Food and Ethics

That Way by Justin Baeder
That Way by Justin Baeder

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)

On Meat
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.

But…
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.
Davidya

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29 Comments

  1. I appreciate this particular blog post. With the initial awakening shift, I became a vegetarian. Years later, with what you might call the beginning of the Brahman shift, all “rules” and concepts did indeed fall away and meat began returning to my diet naturally.

    Once again I’m returning to a vegetarian diet. But more of a flexitarian, I’d say. I listen to my body and eat accordingly.

    I’d like to get into Ayurveda more, and this article piqued my interest.

    Thanks for everything!

  2. don salmon

    All excellent. Intuitive knowing as guidance. Here I’ve found that really tuning in provides ongoing surprises.

    it’s especially interesting to pay attention to rules one is not aware of. I’d almost say – not entirely without tongue-in-the-cheek – that if you’re not finding some subtle rules broken quite regularly along the way, you’re probably not following intuitive guidance enough!

    You have to eat breakfast

    You have to have a grain and legume at each meal to get sufficient protein

    You can’t eat less than 1200 calories a day even for a few days at a time because you won’t get sufficient nutrition.

    You can’t eat starchy vegetables/non-starchy vegetables/high glycemic fruit/any fruit/any carbs/any animal products/while standing up/watching television, talking, drinking water…….

    talk about the feeling of “liberation” as the rules dissolve!

    1. Right, Don. There tends to be layers and layers of inner rules.
      .
      Guidelines are good. It’s the rigidity that causes trouble, becoming samskaras.
      .
      Food is one of the big ones as it starts early and families lay it on. Past life challenges, like famines can be in there too.
      .
      Amused by your list as I’ve had a few of those…

  3. Eric

    Hi Davidya,

    An informative and timely article. My health was going south until we became gluten free. Since then, and in addition to, my wife and I have adopted a policy of one ingredient whole organic foods paying particular attention to buying local where available. Admittedly, it does raise the food budget a bit but what is the price of health? If/when the west embraces Ayurveda there will be far fewer people visiting their doctors and hospitals. The human body is an incredibly resilient organism and will regain balance even after many years of of imbalance if we nourish it properly. Thank you for touching on this very important subject.

    1. Hey Eric
      Gluten-free is also low-carb for those benefits. You may find the food-combining guidelines in Ayurveda worth looking at. Some foods we commonly combine digest differently. Eating them separately is helpful for some.
      .
      Agreed on food quality. The body likes it too. We eat for the nutrients but also the prana which is where fresh and local help.
      .
      I quite agree. If we give the body sensible fuel it will do well. We wouldn’t dream of putting Coke in our car. 🙂

  4. Kerri Heffernan

    Thank you David. As usual I feel as though you are talking directly to me, lol. This is so true. I know so many people going vegetarian right now – the big trend!

    Because of my dosha I gave up beef for the most part with the occasional grass fed burger. I stick to chicken and not everyday. It has helped tremendously. Thank you for your guidance.

    I have another question for you in this regard…. I struggle a LOT with over eating and have a really hard time controlling my eating habits. I eat way way too much. Ever since I changed my diet I feel as though I’ve lost something and therefore hoard food sometimes. I am trying so hard to get a handle on it. Any advice? Thank you.

    1. Hi Kerri
      Big topic. There are a number of dynamics that can be in play. For one, what you eat makes a big difference. A lot of modern processed foods are designed to be addictive. They mess up the bodies signals. What we eat also cultures our gut biome and those microbes tell us what they want, even demanding it.
      .
      The body also seeks to sustain the weight it has so can push back at change. But you can get a momentum going.
      .
      Hoarding though suggests emotional dynamics in play. When we have unresolved feelings or stress, we can use overeating to dull ourselves out to avoid them. Being overweight does some of the same. Highly sensitive people (HSPs) are especially prone to this. You may find some therapy useful so you can become conscious of whats not being faced.
      .
      I wrote an article on some of the other factors in play. Not to give excuses – just understanding. 🙂
      https://fornow.wordpress.com/2019/05/13/the-science-of-fat/

      1. Kerri Heffernan

        I addressed this today with my therapist and am dealing with this. I do think it is an emotional issue for sure. I am glad this is coming up now. I will check out the article. Thank you.

    2. Michael Jaksch

      Hi Kerri!

      Thought i might also reply. 🙂
      What you describe sounds like unresolved emotions, maybe covering up a core deficency story ( with its added emotions) …and maybe some past life stuff around food etc.

      Best way imo would be to contact one of the “living inquries” fascilitator and work with them. (Website: livinginquiries.com)

      You will find that our bodies carry huge amounts of unresolved stuff and traumas which lead to addictions of all kinds and most any problem we as humans face. And skill is necessary to penetrate into that as the mind tries to hide that from us.

      All the best to you!
      Michael

      1. Kerri Heffernan

        Thanks Michael. I am working with my therapist on this. There is no doubt there is unresolved issues here. I was also thinking Karma as well because I’ve always as long as I can remember had a bad relationship with food. Some issues with food also along the way throughout my life. It actually amazes me that I am not really that heavy. I will check out the website. Thank you for chiming in.

  5. George Robinson

    Just reading this is a huge release. Let go: I love that part. Beliefs, opinions, positions, causes, and all other ways we eagerly jump for in an attempt to define — then hold on to at all costs — an identity? Nope, just let go in a thoughtful, reflective way. Much gratitude, D.

  6. Gina L WESTBROOK

    Thank you so much for this, David. In our house, we avoid eating anything on the hoof but do eat dairy eggs, fowl and fish which I consume with mixed emotions, I do feel the need for them in my diet, but have always been concerned about the ethics of it. Although dairy cows live longer lives they are slaughtered for their meat and other products when they can no longer produce milk and of course the male offspring are used for meat, and chickens are slaughtered when they no longer produce eggs. So this has always bothered me ethically. No food animal dies of old age. I feel a bit easier about it knowing the souls of these animals have chosen this life of ultimate service.

    1. Hi Gina
      Yeah – you have to be careful about those mixed emotions. Not to second-guess yourself. But you don’t want to be feeling badly about what you’re putting in your mouth. We digest all of our experiences and they become a part of us.
      .
      Also worth noting that in the wild, the old are picked off. Living into old age is a modern luxury even for humans.
      .
      The vast majority of beings live lives of service to the whole. It’s just humans with their perception of free will that get a little uppity. (laughs)

  7. All things in moderation. A balanced diet is a healthy diet.
    .
    The Dalai Lama once said “I should be a vegetarian, but have to have my meat.” Just eat less of it, especially beef. Cattle are bad for the environment.
    .
    Human bodies need salt, but too much can cause high blood pressure. Our body also requires carbs; in excess they result in increased cholesterol. Both can worsen our quality of life and shorten our lifespan.
    .
    Common sense in eating can make us healthier and happier.

      1. Jim

        It is true. I eat what others would call a terrible diet and have for years, but I only get healthier because it is all Prana (BP now 110/70, active pulse 59) – there really isn’t any high sodium or cholesterol or too many empty calories or high sugar or any of those things in isolation – We know it is God who sustains us, always. If we cannot find God in everything we choose to ingest, it is not a problem with the food. 🙂

        1. Alas, so have I. But for this physiology, it has had an impact on the physical itself. I’m having to start paying more attention to it and am now on a weight loss program.
          .
          Genetics may also be in play. Or we can call that God’s program, also in everything we ingest. 🙂

          1. Jim

            Yes, we naturally have a profound identification with our physical body and attachment to it. So it can be an easy thing to kind of get obsessed over.
            *
            Once the obstacles were resolved towards a more Cosmic body, any excess weight went away effortlessly (35 lbs. in about two months)
            *
            What remained is a relationship between the sustenance of the body and daily life, without much thought as to how that is accomplished. The composition of the body became less dense too, and that is sensed, so it is easy to sustain the body – a little hunger, and a little food, whatever.
            *
            The relationship between what is eaten to culture sattva and purity no longer matters, as everything ingested results in strengthening the relationship of Divinity and daily activity. It is literally impossible for this not to occur, so food becomes nearly inconsequential, with no loss of health, clarity, strength, stamina, or sensitivity, regardless.
            *
            Simply another aspect of freedom and knowledge through living Totality; the body and mind sustain themselves effortlessly as servants of Brahman. 🙂

            1. Hi Jim
              The experience here was much the same except that the weight didn’t peel off by itself. There has been some dynamics in play to resolve. But once I stepped in to the program, its been doing such at a similar rate.
              .
              An awake jyotishi I know recently commented on how the flavours of the dasha period influence the experience of the current stage.
              .
              Some interesting insights on types and mechanics of Vasanas has also come up that I’ll write up in due course…

            2. Bernie

              “ The relationship between what is eaten to culture sattva and purity no longer matters, as everything ingested results in strengthening the relationship of Divinity and daily activity. It is literally impossible for this not to occur, so food becomes nearly inconsequential, with no loss of health, clarity, strength, stamina, or sensitivity, regardless.”,
              and:
              “Simply another aspect of freedom and knowledge through living Totality…”

              Hi Jim, you remind me very much of Ram Dass’s guru – Neem Karoli Baba, who ingested Ram Dass’s whole bottle of LSD pills and nothing happened, to the shock of everyone around the guru. Ram Dass thought his guru would die any minute after ingestion, but nothing happened!

              So, Reality is really different in different states/stages of consciousness. What is true in one state/stage may not be true anymore at another state/stage of development. If Neem Karoli Baba were not established in his highly awakened state, I’m sure he’d be dead in a few minutes

              1. Hi Bernie
                Yes, this is related but also indicates it’s very well integrated. The stages happen in consciousness, etc but the body takes much longer to catch up. As it does, the rules change a great deal. The Yoga sutra tells us, for example, that when we gain mastery over the elements, we gain perfection of the body and indestructibility of its characteristics.
                .
                There can be relative degrees of this too. If there was anyone totally awake, the golden age would already be here.

              2. Jim

                Hi Bernie, I don’t know about all the LSD – what an extreme example! The one thing I ingest sparingly is alcohol – very insidious that stuff. Also psychedelics and hard drugs are really awful – sh*t really – I have lived a colorful life and done damned near everything. Here’s a heresy for you: tobacco is not as harmful as thought. Also weed as a schedule one drug? pa-leeze…
                *
                The main point is just as you say – once Being is established deeply, nothing can disturb it, along with an open heart and resolute intellect. Living Brahman/Totality there is nothing to be afraid of, and life is more fun! 🙂

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