The Sattvic Diet
Short term weight loss or eternal bliss?
When we change our diet our primary goal is losing weight and maybe the desire to be healthier when the most important thing in a diet is being neglected.
Perhaps you'll snigger but the fact is, modern day illnesses such as anxiety, depression, stress are all rampant, particularly in the West and very few people think of questioning their diets as being the fundamental cause. As Harish Johari, author of 'Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine', says,
'food is not just fuel for our bodies, it's as much alive as we are.'
Consequently whatever we're eating, and how we're eating it, is going to have a profound effect on our minds, bodies and whole consciousness. Yet when we change diet, the last thing we consider is our spiritually and mental wellbeing. And let's face it, diets are notorious for fueling bad temper, low spirits etc - but as long as we fit into our jeans at the end of it what does it matter?
Well, perhaps it matters a lot more than we imagine. Besides, a diet that primarily, soothes our spirit, leaves us peaceful and happy - shouldn't that be the motivating factor? And are we so sure that our food is not capable of doing all that?
Our tamasic generation
The three gunas
According to Yogic philosophy, energy has three qualities, known as the three Gunas,and they exist together in equilibrium:
Sattva (purity); Rajas (activity, passion, the process of change); and Tamas (darkness, inertia). Once energy takes form, one quality of the three predominates.
And of course, in food we also have three types of energy - sattvic, rajasic and tamasic and who can guess which one gives the positive energy ?
Let's see...purity...-yep, It's the sattvic food all right.
Sattvic is the food type which is recommended in a yogic diet. According to Yoga 'sattvic food is the purest of all foods, nourishing the body and keeping it in a peaceful state' (fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, milk, butter, cheese, nuts, cereals, wholemeal bread, wholemeal rice, honey are a (very) few examples, see here for others).
Yoga, as a very basic definition, means 'unity' and therefore the balance between body-mind and spirit is tantamount.
So which of the above gives the negative energy?
You've guessed it - tamasic and rajasic food. Let's look at rajasic food first as it's the lesser offender:
'Rajasic food is very hot, bitter, sour, dry or salty. Rajasic food destroys the mind- body-spirit equilibrium, feeding the body at expense of the mind, (coffee, tea, fish, eggs, salt and chocolate, also eating in a hurry is rajasic). Naturally Sattvic food can become rajasic when it becomes bitter, sour, etc.'
Although that description is rather incriminating, rajasic food needn't be eliminated altogether but as you see this food type isn't doing you an awful lot of favours even if, some say, it all depends on how you choose to use the energy it supplies - productively or...not.
And the final culprit - the tamasic foods.
'Tamasic food benefits neither mind nor body. Prana, or energy, is withdrawn, powers of reasoning become clouded and a sense of inertia sets in. The body's resistance to disease is destroyed and the mind filled with dark emotions, such as anger and greed. Tamasic items include meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic, fermented foods, such as vinegar, and stale or overripe substances. Overeating is also regarded as tamasic.'
So, if you're looking for balance and clarity in your day to day life, a deeper understanding of life and developing self awareness, according to yoga, Ayurveda and many others, tamasic food should be avoided, if not eliminated altogether. Eating only sattvic food would be the ideal, but as Harish Johari, points out,
'unfortunately whatever is easier will become popular, because at least in the West, man has no time.'
But changing our diet and eating predominantly sattvic food is the first important step on the road to happiness - that's if we can find time to be happy.
But really, eating sattvic food is not that difficult - just look at the options for a lunch on the go. Just as a very rough example (because, believe me, there's much more choice to sattvic food) let's say, we have a burger (tamasic) on the go or fresh fruit (sattvic and preferably picked lovingly from its tree!). Well, it requires 'sacrificing' the burger but your gaining a lot more in its place.
But the Soul Diet isn't just about what you're shovelling inside, it's also the way you're doing that shovelling...
'Food is also a medium through which one person's feelings can be transferred to another,' says Harish Johari.
According to Johari, the preparation of food is vital and far too many people overlook it. Eating on the go whilst talking on the phone, for example, is an absolute no-no. He considers food a 'necessity and not a luxury' and here are a few pointers he gives us in his book 'The Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine'.
How to eat
We should be showered and in clean clothes and in a peaceful frame of mind (never whilst angry or squabbling). Digestion is important and good digestion can only come about from correct eating. Bad digestion causes all sorts of problems and not just immediate ones but ones that may manifest themselves much further into the future.
'A person's general diet can be one of healing but for that, one needs good digestion – when one has that, it can be seen as medicine.'
How to prepare food
You should prepare food in a peaceful state of mind, giving as much attention to the act of cooking as you would to any art.
'Food cooked by one who really likes to cook tastes quite different from one who is under obligation' says Johari.
Also, never taste food during preparation – the meal should be fit to offer to God and once you taste it, it no longer will be. (As for getting by without tasting the food Johari says, 'a man who can't see, hears better, and a man who can't hear, sees better' - you get his point, I think).
What to avoid
'Large scale manufacturers of food do not concern themselves with the question of consciousness and vibration in regard to preparation. '
As far as I know they don't do a 'McDeeper Awareness' meal at a certain well-known fast food outlet but I may be wrong. But as a rule, I'm afraid you should be avoiding the fastfood outlets. Of course, that's not to rule out all restaurants and outlets where you feel a good atmosphere - there's plenty out there and they're probably run by the small families who are struggling to keep up with the huge chains.
Obviously, the other thing to avoid is tamasic food but this can be reduced gradually and to start with, the tamasic food consumed should come from reasonably 'happy' sources.
Here's quick recap:
- Tamasic food should be avoided, rajasic food limited.
- Avoid eating fast (this is rajasic) and never overeat (this is tamasic).
- Food should be eaten sitting down and with no telly or distractions; never eat standing or on the move.
- Showering or bathing before cooking has a twofold effect -it relaxes and removes fatigue and depression and prepares the mind for the act of cooking attribuiting more importance to the act.
- Cooking should never be done in an hurry – just like meditation.
- People eating must be clean and wearing clean clothes and have resolved any quarrels.
- As an emotional relationship with the food is involved (cleaning, cutting, chopping,etc) these all require a sense of rhythm and balanced mind and should be enjoyed as much as any other art.
- One should not taste the food once cooking has commenced – not only does this develop the senses and intuition of the cook but tasting it means it is no longer fit to be offered to God.
These might seem a little too much like rules but I can assure you they're not. More likely that if you follow the Sattvic way of living following the above guidelines will be a natural preference.
Ah, and by the way - if it was a diet for losing weight you were after in reading this Hub - well, congratulations for ploughing through and congratulations again because with the Sattvic way of eating you'll lose weight anyway. Only perhaps by the time you do, how wonderful you look or don't look will be less important to you.
So there you have it. In a very tight nutshell because obviously there's a lot more to say. But the main point is this - the path to happiness is in within everybody's reach, I don't know whether the journey begins with our food but it's certainly a very important step to getting there.