Nutrition & Your Mind: Faith, Emotions & Healing

Emotions, Nutrition & Faith

Worship is the believer’s response of all that he is – mind, emotions, will, and body – to all that God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience, and its practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed truth. It is a loving response that is balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better. [Warren Wiersbe, Real Worship, p. 26].

Emotions, nutrition and faith are closely related. Healthy emotions support healthy physiological and psychological states. Positive emotions, such as compassion, generosity and love, reduce stress and thereby help the cardiovascular, respiratory and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Hormones are the mediating agents on which our emotions depend. They impact how our body functions and also play a central role in our psychological health.

Through hormonal communications and interactions, our emotions affect food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion.

Our emotions and our immune system are also intertwined. Research studies have confirmed that depression accelerates development of cancer and heart disease. For example, the immune systems of individuals who are chronically stressed display abnormally lower levels of natural killer cells, lymphocytes, and T-helper cells. [See: Diet, Stress, and Emotions: The Mind-Body-Diet Connection].Qexec-grass

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)].

Bitter Thoughts Make a Bitter Life

By being thoughtless of others, we easily fall into detrimental habits that hinder our spiritual development. Harboring bitterness, enmity and hostility toward family, friends and fellow-workers harms our own souls and ultimately impairs our health.

Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart. [Forty Hadith, an-Nawawi #6].

By asking forgiving when we are unkind to others and by forgiving those who show unkindness to us, we cultivate salutary habits that nourish our spirit and promote good health.

We should not delay or avoid reconciliation. Instead, we should make the first move, taking the first step toward restoring friendship and trust in one another.

Whoever, by a good deed, covers the evil done, such a one illumines this world like the moon freed from clouds. [Dhammapada 173].

Emotions  & Digestion

A particle of food does not provide the same amount of nourishment under all conditions. Our body is not always disposed to process food in the same way. Our physical and mental states have considerable influence on how food nourishes us.

Our digestive system is affected by our emotions in many ways. Many emotional responses involve the release of hormones (e.g., adrenaline, cortisol) that trigger involuntary reactions.

Our emotions can also cause changes in your digestive system, including lack of appetite, heartburn, nausea and stomach pains. They can also affect the assimilation of nutrients.

People want to feel good and feel God, and the way to get there is through the emotions. They’re the link that connects body to soul, and as such, they’re the key to transforming anything, everything. [Candace Pert, Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d,  p. 28].

Since our spirituality affects our emotions, it also affects the manner in which we absorb nutrients. As a car gets poor gas mileage from a poorly tuned engine, so does a spiritually imbalanced person squander nutritionally healthy food.eating-on-the-run4

Can then one who is on a clear (Path) from his Lord be likened unto one to whom the evil of his own doings [always] seems goodly, and unto such as would follow their own lusts? [Quran 47:14].

Psychological Labyrinth

We can try to manipulate our emotions through dietary regimens. Certain foods can provide temporary emotional comfort by increasing blood sugar and serotonin levels in our brain.

But, diet is a limited and uncertain tool for controlling emotions. Ultimately, only our spirituality offers an established process for attending to our emotions and, thereby, improving our health.

A person whose mind is unperturbed by sorrow, who does not crave pleasures, and who is completely free from attachment, fear, and anger, is called an enlightened sage of steady intellect. [Bhagavad Gita 2:56].

Every lurid thought is a potential distraction leading away from remembrance of God. Moreover, such thoughts can group themselves and become persuasive emotions leading to uncontrolled desires. When fully armed, they become passions that penetrate deep into your inner consciousness producing a psychological labyrinth most difficult to escape.woman-drinking - bowl2

Whatever is done without faith, whether it is sacrifice, charity, austerity, or any other act is useless. It has no value here or hereafter …  [Bhagavad Gita 17.28].

Spiritual Nutrition

Our intentions mold the spirit underlying our thoughts. We may have evil intentions, charitable intentions, or simply act without giving much thought to what we are doing.

In any case, our moral and spiritual beliefs are spread at the base of our intentions, lining our thoughts. Given adequate authority, these beliefs control our purpose and keep us from negative thoughts and regrettable deeds.

 

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. [Psalm 37:4-8 (NIV)].

Mental & Spiritual Equilibrium

Our mental equilibrium reflects our spiritual disposition. Thinking well of our rivals, remembering God often and bringing to mind our own faults and weaknesses produce healthy physiological and physiological states.

A good practice is to pray for those with whom we are angry or toward whom we feel bitterness. When negativity begins seeping into our thought process, stop it with good thoughts and a humble prayer.

It is wonderful how the exercise of one’s will … will eventuate in the correct emotions. Determining to wish that person’s good; deliberately trying to do something loving for him; and praying for him – all this will some day bring about the emotion of love itself. [Isobel Kuhn, Ascent to the Tribes].

Always be ready to help others. Being predisposed to goodness means that we carry it around with us. It becomes our habit, a way of life, and part of our spiritual immune system.

The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend. And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint,- none but persons of the greatest good fortune. [Quran 41:33-35].

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Your Pride and Joy: Thinking Outside the Mirror

Wise in Our Own Eyes

I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. [Romans 12:3].

The depths of our consciousness harbor smothered thoughts filled with joy, wisdom and understanding — but there is a covering over them. They have been buried under piles of pride, arrogance and egotism.

Greedily, we hunger for higher consciousness, hoping it leads us to fame, wealth and prominence. We avidly covet precious thoughts of enlightenment. But, such craving only buries them deeper.

Indulging our pride, we run after every fleeting image. How odd that being so unimportant we cultivate such grand illusions. [Rumi].

Spotlighting Darkness

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Much joy is hidden right under our own ego. To reach it, we must first peel off the many layers of illusions and fantasies clouding our mind.

We blind ourselves to Divine consciousness by following our selfish own appetite, seeking personal recognition and hoarding material possessions.

And turn not thy cheek away from people in [false] pride, and walk not haughtily on earth: for, behold, God does not love anyone who, out of self-conceit, acts in a boastful manner. Hence, be modest in thy bearing, and lower thy voice: for, behold, the ugliest of all voices is the [loud] voice of asses… [Quran 31:18-19].

We must examine our thoughts, purify them, and submit them to Divine scrutiny. We must then remove the diseased crust of hubris hardening our heart and blocking God’s light.

Our lust for the life of this world turns us away from spiritual awareness, and veils us in the darkness of desires and delusions. Remove the veil and with clarity we see the delight of an enlightened soul.

True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads? [Plato, The Republic].

Pallbearers of the Soul

Realizing our total dependence on God makes us independent of the rest of creation. Recognizing our sacred stature in a Divine Reality elevates us beyond the limitations of human existence.

Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind … As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity].

We mold our self so it conforms to the image most acceptable to society. However, our reliance on social acceptance stunts our spiritual growth and inhibits our consciousness of the Divine.pallbearers

Pride is the king of vices…it is the first of the pallbearers of the soul … other vices destroy only their opposite virtues, as wantonness destroys chastity; greed destroys temperance; anger destroys gentleness; but pride destroys all virtues. [Fulton Sheen].

Technological trinkets, trending fads and fashionable lifestyles can be readily discarded, but their remnants accumulate, stifling wisdom and understanding.

The ego must be trained, disciplined and mastered by a spiritual diet and devotional exercises. The appetite must learn to be satisfied by Divine nourishment.

When we are beset by any particular vice, it is well as far as possible to make the opposite virtue our special aim, and turn everything to that account…. Thus, if I am beset with pride or anger, I must above all else strive to cultivate humility and gentleness, and I must turn all my religious exercises, — prayer, sacraments, prudence, constancy, moderation, to the same object. [St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Ch. 1].

Humility Melts Hubris

Humility melts our hubris, dissolving the rust lining our heart, and opening our consciousness to the sacred. It releases powerful thoughts that act as enzymes to decompose the debris accumulated by prodigal existence.jesus-washing -feet2

Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether. [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity].

The frailty of our physical condition is spotlighted by humility. It exposes the fallacy of reliance on personal strength and intellect to achieve ultimate joy. By recognizing our inherent weaknesses, misguided zeal and overestimated powers, we begin to see the self beyond our mirror.

Be humble, be harmless. Have no pretension. Be upright, forbearing. Serve your teacher in true obedience, keeping the mind and body in cleanness, tranquil, steadfast, master of ego, standing apart from the things of the senses, free from self; aware of the weakness in mortal nature. [Bhagavad Gita 13:7-8].

Reflecting Humility

Submission to God offers tranquility to the anxious soul. It calms the spirit with the balm of humility and heals perverted self-esteem produced by egotistical pride. We can enjoy and benefit from our good fortune only when we continually recognize and acknowledge our subservience to our Creator.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight! [Isaiah 5:21 (KJV)].

Being humble is an attitude that keeps us near to God. When our ego exalts us, humility provides the necessary balance. When pride distorts our selfish desires, humility provides a true mirror for self-reflection.

And walk not on earth with haughty self-conceit: for, verily, thou canst never rend the earth asunder, nor canst thou ever grow as tall as the mountains! [Quran 17:37].

The mercy of God extends over all. May it tame our vanity and free us from the darkness of pride. May God remove our short-sighted arrogance, and guide us to the abode of light.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. [Philippians 2:3-4].

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Fasting Essentials: Purity of Mind and Heart

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OPENHEAD   Fasting Essentials

 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. [Joel 2:12-13 (NIV)].

We often strive to attain lofty spiritual states by physical and intellectual efforts. Being accustomed to the cause and effect models of material existence, we assume this methodology extends into the spiritual realm. We think we can accumulate piety by adorning ourselves with spiritual costumes, attending religious ceremonies and quoting a few passages of scripture — or by fasting.happy-fasting2

In order to preserve the mind and body in a perfect condition, abstinence from food is not alone sufficient: unless the other virtues of the mind as well are joined to it … And so humility must first be learned … anger should be controlled … vainglory should be despised, the disdainfulness of pride trampled under foot, and the shifting and wandering thoughts of the mind restrained by continual recollection of God.  [John Cassian, The Book of Fasts and Abstinence. Chapter X]

When we neglect to sublimate our intentions or fail to purify our thoughts, fasting offers minimal spiritual benefits. Striving for lofty states of awareness to satisfy base physical desires is incompatible with Divine service. Such efforts may have material value, but they do not enhance spiritual purity or divine consciousness.

Not nakedness, not platted hair, not dirt, not fasting, or lying on the earth, not rubbing with dust, not sitting motionless, can purify a mortal who has not overcome desires. [Dhammapada 10.141].

Ritual Fasting

Fasting can become an empty ritual devoid of piety and sincerity. Negative thoughts, self-righteousness, anger and pride can all infect our mind and our heart.

Often, we don’t realize the type of person we have become. The image we hold of ourselves may be so misleading that if someone were to hold a mirror before us, we wouldn’t recognize the person.

Selfish desire is found in the senses, mind, and intellect, misleading them and burying wisdom in delusion. Fight with all your strength, Arjuna! Controlling your senses, conquer your enemy, the destroyer of knowledge and realization. [Bhagavad Gita 3:40-41].

Human beings can corrupt almost anything, no matter how good or sacred may be its origin or purpose. We can easily pervert charity, kindness and mercy into acts of hypocritical selfishness, exploiting them for personal gain or recognition. And, so it is with fasting.

The Fast of the … [spiritually elevated] means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but God, Great and Glorious is He. This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute BK-BACKD BLIND$ DREAMER EYES2 OPENHEAD THRNSTEP TV-DUDEprovision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world. [Imam al-Ghazali, The Mysteries of Fasting the Month of Ramadan].

Pride in Fasting

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of fasting is that it can become a personal ambition, a mental objective to be attained for selfish desires. In other words, a person who initially fasts for pious, spiritual reasons may become so gratified with abstaining from food that the act, itself, develops into a goal. The physical accomplishment of not eating replaces the spiritual goal of seeking God-consciousness.monks-eating

Abba Isidore said, “If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride; if you think highly of yourself because of it, then you had better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and glorify himself” [Desert Fathers].

We cultivate our spirit by pulling out the weeds of desire growing near our soul. Lust for wealth, power, fame and glory often go deeper than we realize. We must root them out and quell the uncontrollable hunger they arouse.

The false self is deeply entrenched. You can change your name and address, religion, country, and clothes. But as long as you don’t ask it to change, the false self simply adjusts to the new environment. For example, instead of drinking your friends under the table as a significant sign of self-worth and esteem, if you enter a monastery, as I did, fasting the other monks under the table could become your new path to glory.  In that case, what would have changed? Nothing. [Keating, Thomas, The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation].

This is the common danger that runs through all spiritual practices. We see it in persons who pray or give in charity merely to be seen and admired. We see it in spiritual leaders who haughtily exult in their religious knowledge or their position over a congregation. We become proud and arrogant, and lose all that we might have gained.Qpreacher

Be on your guard when you begin to mortify your body by abstinence and fasting, lest you imagine yourself to be perfect and a saint; for perfection does not consist in this virtue. It [fasting] is only a help; a disposition; a means though a fitting one, for the attainment of true perfection [St. Jerome].

Secret Fasting

The economic and social rituals of our secular work and play seek shortcuts that bypass our heart. We buy into ads and media scripts, and then find ourselves mere caricatures in a technologically infused culture. The Divine Reality is nowhere to be seen.

Such debilitating results occur when we reduce the purpose of the fast to worldly ends. We may experience many physical and material benefits from fasting. But, fasting is never an end in itself.

In the same way, fasting, vigils, scriptural meditation, nakedness and total deprivation do not constitute perfection but are the means to perfection. They are not in themselves the end point of a discipline, but an end is attained to through them [St. John Cassian, Conference One].

The fact that we are seeking God and that fasting heightens our spiritual awareness must remain paramount. Fasting should not become another idol on the altar of the material stage.qrn-reader-window2

[Jesus added,]Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. [Matthew 6:16-18].

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Related posts:

Fasting for Spiritual Consciousness and Divine Awareness

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