There are many ways in which we nourish ourselves. We breathe air, drink water, develop relationships, our senses, and of course we eat food. In this article, I would like to take a closer look at how our diet is intimately related to a healthy, balanced life.
Ancient Chinese medical wisdom teaches us that nourishment depends on two aspects: our ability to receive and our ability to transform. In terms of eating, this is represented by our state of mind and the vigor of our digestion.
To be truly nourished by food, we need to be open to receiving it first. No matter how ‘good’ the food may be, it will all be for not if you haven’t taken proper care of your mind. That is why I am always telling patients, “Your mind is the most nourishing food you can consume.”
If your mind is not relaxed and calm, you will experience digestive difficulty. This means that what your body has received cannot be transformed into useful energy or substance. Over time the digestive functions become weak, leading to good quality food being poorly absorbed.
Depending on your beliefs and how you think about food affects how it is received. If we believe what we are eating is beneficial, we are more apt to digest it better than if we believe that it is harmful to us. It is as if we are programing our digestion to reject it.
In this way, our emotions play a greater role in our digestion than we think. Feeling unworthy, that our needs will never be met, or wanting to escape from the world, block our ability to receive nourishment.
Being relaxed while eating, enjoying the food, and company are important conditions that must be met for us to gain benefit from eating. If we let our attention be drawn to the news, TV, an argument, etc. our energy will be diverted from the process of digestion. The more calm and relaxed we feel the better our digestion will be. This is the first step in cultivating a nourishing diet and life.
Digestive Strength is the Key
Once we’ve received the food, then digestion begins. This is the transformational stage. How much nourishment you receive from your food is dependent on how strong your ‘digestive fire’ is. In Chinese medicine, this responsibility falls on the organs of the Spleen and Stomach and can be strengthened by exercise. If we are not moving our bodies regularly and in a healthy way, then our digestion gets weak and fat and other unwanted substances become retained in the body. If our digestion is not moving, changing, and transforming well, that often makes our emotions stuck as well. And how we feel determines the choices we make...
Here in the United States, most people’s relationship to food is not based on nutritional needs. It is based on emotional need. We eat to feel good. Unfortunately, it often comes from the wrong reasons. For example, needing stimulation because of boredom or fatigue, needing to change our emotions because we are not being nourished like we should be, or to fill a ‘hole’ because of some emptiness in our life.
Our relationship to food is central to our life. If we do not continue to receive from our environment, and transform what we received into something useful, we will die. This is a law of growth. This is change. This is the cycle of life. And the way in which we eat is a direct reflection of our relationship with nature, our environment, and our self.
If greed or disrespect rules our eating habits, then it is likely for this to be reflected in our relationships with others as well. If scarcity rules, then so it is likely with other aspects of our life.
We are misguided by information overload from advertising, our shopping environment, and often by ‘what’s on sale.’ We need to start looking inward if we are to find true balance and nourishment for our lives. Because creating Heaven on earth starts inside. It’s not ‘out there.’
Knowing the importance of receiving and transforming gives you the power to change your life. “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Focus on cultivating a calm peaceful environment for dinning, and you will find calm and peace elsewhere in your daily life. Practice cultivating a quality relationship with the food that nourishes you, and so will you have that quality of relationship with others in your life.
Exploring your relationship to food may not be a happy, comfortable journey. I don’t know where you are in our life. But I do know that wherever you are, you have the choice to grow into a more rewarding life. And that is what being healthy is all about, self-cultivation. Our diet is just one way, one measure of our journey. And it is a great avenue to further your growth.
Our Natural Wisdom
The deeper we learn to listen to ourselves, the better and more appropriate our diet will become. It takes time, and it’s not always easy, but “if you sow you will reap.” If you need guidance, you know where to find us. We are here to help you in any way we can. We don’t have all the answers, but with over 3,000 years of history, Chinese medicine has cultivated lot of great pearls of wisdom in which we can use in our life. Take advantage of them, so you don’t waste your time ‘re-inventing the wheel.’
all good medicine,