Imbolc 2002, Vol 1-2
MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly eZine for Goddess Women Near & Far
Winter is a time when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects those of us who live in colder regions and get less sunlight during this season. You might be interested to know that according to Chinese and Eastern Indian medicine, eating food is an important way to absorb sunshine energy.
Chi, Food and Lack of Sunlight. Just as chi (energy) can be obtained directly from sunlight, the universe also supplies it for us in natural foods. Food, as it grows, obtains energy from the sun, earth, air, rain, and also from cosmic energies. The closer the time between the harvesting and eating of food, the more energy (chi) is transmitted from the food to the person eating it. If you live in a city, or in a colder climate where there is not much sun, or if you do not spend much time out of doors, eating the chlorophyll-containing green veggies is a way of absorbing the sun energy we all need. Organic is always best, as other natural foods may be grown with chemicals, which may have also been absorbed and be passed on to you as you eat them.
We know that eating healthy is vital to our existence and well being. It affects our mood, energy level, and so much about us. In our culture, we have learned and been taught so little of the ancient knowledge regarding nutrition. Here are some of the basics that I've learned from Eastern Indian Ayurveda and Chinese medicine regarding food: it's purpose, quality, choice, preparation and consumption. By taking some of the following suggestions, you can improve the quality of chi in your food and increase the chi energy available to you. Because nutrition is such a huge and diverse topic, I encourage you to explore it on your own.
Food Quality. Canned food and frozen food is devoid of chi. It is essentially "dead food"; its chi has been stripped from it in the preparation and storage process. Ayurveda suggests that food is "living"--even after it is picked it still contains the life force. We bring its essence or chi into us when we eat it, but the chi of food must be nurtured and preserved to help sustain and increase it throughout the planting, growing, storing, cooking and eating process.
Rice, in order to maintain its chi, must be in a "breathable" container. Buying rice in a burlap container and storing it in a bamboo or burlap container will retain its chi. Plastic is not breathable and the chi will not last if the rice is stored in this way. I learned this from a very good book on the Ayurvedic system (Ayurveda: A Life of Balance by Bri. Maya Tiwari). The author was able to treat her own near fatal illness with Ayurveda when traditional medicine failed her.
Food Preparation. Cooking or preparing food is a sadhana (holy practice) according to the ayurvedic system. Handle food with respect and gratitude, putting good energy into it as you prepare and eat it. Ayurveda teaches that the more you handle food the better it is, so that you should knead, stir, measure, serve and eat as much with your hands as possible to help transmit and receive its energy. The DNA in the food, which has been passed down from generation to generation through the seeds, is a type of memory that is transmitted to us when we handle, consume and take it into ourselves. I wonder how cloning and genetically engineered foods affect us, given these ayurvedic principles?
Handle and cook the food with love and appreciation. It is best to give it your full attention. Try to participate in as many of the processes of planting, growing, harvesting, milling, etc. of the foods as possible; this will increase the flow of chi into the food and into your being. (Read Secret of Shambhala, a novel by James Redfield, to learn more about this and other insights into energy.) You may have a community cooperative farm in your area that will allow you to participate in these processes and share in the produce for a small fee. If you cannot participate in these processes, imagine them being done with love and appreciation, increasing the good chi in the food.
Never cook, eat or handle food when angry or depressed. This is transmitted to the food and to the people who eat it. Keep a spirit of love as you prepare the food. Imagine how the plant began from a seed, absorbed the nourishing energies of the earth and sky, matured and was harvested. See and feel the food releasing its good energy into you and others while they eat and appreciate it.
Eating. In order to retain the most chi from food, eating should be done without the common distractions of television, radio, reading, and talking. Eat as often as possible in silence, with your attention drawn to and focused on the food -- appreciating its taste, texture, and other qualities, feeling its energy and intentionally bringing that good energy into yourself.
A Word about Ethics. The growing and preparation of food is so important to its chi that I I would suggest buying it from responsible companies if you are not in a place where you can grow your own. This would include locally-grown and community-grown foods, and of course farms and orchards that treat their workers well, with livable wages and good health care. "Another ethically responsible practice is to buy "sea" food that is harvested in environmentally responsible ways without causing great loss of sea life (*). Some big companies drag the sea floor, which kills masses of precious sea life in the process. This can't be good for our karma or chi. I would also suggest (if you are not a vegan) that you buy animal products such as milk and eggs from people who raise animals responsibly and humanely, without the use of hormones and pesticides, fed organically, and allowed a free-range lifestyle. The quality of life of the animal who gives food will have an effect on the chi it contains.
Correcting Imbalances with Food. If there is an imbalance in our meridians, this can sometimes be noticed by extreme body temperature as well as extreme emotions. To correct serious imbalances, see a trained doctor or naturopath. You can use common sense to correct minor imbalances. When you are uncomfortably hot, and need to cool down (including those of us who tend toward regular angry states) eat cooling foods like lettuce, carrots and apples -- preferably raw and juiced vegetables and fruits. If you tend to be a cold person who has trouble warming up, or if you notice you often have cold hands and feet or if you are nervous a lot and feel disconnected from your body, try eating warming foods -- preferably cooked foods, soups and teas. If you like spices, they are good for their warming quality. Ginger, for example, is an excellent warmer.
Vibrational Cooking. People with delicate digestive systems require slower, steady changes to their diets. Vibrational cooking suggests that the level of heat, cooking time and container we cook our food in is important to its quality. Metal has a high vibration energy, and if possible it is suggested that you don't cook or eat with metal containers and utensils, especially if you have a nervous temperament, because the energy of the metal can be retained in the food. Cooking for a short time over high heat retains an intensity that you may not prefer. Most experts suggest cooking for a longer period of time over lower heat. This will help the food to gain lots of good warming chi, without the nervous quality of "fast" food. If possible, cook over an open flame, even if it is a gas stove, rather than an electric, because it is more "natural" to the food. It is also suggested that you try and stay away from microwaving food.
Weak and Sturdy Constitutions. For people who have difficulty digesting food, Congee is recommended. Congee is made by a process of cooking rice with 3-6 times the amount of water and cooking it on low for up to 6 hours to make it soft and easy to digest (make sure you do not leave the stove on when you are away, as this is a fire hazard). Crock pots are a good way to make congee. In addition, you can also soak and crush the rice kernels before cooking to make them even more digestible.
People with a stronger healthier constitution can make quicker and more sudden changes with less effect. They can have more of the strongly cleansing raw and juiced vegetables and fruits. The rule is, if you are of a delicate constitution and are sensitive to quick changes, slow and gradual modifications are recommended.
Our Relationship with Food. Ayurveda is about having a good relationship with your food. Sometimes are bodies need to be introduced to certain foods -- our bodies don't always understand what to do with a food if they are encountering it for the first time. It is a good idea to introduce new foods slowly and gradually, not all at once. Allow yourself to become acquainted with different foods, handling them, observing them, even on some level communicating with them by sensing their type of energy. You may even want to exchange a little bit of your energy with your food. This is done for some in the form of a blessing before, and sometimes after, a meal. If you cannot work with the food by planting, growing or cooking it, this conscious energy exchange may be your only opportunity to complete that part of the process. A blessing may for some take the form of words and intention, for others it may simply be an acknowledgment of the food with gratitude, and/or an exchange of energy. You may imagine this exchange of energy as if it were a light passing from your body into the food and from the food into your body, or you may choose to do something as simple as smiling to your food with pleasure, enjoying it as you eat.
Most importantly, learn to listen to the wisdom of your body. You may be surprised if it just so happens to lead you to the right thing that you need to eat.
Those with blood sugar problems or serious medical concerns should consult a professional before changing their diet. This article is meant to share information and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult your physician or other health practitioner if you have questions about your relationship with food, or read books and talk with others about food value, digestion, and health.
(*) We can't assume that farm-grown seafood is necessarily produced in environmentally responsible ways. Originally I thought that seafood farming was the most environmentally conscious and healthy alternative to seafood harvesting. But I recently learned that this is not necessarily the case. Here are some points to consider:
beans in pods, Adam Hart-Davis, DHD
A Life of Balance by Bri. Maya Tiwari
Online Ayurveda Resources