By Mr. Achal Kumar, E-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
We are all familiar with the saying, "the way to a person's heart is through his or her stomach", firmly connecting our emotions to our physical body. And yet, ancient Jain & Vedic wisdom tells us that the heart is also the seat of the soul, the very essence of our being, the soul which breathes life into our body, which radiates love, knowingness and bliss into every aspect of our existence. So, we can see that the food we eat not only nourishes us physically but also emotionally and, ultimately, spiritually. The air we breathe and the food we eat are the main sustainers of life. As society has progressed over the last few decades, much has been done to improve the quality of our air, removing pollutants and reducing the risks from 'second-hand' smoke. However, this same progress, has caused a general decline in our eating habits. Nowadays, many people have relegated eating from the sacred act that it should be, to a necessity that interferes with the 'more important' things in life. We eat meals watching television, working at the computer or driving our cars. We do business 'over lunch' and, for the sake of fashion, we torture ourselves with every new diet that comes along. To live a physically, emotionally and spiritually balanced life, we must consider, not only what we eat, but how we eat it and how that food is metabolized.
According to the Jain scriptures, food is an expression of the cosmic intelligence of the entire universe. The process of preparing, eating, digesting and assimilating food, enlivens that intelligence in our physiology. Before you bite into your next apple, pause for a moment and see the whole universe reflected in that fruit. Smell the warm earth in which the tree grew, feel the sun and rain nurturing it, the breeze gently rocking it. See the farmer who picked the apple, feel his rough hand, listen to the laughter of his helping children. Hear the clatter of the noisy fruit market and the cashier asking, "paper or plastic" as you paid for the apple. All these experiences and many more are contained in that apple and in everything we eat.
The stress and strain of always eating the best food in the correct manner will probably end up causing you more harm than the goodness gained from the food. So, we do the best we can but try to follow a few simple and yet effective guidelines.
Preparation: Prepare food with love and attention. Whenever you prepare a meal, think of it as an offering to God. The energy and emotions of you and everyone else who comes into contact with your food will, to some extent, be reflected in that food.
Digestion: A strong, healthy digestion is essential to the proper assimilation of our food. You can eat the best organic food in the world but, if your digestion is weak, you'll get little nourishment from it. On the other hand, with a strong digestive fire, you'll get benefit from eating just about anything. If your digestion is weak, favor cooked rather than raw foods and fruits and vegetables. Try chewing a small slice of fresh ginger before your meal to make sure the fire is lit. Avoid ice-cold foods and drinks at mealtimes, these will definitely dull the digestion. Minimize snacking between meals, your digestion needs time to rest too.
What to eat: Much has been said recently about food additives so, wherever possible buy organic foods, particularly dairy products. Fresh food contains what is known as prana or life-force, which when eaten, enriches our Being. Try to favor as much fresh food as possible in your diet and minimize the 'lifeless', processed and package items. Whether to be a vegetarian, is really a personal choice. From a health perspective, a vegetarian diet is much easier to digest and is therefore less work on the body. From a spiritual point of view, avoiding foods that cause harm to other sentient beings is preferred. However, let major changes to your diet come naturally in their own time. Ask your body how it feels after eating a certain food, it will ultimately guide you in the right direction.
How to eat: How we eat is as important as what we eat. The emotions we are experiencing when we eat will be ingested along with the meal. Don't eat when you are emotionally upset, eat in a quiet setting with the minimum of disturbances, pay attention to your food, not the television, newspaper, computer or road. Eat slowly, chewing the food completely, try putting down your fork or spoon between bites. Only eat when you are hungry and stop when you start to feel full, avoid overeating. Eat a light breakfast and dinner and make lunch your main meal when your digestion is at its strongest. Take a few minutes to sit quietly after a meal, before taking a short walk to aid your digestion. But most of all, enjoy your meals. Don't deprive yourself of something you really love (unless for medical reasons). Be moderate and remember that if something makes you feel totally wonderful, it can't be completely bad for you!