After I read Celedra’s post on her journey toward raw/living foods I began to reflect on what has inspired my own journey toward a decidedly non-Standard American Diet as well as the spiritual aspects of this path.
My parents raised my brother and I vegetarian from birth and we regularly ate things like brown rice and lentils purchased in bulk. Dinner usually included lots of fresh produce cooked into soups, stir-frys and other vegetable-based dishes.
But we also frequently ate dairy products and processed convenience foods (that of course my brother and I begged for). It wasn’t until my late teen years and my deeper intuition began to develop, that I realized how poorly I responded to animal and chemical ingredients on all levels: body, mind and spirit.
Going Raw? Process, Progress and Intuition
Coming to the understanding that my body required a different quality of fuel wasn’t as simple as heeding the warning of physical symptoms because often symptoms could surface many hours or even days after eating the food. Sometimes certain undesirable foods (ice cream!) honestly left me feeling fine yet I knew they didn’t really support the kind of mind-body-spirit health I was after.
My intuition nudged me in the direction of studying nutrition and how the body actually works. I consulted naturopaths, personal trainers and nutritionists and read book after book. I found that being able to visualize what was actually happening with the food once it got into my system was critical to deciphering and acting from some of the intuitive information I received.
The path of mindful eating I began as a teen is still a work in progress. I began with avoiding artificial ingredients and experimented with cutting out dairy products. Later I cut out high fructose corn syrup and committed to eating organic. Then two years ago I finally removed all animal ingredients from my diet (and my life). With each level of change I noticed feeling increasingly more balanced overall. This year I’m leaving behind sugar and am drawn more and more toward raw/living food. In addition to the wonderful books and blogs Celedra mentioned in her post, one of my favorite resources is an ebook called The Lazy Raw Foodists Guide by Laura Bruno.
Laura cites the pursuit of freedom as a big part of her raw/living foods lifestyle. She advocates flexibility and openness to see where experimenting with what and how you eat can take you. To me this really speaks to the high level of curiosity, mindfulness and conscious intention involved in nourishing yourself holistically. Similar to the teachings of many spiritual paths, this approach emphasizes that the wisdom we so desperately search for is actually to be found within ourselves.
Openness, Flexibility and Freedom from Attachment
At this point my body and intuition lead me to continue eating (high-quality organic) cooked food – usually a serving or two of grains and a serving or two of legumes each day in addition to nuts, seeds and lots of fresh fruits and veggies. This is what feels right for me now. It is sustainable and open ended - I’m letting it be a process that I observe with curiosity while being open to change as it is needed, rather than being imprisoned by attachment.
Mindful eating is the perfect opportunity to work with larger spiritual themes like attachment because it is often our attachment to certain foods and/or associated feelings that leads us to continue the habit of eating them even when they do not support the health of our minds, bodies or spirits. (To be clear there is a strong biochemical and possibly genetic component involved in cravings and our ability to resist them). On the flip-side attachment to a very rigid definition of success (I must weigh no more than 120 pounds or I must never eat cake) is equally detrimental to our overall health and well-being.
In addition to leading me to examine what I am attached to, both the practice of mindful eating and the Buddhist teachings I study have inspired me to approach each moment, each decision, each interaction with openness, flexibility and compassion. Three essential traits of an awakened heart.
This allows me to relax about rules and absolutes. I don’t have to be perfect! My objective isn’t necessarily to eat 100% or even any particular percentage of raw food, but it is to arrive at a way of eating that brings me the highest level of health and happiness. Often that involves a green smoothie or zucchini ‘pasta’ and other times black bean soup or agave-sweetened birthday cake cooked with love from scratch in my own kitchen.