Ram Lev is the founder of The American Meditation Institute in Averill Park, NY. He is also the author of the award-winning book, The Heart and Science of Yoga: A Blueprint for Peace, Happiness and Freedom from Fear, and the new online video course, Comprehensive Meditation and Easy-Gentle Yoga.
Do you really think that you’re loving yourself by eating three hamburgers topped with french fried onion rings and drenched in an exotic, savory “secret sauce?” If you asked TV host Guy Fieri of the popular Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show, or any of his masterful guest cooks, they’d probably tell you that they love the seductive, flesh-based, sense gratifying, comfort food they prepare each week. But in truth, that kind of food does not love you or me. It’s really poison!
Not that I don’t love good, tasty food. I do! It’s just that at this stage of life I need food that keeps my mind/body in tip-top shape. This life is a marathon––not a sprint.
A few weeks ago, as I intently watched an episode of what Fieri affectionately refers to as his “Triple D” show, the focus of my one-pointed attention was suddenly distracted by the copious rush of saliva filling my mouth. I must confess that for a vegetarian and rather disciplined eater for almost forty years, the experience was both shocking and instructive. First, I was astonished that my senses and unconscious habits were responding in such a juvenile, non-discriminating manner to the outrageously sensual prompts. Secondly, I felt an abiding compassion for other TVviewers who might not be armed with the tools provided by a daily meditation practice. I knew that if I were still a child––or even an adult innocently handicapped by an untrained mind––I too would likely succumb to the call of my senses and habit patterns.
Fortunately, however, I’ve been meditating for many years. This practice has helped me cultivate the tools of detachment, one-pointed attention, discrimination and will power that train the senses, ego and unconscious mind to defer to the wiser perspective of my conscience (known as buddhi in Sanskrit). Because of this effort, I can now see every relationship as an instructive opportunity that can enhance my happiness, health and security.
With the increased clarity of vision found through meditation, I saw that the lesson presented me by Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives was an important one. It reminded me in no uncertain terms that I needed to eat less of the food my senses and habits love, and to eat more of the food that loves me––all of me.
If that sounds like repression or denial of the “good life,” I guarantee you it is just the opposite. Imagine for a moment that everything you’ve chosen to eat today is now benefiting the health and vitality of your blood vessels, eyes, joints, prostate, teeth, ears, skin, lymph system, thyroid, brain, muscles, heart, lungs, liver, bladder, spleen, intestines, gall bladder, stomach, kidneys, uterus and pancreas. And as a bonus, those choices are also providing you more flexibility, energy, optimism, creativity, improved stool formation, shorter stool transit times and lower health care costs. With all those positive benefits, would you still consider not eating a “Triple D” meal to be a denial of the “good life?”
My personal experience indicates that the predominant cultural concept of the “good life”––the one authored by the senses, endorsed by the ego, and stored on the hard drive of the unconscious mind––is highly inaccurate! And this erroneous, unexamined, unconscious concept, which motivates you to love and consume excess sugar, salt, fat, flesh, carbs and alcohol, is not leading you to the happiness and satisfaction promised by Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Instead, it’s delivering you directly to the doorstep of the real “Triple D”––namely death, decay and decomposition.
In actuality, it only takes a little time and energy to train the mind through meditation to begin incorporating healthy, nutritious, flavorful, and life-affirming food choices into your everyday life. But I must warn you, your good intentions will be tested by the powerful force of emotional attachments. So you should anticipate having to deal with some pushback.
Since the human body is comprised of food and water, you are redefining yourself every time you bite off, swallow and consume a portion of your Mother, Earth. In fact, the personal philosophy you bring to this spiritually intimate relationship and your attitude toward the entire miraculous process reflect your concepts about every other relationship. So, is it any wonder that changing eating habits is so challenging? If maintaining a well balanced diet were solely a matter of making appropriate choices about nutrition, you would probably be a much healthier person than you are today. In practical terms, however, your eating habits are directly linked to powerful unconscious emotional forces that seek happiness and security, and which tether you to your family––the people with whom you regularly eat.
Imagine that after reading a few inspiring health articles, you told your closest relatives and friends that you’ve decided to no longer eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) your family normally consumes. Instead, you’re going to become a vegetarian. You announce you will start eliminating flesh from your diet; no more poultry, pork, beef or fish, and at the same time you will begin to reduce or eliminate sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, simple carbs and alcohol. You can imagine how disturbed others would be. “Are you kidding? Are you no longer part of our group?” they’d wonder. “Are you rejecting our values and us? Are we not worthy of your identification anymore?” When you break with a group norm, your actions can be psychologically threatening to others, and their reactions can consciously or unconsciously pressure you to abandon your worthwhile intentions. But that’s just the kind of challenge that a daily meditation practice can help you with.
Meditation is an engineering science. Through daily practice, meditation can re-engineer your unconscious mental software while providing you a nurturing framework for positive change. Meditation, learned under a competent teacher, can provide you the inspiration and clarity of mind to make the necessary conscious, discriminating choices concerning what, when and under which circumstances you eat. And as you’ll learn by meditating, only when your food choices reflect the discriminative faculty of your conscience (buddhi) will your mind-body-sense complex be nourished and strengthened to the fullest extent possible.
You see, meditation does something that nothing else can do. It introduces you to your eternal Self (known as the Christ in Christianity and Allah in Islam). By meditating every day, you access a super-conscious wisdom that awakens you to the realization that you are actually a citizen of two worlds. You already know that you’re a mortal citizen of the material world of change, but you also come to know that you’re an immortal citizen of the subtle, changeless, transcendent world of consciousness and spirit. Your acceptance of your dual citizenship makes it possible for you to view the body-mind-sense-complex as a transitory vehicle of action that houses the real You. When you contemplate and incorporate this Truth into all your relationships, the act of eating instantaneously becomes a sacrament––a life-enhancing offering that leads to physical vitality and mental creativity.
Once you begin to meditate, the food you eat will no longer be considered simply an entertainment experience nor something that just keeps you alive. Slowly, slowly, you realize that food choice is one of the spiritual “fields of action” upon which you engage the world. On this particular field of action (as on all others) you are simply asked to do only one thing: base your outer action on the inner intuitive wisdom of your eternal Self.
At the last supper Jesus, speaking as the Christ, voices this understanding when He offers a prayer over a piece of bread, saying in part, “This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In Christian as well as in yogic terms, food––like every other object in the material world––is considered to be the “body of Christ.” Food is a manifestation of the One Supreme Reality that is intended for your well being. If the buddhi (conscience or Holy Spirit) advises that a particular food is a shreya (the choice leading to perennial well being and joy), you are asked to consume the food as an offering. If the buddhi indicates the desired food is a preya (a choice merely serving an ego or sense gratification) you are to sacrifice the desire as an offering. Either way, your skillful action will bring you a revitalized immune system, a brilliance of confidence and the necessary comfort to face all life’s challenges without pain, misery or bondage.
The certainty with which I offer you this knowledge has not come to me through books or lectures delivered by nutritional experts. I have learned the effectiveness of food as medicine through my own personal battles with the painful medical consequences of eating too much sugar, salt, fat, flesh, simple carbs and alcohol. In 1977, as I entered the third decade of my life I began to discover that my intense desires for sweetness and security could never be fulfilled by the food I ate. Now, my meditation practice has empowered me to identify less with my personality’s sense of lack and need for oral compensation. And I have been able to provide Leonard an abundance of sweetness and security simply by basing my thoughts, words and deeds on my own inner, intuitive wisdom. As a consequence of this process, my ego, senses and unconscious mind have learned to willingly forsake much of the poison that previously masqueraded in my life as food.
By allowing celebrity TVhosts, advertising, restaurants or grocery stores to control what you eat, you are only ensuring yourself an undisciplined mind that must inevitably project an unhealthy body. As Mahatma Gandhi observed, “When you control your palate you strengthen and vitalize your total mind-body-sense complex.”
Desire is the fuel for action and actions have consequences. Your desire for food is what motivates you to eat, and eating assures the continuation of your life. But not every food will bring you the health, happiness and security that you deeply desire. In truth, that which you seek through food can only be experienced when your choices serve the inner wisdom reflected by a purified buddhi.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna, representing the wisdom of your eternal Self, teaches that, “When you allow your mind to heed the siren call of the senses, they carry away your better judgment as a typhoon drives a boat off the charted course to its doom. Therefore, use all your will power to set the senses free from both attachment and aversion alike, and live in the full wisdom of the eternal Self.” These verses speak of the disaster that awaits anyone who mindlessly remains enslaved to the charms, attractions and temptations of the senses. The practice of meditation can help you train the senses to become loyal servants of your eternal Self. Then you will naturally begin to eat less of the food the senses and habits love, and eat more of the food that loves you––all of you!
Experimenting with Foods that Love You
1. Reduce or avoid sugar. Processed sugar and corn syrup are poisons! Don’t bring sodas or sugar-laden baked goods home. Try alternative sweeteners like honey, stevia, maltitol or xylitol.
2. Avoid cold drinks during meals. Cold liquids retard digestion and cause the production of ama, a subtle poison that causes disease.
3. Chew your food. Depending on the texture, chew 20-30 times before swallowing. You’ll eat less, feel more satisfied, digest better, assimilate more completely and eliminate more easily.
4. Drink hot water. Drink 6-8 cups of plain hot water (the same temperature as coffee) every day. It boosts energy and tones your entire urinary system.
5. Use mineral or sea salt. Refined table salt is chemically cleansed. Natural salts include trace minerals needed for a strong immune system.
6. Eat quinoa as a grain substitute. It’s alkalizing, relatively low in carbs and a complete protein.
7. Eat 1 tsp. of coconut oil daily. Its medium chain triglycerides can enhance brain function.
8. Use cilantro and basil to cleanse the blood.
9. Mediterranean-ize your diet. Cook and garnish vegetables with garlic and olive oil.
10. Eat a medley of 3 vegetables daily. Use your favorites and change the trio often. A balance of colors ensures a spectrum of nutrients.
11. Eat fresh, first-generation foods daily. As often as possible, prepare food just before it is eaten. The life force of vital prana contained in your food is greatly diminished in leftovers.
12. Use ghee (clarified butter). The clarifying process removes milk solids while improving nutrient assimilation. Reduce or eliminate butter, margarine and hydrogenated oils.
13. Reduce or eliminate flesh. Flesh is highly acidic, lengthens stool transit time and taxes all digestive organs. We can be healthy without taking a sentient life.
14. Take a pro-biotic supplement daily. This will help build healthy intestinal flora.
15. Leave a little space in your stomach after meals. It improves digestive efficiency.
This article is posted with the generously given permission of the American Meditation Institute (https://americanmeditation.org/) who initially published the article in the January-March 2015 of Transformation.