Food and Spirituality: Nourishing Body and Soul

Food is a basic need. Spirituality is also essential to basic well-being, and the two cannot be far separated in terms of the way they nourish us. Deeply; at a cellular level, an energetic level, and deeper still.

Our relationships with food are complex, over eating, emotional eating, binge eating, and all the other issues we develop over our lifetime. These can stem from familial or cultural norms carried down through many generations – or by just one person, which then become our own beliefs and behaviours. Also our beliefs and behaviours surrounding food are increasingly fed into our subconscious via media and advertising. The food we eat on a daily basis may have been grown in nutrient depleted soil, sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals, genetically altered, never seen the light of day, deprived of the right to express normal, natural behaviours, fed an artificial diet, lived and died in pain. Or it may have been grown, and nurtured with the emphasis on harmony, natural diets and healthy soils, outdoors environment, opportunities to express natural behaviour and minimal or zero chemical exposure. If ‘we are what we eat’ which would you rather be nourished by?

Our spirituality is also an aspect of ourselves which can become hijacked – not only by organised religions but contemporary New Age ideologies which can be alluring to those searching for answers, but lack the confidence or understanding that we are sovereign beings, and our soul is our own, our choices are our own.

We forget, I think, that we are capable of knowing what is best for us – we are so used to being led by those who we belive know better. Those who are more educated, more powerful,  more insistent, more charismatic, more wealthy – more – than we belive we are.

The words  ‘belive‘ and ‘belief‘ mean ‘to accept that something is true, or someone is telling the truth’. ‘Especially….without proof’. Oxford Dictionary. We make assumptions based on what others tell us, we belive them.

I’m not suggesting that we should question everything that everyone tells us all the time, (not all in one go!) but certainly it is worth doing our own research into subjects we may have taken for granted. In conducting research it is tempting to look to the experts (those more educated), politicians (more powerful), advertisers (more insistent), celebrities (more charismatic),  – all more wealthy than the average person. (Why are we influenced by wealth? – I’m not sure, maybe because wealthy is something many people aspire to become).

We need to look to ourselves, understand our own bodies and souls better, get in touch with our deepest hungers , because then we will be able to interpret and understand the inner cries of both our body and soul and what we yearn for. That work will lead us to what will nourish us deeply, so we can truly know ourselves and then we can truly satisfy ourselves. We need to learn the art of discernment. I wrote my first post on spiritual discernment. We also need to practice dietary discernment – this is about developing the ability to truly follow the cues of our body in learning what it needs, as opposed to following our cravings, addictions or emotional triggers.

Both are life-long paths. What I am suggesting here is an initial step, creating the awareness. It’s OK not to know.

Of course we may need help in the beginning, I’m not suggesting this can or even should all be done in complete isolation – for one our culture, media and government forbids it – there is too much at stake to simply allow people to make their own independent decisions.  Two, many of us are so indoctrinated into the modern lifestyle, food culture, consumer addictions and the religious and spiritual belief systems which surround us that we have become unable to discern. Whilst we are learning to let go of one ideology, behaviour or addiction which no longer serves us we become afraid, unsure of ourself, we lack confidence to make our own correct choice. This is unfamiliar territory to us,  it feels unsafe, we do not trust. So it is very easy to either stay in the uncomfortable but familiar situation, or replace it with another, maybe without even realising that is what we have done. We don’t question, I think mainly because we don’t belive we can afford to. The idea that we are ultimately responsible for the decisions we make for many is simply too scary. If we make a bad choice based on advice that we followed there is always someone else to blame, if we make an independent choice which results in an unexpected (ie negative) outcome, that is perhaps more painful for the ego, but ultimately they were both our own choices. Change / don’t change – they are both choices.

Making independent choices and letting go of what no longer serves us can be uncomfortable, and the greatest resistance often comes from those closest to us as they feel the familiarity slipping away, they feel challenged by the changes, but this should never be a reason for us to remain stuck.

I knew I wanted to give up meat as a child, but it took me until I had left home and was in my early twentys to make that change, within a few years I knew I wanted to go vegan. Again it took many years to achieve this, and a long-term relationship breakdown. A few years into veganism I was getting this idea that a raw vegan diet would suit me better, which I am currently transitioning into now, (following a whole series of major life changes). But it’s a process, and I am learning more about what suits my body, and my wholeself all the time. I found it very interesting – this correlation between the changes I made to my diet and life events, it seems that I could only make the changes I knew I needed to make when I was living an independent life, when I could do it quietly and alone and did not need to justify my choices, or worry about other people seeing me struggle or fail – this is not necessarily the best way, but it was my way. I still have my food issues, the last time I attended a family gathering over a long weekend it took me a full month to get my eating back on track. Those triggers may take many more years to release fully, but even knowing that I am still going to keep working at it, because this is my life and my body. Even if I make a bad choice sometimes, I do it now with more consciousness – I know when I am eating, why I am eating. For me my diet and my spiritual growth go hand in hand. As I cleanse my body, so I feel more in touch with the truth of who I am, and who I can be. As I become more aware of my spiritual connection with the earth, and the Divine so I am able to release that which has held me in patterns of addiction and self-destruction. This is deep work, there are no shortcuts, and it can be uncomfortable. I’m in it for the long haul. I love this deep inner inquiry, even though some of my most cherished beliefs have been painfully torn out to be shown for the illusions they were. I have read books, followed advice, taken courses and received treatments. Some have been worth their weight in gold, others have taught me lessons I would rather have avoided. The quick-fix is always something to be wary of and often comes at a high price, if not financially then psychologically as we may become dependant upon this new external source of sustenance. I have done that – with  relationships, spiritual ideologies and foods. Often it would take a good while for me to even realise that was what I was doing, and sometimes years. When we are very emotionally invested in an idea or belief, or if we have invested a lot of time or money it can be so much harder to follow those niggling suspicions that tell us ‘you’re heading off track’.

Practical steps

Start with a few of the suggestions below and see where they take you. If you are worried about ‘failing’ don’t, you are making choices every moment – recognise that you made a choice, and try to understand what you can learn about yourself from that decision.

Develop a deeper connection with your food, get to know your local producers, forage, grow some of your food yourself, or buy from someone with an allotment, eat organic, try something new, experiment, get inspired. Involve children, friends, family in these also. Learn to understand the cues which lead you to eat, to binge, to crave. Notice your physical, mental and emotional reactions to the foods you eat, and the reactions of other members of your family to particular foods. Keep a food diary. Educate your self on global food issues and the fast food industry. Give up something you know is bad for you. Start taking supplements – research them carefully, and monitor the effect they have on your energy levels and general wellbeing.

Start a journal of your personal thoughts, feelings, hopes and aspirations, try to write or sketch in it a few times a week. Spend time in nature, something as simple as bare feet on the grass, or sitting by a river. Develop an awareness of how nature is interacting with you, notice your responses. Follow up on any deep yearning you have for a creative outlet – try a new hobby or join a group or class. Learn yoga, meditation, mindfulness. Read books, articles and blogs on spirituality, I would encourage you to read widely, not just settle on one author, or even one publisher for that matter. question what you read. Search out a mentor or a therapist who can assist you on you healing path – and pay special attention to how comfortable you are in their presence, our bodies are very accurate gauges of people and situations if we listen to them. Trust your gut instinct on something and see where it leads to. Take that leap of faith.

As you pay attention to you body and your soul you will learn to hear their messages, you may follow them or you may ignore them, but at least learn to be aware of them, and conscious in your decision-making. Our food and our spirituality nourish us deeply, this is a life long path. I’m in it for the long haul – will you join me?

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