Saturday, June 7, 2008

Circles and cycles of energy

The small, but growing raw food movement in Brazil has an important but often overlooked feature: it emphasizes the energy in food. Not energy as in calories, but the energy flow in a broader sense.

When I first started heard about this in the beginning of my raw food journey, I didn't think much of it. I didn't really understand why all this fuss about arranging your food on your plate, squeezing your juice with your own hands, and so on.

The first time I started giving more attention to it was when I took a raw food uncooking class with Gorette Oliveira. That day, she told us about Ana Branco, an art professor at the Catholic University of Rio (PUC-Rio) who does workshops that links art and food. I had already visited this professor's website and even exhanged some e-mails with her, but Gorette's account really touched me. In the workshop she attended, Ana Branco asked each person to mindfully create a fruit mandala; at the end, all of the mandalas were merged into a single, big mandala. Apparently the experience was so intense and full of energy that it moved several people to the point of crying in happiness. There were even some organic farmers present (who had provided the fruit) who cried in awe because of the beauty that came from their "simple" produce.

After hearing that account I started to create my own mandalas, a practice I enjoy to this day. I don't know much about the "technical details" about them and what they are supposed to mean, but it is a practice that brings me peace. They are like little circles of powerful energy.

Often people ask what's the deal with being 100% raw vs. anything less than that. I can only speak for myself, but what I feel is that when I'm 100% raw I'm on a whole different energy level. Obviously I feel overall better physically, but I also argue less with my husband, have more patience with my son, and have an easier time at work, to name a few examples. Everything becomes more harmonious, even with people I'm not necessarily close to. My life literally flows. It might sound far out, but I even get the impression that people around me start to seem a tad happier too! :) Or perhaps I'm just better tuned with their happiness and true being...

When I'm not completely raw now I tend to rant at why in the world I can't stick to raw food all the time if it makes me feel so good!!!!! The last time I went 100% raw (for seven days, which ended last Thursday), during my 3rd day I felt amazed at how wonderful I felt, but also very scared. When I go 100% raw the third day is always critical. When that day came to an end (also a critical moment) a list of negative thoughts went through my head:

"You don't need to do this!"

"What's wrong with eating a little bit of cooked food? A bite of whole-wheat vegan pizza won't kill you!"

"You won't be able to go on long with out some cookies!"

"Just one piece!"

And so on...

The thing is, even when I am not 100% raw, I am eating the healthiest I have ever eaten in my life and would probably fare fine if I went on like this to the end of my days. HOWEVER, I don't want to be "fine", I want to live life at the fullest, with optimal physical and (especially) emotional/spiritual health. I want to be clear headed enough to know what life wants of me, to do whatever I came here to this Earth to do. I want to be happy and to grow continuously - individually and as a family. I want the best of my stay on the Earth and want to give it my best too.

I don't think it would be the end of the world if I got to the point where I ate 100% raw most of the time and every once in a while I ate something not raw or not so healthy, but for now that is not possible because it never stays at one bite or one piece or even one meal. The reason for that is because I eat certain kinds of things not for nutrition but to fullfill emotional needs that have been overlooked. And even when that's not the case, these kinds of foods seem to take me to a lower energy level, which in turn leads me to other foods and I am pulled in lower and lower until I feel terrible.

The opposite also happens. Certain people, situations, or memories, for instance, pull me down into an energy level that make me crave certain foods. Of course it is mostly my responsability - I will only go down if I allow myself too. Besides, these days a very disturbing thought came to mind: if I still allow certain people, things, situations, or foods to draw me into less than optimal energy levels, something in them must resonate within myself.

In respect to people, I am a firm believer in what so many self-help books say: if don't like a certain trait in someone else, chances are you have some shade of it in yourself and don't want to deal with it. Yet how would that work in relation to food?

Let's take the example of a store-bought cookie that came from a factory and break down the way it came into being:
  • The wheat probably came from a corporate farm, where it was heavily sprayed and was certainly not a happy plant (see this very interesting documentary called "The Secret Life of Plants");
  • Depending on where the sugar came from, in addition to being sprayed, the sugarcane harvest might have involved child and/or semi-slave or even completely slave work. Similar considerations apply to the cacao used in the chocolate chips;
  • The chicken that laid the eggs almost for sure were kept confined and not allowed to sleep much so that they would grow faster. They might have also been given certain hormones to gain wait faster, besides eating food not natural to them;
  • Similarly, the cow that gave the milk and butter was probably confined and was separated from her calf to increase her milk yield. She might also have been given antibiotics and other substances;
  • I almost forgot other substances used to "conserve" or do whatever to the cookies... Things with weird names like "dextrose" and "ammonium bicarbonate", not to count the "artificial flavors" (which are...?);
  • In addition, the ingredients certainly travelled a lot around the world, which involved a considerable amount of fossil fuels and pollution;
  • With all the ingredients in the cookie factory, chances are many of the people working there aren't exactly in their dream job (and maybe underpaid too);
  • To top it all, the cookie comes in a plastic (petroleum-based) package.
So, what kind of energy can we expect to get from eating this cookie? And knowing all this, I ask myself, why do I still eat cookies like that? That got me thinking and I made a list of my "deep dark secrets" (no, I am not going to reveal them all here! :)). No, I am not in favor of child labor, spraying crops, or the like, yet I do have issues. They may seem "minor" when compared to the big problems around this fateful cookie, but they certainly relate: submissiveness, not doing exactly what I want professionally, poisoning/polluting my own body (which is the natural environmental closest to us!), not always being completely there when my son wants my attention (or simply not being there at all)... The list goes on, but I think that is enough as a sample...
It is obvious that the problem is not about being raw or not, as the cookie could have been made from all organic ingredients that came from places that respected human rights and the principles of fair trade. The difference that raw food makes, however, is the LIFE in it.
Thus, in practice, I do these low-vibration things I listed, eat these low-vibration foods, am pulled down, relate to other people on this lower vibration, eat some more, do more of what I don't want to, go down even further, etc., etc. OR I eat raw, live foods, feel my whole body tinkle with good energy, am more aware of my actions and change them for better, improve my relationships, and feel more in awe with life at every moment.
Yet, for some reason I cannot fully grasp, I am still somewhere in between, in "raw food limbo", as Angela Stokes once said. Sometimes I'm doing great, sometimes (like today) I feel like s.... I go through these cycles an sometimes, within them, get caught in vicious circles that are hard to transform into something better. Fortunately I think all these circles and cycles, overall, have been an upper spiral of sorts. Things seem to be slowly improving...
And, with our without fear, I can't wait to find out what I will learn next!


Sarah said...

Very pretty pictures, and I agree, there is such a big difference between 100% or not 100% when it comes to this diet, that it's pretty difficult to explain. I loved your post!

Andréa N. said...

Excellent post, xará! I loved the mandalas- will try to do them myself (minus the honey). I'm not crazy about cooking, but I enjoy making food that looks good. It's fun.

fhe said...

I have no doubt that there is value to unprocessed food, but as in everything else, moderation is probably best over the long run.

One reason why people cook food is to kill micro-organisms. Granted, our stomach acid has the same function, but cooking provides an additional safeguard and is effective against acid-resistant bacteria such as tuberculosis.

Although it seems quite popular these days to talk about energy without calories, such a statement makes no sense whatsoever. A calorie is a unit of energy, just like a foot is a unit of distance or a pound a unit of weight.

The statement "energy as in calories" is like saying length as in feet or weight as in pounds.

Whatever "other" energy you may perceive is surely outside the realm of reality.