Since I came over all virtuous at New Years, and have been exercising and eating well, I’ve returned to the whole health and diet scene. But with it has returned a sense of what put me off before, in years gone by when I was living in the heart of the holistic health scene.
Its simply this: there is a strong belief that if only I could find the right X (sprout, juicer, water ionizer, blend of carbs and protein, etc) THEN I’LL BE WHOLE!
When put this way, it becomes clear that this is but the same type of process that we see elsewhere: believing wholeness will finally land when I get a raise, corner office, Audi A4, hot girlfriend… In this case the chase is for the perfect organic food supplement, alkaline water, raw food regime, and so forth. But the process is identical.
Note the belief that projects ‘wholeness’ onto one object after another. Failing to really grok that wholeness, happiness, health and general abundance does not reside in any physical object - naive people like me continue to chase after it, like chasing a rainbow. This is the definition of ignorance in a Buddhist concept. In the Highest Middle Way philosophy, things exist in dependence on a mind labeling them as such. E.g. someone is not inherently ‘annoying’: we just think they are. A picture is not inherently ‘beautiful’, though we honestly feel it is. A food is not inherently ‘healthy’, fire is not inherently ‘hot’, air is not inherently ’soft’: even though it may very validly seem that way to you.
And as soon as we get the great juicer, then we hear that actually we need to have more alkaline water. And as soon as we get the water ionizer, we find out we must have ceramic knives….. One of the fascinating things about this process is that it just goes on and on. We may hope that sometime soon, perhaps next month, our health regime will truly settle down in perfection… but it never happens. This is easy to see: you can meet people who have been doing the ‘optimum health’ trip for decades, and yet they are constantly dissatisfied, seeking the next cutting edge health technology.
Then there is an extra sting in the tail: we think we’re so much better than other people because we’re looking for health the natural way. We look down our noses at people who we see as either foolish slaves to the allopathic mainstream medical establishment, or the wicked, deceitful purveyors of pharaceuticals who deliberately enmesh people in false information and condemn them to a live lived through perscription drugs. Meanwhile, we are feeling ever so good about ourselves, as we compare ourselves to others. Because our goal seems to transcendent compared to the crass goal of money and fame, we get so full of ourselves and often become more blind and self righteous than any Gordon Gecko.
To summarize so far: we are on a wild goose chase for optimum health, condemned to seek but never find, because we are always looking for the source of health and wellness where it can never be: in physical things (plants, water, crystals, air, whatever). So, naturally, though we aquire these things, we never quite attain a lasting state of health - there is always more to get. Thus we keep on seeking.
Then, additionally, as we go about the quest, we get more and more jaded and aloof and arrogant.
Lord Buddha, manifesting as a monk, would eat whatever was given to Him. Jesus ate bread and wine and meat. There are countless stories of saints eating all sorts of things - Paramahansa Yogananda recounts a story of a saint who could eat burning metal. Rarely do you hear stories about saints who are fussy eaters. Yet, fools like myself become extremely fussy eaters, thinking that if only we a bit more choosy, we’d definitely manifest quantum health and elevate our hertz frequencies to enlightenment.
I love another anecdote I heard Paramahansa Yogananda say. Here’s how I remember it: “A man came to me and told me he found the key to eternal youth. ‘Don’t tell me,’ I said to him, ‘carrot juice!’. ‘Yes, carrot juice. I drink 3 glasses ever day and look at me, I don’t look a day over 65!’. ‘Listen to me, when Saint Peter comes for you, all the carrot juice in the world isn’t going to stop him! Don’t fool yourself, apply yourself to deep meditation, and find what eternal youth really means!’”.
Another anecdote: Kenneth Wapnick had just taught a course on A Course In Miracles (which is a very deep study, IMHO). A young man comes up to him at the end and says “I’m happy to say that I can see you are spiritually advanced.”. “Really”, says Kenneth, “how do you know that?”. “Because you don’t drink coffee, and you haven’t had to go to the bathroom too often during this weekend.”. Incidently, A Course In Miracles treats this same theme, presenting it as the idea of ’specialness’: we project ’specialness’ onto things and people, and from this arises a whole world of confusion.
Another anecdote: At a retreat with Shri Mata Amritanandamayi, I met a young American woman who had become a Brahmachari and was travelling with Amma and living at the ashram in India. “What’s it like?” I asked. “The food isn’t so good.” she said.
Ironically, it is exactly this quest that causes our sickness and death. The whole process of imagining happiness resides in X (whether its a sprout, BMW, line of charlie), and the whole quest to get X which arises from that basic misunderstanding, is the process of samsara. Samara, as in a verb: ‘to samsara’. And while we samsara, we always end up with a body (some exceptions are births in the formless realm) and with the body comes its inevitable decay and death. So, the very way we are seeking health ensure we never reach it.
So does that mean we eat anything? No. Of course we make good choices about food, diet and exercise. But with a different understanding: health comes form taking care of other people. If we wish to care for others, if we speak in a way that protects others lives, if we act to protect others lives, then we create the karma to see ourselves as healthy. If we have that karma, we will experience health. No matter what we eat. If we don’t have that karma, we will experience sickness, no matter what we eat.
This is a Buddhist understanding of how health comes about.
For a case in point, check out my buddy Wade Lightheart’s site: www.wadelightheart.com