I am writing this post for all those people who feel strongly that they need to be hyper vigilant about what they put in their bodies. I think it is important to practice mindfulness about our diet and lifestyle, and of course it is better to choose healthy options… but to be so concerned with it that it affects your mental peace, that’s when it may border of OCD. Why do I suggest this? Because I used to be in that “camp!”
I used to be someone who was extremely careful about what I ate. In the past, I would tell people I had food sensitivities to soy, sugar, wheat, corn, processed foods, night shades, pasteurized dairy… you name it and I might have been avoiding it at some point. Friends of mine would comment that they could not keep track of the changes in my diet (as in they would change that frequently). Although wheat, soy and sugar have stuck around (I completely avoid soy and try to eat as little processed wheat and sugar as possible – but I do go for other sweeteners occasionally and sprouted wheat), I am now of a different opinion.
As a meditation practitioner, I now feel that more important than my diet, is the disposition of my mind. If I am diligent about maintaining daily, devoted spiritual practice (meditation or other practices recommended by my heart teachers), then my digestion pretty much does fine with a few new or “restricted” items. However, if I am busy with work or other distractions and I fail to do daily practice, then my digestion can knot up in a jiff.
My root lama, who is a Tibetan monk and a retreat master – basically the equivalent of someone possessing a Ph.D. in Buddhist philosophy (and having years of experience under his belt) – recommended that I ease dairy products into my diet. By the way, he is not a nutritionist or medical practitioner of any sort. He probably just recommended this because we are starting to know each other better. Anyway… This was three years ago, and I slowly started doing so. And sure enough, adding a little butter here and there, or having some yogurt most mornings with my oatmeal has now become the norm. I still avoid most cheeses and definitely avoid pasteurized milk, but I am doing much better with slight amounts of dairy, and even much better with a few cookies or snack foods here and there. Moderation is the key!
Overall, I’d say my digestion is used to certain foods, so when I go off my “normal” diet, of course there are issues, but I am much less neurotic about what I put in my body. And as I mentioned, much more important now is what is the state of my mind: is it calm? is it peaceful? am I worried about something?
One of my practices is to do several (sometimes a hundred or so) full length – full stretch – prostrations. I try to do them in the morning but good luck with that! But nonetheless, I completely believe that doing some number of daily prostrations, whether 6 or 108 or somewhere in between is very healthy! I would even consider it to be more healthy than any other single activity I could partake in (including attending a spa, receiving colon hydrotherapy, going to India for a significant purification retreat, etc). Here’s why: not only am I stretching my viscera – everything from stomach to colon to liver to kidneys, but I am also cultivating a relationship with the wisdom beings I am prostrating towards. To fully explain the previous sentence would require several posts. But to sum it up, prostrations = physical, mental and psycho-spiritual yoga! Don’t get me wrong though – they are not for everyone and I am certainly not recommending that anyone else attempt this rigorous activity. I am just explaining my process.
With that said, if you or someone you know are neurotic about your diet, you might want to consider building in some form of relaxation techniques or meaningful (and rewarding) spiritual practice. Because there is much more to life than taking care of our physical bodies!
As one of my heart teachers says (Julie Henderson), “more ground, less effort.” What I interpret this to mean is that we need to find behaviors and habits that are wholesome yet easy! It can be easy, yes, really. No need to be so hard on ourselves (or our stomachs). With that – have fun, lighten up and relax!