Food part 3: Food and Consciousness

August 26th, 2013


There is nothing outside of our mind


Taoist saint


A Zen parable illustrates this.  A master’s students are observing a flag flapping in the wind. The master asks them a question:  What is moving, the flag or the wind? Each student chooses one side or another.


Finally the master answers that it is the mind that moves.


In the first two installments in this three part series on food and health we looked at the main theories over the last 100 years or so in regard to how food affects our body along with the latest research findings.  (if you missed it click part 1 and part 2) If however, like the Zen master, we see everything as being contained in the mind, what role might food play in that?


After all, if we look around the world we see people surviving on radically different food sources. Eskimos have a very different diet from someone living in the tropics or Europe yet they manage to survive. So what is the big deal about food?


The Ageless Myth


First let us get out of the way the hidden subtext of much food and health advice. That is, if we follow someone’s ‘laws’ of health, be it diet, exercise, fasting or ‘super foods’ and supplements, we won’t die (!). It is not overtly stated but couched in suggestive terms like ‘agelessness’,  ‘ageless aging’, ‘fit for life’ or something with words like ‘miracle’, ‘secret’, ‘ancient’ embedded in the title somewhere.


The truth is however that our physical body is not our own. It belongs to mother earth and sooner or later she will reclaim her loan. If you do not believe this and think you are your body then simply decide to stop aging and stay the age you are now forever. After all, it is your body right?…


Tractor reclaimed


OK, so now we have got the idea of being ‘saved’ by our food choices out of the way, why might we choose to bother with becoming more conscious about food at all?


For many the answer will lie in concern for their physical appearance. They might focus on their weight and physical tone. Others may be more focused on performance and so investigate diet and supplements said to aid them in their particular goal. Then there are those who simple wish to feel better. That may mean everything from having more energy to curing a disease or feeling more positive about their life.


Food and Consciousness


Food and other lifestyle choices often go hand in hand. Observe cultures that consume high amounts of alcohol and the kinds of food that seem to go hand in hand with that. One often gives rise to the craving for the other.  To intervene with advice purely from a nutritional perspective would pose a threat to that person/group’s whole way of living. We will very quickly find it is not about food anymore.


There are schools of thought that hold the view that what we eat affects our consciousness (or at least reflects it – whichever comes first). It is usually linked to philosophies of non-violence which rules out animal-based food sources to begin with. Drugs and alcohol are similarly ruled out as they are considered self-destructive.


On a collective level it is easy to see how the world would indeed be a less cruel and violent place if everyone followed these principles. Millions of animals every day would be spared cruel living conditions, forced medication, cramped transport and murder. When we know for a fact that we can live a perfectly healthy life without consuming animal products it is a reflection of our collective consciousness that we have not (yet?) chosen to do so.





Pride and Prejudice


The danger however with this approach is again the inference that we will be saved in some way by this path. In addition, no small amount of self-righteous pride can attach itself to these ideals as we identify with representing the truth and the light. By comparison it is easy to become prejudiced and judgmental of those who do not share or practice this truth.


This is why the food and health scene can sometimes resemble a cult or religion instead of personal choice. For that very reason it can be off-putting to those who may have been otherwise interested in testing it for themselves.


Avoiding the food flap


If, like the flag in the wind, we are a creation of our mind then how do we deal with the flap about food? Here are a few simple tips:


Gratitude. The fact that we have enough to eat and drink – regardless of what it is – is a blessing in itself that should not be taken for granted. Whatever it is we eat, feel gratitude that it will be sustaining us. If we cannot genuinely feel that for something, don’t eat it.


Last tuna melt


Simplicity. Our grazing habits keep us tethered to earthly concerns. Try and make food shopping, preparation and consumption as simple as possible. But not too simple. The addiction to instant gratification is what has opened the door for the rise in processed foods that produce negative consequences at every part of their production from farming techniques, to chemical additives and a reduction in color and taste, to the cost to our health.


The 20 minute rule. Instead of focusing on how a food tastes in your mouth pay attention to how your body feels 20 minutes after you have eaten it. Do you feel tired, sluggish or irritable? Do you have sweet or stimulant cravings? Or do you feel relaxed and energized?


This of course also applies to the amount of food we consume. It takes around 20 minutes for the stretch receptors in our stomach to register with the satiety center in the brain to tell us we have eaten enough.  We have a greater chance of overeating if we eat quickly. Consciously slowing down the speed at which we eat can prevent that happening.


Finally the 20 minute rule can also apply to cravings. Wait 20 minutes and see if we still really desire that food we thought we did.


Avoiding dogma. If a certain health philosophy, no matter how idealized and correctly followed only succeeds in making us sicker then it might be time to review our philosophy – at least as it applies to us.


The mind moves


Observe how our mind moves in relationship to the food we eat. If we are really paying attention it will become obvious what we need to do at any given time.


While it is good to be aware of information about nutrition, energy and even the politics of global food production it would be wise to not let ourselves be influenced by outward statistics alone.


The following of fads and trends comes from a sense of separation from our Self and the desire to be saved from the death fear that arises from this separation.


Ultimately though, we have to trust that inside of us we will discover our truth.


Till we have mind-munched our way through to another Monday,



© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:



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