Living Ahimsa Diet: Nourishing Love & Life is the extraordinary sequel to Maya Tiwari's international bestseller Ayurveda: A Life of Balance, which has been flying off bookshelves for more than a decade. Grounded in ancient Vedic principles, it is the first "food" book that sheds light on how we can cultivate a truly harmonious life through the practice of Living Ahimsa by eating, living and loving in harmony with Mother Nature and her seasonal rhythms.
Pulling from her remarkable life, Maya Tiwari- known fondly the world over as "Mother of Ahimsa"- teaches us to heal ourselves and recognize our intrinsic rhythms so we can cultivate optimum health without devoting a huge amount of time worrying about food or illness. By working with our unique metabolic constitutions, we can develop the skills to convert personal karma into awareness, challenges into success and lessons into knowledge.
Laden with wholesome seasonal practices, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes, and guidelines for the whole family to live in harmony and love, this book teaches us to embrace the feast and the fast. Within these pages you will recover your joy in preparing, sharing, and imbibing your meals with whole-hearted ease, learn to eat and live in blissful harmony with daily, seasonal, solar and lunar cycles; and reconnect to your true nature of love:
• There is a time to fast and a time to feast
• A time for love and a time for sobriety
• A time for celebration and a time for cleansing
• A time for nurturance and a time for austerity
• A time to rest, meditate, play, and work
Years after my self-healing process, and having since helped so many others to heal themselves, I believe the most important steps for self-healing are: To stop in our tracks, be still, take pause, and allow time to breathe and reflect. The first cosmic law of ahimsa, practicing non-harm, informs that to fulfill our humanity as a whole person, we must strengthen our capacity to gain awareness. Awareness informs the mind of reason, logic, critical thinking, and understanding. It helps us to reconcile the habituations of daily life and to create the necessary time and space to imbibe regular pause. Once we foster this space (which is both internal and external), we discover the freedom to be at ease with ourselves, to reclaim our vast inner resources of love and light, and ultimately, to conquer fear, hurt, and despair.
In modern culture, disease is the only condition that gives a person the irrefutable license to immediately take leave from daily haggles to create the necessary space for retreating into the self. To take advantage of this opportunity, we need to address a common misperception that thwarts our healing process and converts it into an uphill battle. We must discard erroneous notions such as, "I can't take time for myself right now," or "I have too many other commitments to take care of," or "there is no way I can create time to do this." It is critical that we take a long, deep pause when we are facing a major challenge. The first rule of healing is that nothing else is as important as our well-being, and for this the art of pause is our greatest medicine! Once we recognize that this pause is not only essential, but also an imperative part of the rhythm of maintaining a sentient mind and healthful body, we have no choice but to take pause. We can emulate the seasons by bearing witness to their cyclical movements, pauses, and junctures. Recognize "pause" as the golden gift of sanity, mindfulness, health, and healing! Once we take pause, the process of settling into our serenity happens naturally.
I also whole-heartedly believe that we must trust that each healing crisis has its profound reason for being. It shows us how the path of disease is hallowed in the condition of who we are at that moment in time. When we learn to view illness as a time to rest and resolve inner conflict-a necessary break that gives us a chance to get back into our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies-we can begin to reclaim the love and life necessary to dissolve negative karmas, and ward off hurt, injury, and despair. I emphasize: To cultivate this awareness we must take time to pause, reflect, and be at one with what appears to be broken inside of us. We must step back, hang loose, and put aside an over-packed and scheduled life and instead create a simple, sheltered space that is serene, uncluttered, and distanced from the baggage of our present living conditions.
HARVESTING AWARENESS & NOURISHMENT
Although Living Ahimsa Diet: Nourishing Love & Life primary focuses on food, true healing is not about the foods we eat, the medicines we consume, or how many yoga classes we attend weekly. It is about how we respond to everyday lifestyle choices that we make regarding our meals, medicines, relationships, family, work, and other activities-and our responses invariably equal the degree of awareness we cultivate in our lives. Among a complex mix of things, healing is about our karma, lost dreams, unfulfilled desires, and sometimes, just the plain reality of fatigue, disillusionment, and exhaustion. Crisis, like healing, is an organic juncture in the life of each and every person, rich and poor, great and small, sages and the not so saintly. When we recognize that these junctures invoke the overarching energy that supports all forms of healing, we are made whole again, so much brighter than before. The only way we can be broken or felled by disease or illness, or any other challenge for that matter, is when we respond to it as a punishment, an inconvenience, or as an intruder. (Mind you, disease becomes an intruder when we fail to recognize the gift it brings.)
Within these pages, we will explore how our bodies are made up of consciousness and spirit, and are connected to the greater continuum of energies through memory. In order to heal, we need to appease vital tissue memory and nourish and nurture the whole self. In essence, we need to reorder the same internal energy that went into disorder and creating a disease, and bring it back into a state of harmony. For this, we have to reclaim a wholesome diet, nourishment, and nurturance in the way we eat, think, breath and move, and in the sounds we create. This is a significant way to engender love within and without. When we feel nourished, the more commonsensical, intuitive, and aware we become.
I recognize that my readers are in many different levels of practice, from dedicated instructors to people who like yoga but have an "average" urban life (smoking or working under pressure, for example). It is important to know that self-healing is possible for everyone. We do not require an extraordinary level of practice and discipline, or faith and courage. We all can access that level of awareness that allows us to cure ourselves. Each one of us possesses innate power to heal, to love, and to be whole. We do not need a college education or intense spiritual discipline, or 24/7 holistic practices to be commonsensical, or to learn the wholesome way of nourishment. The most critical obstacles in the way of healing are a lack of honesty with ourselves about our current issues, and not being willing to face the truth of who we are and where we are on our life's journey. Before we can call upon faith, we must arrive at and cross over this critical juncture; it is the same juncture for each and every one of us, regardless of the degree of our education, or nature of ancestry, condition, or culture. As soon as we are able to voice the truth of our innermost selves and say, "Enough!", "I do not want to hurt anymore!", "I will strive to live a peaceful life", "I want to be happy, to be fulfilled!"-we attract what we need to progressively move forward. The benevolent grace of the universe immediately comes to our aid. Trusting this truth is what faith is about. On the heels of faith comes the absolute cure: Love.
HONOR THE PROCESS
In self-healing the process is all there is. We discover that healing is an organic function within us. In aligning ourselves from the onset to this truth, we reveal the hidden cavern of unresolved desire, fear, weakness, and hurt transported from generation to generation, from life to life through the cycle of rebirth. Our illness or distress is ours alone; we cannot live anyone else's karma, or their illness, their happiness, or their process. Whatever is the challenge, and however we feel about it (right or wrong), the glory and the fight is ours and the way we get through it-the process-is also specific to our individual karma-the content and context of who we are and where we are on our life's path. The goal through any challenge is to heal. However, the only way we can accomplish this goal is by accepting what is and invoking a clear intent to honor the journey however it unfolds.
We are better equipped to influence a successful outcome when we under-stand how critical it is to honor our process, however unexpected or challenging it may be. The process is often hard to face because it is not so pretty. It necessitates, at the heart of it, journeying to that place which is hidden, that place of "stuckness" and staleness that needs to be shaken loose and brazened out. If we are able to face it head-on, we open up to spirit and find resolve. In so doing, we develop a greater awareness of who we are, where we are going, and the nature of our purpose. In other words, we find our golden wings. This is what wellness and lightness of being is about-the growth we earn that ultimately brings harmony, love, and happiness to the fore. Healing is about mothering, accepting and loving the self; it requires courage to embrace and honor our progression. Bear in mind, this course of action is sacred, and requires a sanctum of privacy around it. To expunge negative energy, it is best you create a retreat for yourself so that you can more easily open the shroud to reveal honesty. It is equally important that the process be witnessed by one other person with whom you feel intimate in spirit-a spouse or a friend who listens and hears you, and who would never judge you or your process.
Neither peace nor health can be gained without first
cultivating inner harmony and health for all humankind.
Food for one must be health for all. Prosperity for one
must be abundance for all. Harmony cannot be achieved
at any level while any form of life suffers.
Thirty-six years following my odyssey through ovarian cancer, and twenty-seven years since seriously embarking on the spiritual path, I am continually reminded that the most important achievement any one of us can strive for is to harness personal awareness-our ability to preserve sacred spirit, a serene mind, and a healthful body. For too long we have contributed to the erroneous belief that disease and despair, like war and poverty, are inevitable occurrences in our lives. This is false. Our basic nature is rooted in ahimsa, good health, and inner harmony. Although disease, like death, is a natural occurrence in life, it does not have to be inevitable.
At the onset of this book, I want to explain why this important work of Living Ahimsa- a lifestyle committed to the practice of inner harmony and non-harm-focuses on food. Although there are millions of books and thousands or more disciplines about food and diet, the meaning and purpose of food still eludes us. The deep wisdom of the earth's nourishment that supports the development of awareness in body, mind, and spirit remains a mystery -that is, until now.
Food is never inert energy. Although we pluck it from the earth or its mother plant, prepare it or cook it, food holds an irreplaceable and complex set of memories that inform the vital functions of the body, mind, and spirit. Created from timeless generations on this planet, food is a living instrument of peace, health, prosperity, and consciousness. Within these pages we will explore our personal relationship to food and examine the deeper values of nature's nourishment; how the universe gives birth to her six seasons (in the Vedic Calendar); and how each food is directly related to its mother season (nature), composed of the ancient earth and her elements: earth, water, air, fire, and space.
Food's nourishment is our most imperative foundation of health, harmony, and consciousness. "Food is universal medicine. All life came into existence out of food. Food precedes all creatures in the order of creation." The Taittiriya Upanishad shares its perennial wisdom on the priceless healing power of plant food, annam, for people and the planet. All traditional systems of medicine honor the plant as the oldest form of medicine on earth. More and more, as we discover "new" herbs in the West, we find that traditional cultures all over the world have been using that same plant as medicine for hundreds or even thousands of years.
In fact, there is nothing new about the healing power of plants. What is new and revolutionary is our nonchalant attitude and careless approach to sacred nourishment. The world's food sources have been spiraling into degradation for more than a century. The perennial destruction of nature, the tireless onslaught of contaminants and poisons, and the engineered perversions and distortions are progressively contributing to the adversity of our nourishment. Indeed, it is a great wonderment that we can still eke out any form of joy, healing, and communal spirit from the present disastrous state of our food sources! But thankfully, we are equipped with an immutable human spirit and can therefore remedy this appalling situation. To heal, nourish, and nurture is the gift of our human nature. We must at once fervently call upon it.
Food is the only sentient matter that connects us to the memory of our karmas: past, present, and future; it is the only material substance that can advance our cosmic nature so we can discover who we truly are. In short, food can reveal our unique make-up of personal karma. Food is not merely the fodder we consume to satisfy our palates and senses. Through good health, which depends on whole-some food, we begin to see that our personal history is not about the past, but about what we need to know about our past. No one can alleviate the karmas of hurt, pain, and despair for us, but we can learn to reclaim a sense of wholeness in the spirit of ahimsa. In so doing, we can nourish our body and mind to wipe the slate of karmas clean of ancestral grief and burdens. Mother Nature's foods hold the memories of our forebears. Food is memory. Eating is remembering.
Although we will be exploring our relationship to food within these pages, this book is clearly not about "food" as we know it. It is about recognizing the principle and practice of ahimsa in our food-our first pillar of health and abundance. As you will discover, the centrifugal force that propels personal transformation can be summed up in two words: Living Ahimsa. To repair the violence done to nature, we must first heal the violence within ourselves. We are nature, and there-fore it is only natural that we reclaim inner harmony and an immutable sense of nurturance. This is the reason why Living Ahimsa is ultimately the most important practice we can endeavour.
Within these pages, we will learn the necessity of reclaiming our spirit of ahimsa-good health, joy, inner harmony, and abundance for ourselves, our family, and our community. Once we set the sankalpa, sacred intention, of practicing ahimsa in our daily lives, it goes to work building a life of harmony, health, and non-hurting. As we explore food through the naked lens of ahimsa, my hope is that you will discover, as I did, that food is the heart of matter, the mind of memory, the imprint of our ancestors, the seed of our newborn, the spirit of our family, the land, river, sky, mountain, and universe.
The teachings within this book have been honed from more than a quarter-century of work in the Living Ahimsa principles and practices which inform that harmony and peace, like violence and despair, begin in the mind before they evolve into our foods, thoughts, actions, and lifestyles. It teaches us to embrace the diverse and manifold realities of life regardless of the differences in our cultures, traditions, and belief systems. To be whole, we must heal our culture of hurt by cultivating the work of ahimsa within ourselves. To cultivate awareness, we must first learn how to mitigate violence in a peaceful way to create harmony in our-selves, nature, and in our nourishment. Neither peace nor health can be gained without first cultivating inner harmony and health for all humankind. Food for one must be health for all. Prosperity for one must be abundance for all. Harmony cannot be achieved at any level while any form of life suffers.
I have discovered in the course of this lifetime that the more challenging the juncture, the more illumined my awareness becomes. Before this realization, I recognized that painful stages were caused by a lack of nourishment at some level of my being. A rich sense of nourishment is essential for maintaining a state of balance and harmony within. Good nourishment helps us to comfortably negotiate arduous or painful junctures in our lives. It helps us to mitigate these junctions in such a way that pain does not foster hurt, despair, disappointment, or hopelessness. In fact, in Living Ahimsa, we discover that each juncture of hurt, pain, and disease can prove to be a definitive conduit through which we become wholly renewed. Such renewal brings growth and maturity that progresses the mind, body, and spirit into a higher plane of love and awareness.
When we lose control of our wellness through illness or adversity, we need to recognize that we are being given an even greater chance to reclaim the spirit of nurturance and healing- to experience rebirth. We should accept the divine reality that body and mind will-and should -unravel and become undone from time to time. As such, we must surrender to this holy undoing. This elusive act is a necessary and progressive movement of the human psychic anatomy. In order to grow, we must not obstruct the creation and formatting of new life. Once we understand how important nourishment is to the vital human system, and how to harvest the awareness necessary to catapult us from juncture to juncture in the ever-growing process of awareness, we can embrace the broken pieces of ourselves, and recognize this phenomenon as an act of surrender to the divine will. Awareness serves to transform hurt, despair, and alienation into an illumined journey of self-love and self-discovery. The gems of our human spirit can never be taken away from us regardless of the multitude of violations we may endure.
You will discover throughout this book that the crossings we experience in life are the same ones nature experiences transitioning through the changing of seasons. Living, and eating, in harmony with the seasons is the fundamental act of love and nourishment, central to Living Ahimsa.
Contents and Sample Pages