A few years ago I really truly believed the statement “you are what you eat.” As long as it was uncooked, vegan, organic, and preferably local, it might stand a chance of making it onto my plate or into my Vitamix blender.
Otherwise, it was not “pure” enough to enter into the temple of my body.
I conceived of my relationship to food as a relationship to my Highest Self. Eating the freshest, tastiest, most colorful fare was my birthright and I was so thankful for Mother Nature’s abundant bounty.
I had a wake-up call when I entered the Kundalini Yoga world. On my first trip to Summer Solstice I was a little dismayed to discover that the “cleansing diet” consisted of cooked grains and legumes, and boiled vegetables—a far cry from my ideal fare. And yet, I recognized that these yogis had a brightness to them that (I thought) could only be the result of a pristine diet. But it wasn’t…
It took me a little while, but eventually I had a break through: a strict diet was apt to perform certain miracles, but there were some things better food just couldn’t do.
I learned a healthier diet CAN promise:
1. A Deeper Connection: Most accounts of raw foodists aren’t simply amazing stories of victory over physical ailments. Many tell of how they felt a much deeper connection to God as a result of their new diet. Eating a “sattvic” diet is actually a very old yogic principle. It’s one of the reasons why yogis are encouraged to abstain from foods that are difficult to digest and eliminate (i.e. meat products), as well as intoxicants. Eating a simpler and cleaner diet will definitely make it easier to wake up early and meditate.
2. Diet Changes Into Life Changes: For many people, including me, eating a diet that is richer in nutrients, and poorer in fillers, can bring enormous mental clarity. It was this clarity that, I believe, created a space for the Universe to enter… and then I discovered yoga! In other words, diet change is a good start to a shift in consciousness.
3. Discipline: Eating an all living food diet was the most difficult thing I’ve ever put myself through. I didn’t want to eat out at restaurants with my family or non-raw friends. I spent hours of my day making elaborate meals so I didn’t get bored of salads. I had to plan my entire day around food: after all, I might get hungry and end up stranded with no viable food options. It was a neurotic sadhana for sure, but it certainly prepared me for wearing a turban and meditating every day. My lifestyle now seems like a piece of cake (that I can actually eat now!)!
I learned a healthier diet CANNOT promise:
1. Self-love: The way you look does not determine the way you feel about yourself. The way you feel about your self determines the way you feel you look. When I was eating only raw food and I looked in the mirror, I still saw my flaws first. Even though my skin was shinier, my waist was thinner, and my eyes were clearer, I didn’t appreciate it. The “could be better” disease still exists when we are eating perfectly. From my experience, if you don’t love yourself the way you are now, you won’t love yourself on a stricter diet either. Thankfully, yoga can help us connect to our soul and create a loving relationship.
2. Freedom from Fear: Many people come to a healthier diet from a deep-seeded fear of death and disease. This might seem reasonable when there are so many lifestyle diseases that could be avoided through a healthier diet. However, when we choose our food from a place of fear (i.e. adding cilantro to everything because it removes heavy metals from the body), the anxiety we experience isn’t much healthier than the toxins we are trying to avoid. Joyfully, yoga can help us release our fears and enjoy our food more.
3. To Cure Everything: I learned through my adventures in raw foodism, which lasted over 2 years, that diet cannot cure everything. I thought if I ate a perfect diet I would eventually be so tapped into Universal Consciousness that I wouldn’t have to deal with worldly issues. The truth is, there are things we have to go through. We are here on Earth to learn and grow. We cannot do that without experiencing life and all its unexpected curves. Sometimes experiencing life involves being at a friend’s house and eating the pizza they ordered. And let’s hope it never involves feeling sorry about that.