3 Things I learnt about Food from Living at a Yoga Centre
I start with Gratitude and in truth, I could end the list with Gratitude, as well. It is the most basic and difficult concept to understand and appreciate in our world. How does Gratitude impact the food industry? Every-way! A good will take food in its rawest form and manipulates it through a combination of other foods and temperatures to produces the desired outcome. So most good cooks realize the importance of having great raw foods, they search to find the best supplies from the best farmers and I have heard more than once, a Chef is only as good as their ingredients. So they have Gratitude to Farmers who through great effort and passion produce the very best foods that they can. But this is the basic level of Gratitude and not one I learned at the Yoga Centre, so let us look at the next level.
Most of the foods that we eat today didn't start in the form as we know them. Carrots, for instance, existed but orange carrots weren't common and didn't have the sweetness that we now know them to have. Some Dutch scientists in the 17th century, using a technique called "selective breeding" a concept that would take too long for me to explain properly but essentially they "created" a new orange, sweet version of the carrot. So many of our modern foods were selectively bred, including wine grapes and bananas to name just a couple of other examples. In some cases, without selective breeding, the foods would have simply disappeared (like the wine grape) and so when we eat and enjoy these foods it is a good idea to take a moment and think about the effort that it took to "create" that food. And it is at this moment that we express our Gratitude to all the people, though we might not know their names, have made our foods readily available in our world today.
But I want to focus on something a bit more forgotten, the food. Some people today, when expressing their Gratitude will thank Mother Earth but throughout the history of humankind, there has been a variety of Agricultural Gods that people of prayed to Abellio, Hermes, Mahakala, Xochipilli to name a few. The Gods roles varied in degrees with the customs or the times but one commonality was for every successful harvest there was some type of acknowledgment or feast in honor of the Gods. We have painfully stepped away from these customs of old. I don't want to suggest that people start to believe in Hermes but we have become a culture and a society of intelligent ignorance. What I mean, is that the mystery of agriculture is gone, we have dissected, tested and proven how things grow and why they want in the coldest, clinical manner possible. This isn't completely bad, there is more food now in the world than ever before but what it has robbed us of is appreciation. When the Gods would grant a good harvest to a village or farmer, there was an immense appreciation to the Gods for favoring them and the farmer or village knew that the Gods might not favor them again next year, so every grain, fruit, vegetable was used and nothing was ever thrown out, doing so would anger the Gods. Now fast forward to today, hardly anyone prays to an agricultural God, if they pray to a God at all. And food waste as never been higher. We have enough food in the world to feed the entire planet but we throw out so much of it there is still great masses of humanity that hardly has any food to survive. We have forgotten to have Gratitude for the food and the environment in which our food grows. And it is this Gratitude that I learned from the Yoga Centre. A Gratitude for the environment around us, for the vegetables themselves and a mystery that binds all human and animal kind, why we must eat.
2. Food Affects the Body
This seems like a simple truth. We know that eating an orange once in a while, for example, will prevent scurvy, something that plagued the world a few hundred years ago and it wasn't until a publication in 1753 that said the cure for scurvy was citrus fruits (vitamin C) that enabled us to treat scurvy on mass. So the concept that food has a dramatic effect on our bodies has been around, most likely since even before we were conscious of what food is. But so often, like children listening to something that we don't want to hear, we put hands around our ears and don't listen anymore, thinking that we know the truth and thanks to science we have been able to determine and replicate with ease the benefits of some of the foods and bacteria that exist in our world.
Leaves from a Willow Tree was the precursor to Aspirin and even today Cows when having pains will seek out a Willow Tree to find some relief, so most of what we know as medicine today contains some roots in the agriculture world. Yet, when someone tells us that our pre-made food (meat or vegetarian, it makes little difference both contain too much fat and salt) is, in fact, the very thing that is making us obese or sick, we play ignorance and put our hands to our ears. "It's just a burger and fries", or "I normally eat healthily but I do love a bag of chips (crisps) once in a while". The truth is that we are aware that the food we eat as an effect on our body when it is convenient and we ignore it when it is not. I have been guilty of this many times in my life, I am just now starting to learn to listen to my body and every day that I choose to listen to my body, I feel stronger and have a lot more energy and the days that I ignore it, I pay the price with lethargy, upset stomach, and a general sense that something is amiss. But there can be no greater example of the true power of food than when you don't eat garlic or onions for a couple of years. A Yogic diet believes that onions and garlic create "negative prana" and without getting too much into this, that means that someone who eats garlic and onions will have a harder time meditating as onion and garlic create a disturbance in the mind. Now, before you shake that off as hippy talk or something that is physcosamatic, there is much of the food and science world that is now catching up with the world of the Yogi. (spoiler: future article) I know the effects of not eating garlic and onions as I didn't eat onion or garlic for almost 3 years. I can't say for sure that my mediation was any better but I can tell you that my body has yet to recover, even now, when I eat garlic or onions my body produces a symphony of sounds and smells, not pleasant for anyone around. I know what most people are saying, garlic has a proven health benefit, which it does and which I agree with but raw garlic is of what is of benefit to the body, not cooked.
Anything that enters our system will have an impact on our body. Think that drinking a Coca-cola doesn't have an impact? Or how about that energy drink? What about that burger and fries we got from the drive-thru? We live in a society that is teaching us that making foods from scratch is a wasted effort, that it is cheaper, easier and better to buy a pre-made version than one made from scratch. The result, we are getting dumber and lazier. All food has a nutritional value and a peak time when that food is at its highest nutritional value. If you have an apple tree in your backyard and you let the apples ripe on the tree, the nutritional value will be higher than an apple that you bought from a grocery store that was picked when it was still unripe, so that when shipped across the globe and arrive at your grocery store ripe-ish.
As we consume more of these foods that have little nutritional value our body needs more of these foods to get the nutrition that it needs. When we eat a burger and fries, a short time later we will feel hungry again and so we grab a bag of chips to fill the gap and a short time later we are hungry again, and on and on. But we can stop this by eating real food, that is picked when ripe and not before. Coca-cola and energy drinks are designed to give you no lasting relief and so that you will become dependent, which creates greater sales for the companies. We believe so much in these pre-made sugary, salty and fatty foods that even science that we hold on to in other areas of our life, we ignore. The companies say that science isn't to be believed and so we continue to go to McDonald's drink a Coke, eat a pre-made pizza and think it's our guilty little treat.
3. How We Eat is as Important as What We Eat
Have you ever eaten something, almost by habit and before you even take your eyes off of your phone, or stop thinking about work, your food is gone?
There is a problem with this style of eating, science is discovering is that when we are distracted and un-focused we need more food to feel fulfilled and most likely sometime later we will need to snack. Why this is, is still unknown, there are many theories but what is proven is that paying attention to what you are eating will create a quicker sensation of being full. Almost all belief systems have some type of quiet contemplation built into the meal times, some it is total silence and for some, it's easy and light conversation. Like most spiritual reasoning there is a real-world practicality to the reasoning, even back thousands of years ago, people knew that focusing on what you are doing and what you are eating would have a tremendous impact on your health. This goes together with another concept that when we are eating (in truth anytime) our bodies are affected by the what is happening around. So if you are eating and there is an angry, violent news program going on in the background, your body will have a harder time digesting the food that you are eating.
There is no use in buying a local, organic apple only to eat it when we are surrounded by negative images and sounds, our bodies won't absorb the nutrition as well as if we were to eat the body in a pleasant environment. I am not going to tell you what your environment is negative and what is positive, that is up to you, so you have to listen to your body and see how it is reacting, in its surrounding. For me, even a simple suggestion of politics will send me into an angry state; yet, I know some that find comfort in the discussion of politics. We are all different.
The most important thing that we can do for ourselves and for the world, is starting to listen to our bodies. Listen to what makes them happy and what makes them sad and act upon those feelings, our bodies want to be happy, they want to be connected, they are OUR vessel, not some corporation looking to make even more money.