YOU ARE WHAT YOU (rep)EAT
I always hated it when some skinny, more than likely well meaning ‘adult’ would scold me with the ‘you are what you eat’ message. I was an overweight kid. I was tortured by it, and it sucked to hear that I was simply a manifestation of my psychosomatic compulsive over-eating habits. Glad I’m (sort of) over that, right?
We are all essentially on a path of self discovery, or seeking the deeper meaning in life. What ‘I am’ does interest me. It’s an inquiry so vast and limitless that most of the time it’s too abstract and overwhelming.
At this point in my life the tangible context of ‘I am’ –meaning material life or the conditions in which I live, experience relationship, work, play, and create is of great importance to ‘get right’.
It is in this physical/material realm where I understand the wisdom of ‘you are the sum total of your choices’, i.e., most of me is made up of what I consistently take (food, media, environment, the company I keep, etc.).
In yoga philosophy there is the teaching of The Koshas that says the Self (the ‘I am’ ) is made of five layers or sheaths. The first, which is most familiar, is the physical body of skin, muscle, organs, bones, etc. It is called annamayakosha, which literally translates as the food body. The second layer is the energy body of breath and sensation- the movement of the life force within. The third sheath is the stuff of the mind. Next is our innate wisdom. Finally, at our core is the essence of our nature, pure bliss.
So maybe the good folks who came up with the sweet wisdom of ‘you are what you eat’ were yogis disseminating kosha theory of the ‘food body’. And maybe the rest of the message–that habitual choices in ALL aspects of our lives constitutes and determines the condition and shape of our bodies, mental states, daily surroundings, all of our experiences from birth til death– literally our life’s paths. It all boils down to our choices!
Bad habits are like funny little weeds in the garden. They crop up quick and grow super fast. Good habits are much more difficult to cultivate, slow growing, and oftentimes even more slow to produce flowers. It’s like planting a Japanese Magnolia tree. Choosing to nurture the beautiful purple magnolia flower is well worth the wait and comes with lots of weed pulling.
There is no garden without both weeds and flowers. Tending the yard or garden is a constant daily practice of keeping some stuff at bay while simultaneously faithfully cultivating the fruits, flowers, and good grasses. And so it is in life. Of course we all want flowers and no weeds. It’s just not realistic. Indulgent choices without being kept in check become habits. It’s our nature.
It always comes back to staying connected to our natural state of innate clarity moment by moment. Doing so empowers good choices now and helps us to see that our choices and habits up to this moment have by and large landed us in this present context. Once we swallow THAT, take responsibility for it, and make peace with it, then we can fully take charge of our lives from this moment forth.
It is possible to become fit at habitually making good choices that are in alignment with who, where, and what we want to be. It happens only through PRACTICE. For a lot of us that practice begins on yoga mats endeavoring in physical fitness. That journey on the mat has transformed me physically, energetically, mentally, and has reconnected me with deep wisdom and innate happiness (even if just in glimpses). Through asana yoga and meditation my habits have shifted and so have I.
Tangible change does happen, but does not happen overnight. And this is a good thing. Because sometimes we work really hard at ‘right living’ for very long stretches having experienced profound change in a positive direction and it seems an indulgent break is in order…like nothing but a leisure day and chocolate lunch will do. When that’s where I am, I compromise. If the old adage holds true, then today ‘I am’ raw vegan spicy carrot soup AND a dirty chai latte. Kind of like a little bit country AND a little bit rock and roll. Or a joyful mix of weeds AND flowers. A conscious indulgence every blue moon is blissful and is also essential living wholly.
Tomorrow my yoga teaching and studio work and inner light will guide me back to my healthy routine and rituals which I love and which keep me balanced, energetic, and sane day after day, year after year.
An old Jamaican proverb says it all…’I am what I am. I am. I am. I am.’
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