compassion in Life & Spiritual Practice

I have been continuing to read the book, "Words Of My Perfect Teacher", by Patrul Rimpoche, which, again, is considered to be a seminal book on the basic principles of Tibetan Buddhism.

The section of the book that I am going to speak about now is the section entitled, "Arousing Bodhichitta", which concerns the topic of the importance of love and compassion in spiritual practice and life.

The main source of all our suffering in this life is our own mind. Our basic attitudes and beliefs about life is what shapes what we experience and how we interact with the world. It shapes how we see others and how we see our own selves.

When we believe that we are separate and different from others, we naturally set up an adversarial relationship with the world and with life. In this way of relating to the world, we are mostly either fighting with others, being judgmental of others or defending ourselves in one way or another.

These basic attitudes in which we are fighting with others and/or with ourselves is at the core of what prevents us from truly being happy or at peace with ourselves. As long as we hold these kinds of beliefs, we can never fully develop any kind of deep spiritual wisdom.

Thus, for the Tibetan Buddhists, as with other wisdom traditions, the importance of developing a loving and compassionate heart and mind is one of the foundational and essential parts of the entire practice.

Typically, the mind that is not fully conscious is a mind that is continually defining itself as an entity that is different and more special somehow than others. Most of us are forever trying to prove how we are somehow more unique or more deserving of attention than the person that is standing next to us.

Or, there are others of us who feel that we are not as deserving or inferior in some way from other people. This may look like on the surface as it is different from those who feel superior, but, in fact, it is nearly the same activity. In both cases, there is tendency to try to prove that we are more different from others, as opposed to, seeing that we are more the same as others in more ways that we can know.

What is known as arousing bodhichitta in Tibetan Buddhism is the practice of awakening the awareness of just how we are connected to all things and all beings. When we develop a deep sense of love and compassion for other beings, we can begin to have a greater experience of the essence of all life. The essence of life and reality is that there is no real division between ourselves and life and others. Any difference we think we see and experience is merely a projection from our own minds.

Real spiritual practice allows us the opportunity to begin to remove this deep seated illusion from our minds so that we can perceive and interact with reality and others as they truly are and not just as we imagine them to be.

Simply put, the practice of awakening love and compassion involves constantly looking for all those elements in life that connect us with others and not for those aspects which separate us.

The most common element that connects us all is that no living being wants to suffer and every living being wants to be happy.

We also want to protect and comfort those that we love. We all feel pain when those close to us are hurt in any way.

In the process of awakening love and compassion, it is important to meditate on these facts each and every time we come into contact with another living being. It is important to remember that in everything that anybody does is the desire to be happy and to avoid suffering.

Of course, most people that we come into contact today are not very happy. Most people have a lot of suffering in their lives and do not have the sense or the wisdom to escape the suffering that they have created for themselves. To be happy in this life is not an easy or a simple matter for most people. In fact, most people in this world, in trying to be happy only make themselves more miserable. Not only that, but they also make many others miserable as well.

When we don't actively develop love and compassion for other living beings, we end up spending a lot of our time fighting and resisting others. Thus, we produce an atmosphere that does not support spiritual evolution either for ourselves or for others.

Without a minimal understanding about the fundamental causes of suffering, there can be no real happiness, no real spiritual growth. And, as long as we basically see other living beings are more different than us than the same, we can never understand how suffering actually occurs.

We suffer when we identify ourselves with the more superficial aspects of reality.

We suffer when we get attached to our physicality. We suffer when we get attached to our possessions. We suffer when we get attached to our own personalities, our own opinions, our own likes and dislikes. We suffer when we get attached to what makes us different than others. We suffer when we put ourselves above or below or apart from others.

Now, this does not mean that we need to stop taking care of ourselves or that we need to stop actively managing our lives. It just means that it is ultimately important to see that our life is not any more intrinsically important than any other living beings life. It means that that a big part of spiritual practice and growth is the investment of our time and energy into working for the well-being and happiness of others, as well as, ourselves.

So, when you encounter another living being, no matter how small or how large, no matter how easy or difficult, see if you can develop some measure of love and compassion for them. See if you can identify with them in any way. See if you can try and imagine in what ways they must be suffering in their life. Once you begin to feel any kind of connection with them, see if there is any way in which you can alleviate their suffering and contribute to their ultimate happiness.

The more generous you can be with them, the more powerful the spiritual aspect of the experience can be. Try to give to them in a way that is genuine and honest. Do not just give to another in a way that is superficial or fake in any way. In those situations where you feel like the giving is forced or superficial, it is probably better not to give of yourself. However, wherever you can, give of yourself freely and fully.

For many people, this practice of developing love and compassion is extremely difficult or even seemingly impossible. Take whatever time you need to build up your capacity for this practice slowly and steadily. Over time, you will begin to see that the practice will become easier and easier and your capacity for building genuine and powerful love and compassion for others is immense.

You will see why this very basic and powerful practice is considered the cornerstone of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. You will see why the cultivation of the highest kinds of spiritual growth is dependent on your own heart's capacity for the love and compassion of all living beings. Even with the smallest kinds of progress in the area of the development of love and compassion, you will find that your capacity to realize some powerful kinds of spiritual understanding and wisdom will expand tremendously.

I whole-heartedly invite you to try and see for yourself.

Hari OM!

Govinda

RECENT POSTS

Eating With Maximum Intelligence, Eating With Maximum Joy
Reading from "Words From My Perfect Teacher", Part 12
Reading from "Words From My Perfect Teacher", Part 11
Reading from "Words From My Perfect Teacher", Part 10
Love & Compassion in Life & Spiritual Practice

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