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Written by Beth Lapides   

My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat
My Other Car Is A Yoga Mat

Someone’s in the Kitchen With Ahimsa

In yoga class I caught myself beating myself up about beating myself up. I took it as a sign to start focusing on ahimsa (nonviolence). In classical yoga, ahimsa is generally given as the first yama (ethical precept), and defined as the non-harming of others by thought, word or deed.

The idea of harming others seems off. Because isn’t the idea of otherness itself violent? Isn’t the act of separating the totality of unbound consciousness into ‘me’ and ‘not me’ a kind of violence? If we are all part of one consciousness, there really is no other to harm. So, when I beat myself up, not only is the berating itself violent, but it means I’m separating myself, creating an artificial other.

I’ve been practicing on my mat, at my desk and even in the highly unflattering light of dressing rooms. But my biggest challenge is in the kitchen. In terms of eating, practicing ahimsa is often defined as being a vegetarian. I actually was a vegetarian before I was a yogi, and before I knew much about nutrition. Unfortunately, I learned that it’s possible to assault yourself pretty brutally with bread and butter.

Now I don’t know what I am. Sometimes people ask if I’m a vegetarian, assuming that I am; and I say no, I’m just annoying. Because I’m a picky eater. I’m always looking for the optimum energy-giving, life-enhancing, nontoxic, sensually-satisfying edibles. Sometimes, given all the variables, a little fish or chicken seems like the best choice. But like most of life now, the choices just aren’t that simple. I’d love the ego gratification of checking off the box: vegetarian. Or even better, vegan. And the clarity of being able to say what I am. I’ve heard my style of eating described as ‘meat-reducer’. Also ‘weight-reducer’. I pay close attention to the (hopefully local and organic) sourcing of the food. What do I call that? A ‘sourcer-ess’?

Now it seems most important to not eat industrially processed food. If I can’t get the corporations out of Iraq, at least I can get them out of my body.

Another problem I have with the classical vegetarian interpretation of ahimsa: plants seem as alive to me as animals. And science backs that up. Experiments have proven that plants recognize the people who water them, and perk up when those water bearers come into the room. Plants respond to consciousness being directed at them by emitting more light. Is it possible that vegetables don’t feel pain? I’m here to tell you, I’ve heard the carrots scream.


Those on the forefront of water research say that water is improved if we love it. And thank it. Two parts thanks to one part love. Apparently, those are the proportions that the water likes best.


Ahimsa in the kitchen? With the cutting, chopping, boiling, searing, grinding, grating, slicing, dicing, not to mention mincing. Yikes! And what about the chewing?

They say you’re supposed to chew each bite a hundred times. Chewing and chewing till solid is liquid. Till the thingness of the food is obliterated and becomes part of you. In fact, I can’t help but feel that eating is inherently vipracticeolent, which is maybe why we’ve come to use the violent euphemism, breaking bread.

Recently I experimented with a totally raw diet. I was attracted to the calm peaceful energy of spirulina (which I’ve heard provocatively
described as “a plant with some animal qualities”), and swayed by alluring before and after photos. But I couldn’t hop on the juicing bandwagon. For one thing, sipping the carrot, celery and beet seemed nonviolent till I had to deal with the pulp, which definitely
doesn’t look like you made gentle love to it. Plus it feels like a waste of fiber.


I pay close attention to the (hopefully local and organic) sourcing of the food. What do I call that? A ‘sourcer-ess’?


But the raw diet got me on a banana kick, and I’ve been relishing the highly nonviolent experience of this monkey favorite. The skin pulls off so easily. Not like a grapefruit for instance, whose skin you can actually hear tearing away from its fruit. And chewed banana is not much different than pre-chewed. Banana is what it is. The syllables BA-NA-NA even suggest the “seed sounds” in its name. Banana is the funniest fruit too!

Then again, most bananas aren’t locally grown, which means their carbon footprint is big, which is violent to the Earth. Not to mention that the pesticides used on non-organic bananas are killing the songbirds. So, it turns out vegetarian eating is harmful to animals.

Of course water is ultimately the most peaceful thing to consume. Assuming you don’t boil it too hard or keep it locked up in a horrible plastic bottle. Water loves to move. And those on the forefront of water research say that water is improved if we love it. And thank it. Two parts thanks to one part love. Apparently, those are the proportions that the water likes best. And when you are loving your water while you drink it, you are loving yourself, because the water becomes you. You are 80-90% water. You are it. It is you. All is love. In union. What could be more yogic?

But there are no ‘aquatarians’, (let’s not get into the pee drinkers!) because you can’t live on water alone.

So maybe you’re not what you eat, but how you eat it. For me, yogic eating currently means eating with a nonviolent intention, an intention to be in the now when I eat. And to be in union with the people with whom I am sharing food. To be one with the food itself. Binding to it. Although hopefully not with too many foods that are binding.

Beth Lapides is the author of Did I Wake You? Haikus for Modern Living and the creator of Un-Cabaret www.uncabaret.com. Find out more about her shows, workshops and seminars at bethlapides.com or email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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