• Mina Semyon

Eating Habits

The spirit can't bear the body when overfed and the body can't deal with the spirit when underfed. Aldous Huxley.
If you close your mouth to food you can know a sweeter taste. Rumi

My mother’s greatest pleasures in life were to watch me eat or to fantasise about me marrying a millionaire. Since millionaires were even harder to come by than food in post-war Russia, as soon as rationing was over my mother really made me eat! So overeating became a device for cutting off painful feelings. When, for the first time in my life, I went on a fast of lemon and honey drinks for a week, I became free of the tyranny of my usual preoccupations and worries. I thought, ‘This is it! This is enlightenment!’ I felt calm and contented, filled with benign sensations in my body. After a few fasts I began to notice that in between feeling inspired and light, or dejected and lifeless, there was a loaf of bread with butter and jam!

I was inspired by these words from the I Ching :


Hexagram 27 - The Corners of the Mouth (Providing Nourishment) Words are a movement going from within outward. Eating and drinking are movements from without inward. Both kinds of movement can be modified by tranquillity. For tranquillity keeps the words that come out of the mouth from exceeding proper measure and keeps the food that goes into the mouth from exceeding proper measure. Thus character is cultivated.


Proper measure? I found it easier to fast than to eat my proper measure. But eating as a means of relieving anxiety and insecurity destroys energy. There were times when the only pleasure in life seemed to be food, the only motivation to get up in the morning was looking forward to my favourite breakfast. Graham Howe said, 'Suffering is digestion'. The stomach becomes overburdened and we become sleepy and lazy, there is an illusion of a relief from anxiety, in fact it is a dulling. The consequences are that we cannot achieve what we have set out to achieve. Gluttony leads away from communication to solitary gratification, which does not satisfy. I noticed there was a connection between believing in my dreams and losing that belief according to how much I ate. Then I came across a book 'The Huna code in religions', by Max Freedom Long, which confirmed my experience. Max Freedom Long says, ‘Kahunas believe that the seat of the low self was in the intestinal tract and the low self is the place where fixations and convictions of unworthiness and guilt must be sought and removed.’ Maybe that was one of the reasons why my mother kept urging ‘eat, eat, my child’. Guilt had to be fed and kept alive at all costs! It is a deep-seated problem, this overeating, and a very common one, and yet there isn't a quick solution. To change this monster habit on a deep level is to discover it's root, by doing the inner work and to realise how deeply our relationship with food affects the balance of the body and mind. Getting in touch with the sense of balance and becoming more attuned to it makes us more reluctant to lose it through overeating or eating unconsciously.

How can we change our eating habits? Practising Yoga with mindfulness helps to awaken and to trust our intuition so that we know when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat. If we are in touch with ourselves we don't need to be told by experts what to eat. Yogis advise not to eat until the breath flows freely through the right and the left nostril. In the physical and subtle bodies there are a certain number of nadis (subtle channels through which energy flows) and chakras (centres in which cosmic energy exists). The nadis emphasised in Yoga are ida, pingala and susumna. In most people the nadis are obstructed but asanas and pranayama can clear them. Ida and Pingala represent the sun and the moon, the right is the sun, the left the moon, the male and female principles. Susumna is the central channel in the spinal column and is regarded in Yoga as the road to nirvana, which means cessation of all the spinning in the mind. To breathe freely through the right and left nostrils is to unify the two breaths, and free the central channel. Alternate nostril breathing is a simple and important exercise for our digestion and general health to practice every morning before eating.

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