Diet As Spiritual Practice


Happy new year everyone! I often feel when I write here, that we are sitting down for a cup of tea and having a lovely chat as we catch up on what is happening in our lives. I hope you feel that closeness too.

Traditionally at the start of a new year I set resolutions. But this year I didn’t set new ones since I feel my intentions from last year are still very relevant. I’m going to continue to give a lot of focus on my physical health. The better my body feels then the easier it is to focus on spiritual growth. In fact I use the same tools of observation that I develop from my sitting meditation, the same connection with the inner and outer guides, to help me to craft a diet that works best for me.

I’ve been experimenting with my diet to see if I could find ways to boost my feeling of health and well-being. I’ve found that my body is not the same all the time so it’s needs change. When I go to buy my groceries I pay attention to my body so that I can get cues on the supplies I need to better support the body. Of course I’m also paying attention to the signals I feel as I look at the various grocery items. Sometimes an idea pops into my mind, something that I wouldn’t have thought of before. Another way of saying this is that I stay open to the guidance that may come to me about what I need to pick up.

Even in the preparation of the food I look for guidance and inspiration. The way I choose to prepare the food depends on what the body needs and what would make it most accessible for the body at that time. I don’t have a fixed way of preparing food. So for example sometimes I go for making smoothies, sometimes I make various raw spreads, sometimes I choose to cook my food. It all depends on the state of health of my body. Of course such a choice comes from observing the effect on my body of various forms of food preparations.

I notice that food combinations really make a difference, some vegetables go well together and some not so much. Spices also have an effect, what spices I select, their quality and when they are added to the food. Some vegetables and fruits give me more of a boost than others. I am always testing things out to see their effect.

For example,  sometimes I notice that I get more from eating fruits individually, as a snack in between meals, than as a fruit salad or together with other foods.

The liquids I consume changes a lot too.  These days I’ve reduced the amount of tea I drink which is a little surprising. Usually in the winter time I like the hot drinks. Instead I’m drinking more room temperature water, smaller quantities but more frequent intervals. I find this gives me a better feeling of hydration. That brings me to timing, really noticing the impact of what I drink and when I drink it. I prefer to drink between meals rather than during the meal, unless the meal is very dry. I find I digest faster and feel the lift, the energy of the food more when I do this.

I like to eat slowly since I usually love what I’m eating. So I like to savor the tastes and textures. It’s also very interesting to see how the experience of the food changes from the tip of the tongue, as it goes down the throat and the whole digestive process, all the way to elimination. Here is a marvelous video showing the process of digestion.

Because I eat slowly I can better feel the stomach filling up, and I can gauge the most comfortable degree of fullness for me. If I get too full, I feel stuffed up, digestion is slow and I feel sluggish and out of sorts until the stomach becomes freer. If I’m not full enough then I feel kind of hollow, a sense of incompleteness. I can feel the gas in my stomach, which bubbles up as the food is eaten. At that point I’m usually full.

As much as I enjoy the taste of some foods, the driving force in my choice of food is how much it enhances my feeling of health and well-being. So the whole food preparation process is an integral part of my spiritual practice. You are familiar with my quest to expand my awareness, to make more conscious choices, to gain greater insight on navigating this human experience and I approach my diet from this point of view, as very much a spiritual practice. It is in fact a marvelous and practical way to grow the experience of witness consciousness.

I wish you the best of health!


















13 Responses to Diet As Spiritual Practice

  1. Pingback: How A Sip of Water Can Help You Meditate | Chanmadhavi's Blog

  2. Madhuri says:

    Namaskar Madhavi,

    I can’t help but feel inspired by your post about how you choose foods, and also how you take the time to deeply observe the effects on body, mood, and emotion. I tend to struggle with maintaining a balanced diet, and notice that when I begin to eat well again, immediately my body starts to feel lighter and more alive.

    The spring in my step comes back, but if I begin to eat many sweets and heavy foods again I begin to feel sluggish immediately too! One of my focuses in 2013 is seeking out healthier ways to eat and maintaining them. Thank you for sharing.


  3. Pingback: A Meditation On Drinking Water « Chanmadhavi's Blog

  4. Mariann Canning says:

    Thanks Madhavi for inspiring this exchange 🙂 I too am making a practice of observing the effect of food and drink that I am putting into my body. I have noted that there are mind connections to some foods that make me think of them as “comforting” and yet when I ingest them I can see the effects are not supporting my vitality at all. Along with this I have observed that sometimes the minute something enters my mouth, or following the first swallow I can recognize that this is not something that is working for my body today and I need to respect that even if on another day that food could be just fine.

    I really liked that you spoke of a mix of cooked and raw foods, listening to the intuitive voice that is telling you what the body needs. Sometimes with all the information about the latest food trend and health I feel like it has to be an “all or nothing” approach. Your message speaks to me of balance, respect, witnessing and moderation.

    I learned much from time spent with my sister when she was undergoing chemotherapy which can often cause stomach upset and nausea. Her body sent her very clear messages and when she listened the food supported her in feeling better. Sometimes we were surprised at what she craved as it might be a food she had seldom eaten before, however, when when we researched the nutrients in the foods she was craving they were always full of cancer fighting antioxidants.

    While I think it is always good to have a healthy diet I have also observed both from personal experience and watching my teenagers that the body’s life cycle/age also impacts its ability and desire to deal with different foods.

    I love to cook, I find it peaceful and calming. Admittedly I am a tad old fashioned in my practices preferring to chop by hand, crush and mix spices with a mortar and pestal, for me this enhances the experience and admittedly makes for a quieter kitchen. It evokes visions of my grandmother who kneaded her own bread, and prepared many foods from her large garden that was chock a block with fruits, vegetables and flowers. You could see the love pouring out through her hands into whatever she prepared and you could taste it too 🙂

    Wishing us all optimal healthy and vitality through observance of this part of our spiritual practice.

    God bless this food to our use, and us to thy service. Fill our hearts with gratitude.

    • Chan Madhavi says:

      Thank you Mariann. You’ve brought some very important perspectives showing how optimal health comes from really observing the effect food has on our body. You are right it is necessary to distinguish between what the body is craving that might be good for it and the pull of foods that might be associated with our childhood or culture and whose effects we need to examine closely.

    • Henk says:

      Thank you for your message. It really spoke out to me. I remembers me of the cravings my wife had and has when pregnant. Cravings and dislikes, the body really does tell us what it wants. It would so much fun and interesting to see the subtle hints it tells us. From day to day apparently.

      Thank you for your last paragraphs. It remembered me the immense joy I feel eating my own baked bread. Everyday again, the joy again. One slice of other, yeast bread, and my body objects :).

  5. Victoria Aarti says:

    Hi Madhavi and All

    What really struck me about this was your whole point about the relationship between this process and that of meditation (sitting and in activity), particularly where you talked about consuming liquids, and drinking water throughout the day. That really has made an impact as I consider that I drink lots of water in the morning, tend to forget during the day, then before I go to bed, remember again that I am probably in need of fluids. And this is a wonderful mirror for my spiritual practice – meditation in the morning, tendency to forget and get disconnected far too easily during the day as I get caught up in work and the rest, and then approaching evening meditation with some surprise! What a thing to see! But it makes more sense now and reminds me of your practice of saying the mantra in sets of ten throughout the day.

    Like Henk, I am looking forward to observing the weekly grocery shopping with more attention and awareness!

    Love and thanks

    • Chan Madhavi says:

      Oh I’m so pleased you had such an insight Aarti. I find my experience of sitting meditation is so similar to my activity. What is really neat is that if I make changes in my activity it is also reflected in my sitting meditation. I guess how we are inside, in terms of patterns of behavior, is the same whether we are sitting in meditation or engaged in activity.

      Enjoy the grocery shopping! Ah so much fun to be able to bring greater meaning to all these everyday functions :).

      • Victoria Aarti says:

        Yes, I am well excited to see how the changes in activity impact sitting meditation, instead of thinking that it only works the other way round x

  6. Maria Di Giantommaso says:

    This was very good article for me as I am focusing on my body too this year. It does feel like I am having a cup of tea and chatting. Thank you for the guidance to keep looking after my body. Love your energy

    Connected by Motorola

    • Chan Madhavi says:

      Thank you Maria, glad to know you too feel like we are chatting over a cup of tea. Lets take better care of our bodies this year!

  7. Henk says:

    Happy New Year to you too, Madhavi, and to other friends here. I do feel the connection and I enjoy it very much.

    I like to eat and drink healthy and I usually thought about food as “this and that is healthy, the rest is not, and I will only eat the healthy foods.”. But I realise that in the range of healthy foods, I have so many choices :).

    What really struck me was what I found inspiring is the part of observing guidance when doing grocery shopping. Looking back at some shopping I sometimes feel the pull to not-so-healthy food and the choice of not buying these products when I remember the respect I have and want to have for my body, such a remarkable creature.

    I want to explore this guidance when going for grocery shopping.

    The amount of food is important. With Christmas people can overeat, but I choose not to and the body feels so more vital. The last few weeks my body feels very vital and this helps very much so, in staying in a loving space, for making things happen practically and for keeping focus. This keeps inspiring me to stay healthy by food for instance.

    As always you inspire me to look deeper, Madhavi. Thank you. I can explore with slow eating, grocery shopping and observing the effect of different combinations.

    With all my love, Henk

    • Chan Madhavi says:

      Henk you got the idea, even with healthy foods some have a better impact on the body than others. Also some combinations may work for you but not for me. So it’s a personal journey. Lets continue to use our tools of observation and awareness to gain better health and vitality this year.

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