(Last Updated on : 14/12/2013)
The food that is consumed by the human body correlates directly to the efficiency with which the brain functions. Certain red food coloring creates hyperactivity in children while refined sugar can cause emotional instability. These are just two examples of substances that are often needlessly consumed without understanding their effect on the body and mind. A person who meditates regularly must be particularly aware of these substances. Even on a day-by-day basis, diet affects the quality of meditation. The optimum diet for a mediator is a simple one. This is not to say that meals should not be appetizing, but there should be an absence of those foods, which negatively affect the mind. Hot and pungent spices, garlic, onions, salt, coffee, black tea, and meat agitate the mind, and hence control of the thoughts becomes difficult. Then there are those foods, which dull the mind, rendering a state of sleepiness instead of concentration. These include all pre-cooked and overripe foods; alcohol is also included in the list. Marijuana and cigarettes, though not taken as foods, also fit into this category.
It is not expected that every person will make an immediate radical change in diet, but those who are sincerely interested in meditation may begin by phasing out meat and cigarettes. In many cases it can be seen that asanas or pranayama will make this much easier. Many detrimental habits will fall away of themselves simply due to the change of consciousness that occurs in meditation. The process can be start by shopping and cooking with a greater degree of awareness. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be their in the list. Additives, processed foods, and canned goods should be completely avoided. Concentration should be put to nutritional and vegetarian diet. Within a few Months a great change will take place for sure. Several years ago vegetarianism was an under- ground practice. A person who refrained from eating meat was viewed with a certain amount of curiosity, if not suspicion. Today it is quite a different story. Health food stores and vegetarian restaurants are prevalent. There is a growing awareness that our health is directly affected by what we eat. Many diseases can be cured by a change in diet or a short period of fasting, with no medications at all. This is true not only of physical disorders, but of many mental difficulties as well. It is particularly important that pregnant mothers have this awareness. Too often they do not realize the effect of their diet on the developing fetus.
Contrary to the popular concept, vegetarians do get enough protein. It is meat-eaters who take in an excess of protein. Animal protein contains a high concentration of uric acid, which is a nitrogen compound similar to ammonia. It is not water-soluble and cannot be broken down by the liver. Thus, though a certain amount is eliminated, the greater portion of uric acid is deposited in the joints. The result is often arthritis. Hardening of the arteries and heart disease are two of the most common maladies in present days, where the greatest amount of meat is consumed. The main problematic matter is cholesterol, which cannot be eliminated from the body. It forms fatty deposits along the walls of the heart and arteries. And it gradually thickens until they are clogged and inflexible. Some think that merely switching from butter to margarine will solve the problem, but in fact any oil that has been hydrogenated is equally as harmful. The major source of cholesterol, however, does not come from occasional butter on the toast in the morning but from the hundreds of pounds of meat and its fats that most people consume each year.
The cancer is another dreaded disease. Many substances have been found to create cancer in animals, but results of most studies seem to indicate that the amount consumed by the average person is insufficient. Innumerable chemicals are fed and injected into animals. These increase weight to yield more money per animal. Nitrites, food coloring, artificial hormones, and even arsenic are among the chemicals contained in animal flesh by the time it goes on the supermarket shelf. These, plus the many other additives consumed by members of an industrialized society, collect in the body and are stored in the tissues. Cancer occurs when the cells react to these excessive toxins by mutating into cells, which reproduce uncontrollably. There are other physical and spiritual reasons for not eating meat. One of the reasons can be explained, as when the grain is fed to animals, it is four times as much grain is used if a person consumed the grain directly. This raises a moral question in regard to sharing of the world's resources. Plants are the original source of energy for all living things, as they store the energy of the sun through photosynthesis. Vegetarians take their nourishment from the original source. Because of this their diet is more economical with regards to personal cost and the best utilization of available land.
It is also noteworthy that the human being's digestive system is not one of a carnivore. The teeth are designed for biting and mashing vegetables, not tearing flesh. The human liver is proportionally smaller than that of a meat-eating animal and is not built to handle the filtering of animal poisons. The alimentary canal is also short in carnivorous animals to speed poisons through the body quickly. But in human being it is quite long as it is in any vegetarian animal. Though for a yogi, the main consideration in not eating meat is the basic principle of ahimsa, or non-injury. Animals have feelings and a consciousness, just as humans do. In India, a cow is regarded with great respect for the service it renders to man. It tills the fields, provides milk and its by-products for nourishment, and its dung is used for fuel and building houses. An Indian farmer would never think of cooking his cow for dinner.
A subtle part of what is consumed becomes the consciousness. Those who have changed from a meat eater to vegetarian diet notice a corresponding change in consciousness. There is a certain grossness that disappears, and the awareness becomes finely tuned. This is of course, extremely conducive to meditation. The purer the diet, the more easily the mind is controlled. Then, with time and practice, success in meditation is assured.