Last week I received a comment from a reader prompted by the article they’d been reading, Will yoga give me a great body?
I have recently started yoga, been almost a month & I love it. I have been doing “The Paleo Diet” – Lean Meats, Fruits, Vegs, No breads or Grains, Beans etc. I am eating more of what a cave man would/could eat and with that & yoga I am losing weight.
I have to be honest with you, I kinda feel bad. I feel that I can’t love yoga & be a yogi if I eat meat, which I want to do.
Do you eat meat? Are you vegan?
No, I’m no vegan. And yes, I do eat meat. And I’ve also gone through stages where I’ve felt conflicted about what it means to be a yogi, what I feel like I should be eating, or behaving like, and what feels right to me.
From my perspective, the whole point of yoga is to connect us with our internal guidance – call it Prana if you will, or intuition, or the Higher Self, or even God. It’s not about listening to external authorities on what is right for you. So I can’t tell anyone what they should do, because I don’t know. All I can do it share my experience of how I figured out what I need to do.
In becoming aware of our internal guidance, we are also becoming conscious. Completely conscious. This means we notice our thoughts, we notice our feelings, we notice physical sensations in the body, we notice energetic sensations in the body. Yet in noticing what is, we also step into a place where we realise we have a choice as to how we are going to respond or react to that thought, that feeling, that sensation. We step into our divinity as conscious creators. In this way, we may be conscious of the anger we feel, but no longer does it mean we scream at our kids or our partner in reaction. Instead we watch the anger, breathing into it, allowing it to surface and release.
Stepping into consciousness is a moment by moment practice. Sometimes we forget, and we get sucked back down into the dream – into simply reacting to situations and feelings and thoughts according to our “programming”. And then we’ll maybe go to a yoga class, or do our home practice, or just take some time out to breath and we come back into conscious presence and notice that we were living reactively.
These two tools – knowing one’s internal guidance and being conscious in the moment – are all one needs to navigate through life. Then each moment becomes obvious. Choices are made based on what feels right in that moment to create the results we want to generate. What is “wanted” or “not wanted” becomes irrelevant. In fact, you could almost call it the choiceless choice. Becoming conscious means we choose to create our lives, yet the choice is so obvious that it’s almost not a choice at all but the only course of action.
Let’s say you’ve connected to your internal guidance – you can feel what you need to do in each moment. You’re starting to experience more and more moments of consciousness where you make choices according to what you want to create, rather than choices based reactively on past programming. You’re practicing yoga and you want to eat vegan, yet every time you go out to dinner all you feel like eating is steak.
What to do, what to do?
First, examine your thoughts and beliefs around this choice. Why do you “want” to eat vegan? Where does this desire come from? Is it because you think you “should”? Is it because you want to save the planet? Is it because it’s the “right” thing to do? Is it because that’s what yogis do? Is is because eating vegan makes your body and mind feel incredible?
Second, know that there is no right answer. There are only choices that generate results. If you eat the steak, what is the result for you? If you eat the vegetarian option, what is the result for you? Which option provides balance for you and makes you feel more alive? If, like me, you have a tendency to become ungrounded and have too much Vatta, eating steak might be right to balance you out in that moment.
Make your choice according to what feels right – not according to what you think you should do. Thinking is over rated :).
And once you’ve made your choice, be conscious as you eat. Be conscious after you eat. Collect data about the choice so that next time, you will also do what feels right – knowing that the choice may be completely different because the next moment is completely different. Steak might be the right choice today, but you might never ever feel like another steak. There are no hard and fast rules.
Plus, let’s say you really, really, really enjoy coffee. But you think you shouldn’t drink it because it’s bad. So you don’t. You deny yourself. Yet in denying yourself coffee, you find yourself thinking about it every day. You wistfully watch others drink it. You don’t even go into cafes because you can’t bear smelling something you can’t have.
Well you know what?
You don’t have to deny yourself coffee because you think it’s bad for you. Life is short. We’re here to experience material existence, and that includes coffee. So if you love it, drink it. Drink it consciously. Observe it’s affects on your body. Know the difference between savouring one coffee a day and compulsively knocking back six to give you energy to get through your day. You will find a balance point where your enjoyment of coffee is over-ridden by the effects it has on your body and mind and so you stop drinking it. Or you may decide that you are fine with those effects and you enjoy it fully conscious of what happens when you drink it.
This concept of being completely conscious of our actions, and savouring what we choose to do extends to every thing. Once upon a time, tobacco was smoked in a ceremonial pipe passed from person to person to share in a particular experience. There was a sacredness within the experience. Now as a yogi, there are moments where I may – gasp – share a cigarette with a friend. Why? Because the moment calls for it. Because I do it consciously. Because I marvel at the effect of the cigarette on my body. Because it is a choice. Because I choose to enjoy that experience in that moment with full awareness of what it entails.
And then I won’t have a cigarette for months, or even years.
Half of humanity has been accepting the inner world but denying the outer world. The other half of humanity has been accepting the material world and denying the inner world. Both are half, and no man who is half can be contented. You have to be whole: rich in the body, rich in science; rich in meditation, rich in consciousness. Only a whole person is a holy person, according to me.
The very picture of a whole man, is a “Zorba the Buddha” who can drink wine, dance on the beach and sing in the rain, and at the same time enjoy the depths of understanding and wisdom that belong to the sage.
The sage understands that nothing is bad and nothing is good, it is only thinking that makes it so. The sage understands that every action has results, and takes full responsibility for the results of his actions. The sage understands that work works for her may or may not work for anyone else, and doesn’t proscribe a set way to live.
So if you’re agonising over the right way to eat, drink, and behave as a yogi… if you feel guilty about the choices you’re making… let it all go. Know that there are no right and wrong choices. Know that there are only choice that generate results. Be honest and conscious about what you want to create in your life. Be honest and conscious about what the results of your choices are. Then choose with awareness. Choose with joy. And enjoy whatever it is that you choose to do.
In making these choices, be aware if you are lying to yourself. Be aware if you are denying the truth in order to feed a craving, or an addiction. Only you know what your inner truth is telling you. And you do know, you can feel it within. It is impossible to lie to yourself and feel good about what it is you’re doing – and you want to feel good right? You want to enjoy every moment right?
If you do feel guilty about the choices you are making, examine closely the belief that is generating the guilt. Where does the belief come from? Is it true? Does it still serve you?
For example, if you believe that “yogis don’t eat meat”, and you know yoga is a calling for you, you’ll feel guilty when you eat meat. The solution is not to stop eating meat – necessarily. The solution is to get rid of the belief “yogis don’t eat meat”. Then whether you eat meat or don’t eat meat is a conscious choice in the moment based on what is right for you.
And that’s the one way to live.
In every moment.
This article has been included in the Bodybuilding and Fitness blog’s Weight Loss Carnival.
It’s also been included in Anmol Mehta’s Huge Carnival of Yoga, Meditation and Zen.
And in the 40th Weight Management and Fitness Forum.