Monday, September 04, 2006

Tikkun and Food - What's the Connection?

Can there really be a connection between such a spiritual aspiration like Tikkun , and the mundane, material activity of preparing, chewing and digesting food?
Like I said in the introduction, this blog will deal with various ways of achieving Tikkun, one of them being through food. I was reminded of this today after reading JuBu’s post about migraines. Personally I never experienced one, and hope I never will, but I did have a mother who suffered from them horribly. After years of sudden, agonizing pain she finally got rid of the migraines, like many other people, through a change in her diet (and a homeopathic treatment). Coincidentally, I just picked up a great new dvd called SuperSize Me, detailing what happens when you go on a 30 day McDiet (Not recommended), and I am also reading, at a very slow pace (for lack of time, not interest) a fascinating book called Diet for a Small Planet, which appears to be a sort of Vegetarian Manifesto.
Personally I am not a vegetarian, or at least not a complete one yet. However I have done a lot of experiments with my diet and have come to realize that the food I eat affects me in a profound manner.
The first time I realized this came when I was in my early twenties. For years I had been suffering from pretty bad acne. I didn’t actually frighten children but I didn’t enter any beauty contests either. Nevertheless my mother was absolutely hysterical and tried all kinds of remedies on me, none of which ever worked. I thought that when I finally finished puberty it would disappear like it does with every normal kid. However in this matter, like in many others, I turned out to be the exception to the rule, and I still had acne after I finished my army service. I had resigned to living with it until I moved to a kibbutz, with a large following for vegetarianism. Upon arriving someone asked me why I didn’t stop eating meat so that I can get rid of all those pimples. The thought never occurred to me (or my mother). So I stopped eating meat and voila – within a few days I had the skin of a (23 year-old) baby!
I was simply amazed. The effect was so dramatic, so visible and indisputable that I could not help but being shaken to my very core. Meat was the mainstay of our diet. As a child, every meal was comprised of meat, as the main portion, along with some vegetables and carbohydrates. As far as I can remember I had eaten meat for every day in my life, and now it turns out that it had harmed me? That was a real turning point for me, although it wasn’t until many years later that I really had the time and energy to get into what I eat and what it is doing to me. So for years I was content with not eating meat. I did do some experiments, and I proved to myself that if I eat meat for a few days – I started getting pimples again.
As it happens, the group I lived with also had a lot of bad things to say about milk. At the moment, I do not remember clearly how this came about but at some point I reduced my consumption of milk dramatically. I don’t know that I really decided anything, it just happened. The result was that I started to breathe. For years I had a stuffy nose, and I was already used to breathing through my mouth, and never gave it a second thought. I did do some allergy checks when I was a kid, which said that I was allergic to house dust, but I never took the shots. Anyway – I reduced the dairy products in my diet and voila – no more stuffy nose! I could breathe! I could breathe fully and freely through my nose, for the first time in my life. The difference in my well being was and still is immense, so much so that if I get a cold these days, and my nose is clogged up, I feel like I’m being strangled. In retrospect, that is how I lived - as a breathless child – choking, suffocating, and crippled – for no reason at all except ignorance. As a child growing up in America every Complete Nutritious Breakfast™ was made of cereal. Lots of sugar and lots of milk went down with that cereal. But it was tasty, and it was not only allowed, it was encouraged – after all, milk is good for you- everybody knows that!
I should think that today it is quite obvious that dairy products are harmful and are known to cause asthma and other respiratory problems, but I’m not so sure – the I Got Milk campaign (see here for more info on the campaign) enlisted a very convincing list of stars, and I don’t know if, as a kid, Michael Jordan told me to drink milk in order “To Be Like Mike” , that I wouldn’t do it, even if it killed me.
As I grew older and got to know myself better I introduced more changes in my diet. I will not enumerate all of the nutrition experiments I have engaged in but I will say this – the less poison I put into my body, the better I feel, the calmer I am, the kinder and more gentle my behavior towards the people I love, and towards mankind in general. Obviously, for me, changing my diet has Repaired me to some extent. There is a lot of evidence suggesting that my reaction is not all that unique.

Conclusion - What Food is Poison?
The first book on vegetarianism that I read was in Hebrew by an orthodox Jew called Israel Durion (also known as Dr. Eynan) who, I believe, was really one of two pioneers in introducing Vegetarianism, in it’s various forms in Israel (the other being Michael Goren). According to his book anything that is not natural is a poison – this includes all processed food of any kind, all frozen food, all additives, food colorings, and sweeteners, along with caffeine, alcohol, chocolate products and animal food, including fish, meat poultry and eggs. I admit that restricting our diets in such a manner would be extremely difficult, and probably not all that appetizing. But on the other hand I know from my own experience how much better I feel every time I consistently give up on one of my favorite culinary poisons. (Currently I’m struggling with ice cream, so good, so cold, and yet, makes me feel real bad the day after!). This refraining from self-poisoning is a most difficult process and it has taken me many years to get to the point where for the most part, most of the time, I can adopt a mature, rational attitude towards the food I eat, understanding what makes me feel good, and what will cause me pain, instead of using it for innumerable emotional purposes. Actually, I think that food is like a drug, or at least it can be made to simulate the effects of drugs, which is probably the reason why we use food for so many other purposes other than nourishing ourselves. Like every other addiction – we do it to hide the pain.

This has been the first post in a new series called “RepairingTheWayWeEat”.


Karma said...

Thanks for giving my post so much thought. Its interesting because I've shown "Supersize Me" to students, and after reading the vegetarian book, I was a vegetarian for many years. Actually, I started eating meat again after I was having some health problems and my doctor and acupunturist both recommended that for me, eating meat would be good, but that I should avoid dairy products. I agree that people eat way too much meat and processed chemicals. But, I do think that a vegetarian diet isn't necessarily healthy for everyone. I try to limit my intake of meat still, but I eat it when I want it.

Jerusalem Joe said...

i was not recommending a vegan diet, certainly not for everyone.i also still eat meat once in a while. i was just trying to show that what we eat can affect us in many unpleasant ways, and that it is our responsibility to find out by ourselves what works for us, and not to blindly accept whatever we grew up with.

Karma said...

I'm all for that.