Written by Rachel Stermer
The above quote references a truly fundamental principle for practitioners of Ayurveda and traditional medical systems throughout the world. Without a shift in diet, the vast and potent possibilities for treatment of disease will be less effective and, perhaps, not work at all.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, food is paramount to all efforts made in healing the body, mind, and spirit. Proper nutrition is the building block upon which all other methods of treatment stand and is foundational for disease prevention and health maintenance. Perhaps this idea is not novel for those interested in holistic medicine, yet the mystical reason as to why this is so important can be revisited again and again for inspiration, healing, and deeper levels of understanding.
In Vedic culture, it is said that food is Brahman. Food is consciousness and food is nature. Food is part of the creation cycle and is Prakriti or the active, feminine principle of nature in her myriad of forms. This means that food, whether a simple banana or a lovingly prepared gourmet meal, is connected to the same vital energy of creation that makes up all of life. Just as our bodies represent a unique combination of the five great elements, so too, does food. When we acknowledge that taking in nourishment not only satisfies the hungry digestive enzymes in our stomach but also our bodies request for elemental nourishment, we remember the larger cycle of life to which we are intricately connected. Our bodies will also, one day, feed the earth and the earth will create more food that, in turn, nourishes new bodies and new life.
Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of food because of this inextricable relationship humans have with nature and the innate transformative capacity our bodies have to utilize food as medicine. When we ingest food that is truly nourishing our entire organism benefits. The digestive system is happy, the mind is calm, the organs well maintained, the tissues nourished and the heart and spirit are happy. When we eat in this manner, we truly access the power food has to heal.
Compounding beneficial food choices is our human capacity for mindful eating and reflectiveness. When we give thanks for our food, acknowledge our meaningful relationship with it, and honor the food substance as Prana embodied, we magnify our capacity for the process of digestion and transformation of food into the healthy, vital cells that comprise us.
Here is a wonderful Vedic prayer chant before mealtime:
“The creative energy in the food is Brahma. The nourishing energy in the food is Vishnu. The transformation of food into pure consciousness is Shiva. If you know this, then any impurities in the food you eat will never become a part of you.”
This prayer so elegantly acknowledges the sacrament of offering food to our bodily temples and simultaneously suggests a way of mindfully engaging in everyday, real world situations where we might not have total control over what we eat. In a sense, this prayer is an ancient tool that can be applied in very modern circumstances, turning all food into medicine, just like Hippocrates said.
Enjoy your next meal in the spirit of food as consciousness, nourishment, transformation and the foundation for a healing journey!