Indian Wisdom is not just philosophy and mental gymnastics. It also talks about habits and procedures for a happy and healthy life such as Food and Sleep as well.
(Image Credit: Michael Caroe Andersen)
One of the most important achievements for an Indian is to silence her/ his mind to a complete standstill. At this point, thoughts do not flow into the mental landscape and flutter about to disturb us. Here, we start to live in the present moment and not get carried around by Past or Future. Silence of the mind is achieved through meditation and good living. Discipline with regards to food and sleep are key to meditation.
Why do I not progress spiritually?
This is a common question among many meditators. Even after years of practice, there is often no progress with regards to mental faculties or quality of life in these people. The spiritual aspect of life is often restricted to the few minutes of crossed leg meditation and other religious practices such as temple visits. However, there needs to be an inspection in our habits to start seeing progress.
Too much food or too little food
Bhagavad Gita says that one who eats too much and one who eats too little will find it difficult to experience “Yoga” (union with the Atman). We can all accept the fact that life energy is vital in our daily living. Too much food will take up too much life energy just to digest and assimilate that matter within ourselves. Add food which is difficult to digest and it will result in sickness such as lethargy, uneasiness, restlessness etc., which even modern medicine find difficult to combat. It is natural for us to feel sleepy and gloomy through the day and not consider it as a medical situation. A look at the nature and quantity of food taken would throw some light to such observations. On the other hand, too little food will make you too weak to sustain yourself. The Life Energy that we talk about comes from food we have. Without enough fuel, where would the body get the energy to carry on?
Food is not just the substances that we put into our digestive system. Even the things we see, hear and feel can also be considered food for the energy body. The content of our thoughts, intellect and emotions are also considered food in one way or the other. Our hunger and motivation levels are usually matched with one another. Maybe there is a connection between watching meaningless content on TV and taking junk food at the same time. The food for the mind and for the body have many similarities, when thought about in a “spiritual” way.
The scriptures talk about the nature of food that is best for human consumption as well. The kind of food that is prepared without bothering a lot of people, killing another animal, without too much concern for taste (too much spices, too much sweetness etc.) is considered healthy. Such food can be prepared quite easily as well. Too much work that is needed to soften the food or harden material is not recommended. Our stomach should be half full with food, one fourth full with water and a fourth should be left empty for air circulation.
One who sleeps a lot will be under the influence of Tamasic qualities. A person who is heavily tamasic will not be able to carry on with meditation for long. In a minute or two of starting to meditate, she/ he may easily slip into sleep. In fact, these Tamasic qualities will come in from the food or sensory experiences that you subject yourself to. It can be assumed that the very nature of music we listen to and that we are drawn to can influence the nature of our being. Again, someone who does not sleep or sleeps too little may not have the right energies to go about with work.
A Middle Path
The Rishis in India proposed a middle path for life. This is also seen in Buddhism. So, severe practices such as restricting yourself the comforts of food and sleep is not prescribed as per the scriptures. This can be even seen in the nature of work we do. It is commonly seen that some of us get too tangled up with work and start acting with such intensity, claiming we are not desiring any results from work. We may prescribe to a tendency that “Work is Worship” and start working too hard. Such practices may often bind us in attachment to the idea of our detachment itself. Such an attachment would cause us to fall into new traps that we never expected for ourselves.
It is said that more than emotions, it should be intelligence and discrimination of good and not so good that should lead us. We have often seen many who come to the “spiritual path” who resort to such emotional actions in the name of Self Realisation acting without discrimination or intelligence. We have already discussed the concept of Attachment to the idea of Detachment itself.
The Ancient Indian Rishis already saw the traps that were already set up with incomplete and faulty understanding of Scriptures among us. Even the author here may be guilty of interpreting the scriptures wrongly. Only time will show where the mistakes have crept us as well.