Monday, July 21, 2014

The Mystical Way to Diet: How Swamis Stay so Slim

Do swamis like blueberry cheese croissants? I don't know, but I do. I suppose a swami will eat the occasional danish, but certainly never two in one sitting. That's probably how they stay so slim and trim. You rarely see an oversized swami. So what is it swamis know that apparently prevents overeating from becoming an issue? Is it "being one with everything" that keeps them so fit? Well, it couldn't hurt. We all know that our attitude – what we're thinking and feeling – has a great deal to do with what and how (or how often) we eat.

From The Bible to the Buddha, "what a person thinks, so they become," naturally makes real sense to everyone. Natural. Real. Sense. Let me take those three in reverse order, and backtrack on that slender swami's inner path to a slim, spiritually sexy exterior. 

If I become what I think, then if what I'm thinking about is eating both of those blueberry cheese danishes, I just may gain weight. It's a good thing my total powers of discernment don't rely entirely on what spontaneously pops up in my mind, as a result of what my senses want. Because my senses usually want a second danish.
Fortunately, we're all connected to a kind of reservoir of shared wisdom and intelligence, what we may commonly call "common sense."  My common sense tells me that I don't need the extra calories from a second danish, that one is enough for now. You see, I don't really have a weight problem, I have a wait problem. A swami, sitting in meditation, develops that healthy space in their thought process, where they can discern between their common sense and their sudden, sensory desires. When I take a minute, I realized that there are probably plenty more blueberry danishes in my future (I hope).

My spontaneous, reactive mind usually responds to my senses (and stresses), and what they demand at any given moment – predictably a demand for some kind of gratification. For something that's going to make me feel a little bit at-one-with-everything, even if it's just for one little moment of relief. Swamis talk about "withdrawing the mind from the sensory world," especially important when dealing with these potential spontaneous lapses in judgement. They compare our senses to a team of horses that can suddenly pull our thinking in a dangerous direction, if we're not minding the team –a discipline commonly called mindfulness.
We've all had hard lessons taught to us this way, lessons about overdoing it that we may have ignored and had to keep repeating. Like binges, hangovers, and regrets. Finishing the whole pie and not fitting into our jeans; or having one more margarita "to take the edge off," and waking up next to Godzilla (God bless 'im).

Swamis read the Bhagavad Gita, which is a great story where God is your chariot driver, and tells you how the world works (he also has a pretty good idea of how hard the horses have to work to pull you around).  Listen to this amazing breakdown of how we continue to do things against our own self-interests:

"When you keep thinking about sense-objects, attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire, the lust of possession that burns to anger. Anger clouds your judgement, and you can no longer learn from past mistakes. Lost is the power to choose between what is wise and what is unwise...when you move amidst the world of sense, free from live in the wisdom of the self."
Bhagavad Gita, 2:62–65

That describes the process pretty well for me. I know I want the second pastry. Then, for some reason, I suddenly decide that it's something I need, something I deserve to have. So I eat it, and immediately become angry with myself for eating it; which causes me to carry around that unresolved agitation, creating the perfect conditions for that sensory demand to repeat the whole process over the next time. 
What I really need to do is to healthily disengage from my senses – to lose my senses (in a good way) and concentrate on my common sense, listen to my inner voice. Then our common sense – that small voice – can tell us how to properly, consciously practice eating. Eating slowly. Chewing food well. Thinking about the food we're enjoying, not about other things that excite or agitate us. It gives us the space in our meal to appreciate what we're eating, and to notice when we've had enough.

The "real" part is about self-honesty. It's about recognizing what is really at work in our personal world. We have to become willing to admit that there's some reason we want to eat more than we need to, or to eat things that we don't need to be eating. Swamis know how to deal with that.
If there seems to be a deeper, underlying pathology at work within our desire to eat badly, or too much (or both), we need to allow ourselves to become aware of it. We need to strip ourselves right down to the place where that compulsion originates from – the place where the truth is staring us right in the face. Then, we can educate ourselves about it, and find the way that has worked for others who have suffered from that same agitation. Our slender swami would have us meditate on that, too, to slowly and surely smooth it over. To heal the hurt that keeps demanding to be fed. Getting "real" with someone who's been there, and benefitting from their experience will help too.

Honesty, which is the fundamental starting point for any change for the better, leads us to confront another glaring dietary disaster that many of us skate right over, which is this: It is self-destructive to eat the flesh of dead animals. Modern medical science tells us that it's not good for us to eat too much (if any) meat – particularly meat that's a "product" of the modern science of corporate animal husbandry. In the mystic's sense, animals are our brothers and sisters in shared consciousness, so eating their cadavers is self destructive in the same way that cannibalism intuitively is. If you're okay with cannibalism, then usually, somebody calls the police. It's much healthier to do no harm.
Swamis have "sacred cows," that they would never dream of harming. They know that killing the cow will kill the children's milk – not to mention killing the cheese for the pizza (swamis do eat pizza, but only with whole grain crusts, and no more than two slices at a time). They know that the meat of the dead cow cobs up their energetic system; throws them out of whack. It leads to weight gain and physical and spiritual disease. 
If they must eat animal protein to survive, and they have a spiritual arrangement with the animal being sacrificed to their survival, then that is a different story – but it's not our story. So your slender swamis, for the most part, don't eat meat (...and really very little cheese). And if you think about it, you rarely see an overweight vegetarian.

The natural part of a slimming, swamis diet is pure common sense, which tells us that fresh plant protein, raw foods, whole grains, all-organic products, and homestyle preparation – with Love – are always the way to go. Swamis call these sattvic foods. Think of what the family of your heart would want for you, and your health and appearance. Calming, healthful, nutritious foods. The only family that profit-driven corporate industrial food producers bring to mind is what Orwell would call Big Brother.
Industrially prepared foods are tested on people like so many caged rats, to determine precisely what agitates and excites them to eat impulsively. Processed, packaged, sugary, white flour – a swami skips all that stuff. Sweet, gooey, deep-fried – those empty, addictive grab bites aren't even really food. They're something else – more like a drug. And speaking of drugs, alcohol is nothing but lots of empty calories, organ damage, and potential regrets. Slim swamis don't drink alcohol, in fact they stay clear of anything that will possibly undermine their common sense; their voice of reason. 

Your diet swami would always ask you to take a moment to meditate on what you would put into your body, after all, "you are what you eat." In fact, your diet swami would have you meditate on everything, regularly, because meditation brings us the balance that makes our inner wisdom possible and prevalent. That balance is what it's all about – in our life, as well as in how we look and feel. Be sensible and honest about it to yourself, because it doesn't take a swami to tell you this simple truth: Your insides will always become your outsides.

Now, I'll try to look a little more like just one blueberry cheese croissant.

Read about this and much more in the new book: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor, from Llewellyn Worldwide, and the first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and BeyondBoth are available everywhere – but ask for them at your local bookstore!


  1. Dear Robert,
    Though I find your latest blog entry regarding a swami’s ability to maintain healthy body weight an entertaining read (as I truly find all of your entries), I feel on this one you may have swayed just a tad outside the boundaries of your (albeit) rather vast areas of expertise.

    I know, as always, your good intent is to enlighten, and perhaps at times even guide people to a clearer understanding of problematic issues many of us have to deal with.
    And although some of your blog comes close to helping along this line with regard to weight gain, the overall take away is extremely alienating. Simply put, The “self honesty” and “common sense” thru “thoughtful meditation” approach could not be more hurtful to the millions of considerate and conscientious people battling obesity every day. Essentially, without a clear biological understanding on cause, you are ignoring these poor fat souls who religiously follow a controlled dieting environment and know that with absolute adherence to your “common sense” theory they remain overweight.
    The perpetuation of calling caloric intake the culprit continues ad nausea. By means of a bombardment of repeated fallacies thru every conceivable media source, the only body this theory helps is that of our magnanimous food industry growing richer each day providing low calorie, low fat , low cholesterol foods.

    There is no argument when eating choices are based on ones personal ethical and moral issues. PERIOD. However, a couple of your observational assessments in the blog become extremely problematic (as do most observational assessments). Your reference to “Modern Medical Science and meat should be qualified. Modern, circa 1955-75 would apply. “Current Medical Science” would be a better reference and I would encourage you to explore the NUSI website at and additionally read the book Good Calories bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control and Disease. You also walk a pretty fine line with the implied recommendation of cows milk and cheese. And for a clearer understanding of what “whole grains” actually bring to the table, you mind find useful the research done by Havrard organic chemist Dr. Matt Lalonde. Lastly and unfortunately, there are in fact great numbers of potato chip loving over-weight vegetarians, some of which are close friends I see often.

    Self honesty, Common sense, thoughtful meditation, can be wonderful tools, clearly useful for many, many things in our self aware lives. However with regards to the obesity epidemic that currently surrounds us, it just might be a good idea to cut out the sugar while practicing the rest. Meaning how ‘bout you just skip that first blueberry Danish completely.

  2. I'm sorry to have been misunderstood. I don't mean to hurt anyone who has trouble dieting, however, a swami would assert (and rightfully so) that there is no human condition that the practice of meditation can't help with. The benefits of meditation can be considered theoretically or intellectually by people who don't keep a real practice, but to those who do, there is a state of being that induces the ability to control one's thinking, an overall sense of well-being, and improved health, that current medical science absolutely confirms.

    Swamis generally practice an Ayurvedic life approach, which is highly customizable, ancient, and very effective, which is based entirely on the individual, and so perfectly suitable for anyone, regardless of their issues. "Common sense" here is a popular stand-in for the more esoteric concept of intuitive intelligence, the intelligence found when the mind is withdrawn from the sensory world–when intellect is not involved, and so issues like self-hatred can be seriously defused.

    The quality of calories over their quantity is important; limiting cow's milk cheese, or substituting sheep or goat's milk cheese is a real consideration. The lack of omega-6, iron, and B vitamins in a meat-free diet is a concern that needs to be addressed; whole grains, especially soaked or sprouted, can help with this a bit, but intolerance to phytic acid and gluten should be taken into consideration. And I don't think I suggested that swamis eat a lot of potato chips– 'cause I didn't mean to!

    The NUSU site is very informative concerning trends in the American diet and its effects. Thank you for that! It should be read by everyone interested in nutrition, but I feel like it doesn't address factors like environmental chemicals, technology-induced stress, and what the real point of this article is––that is what it's all about––which is spiritual health and well-being. "Becoming one with everything."

    Eating meat–killing innocent animals when you don't have to, regardless of their nutritive value, is not part of a swami's spiritual practice, and really realistically, neither is eating blueberry (sugar) cheese danishes, I'm afraid to say...


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