Life on the spiritual path, though blessedly filled with growing inner freedom and fulfillment, is not always an easy road to navigate. As we give ourselves more completely to living for God, more and more is asked of us. With this lifestyle of selfless service we often give a low priority to maintaining our health and can easily fall into patterns of survival, doing the minimum to keep ourselves going.
When things prove to be too much or our karma rears its head, we fall into sickness and disease. How much do we blame our karma, and how much do we attribute to our lifestyle and health?
Is it possible to be a devotee on this spiritual path and maintain excellent health? I do certainly hope so.
Yogananda cautions us not to become too zealous in any health pursuit lest we lose our focus on devotion and finding God. This of course must be understood, for fanaticism to health only leads to attachment and missing the point.
But yet I wonder how many of us hide behind that cautionary statement and our commitment to service in order to avoid looking at our own health and lifestyles.
For my wife and I there have been way too many wake up calls of cancer in our circle of friends. We decided to take a look at our lives and our health.
On December 26, 2011, my wife and I embarked on our first juice fast which lasted 11 days for me, and a full three weeks for Madhavi. The benefits, both physical and spiritual, were tremendous. We then spent the year trying to adhere as much as possible to Yogananda’s dietary prescriptions.
This past year has been a year of discovery, hope, and health for our family, with a growing sense of attunement and dedication to God.
We have not been sick. Not even a sniffle.
We have never had the flu.
We have increased our work load, meditated more, and slept less.
Caitlin’s teeth seem to be growing in perfectly straight, in contrast to how ours did, requiring braces.
This is not the place to lecture about the benefits of one particular way of eating, for everyone has a unique bio-individuality with different requirements. Yogananda also counsels the use of “proper-eatarianism” rather than subscribing to any one particular diet fad to help keep the body fit for self-realization.
As we ascend further into Dwapara Yuga, we also have the opportunity to improve our health through new (old!) discoveries of the simple plant based diet, verses accepting the SAD (Standard American Diet), the cause of the highest incidence of diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
I know that getting on any high-horse is the worst thing that I could do for my attunement, but how do I simply stand by and watch as friends and family are afflicted by illness that I believe could be lessened or completely averted through lifestyle and dietary adjustments? Perhaps I am simply too attached to these people.
As Kalidas wrote so beautifully in his last post:
How true it is that we cannot persuade others to go in a direction we would like by pushing them from behind. We can only lead by example, by first reforming ourselves and inspiring them to follow.
I believe that it is possible to be devoted to serving God and to live a vibrant life lasting into our later years. For the amount of work that Yogananda has given us, how can we afford not to live in the most vital way possible?
If you feel inclined to learn more, I invite you to read my wife’s blogs on her health coaching website. It truly has been an educational year for us, and we’d love to share what we’ve learned.