Good news! It is not necessary to fast or ascribe to all kinds of fancy diets to become enlightened. The Truth is not dependent on details relating to the world of form or manipulations of energy. Of course, eating only donuts probably won’t help one progress spiritually, but who knows!
Some foods are more conducive to deep meditative states than others. For example, onions, garlic, cayenne pepper, and in general spicy foods are considered to be fiery foods that return a fiery mind. The process of meditation begins with concentration – keeping the mind fully occupied on one thing – so to keep the mind focused, it is nice to feed it calmer foods with less fire.
The best foods to help promote a meditative mind and easy ability to concentrate are called sattvic foods – and they include foods like milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, plain foods like rice and dal. Sattvic foods are foods essentially closer to nature, and would not be heavily processed or genetically engineered, sprayed with pesticide, etc. Some teachers advocate a mono-diet, that is eating only one type of food, which will help keep the digestive process very simple and allows the intelligence to focus on things other than digesting the food. However, from personal experience, I did find that when I followed a mono-diet, the mind would regularly wander to that one single food during meditation frequently – almost like it became obsessed with that one food. For the record, it was cucumbers. Anyway, simple foods with minimal amounts of spice and seasoning promote a calm mind and deeper meditative states. At the same time, the Truth is always present, so I wouldn’t get too overly focused on improving food intake.
The spiritual journey is about purifying and ultimately transcending the ego. Considering the ego operates by seeking subjective pleasure and gain, it can be helpful to practice asceticism, or ‘going without,’ to free oneself from the cravings of the ego. Food is just one avenue in the physical world by which the ego seeks pleasure and gain, so to practice abstaining from eating certain foods that the ego particularly enjoys – like ice cream, cookies, cake, salty and spicy foods, etc. – one grows in awareness of the ego’s patterns and mastery over them. It can be beneficial to spend some time living on simple foods like plain rice and dahl or fresh fruits and milk. Especially if you feel that you might be bound by certain food addictions, it is valuable to free yourself from the attachment. Remember, the reality is that our happiness is not dependent on anything external – it is with us always – so to the extent that we are at all projecting our happiness onto anything external like drugs, meat, alcohol, sweets, caffeine, etc., then let us free ourselves! We do not need such things to abide in an energy of happiness.
It can also be a beneficial exercise in the area of compassion to eat very simple foods for a week, or month, or even fast. Such practices can grow us in awareness of the global condition of humanity. Apparently more than 50% of the planet primarily lives on beans and rice. So to live on beans and rice is a good way to empathize with the global condition and increase our capacity for compassion as well as mastery over the ego cravings.
So…the role of food on the spiritual journey…
Ultimately, we see that all things are for fun. At the same time, too much or too little of anything can be harmful to the health of the human pet. It is our responsibility to take good care of our pet, so we want to keep it in good health and feed it a modest amount of food. When in doubt, less is more. We can thrive on much less than we think. Fasting is actually a great experience – especially after getting past the first 2-3 days! It is liberating to discover how little the body actually needs to not only live, but thrive. Thrive!
What follow is largely hypothesis because ‘i’ have not yet firmly established an enlightened state of being..but ‘my’ guess is that the enlightened being doesn’t really think about food at all. In fact, my understanding is that they don’t think about anything. The mind is of the human animal and ego, and the enlightened person has transcended the ego, therefore the mind would be silent. The enlightened being lives in a state of union with Divinity, so there is no purpose to thinking. They are fully aware that God takes care of every moment and that there is nothing to fear and nothing to gain, so what would be the point of thinking? Reality is already perfect, so what needs to think about anything?
As Dr. Hawkins described it, fasting and ‘getting skinny’ aren’t something to personally will to advance oneself on the spiritual journey, but rather they can happen quite naturally as one evolves spiritually because one’s interests are elevated beyond physical sensations and experience. To ordinary humans, eating is a source of pleasure and enjoyment, but to a spiritually evolve being, everything is a source of pleasure and enjoyment, so eating and food can easily be forgotten. Food becomes just like anything else – a totally divine creation, already perfect and complete in and of itself.
Anyway, so long as thinking is happening, probably best not to think too much about food. From ‘my’ experience, it has been a trap – the idea of perfecting the diet. It is one way to gain mastery over the animal appetites, but don’t take it too seriously. As Swami Satchidananda says, “If you try to achieve perfection in one day, you won’t achieve much of anything. Take little steps, daily, and soon you will be doing things that months back, you would have felt impossible.” Baby steps! No rush. Just be sincere. Eating nothing but turnips is not necessary for enlightenment, but it can be in developing the will and mastery over the ego and liberating oneself from projecting happiness on external things like food.
Whatever happens, have fun and enjoy the show.
Gloria in Excelsis Deo!