Dietary Shifts and Food Needs in the Spiritual Awakening Process

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Figuring out a "Maize" of Dietary Needs
Nothing is left out on the spiritual path, and not surprisingly, the body has a wide variety of shifts as it is transformed after a spiritual awakening. Since food is one of the most fundamental building blocks of the body, dietary changes often arise as people come into greater conscious awareness of their bodies.

Now, I want to immediately pause and emphasize that if you need to make dietary changes, I highly recommend talking to a health professional—think doctor, dietitian, and so forth. They don’t need to know anything about spirituality to help you create a better diet for yourself, and ultimately, there is no “spiritual diet” to achieve. There is just eating to nourish yourself. This is what food is for.

I am also aware that we live in a time of great change, and there are a lot of issues tied in with our food such as genetic modification; contamination from pesticides, plastics, and other things; animal husbandry and cruelty issues; and more. Most of these things are issues the Buddha and other spiritual teachers never had to consider when discussing spirituality!

But let’s not get ahead of the topic. First, let us start by delving into the topic of coming into awareness of our body's true dietary needs as we dissolve ego ideas and attachments.

The Food You Eat and What Your Body Wants

Most people eat what they are familiar with, and those preferences generally come out of childhood. Some people diverge from their familial diet, but many others stay eating the same food that they learned when they were young. For example, many people are used to eating three meals a day, and they’re used to eating heavily of animal protein and simple carbohydrates. In a different family, a person may be used to eating more vegetarian and more sporadically throughout the day. I’m not setting up one way as better than the other; I merely am pointing to the fact that people can have very different relationships with food depending on their upbringing. Generally, that upbringing determines what and how people eat.

However, many people are not actually eating what their bodies' want.

Unwriting Family Beliefs and Behavior Patterns

Awakening to Your Body’s Actual Needs

Every body is different, and so we learn to appreciate our personal needs as we become more conscious. Some people could be completely in sync with their body needs and never really need to go through a phase of dietary re-adjustment on their spiritual journeys. But many other people will need to change, and to change consciously starts by listening to the body.

One of the first things that you’ll notice about the body is that it has no ideological agenda. It just wants to be taken care of. Yet these days more and more people have placed ideological agendas on their bodies. Idealized body shapes cause people to try and lose or gain weight to achieve certain ways of looking. Other agendas have decided that certain types of food aren’t “ethical” to eat and cause people to deprive themselves of that nourishment. Let me be clear: ethics is important. Ethics derived from the clarity of the awakened presence is one thing. Ethics derived from the ego is a whole other ballgame, and it tends to be corrupted by many core issues.

So before we get into any ethics and ideas about what we should be eating, let’s start by listening to the one thing that knows the clearest about nourishment—our bodies.

Spirituality, Food Ideologies, and Diets

Getting Support for Dietary Changes

As we listen, we’ll better notice when we feel nourished or hungry by what we’re eating. In paying attention more regularly to your body’s responses to different foods, you can get quicker at sensing if you are eating the right stuff or the wrong kinds of food.

And unfortunately, there are a lot of “wrong foods,” meaning that they are just not healthy for human beings. They don’t provide appropriate nutrients. Many of these unhealthy foods are just about momentarily feeling good, and when that feeling is gone, the person is hungry again. But the stuff that does nourish us tends to help us maintain our energy levels throughout the day, think more clearly, handle our emotions better, and generally feel good about ourselves.

Sometimes after awakening, the body intuitively tells us to fast. Fasting can be a really useful way to reset the body, and this is another situation where I recommend getting support from a health professional. Fasting is a powerful tool, but many people abuse it. Some fast inappropriately and cause unnecessary malnutrition. I mean seriously—people are doing some really crazy things to their bodies! So I recommend learning about fasting before doing it and talking to a health professional. Everyone’s health situation is different, and you need to honor your particular health situation. When used correctly, fasting really can help in increasing clarity.

Furthermore, getting advice and researching food and food combinations that work well together are helpful steps. Doing this kind of diligence can help you avoid issues that crop up such as eating something that doesn’t work for you when you are trying something new. Different allergies or irritations caused by certain types of food can surprise people, but with the help of a professional, you can be aware of them and know what they are if they happen. That extra bit of knowledge can ease your mind while awakening is shifting so many other things at the same time.

The Gift of a Balanced Body

If the body is improperly nourished or is not being transitioned appropriately to a healthy diet, a person will feel even more imbalanced. Imbalances in the body can be more than a little distressing. There are so many ways that people can get nutritionally imbalanced that I won’t try to mention them, and unfortunately, some people can overreact from these imbalanced sensations. Then, they may try to compensate with different types of supplements, food, or minerals based on the latest spiritual food fad. The people who’ve had the worst physical problems on the spiritual path that I am aware of have been those who have overreacted in such a way. People can truly harm their bodies by eating and supplementing wrong.

Overreacting to Your Spiritual Transformation

Conversely, having the body feeling nourished and healthy on the dietary side feels great. It also helps with being clear about many new or unusual body sensations that arise after awakening. It’s easier to pinpoint issues in the different areas of the body and put words to them when the body is well-nourished. The body isn’t sending other signals caused by malnourishment that mix in with signals about releasing ego issues that are held in the body. So being healthy makes everything easier to interpret.

To be sure, learning to interpret body sensations around spiritual shifts is challenging. I teach a lot of people the “body language” in my sessions to help them better delineate between an energetic shift from another issue. This interpreting is so much easier for a person to do when they are eating healthy and are balanced.

Honoring Your Body’s Uniqueness

Okay, so you’ll notice I haven’t told you what to eat and what not to eat at this point in the blog post.

And I’m not going to.

Thousands of people will read this post, and every one of you has a different body with different health conditions. There is no way that I could write a diet to fit all of you. If anything, the awakened path will lead you to appreciate your uniqueness and better honor your individual body. A body that is taken care of and nourished appropriately will help you to lead a much more enjoyable life overall.

And yes, there are spiritual traditions out there with all kinds of dietary recommendations, but the more you listen to your body, the better you will be able to decide if what they recommend is true for you.

Breaking Apart Food Myths

Now, let’s move on to some of the challenges we’re facing in today’s day and age regarding food.

Firstly, there are so many ideas about food right now that it’s crazy. There are also so many legitimate issues with food. It’s really confusing. I am sure some of you want me to give you a simple list of food to have in your spiritual diet and when and how to eat them to manage all these issues. But that’s not the reality we live in.

And this reality continues to change. The following are a handful of issues big and small around food, some of which human beings have never had to consider before in history, that impact the choices we make about foods to eat:
  • Mono-cropping and issues with less diverse eco-systems
  • Pesticide use on food (conventional versus organic food)
  • Genetic modification and gene editing (two different, but related issues)
  • What organic actually means (Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means
  • Plastics and chemicals in fish, crustaceans, and sea salt (Are You Seasoning Your Food with Microplastics?
  • Nutrient depletion (Is Our Food Becoming Less Nutritious)
  • Killing animals to eat
  • The ability to eat non-local foods (which most people take completely for granted)
  • Palm oil and the destruction of vast amounts of rainforests (Palm oil is an additive increasingly used in many snacks)
  • How to have enough food to feed a world population of 7.6 billion people and growing
These are just a few things that I currently can think of. I’m not taking a position on whether they’re big or small issues, right or wrong. I’m just pointing to most of these issues as being things we’ve never had to consider as a human race whenever we go to choose our foods.

Eating Animals as Nourishment

Since I’m hitting so many major issues, I will take on the one around not eating animals. There are religions that say this is bad, but let’s pull this issue apart so that you can be more clear about why you may choose to eat animal protein.

Firstly, if you live anywhere there is a grocery store, you are wealthy. In the history of humanity, I don’t think any society has had access to so many non-local foods in one place. The reality for most of history and for many people still is that they eat what is local. If the way to survive in a region requires hunting animals, then they do it. In short, the ability to choose your diet (vegan, vegetarianism, paleo, etc.) is an amazing level of opulence.

However, people have been building ego identities out of this idea that they shouldn’t eat animals. This makes the issue rather difficult to talk about with some people. Furthermore, there are a lot of issues around consuming animal protein that are intertwined in the issue. These include:
  • The morality of killing an animal
  • Animal husbandry (free range animals versus caged animals and other issues)
  • The projection of a person’s own fears of mortality onto animals
  • The relationship of the person with animals growing up (In some households, a person may only ever have felt loved by their pets, and this sense of love drives the aversion to eating animals)
  • The resource demands of raising animals for consumption (it takes a whole lot more resources to raise a cow than a field of rice) and how that plays into feeding 7.6 billion people in the long-run
  • Organic or conventional food being fed to the animals
I mean seriously. It’s a lot. Whenever I am looking at the labels on a carton of eggs, I feel like I need a color coded chart to decipher all the information!

So if you feel like your body is wanting to move towards vegetarianism or veganism (or any particular diet), do your inner work to be clear about where this impulse is coming from. Is it really coming from your body’s intuition? Or is there an issue or several issues intertwined with not wanting to eat animals?  Also remember that it is a HUGE luxury to be able to choose what you eat instead of being restricted to what is living and raised locally.

If it is clear that you want to take this step, then get a health professional to help make sure you are going to eat a balanced diet. And also, remember to be kind and non-judgmental to other people with different body needs as well as economic situations.

What Is Spiritual Inner Work?

Temporary Dietary Shifts and Going at the Body’s Pace

After awakening, it can feel very overwhelming to have your whole mental framework, emotional foundation, and physical body being run through the wringer. It can feel like a lot to have to figure out your diet, particularly if you’ve already done this once before in life. See if you can go more slowly if you are feeling overwhelmed.

In general, I discourage taking extreme measures to try and go faster such as fasting too much or making unnecessary changes to your diet. You are going as fast you need to, and your awakening knows far better what is needed than the ego self that cares about going “fast.”

Along the way, you may have some temporary dietary shifts. Maybe you eat less or no meat for a while, and then as things settle down, you return to it. The body is a changing world, so I encourage you to honor its changing requests. In general, the path to spiritual freedom honors the ever-changing demands of the world and the human body. It gives us flexibility to choose and to change. I encourage you to embrace that fluidity.

How to Find Spiritual Freedom

The Gradual Evolution of the Body

The body is a dense form of energy, and as I mentioned earlier, it often goes slowly in its transformation. Remember that you can mentally understand a spiritual truth and emotionally be with it, but that doesn't mean your body understands it yet. It needs time to understand in its own way, and nourishing it appropriately helps in this transformation.

Whatever food it needs during and after this amazing time of spiritual transformation, it will tell you. Just keep listening. The better you listen, the more clearly you’ll understand what you need. From that space, it’s much easier to handle the dozens of new challenges we now have around our food and to do so from a space of love and non-attachment.

Spiritual Awakening Body Changes and Rebirth

The photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. You can check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.

(Posted updated on 8/28/2018)

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