Practice Preach: Forks Over Knives

October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Do you preach what you practice?  Or do you practice so you can preach?  This column explores modern and classic works from the perspective of basic goodness and unity. 

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I was at a retreat recently at the beautiful Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Northern California.  There were about ninety of us practicing meditation, yoga, mindful walking, eating and working together in silence for ten days. Afterwards I got a chance to chat with fellow travelers on the spiritual path.  I was particularly interested in hearing about books, movies, TV shows and music which inspire their practice.  One such recommendation was for a documentary called Forks Over Knives (thanks, Tim!) which is currently available on Netflix Instant Watch.

The basic premise of the film is that many of the most debilitating and life-threatening diseases on the rise in the industrialized world today are completely preventable.  The cure, almost too simple to be true, lies not with medicine, but with diet.  The film’s tone is what really helps the message, it’s loving and compassionate, not at all preachy.

“Eat to live, not live to eat.” – Socrates

We all think we know what “eating healthy” means, but do we really?  The evidence presented in Forks Over Knives suggests otherwise.  Powerful food lobbies are directly influencing the national dietary guidelines and very few brave souls actually notice and care enough to speak out.  The health of millions, actually billions, of sentient beings is at stake.  Suffice to say, in my opinion, this is an important doc to watch.

Plenty of people will say “I love to eat. I could never give up meat and dairy.  They’re delicious!”  I understand.  More or less that is what I used to say to my vegan and vegetarian friends, until I stopped saying it and took the time to check out my felt experience of food.  In changing my diet I was bucking the system, and it’s surely not easy.  I realized that it’s important to me that my food choices be conscious and not the same old habitual patterns.  Yes, pizza, mac ‘n cheese, fried chicken, BBQ ribs and french fries taste yummy.  But do these things nurture the Earth, the economy, my neighborhood, my family, and my self?

What if the choice of whether to change one’s diet was life or death, as it is for many suffering from heart disease or cancer?  Obesity and diabetes are also on the rise, and most alarmingly among the young in our country and the world.  What if these diseases are not purely a matter of genetics and environmental causes?  With diet one can actually halt and often reverse the effects of these illnesses, as the doctors in Forks Over Knives lovingly demonstrate.  The “diet as medicine” is a plant based whole food diet.  The evidence is all there, but how many of us will actually hear it, see it, do it?

It comes down to how much do we care for ourselves.  Sadly in our culture the answer is often: not very much.  Oh sure we indulge ourselves with electronics, with entertainment, with foods rich in fat, sugar and sodium, but how often do we take the time to really care for our bodies, minds and hearts?

Hard to believe it could be so simple.   Move the body to feel alive: dance, jump, play, run, kick, swing, stretch, squat, slide, shake, smile.  Feed the body with wholesome sources of nutrients to support all its many functions: fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries, whole grains.  Train the mind to think clearly: sit in silence, practice martial arts, meditation, draw, write, notice the world around you.  Nurture the heart to feel compassion: have long conversations with dear friends, look up at the moon, let yourself feel happy and sad, rough and smooth, big and small, strong and weak, practice self-acceptance.

What is something you do to take care of your body, mind and heart?  Let’s learn from each other.  Please share your thoughts in a comment.  Thank you.

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Recommendations for future Practice Preach reviews are welcome and encouraged! Do you find value in watching a particular movie or TV show, in reading a specific book, in listening to that one album or artist?  Let me know!

This article was originally published at The Interdependence Project Blog.

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