Yoga and Buddha tell us to do no harm. Gandhi and Martin Luther King spoke of non-violence. But how do we apply this in our daily lives? It can be tricky territory in practice.
For example, when we breathe, our body kills the bacteria in the air. When we walk, we step on things we can’t see. Our physical body requires the life-force of other life forms to survive.
We might set a standard not to eat mammals, for example. But the line is pretty gray. One of the curious experiences that can arise in Unity stage or a bit prior is in eating. We are everything we experience so we are consuming ourselves.
Some take an ethical stance on diet, putting precepts above the body. Do you deprive the body what it needs for a concept? Ironically, this can be violence against the self.
Many in the west are a Vata dosha or body type. They are too airy and need grounding activity and a regular cooked-food diet – especially in the winter. And yet there is a popular trend to a raw vegan diet for ethical reasons. Raw veggies are very air. In too much of the diet, it encourages imbalance leading to long term issues. We think we’re being really healthy but are we using the mind rather than paying attention to the body?
Similarly, someone who rejects their body or rails against the world is also culturing an inner violence. Someone pushing their beliefs on others is a psychic violence. Physical, emotional, or mental, it’s all interconnected.
I would suggest the deeper principle is to avoid intentional harm: to oneself, others, and the world. Seek an inner non-violence. Seek the peace of being. Be gentle with yourself.
This is part of the inner process needed for spiritual progress. Rigid rules will not result in letting go and finding peace within. The Brahman shift in particular can blow rules out the window into a deeper level of freedom.
Seek to discover what your specific body needs – not conceptually but in practice. To get accurate readings, you need to minimize processed foods and sugar intake as these create addictive tendencies that mess with the bodies natural signals.
There’s a simple technique you can use when making a food choice or choosing foods in a store. Be quiet for a moment and feel into it. Does the choice feel good or not so much?
You may find you’ve suppressed body awareness to ignore the discomforts and signals as you didn’t know what to do with them. But self-awareness isn’t limited to infinite consciousness.
If the signals don’t come, we have a bit of shadow. We may have to sit with it a little longer or come back to it again until there is clarity. It may take a bit of practice if we’re unfamiliar. But this becomes a great tool for food choices. And we get better produce too.
Research has shown that a fresh, whole foods, plant-based diet is the optimum for health. By plant-based, I mean vegetables are primary. That doesn’t mean vegetarian, just well-represented.
I found it very useful to know my Ayurvedic dosha or body type. From that platform, you can design food choices that suit you more easily. If you want to get a general idea if it, simple quizzes like this can get you started.
Then a little background like this. Dr. Lad’s book “Ayurveda, the Science of Self Healing” is a good introduction with handy tips.
From that framework, you can refine it based on your body. For example, there’s no way brown lentils can be a dietary staple for me. (laughs)
Many eastern spiritual traditions reject meat. Ayurveda recommends a lacto-vegetarian diet but this comes out of India, where it’s been practiced for millennia and the food is available year-round to support it.
There are many varieties of physical form. In this life, I’m blond blue-eyed stock out of Northern Europe. Veggies were not available year-round. This body does better with some meat in the diet.
I’ve known a few Caucasians who studied with a well-known Ayurvedic vaidya and he instructed them to have chicken or fish at least once a week for their health.
The cornucopia of plenty in the west has lead many to eat meat at every meal. This is a heavy load on digestion and the body doesn’t need this much protein unless you’re very physically active. Moderation would help many waist lines and pocket books.
It is more than possible to live as a healthy vegetarian. I was vegetarian for many years when I was younger by inclination. I didn’t apply external rules, just paid attention to the body and I noticed meat was falling away. However, poultry and fish later returned to my diet.
Red meat (mammals) has the greatest impact on the environment and is the hardest to digest. But some need it occasionally. A friend profits by having a steak about once a month. There, Ayurveda recommends pepper, ginger, or related spices to help with digestion.
The priority should be what the body needs. Overloading it reduces clarity which reduces spiritual capacity. But taking the opposite extreme and denying the body its needs is also unhealthy.
What about the question of violence? This comes down to making good choices. Some domestic animals are raised as food animals. Just as we choose the format of our lifetime, so too do these animals. Their soul recognizes their role and they act in service.
Are they raised in healthy ways and treated respectfully and humanely?
Do we express gratitude for their service to us?
Do we consume in moderation with respect to our own body?
This is how we can have an ethical relationship with whatever we consume. Not by being against anything. Instead, be for what the body thrives with and optimize how and what you consume.
Don’t expect perfection – that’s not the nature of the physical world. Do what is reasonable and without strain. When consciousness becomes embodied in the physiology, mental quandaries will ease as spontaneous right action becomes established. What that includes may surprise you.
This article is not to give a lecture or rules but rather point to places where the mind can put concepts above heath. Balance and moderation are healthy. When we support the body, it will support us on our journey together.