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The Yoga of Eating: Part 2

I finished The Yoga of Eating and have to share my final notes with you. This book has changed my life.

After spending the past couple of years immersed in the world of bodybuilding and macro counting, I lost something in myself. The ability to tune in to my body. My creativity in the kitchen. The power to heal naturally. My trust in my body's inner wisdom. The more I dive into this practice of trusting myself, the more I feel like me. As a bonus, I have been able to successfully hold onto muscle and remain lean without any formal structure. 

Here are my final notes and favorite sentiments expressed in the book.

You can find a copy here, and if you missed Part 1, find it here.

MAKING IT PRACTICAL

In this chapter Eisenstein breaks down how to apply this practice and make it practical. While I still have a ways to go on this, he says: 'Only with full attention can your body sense and assimilate the subtle nutritive energies of food.'

His tips for applying this concept:

  • Slow down your eating
  • Before all meals, observe a moment of silence or say a prayer of grace
  • Every day take one meal, perhaps breakfast, in silence
  • At every meal, let the first bite you take from every dish be with perfect attentiveness
  • During the lulls in conversation experience each mouthful 

Eisenstein respects that paying full attention to your food is not always realistic when sharing a meal with family or others, and shouldn't be. While the pleasure of eating is a great gift, it is not the ultimate joy! 

DISCOVERING THE RIGHT DIET

I loved this Chapter. I often struggle with the concept that we need to have one diet, one label. Eisenstein says not to be dogmatic. When you listen to your body, it will drive you to the diet that is right for you. Sensitivity and trust must be built patiently. Do not set rules in stone as needs and tastes change over time.

DISTINGUISHING APPETITES FROM CRAVINGS

Food can be used as a substitute for other kinds of nourishment and pleasure that are lacking in our lives. Some of those who suffer from depression are constantly eating to stave off the feeling. Eating is a primeval form of solace and comfort, but we need to remember that no matter how much we eat it won't bring more love, nurturance or acceptance into our lives.  The real hunger is for unconditional acceptance, a hunger that food cannot ever meet.

‘How can we trust our bodies to guide us in the area of diet, when so often the body seems to betray us with cravings for foods that make us uncomfortable or ill? This happens because we use food for other purposes besides gustatory pleasure and bodily nourishment.’

LOVING THE BODY, LOVING THYSELF

While it is often said that we love our bodies too much, the opposite is true - we do not love them nearly enough. We demand or wish them to be a certain way and force them into an image and ignore their true needs. Health worshipping isn't a sincere love of the body either - the body is a vehicle for living and acting in the world; it is meant to be used. We push our bodies until they are overwhelmed and they degenerate.

The realm of food is a way to practice being good to yourself. Let your body tell you what it wants, listen, and be kind to yourself.

FASTING

Sometimes when you listen closely to your body, the message is for fasting, not food. Fasting gives cells a chance to expel the built-up waste products of metabolism, cleanses the liver, kidneys, and colon, and restores the body to balance. BUT - while it works well for most, it doesn't work for everyone. It is also not a shortcut to health or a magic formula.

DIETING AND SELF-ACCEPTANCE

This is not meant to be seen as a diet book. Eisenstein says that if we force the body to lose fat without regard for the conditions underlying it, we are essentially demanding that the body be other than it is. It is true however, that this practice and tuning into your body will generally make you satisfied with smaller quantities of food since it is being fully experienced, but shouldn't be turned into a technique for reducing caloric intake. Soon it will be a chore and you'll be fighting your instincts, not trusting them. If you are overweight, your shape is a response to how you live and who you are now, which can be based on deeply buried circumstances. The first step is accepting yourself as you are. When the situations to which obesity is a response are removed, the weight melts away like magic.

Eisenstein suggests you drop any wish or expectation to lose weight with this program, to own and love your body as it is, to read and follow the chapters, and to find exercise that gives true pleasure. Most importantly: trust your body.

FAT AND THE GOOD

Fat is not bad. The need for fat varies considerably from individual to individual, so listen carefully to your own body's messages, and trust those messages as much as you dare.

MEAT AND THE LIFE OF FLESH

To eat meat is to enact a profound transfer of energy and information, in which an animal loses its life to sustain the life of another. The meat industry today is not good, but this doesn't go for all farmers or meat company executives. But it is full of suffering that is very distant from our every day lives and easy to ignore. There are better alternatives when it comes to eating meat - killing your own, eating farm animals raised compassionately as a part of an organic farm; knowing the hunter who killed your meat. Eisenstein suggests that to sustain a state of being that is energetically involved with the world that is hale, hearty and humorous, meat is necessary for most people, although some may thrive on a vegan diet. 

SUGAR'S SWEETNESS

Sugar offers a hollow sweetness that one can easily detect through careful, attentive eating. Why is our craving for something so unhealthy so compelling? Eisenstein says:

Closed off from the experience of sweetness in life, yet hungering for it to the depths of our souls, we turn to the imitation of this sweetness in sugary foods.

He suggests the spiritual counterpart of sweetness is intimacy, which comes from openness and long association, and these days we lack this. Willpower over sugar won't prevail unless you rediscover sweetness in your life.

PROCESSING

While some food processing is necessary, the world of mass processing we live in our bodies learn to distrust food flavors and the ability to distinguish healthful foods by taste and smell. Eisenstein suggests that if we don't want our goals, dreams, relationships and lives to be highly processed, we should consider a shift in diet away from industrial mass-processing and toward home-processing. When possible cook at home and grow food processed by yourself, your family, friends or people in your community. Once you step away from a processed life, convenience foods won't taste as good anymore. You'll also spend more time cooking at home, you will need to become less busy and exert your autonomy to reclaim genuine choices in your life.

THE YOGA OF COOKING

To put it simply: food takes on the vibrations of who makes it, and 'Food prepared by loved ones therefore harmonizes better with one's own vibrations then food prepared by strangers. The soul needs the nourishment of the loving vibrations generated by home cooking.

FOOD IS ONLY FOOD

This book is not meant to place food as the primary importance of life, it's just one of the ways we nourish ourselves, define ourselves and interact with the world. It shouldn't become an obsession that takes away from the sacredness of other aspects of life. Changing your diet often coincides with big life changes (no need to snack or overeat when the soul is satisfied), but our lives can't be changed by changing our diets.

RELAXING INTO CHANGE

Change should not be imposed, it must be surrendered to with acceptance, trust, and courage. It is a step into the unknown, a trusting of something beyond ourselves. There is no guarantee.

Not just the body but all natural things, when left undisturbed, move naturally toward beauty and wholeness.

Eisenstein says to stop paving over ourselves with artificial ways of being to move towards our natural state of health and beauty. To do this we need to stop imposing and disturbing the body, contriving ourselves into who we feel we should be, and imposing attitudes and belief systems that corral our thoughts into the same old ruts and cripple our ability to learn. We need to let go of habitual thought patterns, anxieties and systems of belief and open our minds to new thoughts and ideas.

'The Yoga of Eating is itself a kind of relaxation encompassing physical and mental elements. Not manipulating, controlling, imposing upon, or dismissing the body's messages, it trusts the body to move towards its natural rest state: beauty and wholeness.'

THE ILLNESS SEEKS THE MEDICINE

Most of us tend to seek behaviors that contribute to our own destruction. Eisenstein says we can't judge other peoples addictions because in this moment, it is their medicine. Wether it's sugar, alcohol, drugs... How many extraordinary people struggle with this, an dhow can we blame them for 'seeking to deaden their sensitivity to a very painful world?' He doesn't advocate drug use as they only address the symptom, just like most pharmaceutical medicine, they make the condition more bearable for a time. Instead of removing the medicine, Eisenstein says we need to remove the conditions that make the medicine necessary. We seek medicine in all its forms for a reason, and eventually it stops working and we have to bear the pain, and remember it's okay to hurt. Suffering is the true medicine that will ultimately help us heal.

THE ETHICS OF EATING MEAT: A RADICAL VIEW

Eisenstein doesn't condone eating meat, but suggests the meat industry is the bigger problem. With proper farming it's an ecology and livestock has a vital role to play. He also describes cultures that are less afraid of death and more afraid of a life wrongly lived, that 'To live rightly in the time allotted is then a matter of paramount importance, and life a sacred journey. In an animistic and holistic world view, the moral question to ask about food is not "Was there killing?" but "Is this food taken in rightness and harmony?" 

He ends the book with this beautiful quote:

When we live rightly, decision by decision, the heart sings even when the rational mind disagrees and the ego protests. Besides, human wisdom is limited. Despite our machinations, we are ultimately unsuccessful at avoiding pain, loss and death. For animals, plants, and humans alike, there is more to life than not dying.
Gillian YoungComment