Having just written this post, I’ve returned to the beginning in order to change the title (from Spiritual Practices to On Diet) and to add a disclaimer, or perhaps a warning. As I’ve said before, this will be a very personal blog. It’s in good part like the kind of journal that some people keep (though I never have) where they record their innermost thoughts, dreams, musings and reflections. This post is the most personal so far in that it’s all about me and my lifestyle choices. There’s very little here that’s conceptual. So I’m concerned that it might present as me being very self-absorbed. It seems that the line between being personal and being self-absorbed is a thin one. Because I’m so new to the blogosphere, am making it up as I go along and have not much read other people’s blogs, I’m feeling quite unsure of myself. So please, if you have advice or feedback, I’m keen to hear it. You can leave a comment by clicking on the speech bubble next to the date on the left.

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I’d like to follow up my last post, which was quite abstract, with a look at the more practical aspects of my spiritual life here in Findhorn – my daily practices. For, as Jonathan Dawson pointed out recently in an excellent article,* the path to a transformation of consciousness and values is one that can only be discovered in the walking, in the doing. Concrete change lays in the practice – not in the ideas, nor the theorising or the esoterica.

My day begins differently depending on whether my lover is staying over or not. If I’m on my own, I typically rise between 3 and 5, and begin the day with writing (as I am doing now, having just got up at 4am). I’ve always enjoyed working in the stillness of the early morning, when the mind is fresh or perhaps hatching ideas that have incubated overnight. I’ll work for a couple of hours then take breakfast. And this is where my daily spiritual practice begins, with breakfast. How so? Well, for me, diet is integral to spirituality. In the last few years, as my awareness has deepened, I have gradually been refining my diet. As mentioned in the last post, alignment or congruence is crucial to my wellbeing, as is diet, of course, from the health perspective. But the motivation to improve my diet has mostly come in the pursuit of congruence, not improved health.

It began about five years ago when I gave up alcohol. I’d been drinking since I was 12 or 13 and had always enjoyed whisky, in particular (an inheritance from my dad). Indeed, I ‘had a habit’. So coming to live in Scotland was always going to be dangerous. And so it proved; I gained a whole new appreciation of the local Speyside produce. At some point, however, after admitting to myself that I was probably a borderline (or worse) alcoholic, I decided to quit. And so I did, there and then, overnight. I simply decided that I would no longer have my resistant mind dictated to by my bodily cravings for the stuff.

I was delighted to find that giving up was easy – I had no withdrawals whatsoever. So I reasoned that I was probably not physiologically addicted after all; I simply had a (bad) habit. The main benefit was also a surprise. I felt incredibly liberated. I learned of the tremendous freedom available in being free from desire and craving. The change brought me into a whole new relationship with my body. I gained an appreciation of the value of congruence or alignment between mind and body i.e. not having physical desires dictate to a mind that knows better.

A year or two later, I did a 10 day juice fast. The motivation was weight loss. I was feeling the dietary consequences of a long and harsh winter – an overload of carbs and a scarcity of fresh greens. In our climate, given our preference at Findhorn for eating locally and seasonally, we enjoy a glut of fabulous vegetables and salads from our gardens in summer, but suffer from the opposite in winter. (And many of us avoid, minimise or boycott shopping in Tesco.) Anyway, the fast went well; I enjoyed the clean out. It didn’t result in much weight loss, but it did deliver further realisations. It deepened my appreciation of what my body really needed and firmed my resolve to act in response.

I gave up caffeine immediately, having had a serious coffee habit for some 30 years – a habit that began when I studied architecture and needed to get through ‘all nighters’. Later, coffee fuelled my mainstream lifestyle. Even after coming to Findhorn and adopting a more measured way of life, I continued to ‘need’ several strong espressos to kick start the day. And yet once again, I was able to quit without difficulty, both coffee and black tea. Since then, I’ve kept a coffee pot on the hob but use it just for guests.

By then, the ball was rolling. I wondered what could be next. At the time, I was reading of the evils of refined sugar. This seemed like the next logical step – to give up cakes, biscuits and puddings. And it seemed like it would be the toughest call yet. I love desserts in particular, and our Findhorn kitchen crew make them to die for. Furthermore, I was soon to go to Australia to spend time with my mum. I guess I must associate puddings with mothers’ love at some deep psychological level. So I decided to postpone giving up sugar until after my 6 month sabbatical in Oz. But the universe provided an unexpected twist. When I arrived there, I found that mum had, herself, only recently given up sugar. She was no longer baking cakes and making puddings. So clearly, it was ‘meant to be’. I gratefully grabbed the opportunity and did likewise. Once again, giving up was easy. There were no subsequent unmet cravings. It seemed as though my mind had switched off that particular impulse. So whilst I strongly believe that I have an addictive personality, it seems I am able to deal readily with abstinence. I think the cravings must reside in my mind rather than my body – be psychological rather than physiological.

Whilst I was in Australia, I took advantage of the gym, sauna and pool in my mother’s apartment building. I worked out daily and dropped almost 10 kg, returning to Scotland feeling fitter and healthier than I had for 20 or 30 years. That was a year ago. Most recently, with the influence of a certain woman in my life, I have released several more long held dietary patterns and moved quite rapidly toward becoming vegan. I have been a poorly committed vegetarian for 40 years, avoiding red meat but with a strong attachment to eating fish, eggs and cheese – even chicken, when out. Now, I eat none of the above. And I’m really benefiting, health wise. Almost overnight, sinus congestion I’d endured for decades almost completely disappeared, along with the mild asthma that it induced. My digestion has improved and I’m sleeping more soundly, despite having been a chronic insomniac since the 1980s.

In terms of the congruence I spoke of, I feel there is now little else to achieve in respect of diet. There is nothing more to give up. The process I’ve described, which may not sound like a spiritual path to some, has been central to my soul’s journey. My body and my mind have finally made peace; no longer are there substances that the former desires but the latter resists. This brings a great deal of inner stillness and contentment which, for me, creates a platform for deepening into spiritual practice.

This has become a long post and I haven’t got very far. I set out to describe several practices, but covered just the one. And it’s now 7am and it’s time for breakfast … sugar free muesli soaked overnight in rice milk with fresh fruit. To be continued….

*  See http://newstoryhub.com/2014/08/changing-stories-using-narrative-to-shift-societal-values/.