Food: A Word

14.1.13

In Mysore

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."  
- Virginia Woolf

I've had an interesting relationship with food over the years. I guess many of you out there could say the same. I had a father who was into organic foods and farmers markets loooong before it became fashionable to do so. Quite honestly, at the time of my youth it was a little embarrassing. You know how it is, to be at the age where it seems beneficial to be like everyone else. Thankfully, I outgrew this mentality. Yes, my father was a nutritional sleuth, reading labels like the real purity detective that he was. I remember many times looking up at him, patiently waiting, to get the nod of approval for something I felt I desperately needed. Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms are what every kid needs! So I thought. On most occasions my dad gave me a flat out, no. Sometimes, however, he would say, yes! If, and only if, it met the nutritional standards he was looking for. To this day I never quite figured out what they were. All I know is there were never flashy colors floating in my milk while eating my morning cereal. C'mon, feel sorry for me.

I always felt a bit strange when my father would take me to the out of the way, one store of it's kind, natural food store. It stood on the funky edge of town. Nothing like the flashy grocery stores that I was glamoured by, or like the Whole Foods ultra hippie-chic of today. No, here there were huge barrels of bulk foods, dusty shelves, teas, and dried herbs. I always remember the smell. It was strange. Yeah, it smelled natural, not antiseptic, which I thought was natural. Of course my father would always school me on the true ways of the world. How crazy our society had become. How detached we were from nature and our environment. How essential it was to have your own garden. The importance of composting! The relevance of recycling. Trees are our friends! Why isn't anything made in America anymore?!! At that time I thought he was a bit quirky, eccentric even. Now I know different. I can appreciate all that he was trying to teach me at the time, even though I didn't quite get it. However, on a deeper level what he instilled in me sunk in. A seed was planted. I just didn't know it at the time.

Fast forward. I went through a junk food rebellion, but it never really stuck. It never felt right. The bigger lesson is I went through a phase where food became a means to an end. Obviously, I learned the importance of eating healthy, but in reality it become just another concept or expectation I needed to fulfill. In that, I never really gave myself the freedom to connect consciously to my food. A problem. More or less, I was fitting myself into various diet labels. First, I became vegetarian to my mother's dismay. Then to low fat, the Zone, high protein/no carb, rawfood, living foods, raw food vegan, vegan, the list goes on and on. During those years I just couldn't help it, it was a phase of identification and experimentation. I thirsted on learning about nutrition and longevity.

Delving deeper into yoga practice I clearly felt the connection between the food I ate, and how it affected my practice on into day to day life. The gift of yoga; becoming in tune with bodily energies and cycles, call it body wisdom. Well, not so fast. Even though I was able to intuit my bodily rhythms at a higher level I was still using food as a means to an end. Meaning, asking myself questions such as, will it give me energy? Will it help make me look good? Is this yogic? AHIMSA!? Yes, it is true Ahimsa is important, but do we not also have Satya, as well? Truth. I still wasn't connecting to my food or to my truth. What was making me feel good? What was making me feel whole, sustained, nurtured, and nourished? Important questions. Questions that go much deeper than diet labels. Yes, I know the phrase, "you are what you eat." But, this isn't what I was driving at. It went even deeper. What was my relationship with the food I was consuming? The vital question. This is what I was missing all along. This is what my father always knew. Ironic. The essential element had always been right under my very nose, as clear as day, except I was as blind as a bat. It was my full circle moment.

At present, I feel uncomfortable with diet labels. I don't want what I eat to be my identity. Through the years I've seen it all. I've seen people preach veganism for the sake of nonviolence, who were quite frankly, not even all that nice. I've been around meat-eaters who have hearts of gold. I've seen the opposite. I mean, can we really eat our way to God? Does what we eat make us better human beings? Can we be arrogant and self-righteous about our diets and ideals? Obviously, I have many more questions than answers. Are there more health conscious ways of eating? Definitely YES. However, from what I've been exposed to there's much more to the story when it comes to diet and what is good for the planet, ultimately ourselves. The ways of mass agriculture have done massive harm to our natural environments, and we all know the horrors of factory farmed meats. Where's the balance? We've lost it.

I guess it goes back to the question. What is our relationship with our food? Is it destructive and violent? Is it humane and just? Is it in balance with ourselves and our surroundings? Again, important questions to look at. As I've become more connected to the foods that I eat, as a best practice, knowing where and how my food got to my table has become more important to me; choosing to eat at the level of cause, not the effect.

Ultimately, I have and will go through my eating ups and downs, but truthfully, nourishing myself from the inside out has proved it's importance over the years versus trying to fulfill some exterior label or image. When it comes to diet I will never live in absolutes because this is still using the outside as a marker. The only Absolute is on the inside. If I connect here first then my choices on the outside become easy one's to make. 

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