Thursday, May 13, 2010

Alchemy of Eating

Today, I'm a little wistful about missing dairy. What helped was to re-read some great text from Gurumayi and I'm good now.  I'm sated. It's amazing to me how reconnection to the deeper purpose of food helps me feel full, satisfied, contented. There's a woman in a 12-step food program who once stated that her food addiction and insatiable foodie appetite was really a God-shaped hole, however you conceive God or Higher Power or Higher Self to be. Geneen Roth just published the same concept in her new book, Women Food and God. Before you wig out that I'm getting all God-squad on you, please know that I've wrestled for 43 years over my concept of Higher Power, and what resonates for me is the idea of inner divinity, a sense of the Higher Self whose voice when we can hear when we open to it and deeply listen.

In any case, Gurumayi helps me fill my hole. Below is excerpted from her book Yoga of Discipline.

Partaking of food should become worship. When food is eaten as a sacred ritual, the effect it has on you is quite extraordinary. When you eat, it should become a puja, worship.

When you sit before your food, offer a prayer. Offer your gratitude to the earth that has produced this food. Offer your gratitude to al the people who have made it possible for you to have this food today. 

Look at your food... See it as filled with prana, the life-force.

Reflect on the value of food, and why you want to eat it -- to sustain your body so that you can pursue your sadhana with vigor, so you can offer your service to God, to humanity.

Familiarize yourself with your stomach, and offer your homage to the divine inner fire will digest your food. Put your mind and your heart in a very happy state, a blissful state, by remembering good things in your life, by remembering happy stories. Let there be laughter.

Then begin to eat the food as if it were nectar.

Every morsel of food that you put in your mouth should be chewed and chewed until it becomes paste-like; then you swallow it. As you chew, let the fire of love, devoption, and faith in God be mixed with each mouthful. In this way, partaking of food becomes worship.

There are some other guidelines that are worth following with great care. The food you eat must be light enough to digest easily, beautiful to look at, and nourishing in its effect. 

Seekers who sincerely practice this discipline in eating sometimes ask what to do when they feel hungry between meals. Just as it is important to understand food as God, in the same way, it is crucial to develop a new awareness about hunger. A healthy amount of hunger is very good. You should learn to recognize that it is actually hunger for God. This is why the Sufis say, "Place hunger in the soul; do not regard it with contempt." If you dampen your hunger by eating every time you feel it, you will kill your hunger for God. You don't want to extinguish the fire of hunger for God. That is priceless. If you are hungry for God, cherish that. You are very fortunate. If you let it blaze, it will become hunger for Truth. This is what the Sufis call "the alchemy of hunger." This hunger is very fulfilling' this hunger is what keeps your heart in God's heart. It is this hunger for God that actually sustains you even more than food.

And then in a later essay, Gurumayi discusses the need for reverence and restraint in eating.

Discipline must become the foundation of one's life. When it comes to the experience of the highest Truth, serenity of mind is essential. And that serenity is the fruit of consistent discipline. 

When the senses are turned outward and allowed to go anywhere they want, they take a person reeling into an abyss of exhaustion and despair. Therefore, it is essential to bring them into the safe harbor of discipline.

Depending on what food you eat, you will have a mind filled with agitation or with tranquility. Depending on what food you eat, you will have good relationships with people or terrible relationships. The food you eat determines what you feel, what you think and what you do. 
When restraint and reverence become part of your daily eating, then your life is filled with happiness and worship. 

The point of discipline in eating is to increase your awareness of food, of your eating habits, and of the greatness of living. You have to eat because you are alive. You are alive to achieve a higher aim, to bring you to your true destination -- and that is to know God, to love God, to be aware of the divine presence, to experience the Shakti in your own body, to live in the Truth. You are alive to activate the cells in the brain, to activate the consciousness in the mind, to activate the purity of the heart so that you can listen to other people, so that you can be with others without feeling burdened by their presence, so you can experience ecstasy flowing through your veins.

-- Gurumayi in The Yoga of Discipline


Unknown said...

Great pic. She's a GG--gorgeous guru! Love the last part about ecstasy flowing through our veins. All I resist here, for myself, is chewing everything to a paste. Maybe that's best digestively and spiritually, I don't know. It just really doesn't appeal to me. May try it a bit, though, to see. Otherwise, some excellent and inspiring reminders here. Thanks, SGMD!

Dr. Sara Gottfried, MD said...

chew-to-paste: i must agree. but getting to that liquid place is so good for your digestion and there is something alchemical about slowing down the chewing that that level. lovely to hear from you. xoxo sgmd

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I'm an organic gynecologist, yoga teacher + writer. I earn a living partnering with women to get them vital and self-realized again. We're born that way, but often fall off the path. Let's take your lousy mood and fatigue, and transform it into something sacred and useful.