Although meditation is independent of any particular lifestyle or diet, I would be remiss if I did not point out that what you put into your body will make a difference in the quality of your meditation and how quickly you advance in your inner experience.
Smoking, for instance, in addition to its effects on physical health, makes the prana crude, blocks the nadis, and dulls the mind. The use of alcoholic drinks and recreational drugs similarly dulls the mind and senses, creating biochemical imbalances as well as clogging the nadis. These are not moral judgments, but rather conclusions based on the direct experience of many.
If you wish to confirm this for yourself, simply abstain from these substances for a few months while meditating regularly (which develops your subtle perception), and then try them again. You will see for yourself their effects. In fact, this is how the qualities of various foods and substances have been discerned by yogis throughout the centuries: through direct experience.
The Effects of Food on Meditation
Diet is a consideration when it comes to meditation. I am not a nutritional expert and do not make dietary recommendations, but I have noticed a few things about the effects of food on meditation, and many of these observations are in line with the observations of yogis over the centuries. I’ll mention just a few basics, many of which may be obvious to you already:
• A diet high in fresh (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables is especially conducive to clarity of mind at the subtle levels.
• Foods that are heavy and harder to digest, like red meat, tend to have a dulling effect on meditation and block the nadis.
• Overeating is dulling.
• Avoid foods that you are sensitive or allergic to; consistently eating such foods will put your body out of balance. (There are tests that can reveal hidden food allergies that might be affecting your energy level, mood, health, and skin without your even knowing.)
• Appropriate Ayurvedic herbs (Ayurveda is the ancient traditional medicine of India) of a pure quality can help balance and strengthen your body and result in deeper, clearer meditations.
• Avoid cooking with a microwave, and also avoid overcooking. The method of food preparation affects the vibrational quality of your food. Using a microwave oven to cook, as well as overcooking by other means, depletes the prana in your food.
• Avoid foods that have been genetically modified and dairy products from cows treated with hormones.
The Energy of the Foods We Eat: Stimulating, Dulling, or Balancing
Essentially, all of nature is comprised of the three gunas — rajas, tamas, and sattva — each of which has particular attributes. Rajas is the impulse toward action and movement; tamas is a retarding force; sattva is the force of balance and harmony. The interaction of these three accounts for all change, growth, and evolution in nature. The influence of these three is also present, in varying degrees, in everything in existence, including everything we eat:
• Foods dominated by the quality of rajas, the principle of activity, are stimulating. Such foods include hot spices and stimulants like coffee and caffeinated tea. Generally, such foods are not ideal for meditation because they increase restlessness in the mind.
• Foods dominated by the quality of tamas, the principle of inertia and negation, increase dullness and lethargy. Such foods include alcoholic drinks, red meat, eggs, mushrooms, fried foods, and food that is no longer fresh. Again, such foods are less than ideal for meditation due to their dulling effect.
• Foods dominated by the quality of sattva, the principle of balance, harmony, and purity, increase clarity, contentment, and well-being. Such foods include most fresh vegetables (not the nightshades or spicy or pungent vegetables, such as hot peppers and onions), legumes, mild spices, properly prepared nuts (for instance, soaked and blanched almonds), and many herbs. As you might expect, a diet high in these foods is ideal to promote clarity in your meditation.
This, admittedly, offers just a glimpse of the application of the concept of the three gunas to meditation. You will benefit from meditation no matter what your diet or lifestyle, but as in anything, we can also learn much from those who came before us.
Eating Foods That Are Beneficial to Your Body and Your Health
Following these dietary principles not only will accelerate your progress through meditation but also can profoundly improve your health. About a year ago, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, a disorder in which the immune system attacks your thyroid. This is a serious condition, and in Western medicine there is no cure for it; it is treated by thyroid hormone replacement, usually for life (while the thyroid dies).
How I got this was a mystery to me, since I thought I was eating and living well, getting adequate exercise, and so on. I may never know the complete answer, which probably involves a number of factors, like genetics and environmental toxins as well as diet. The good news: not only did I not have to go on thyroid replacement hormones, but also my most recent tests show that my autoimmunity has been reversed; there is no sign of Hashimoto’s in my system. My thyroid is fine.
How did this happen? Through a combination of Ayurvedic assessment and functional-medicine testing, I found out which foods were causing my immune system to react to my thyroid. I followed the diet that was right for me (this is individual, determined by various constitutional factors), which consisted of organic fruits and vegetables, plant proteins, and natural supplements prescribed for me.
This may seem to have little to do with meditation, but your health is important, and it can profoundly affect your ability to meditate. Anytime your body is inflamed and reactive, so is your mind. In fact, this is precisely why Ayurveda, the ancient traditional medicine of India, developed as a sister science to Yoga — to keep your body healthy and balanced in order to support your personal growth.
©2013 by Ajayan Borys. Published with permission of
New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com
Effortless Mind: Meditate with Ease - Calm Your Mind, Connect with Your Heart, and Revitalize Your Life
by Ajayan Borys.
Beginners and long-term meditators alike will appreciate Ajayan Borys’s counterintuitive teaching that one needn’t control the mind to experience the benefits of meditation. With clear, user-friendly instruction, Ajayan presents classic techniques that can empower even beginners to experience deep, effective meditation and can help veterans go deeper.
About the Author
Ajayan Borys is a registered hypnotherapist in Washington state, a Reiki Master, and a certified Enneagram teacher. Ajayan Borys (aka Henry James Borys) is author of Effortless Mind: Meditate with Ease, The Way of Marriage: A Journal of Spiritual Growth through Conflict, Love, and Sex, The Sacred Fire: Love as a Spiritual Path, and numerous articles on meditation and relationships as a spiritual path. He teaches workshops and retreats on meditation and spiritual relationships near Seattle and in the Himalayas. Visit him online at http://www.ajayan.com.