Have I mentioned that I teach nutrition? My specialty is vegetarian nutrition and I like to think I’ve inspired at least a few meat free meals and triggered a handful of carnivorous consciences. So it is more than a little annoying that I don’t look lean and glowing (sometimes glowing like a horse is sweaty, or like Rudolf’s snout, post yoga) like a picture perfect advertisement for vegetarianism. Not that I would want anyone to go on any kind of ‘diet’ anyway. No, my choice to eat only plants was made as a teenager with lofty ideals about changing the world, one meal at a time. I think philosophy can create sustainable change in people’s habits because once you have had a realisation, it’s your own internal clash that drives you to match your behaviour with your own ideals. So I moved from a steak and veg standard to a basic vego diet at 16.
After a few years of drinking more than I ate (a possible explanation for the thin but not strong 18 -21 phase) I came across the yogic diet. The justification for a sattvik vego diet was easy for me to accept, having already had exposure to the Hare Krsna movement and their delish restaurants. Essentially what the ancient yogis were describing was eating only what is required and keeping one’s consciousness clear of food-derived obstacles to make meditation easier. If you’ve ever made a serious attempt at meditation you might have noticed that it’s challenging. The very adept might be able to meditate on a traffic island in Mumbai but for most of us, if you want to do it to the best of your ability, it helps to set the scene. A clean and quiet space is conducive; beautiful is nice but not necessary as your eyes will be closed. That’s when the real deal starts, when we are alone with our own thoughts. Personally I have a hard time not planning for the future and sometimes I allow that because wonderful ideas pop in when the rest of the external distractions are removed. The skill of settling into the silence within must be practiced regularly in order to go deep (though I did experience ‘beginners’ luck’ in my early dabbles with sadhana). There’s a gazillion books about meditation and some truly amazing teachers, yet it’s pretty normal to think you can rewrite the book and ignore all instructions. Exploring inner space without a guide is almost as delusional as following a train of thought when surfing the internet. One thing leads to another and you are amusing yourself rather than practicing the discipline of reflection or ideation.
What you eat really does influence these mental wanderings. Trust me, I’ve run the experiment more than once and I reckon it’s replicable. There’s probably something in the advice handed down from teacher to student over thousands of years. The recommended diet for consciousness is free of meat including fish, eggs, alcohol, intoxicants, onion, garlic and mushrooms. Fruit is held in high esteem as are whole grains, vegetables, sprouts, some legumes (ie chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, peas) and sweet food is fine as long as it is taken in moderation. Likewise dairy is fine for some constitutional types however it’s supposed to be from happy healthy cows who have fed their calves first and freely given the excess to humans – not sure the Dairy Board can claim that as fact. The yogic concept of the gunas explains what category food is placed in. Sattvik foods are elevating to the mind, healthful for the body and do no harm. Rajasik foods are stimulating, exciting to the senses and may be healthful or not, such as chocolate, coffee,chili, soft drink and tea. For tantrikas (depending on lineage, many paths draw inspiration from tantra, not the sexy stuff but the foot to the floor, lets evolve our consciousness pronto stuff) a small amount of raja guna is acceptable in a mainly sattvik diet. Tamasik foods are dead and make the mind dull, leading us towards expression of our more mundane selves, hence these are struck off the list of suitable food for a sadhaka.
Currently my version of the sattvik diet consists of: lemon water first thing (pre-practice), ‘brekkie on the deckie’ with my beloved is mango, berries, wheat free muesli, a dollop of natural yoghurt and a splash of organic soy milk. I luurve my soy latte – hit me with that rajasik rush. Without it I’m cactus which indicates addiction to me but anyway, I’ll deal with that one later. Lunch is cheese and salad rolls, heavy on the salad. T
Then I’ve been making a fruit salad to satisfy my ever hungry boys so I might snack on that plus cashews, macadamias or brazil nuts in the afternoon. When it’s my nights to do dinner I make brown rice, steamed veg and seared, marinated tofu. The abundance of lemongrass in the garden sometimes inspires a pot of lemongrass tea, otherwise I might have a chai if I need to power up for study when the kids have gone to bed.
My garden is a source of joy and nourishment to all my koshas. I think if I was able to live completely self-sufficiently I would be the archetypal lean yogi, however I still have to shop every couple of days. Here’s some pics of my garden in progress, hopefully summer will be a time for me to progress in my practice, nourished by the warm soil and sattvik food grown right here at home….