Fasting, in India, means missing one meal, or only eating fruit. Tonight’s fast included homemade French fries and carrot halva, with red carrots from our garden in Rampura! (I can really enjoy fasting in India!) Like most Westerners, my first exposure to the Rajasthani desert left me perplexed. What do these people eat?! After a few meals at the ashram I realized there is food all around me….great food! And it seems that everyone knows how to plant, harvest, and prepare all these foods. A majority of the people can tell you the ayurvedic uses of the food, such as the bitter gourd’s scientific application for diabetes, and which lasse to prepare in the summer to help the pale white lady prevent sun burn. Perhaps food knowledge here is so extreme because it isn’t easy to grow in this weather, and in the sand. However, some plants, like the carrot, absolutely thrive in sandy loam. And, luckily, the growing season is year round as winter temperatures rarely reach the freezing point.
The vegetarian diet at the ashram has been fantastic for my health, and for my yoga practice. I realized this the first time I tried to do a head stand. I was never successful in New York with this asana. My balance was off, I was heavy, and my center of gravity seemed to constantly shift. I grew up on a farm in Michigan and though we were very poor, meat was a part of our menu at least twice a month. So even today I do not harbor any moral compunction for the eating of meat.
“At other times the Self appears to assume the forms of the mental modifications.” Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1 – 4
But I have learned through my study of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, that energy is everywhere, in everything – there is nothing but energy. The great sages taught that the energy of a cow is no different than the energy of a human. And because yoga is based on self-reformation, self-control, and self-adjustment, when we introduce another ‘self’ (juicy sirloin steak) into our body, we identify with it, and it creates a ‘modification’ behind which our true self will struggle to take center stage. So how can I heap creature upon creature in my body, and then expect that my center of balance could truly be my own? Two creatures cannot be one! Too much work to lift me AND a cow into a headstand! With pure vegetarian food, I am alone within, and able to float up like a cloud – miraculous, and no ‘moo’ to distract my focus.
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