To conclude our brief foray into nutrition in this series of articles, few areas of nutrition are more controversial than questions around vegetarian vs. meat-based diets.
In my experience, asking the question, "Should I be a vegetarian?" is like asking whether one should wear a fur coat or not - the answer depends on whether you're going to the North Pole or an African desert. In other words, it depends on what you're trying to achieve.
The question is no less prevalent in the realm of Body Electronics. When I did my Instructor's training in 1996 I walked away with the firm belief that vegetarian was best; mind you I had already come to believe that anyway and so it would be fair to say that this suited by beliefs at that time. I might add that I had spent the previous 28 or so years convinced that a meal wasn't a real meal without meat, so I feel I can lay claim to understanding both ends of the spectrum.
Certainly, Dr Ray taught a variety of perspectives in the seven years that I worked with him. Meals at seminars were by no means vegan and there was the regular serving of dairy, eggs and fish.
In subsequent years a lot of information based on the fascinating work of Dr Weston Price and Sally Fallon has come to the fore in the Body Electronics community, wherein these two researchers firmly believe in the essential need for some form of animal products in the diet. Perhaps ironically, at least for me, organ meats are rated as the most "nutritious" meats and muscle meats (the type I always preferred) the least nutritious.
Contradictions abound, researchers do not agree, there are moral arguments for both sides of the coin - "Should I be a vegetarian?"
I believe that if different diets could be divided into higher laws and lower laws there would be no doubt at all that vegetarian diets must be sided with higher laws - I believe that the vegetarian diet is a spiritual diet, or at least to say, it is supportive of a spiritual lifestyle.
However, I also think that any person who thinks their diet will make them a spiritual person is well mistaken. "It is not what goes into your mouth that is important when what comes out of your mouth in verbal expression defiles you."
In other words, undertaking a vegetarian diet for the sake of your health or spiritual development without regard for the proper application of other spiritual laws is akin to jumping into a boat without oars or rudder.
Animal foods are dense and well suited to a person identified with the lower aspects of nature. Such a person may live to a ripe old age in comfort on such diets. Whether this is in their ultimate interest from a wider perspective is another matter and substantially depends on what use they make of their health.
In point of fact, a reasonably healthy person (that is to say, a person not incapacitated by their ailments, as opposed to a person who has a sense of true wellbeing) who squanders their opportunity to be constructive may have more to answer for than a person in seeming poorer health who does their best to serve others.
Even more controversy?
In my naturopathic training I was well surprised to find out how much ignorance there is regarding the question of "meat or no meat?" Discussions always came down to balancing fats, proteins and carbohydrates or emotive anecdotal evidence.
In retrospect I need not have been so surprised, as most people think of their diet as a means merely of sustaining their body. "You mean it isn't?" No, I do not believe so.
As controversial as this may be, the focus of any given diet for its affect on health is misplaced. The focus should be on what we do with what we've got and whether or not a given diet aids us to be as constructive as possible at whatever level we are at or are capable of reaching.
In practical terms this means that if a person has the mind to do it, practically any vaguely balanced diet (whatever that is) is capable of supporting improved health. It is the change of attitude that frequently accompanies the change of diet that produces a large part of the good.
We eat because we perceive the necessity to, based on our identification with matter. The more we are identified with matter, the less beneficial will be the vegetarian diet, unless we are making some other effort to become less identified with matter and more identified with spirit.
As an illustration, in chapter 10 of “Autobiography of a Yogi”, the swami Dyananda berates a young and inexperienced Yogananda (then called Mukunda) on the subject of food at a time when Yogananda first experienced a day and a half of fasting, feeling that he might therefore die.
"Never believe that you live by the power of food and not by the power of God! He who has created every form of nourishment, He who has bestowed appetite, will inevitably see that His devotee is maintained. Do not imagine that rice sustains you nor that money or men support you. Could they aid if the Lord withdraws your life breath? They are His instruments merely. Is it by any skill of yours that food digests in your stomach? Use the sword of your discrimination, Mukunda! Cut through the chains of agency and perceive the Single Cause!"
In short, for the most part a meat-eater one should only aspire to being a vegetarian if one also aspires to and applies other spiritual disciplines in life. If one is then properly nutritionally and mentally prepared (which frequently is overlooked, since a good vegetarian diet is not simply abstaining from meat) then healing crisis (and all the apparent contradiction that entails) leading to eventual health of the whole being and spiritual clarity may flow.
If one has no such aspirations and only wishes to have a comfortable body then it may be that retaining some judiciously chosen animal products in the diet is a necessity.
It may also be that even the most determined vegetarian may occasionally benefit from temporary use of animal foods to restore balance in the body. This is the person who has bitten off more than they can chew in terms of overestimating their capacity to apply higher laws, not the person merely looking for something to justify their desires for meat.
Ultimately it is a highly personal question and frequently one underlined with belief-challenging experiences. This is one area where nutrition counselling with a Body Electronics practitioner can be of immense benefit.
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Follow the navigation links below to read more in this series about nutrition, or go to my Essential Books pages to browse some nutrition books I recommend.