The Connection Between Health and Personal Growth
“Your body is precious. It is your vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care” – Buddha
It was Aristotle who made the students in his philosophy school train with the wrestlers and other Olympic athletes. The legendary Indian monk Bodhidharma, who traveled to China to teach Buddhism, is credited with being the source of the famous muscle tendon change and bone marrow washing classics. The exercises contained within the two classics are said to aid physical strength, health and well-being.
Today we can learn from the examples set by two of the worlds wisest and most lauded thinkers. Many people – such as those who believe in the Law of Attraction – believe we are what we think. I agree, however I also believe some take this thinking too far in rejecting the old adage that we are what we eat. To reject this adage, to my mind, is to fall into an extreme view.
I also think it is too simplistic. It was Montaigne who said, “I feel quite a different person before and after a meal.” This observation by the famous French philosopher holds the key to why great thinkers such as Aristotle and Bodhidharma required their students to be physically fit and healthy. For, while we are what we think, how we think is deeply affected by what we eat and our physical state of health and well-being.
Factors That Affect How We Think
Factors such as the foods and drink we consume, our level of fitness, blood sugar level stability, breathing, temperature, heart rate, and so forth all have an enormous impact upon how we think. Processed carbohydrates such as bread and pasta often cause us to be sleepy and tired after consumption. Their refined nature produces a quick spike in blood sugar levels. The body responds with insulin release but releases a little too much before blood sugar levels eventually come back up and even out.
Trying to think clearly at such a time is very difficult. Ask anyone with diabetes or hypoglycemia how good his or her cognitive abilities are during a blood sugar crash. In fact I’ve heard of a group, some would call them a cult, who apparently keep members in line by feeding and stupefying them with a diet high in process carbohydrates.
Similarly Neuroscience has discovered the process of excitotoxicity that occurs in the brain. Excitotoxins are amino acids that when consumed excite certain nerve cells in our brain to such an extent that they actually die. Common known excitotoxins in processed food are Mono-Sodium Glutamate (MSG), Aspartame, artificial sweetener, hydrogenised vegetable protein, yeast extract, and flavor enhancer.
Excitotoxins are associated with neural-degenerative diseases, neural-developmental abnormalities, diabetes type I and II, endocrine disorders, obesity, immune dysfunction, enhanced cancer growth and spread, gastro intestinal disorders, autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis and sudden cardiac death.
Beyond processed food what about whole foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables and whole sources of protein such as eggs, meat, and fish? Even if you’re vegetarian the tons of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and rodenticides that many food producers are continuously spraying on your food are akin to neurotoxins. The chemical fertilizer your food is grown in is very closely related to gunpowder. Plants growing under these conditions where the soil is denatured and lacking in a hugely important microorganism population are not healthy plants nor can the food produced by such plants be healthy.
The grain cows, chickens, pigs and so forth are fed is generally of very poor quality, grown under the same conditions mentioned above. The grains are often not fit for human consumption. They may be moldy which means your steak can contain mycotoxins from fungus. Add to that the animals may be given growth hormones and fed antibiotics that end up in the meat, the fat, eggs, milk, and butter. Like the plants mentioned above such animals and food produced from them cannot be considered healthy animals.
An Inconvenient Truth
The simple fact is we cannot become healthy while eating sick animals, sick plants or processed food. Eating such foods could never result in health. In today’s modern world it isn’t easy to find out where our food is coming from or what conditions it was grown under. Some imported fruit and vegetables are grown in countries that use pesticides that are banned elsewhere.
For many eating whole foods and not processed foods was thought to be enough. I assure you that I agree anyone who eats this way will be far healthier then someone who eats food that comes in a man-made packet. However I feel that there is another level of a health. Another step to take beyond such measures and to me that means properly certified organic food.
Whatever your personal choices are as you continue on your lifelong journey of personal growth, I hope you will remember to not ignore the importance of proper exercise, nutrition, and rest. Remember, we may be what we think but what we think is influenced by our physical health and wellbeing.