On the morning of my 26th birthday (thanks for the wishes everyone), I'd like to take an opportunity to reflect on one of the greatest gifts I've ever given myself. The gift of completion.
This essay, Struggle vs Challenge, can be found in the summer 2008 issue of get fresh! magazine. You can support get fresh!, a fantastic staple of our community, by buying a print or digital copy here.
Struggle vs Challenge: my road to completion
A challenge may not be easy, but it can be joyful. A challenge is something that can be embraced even from the begin of the journey. A challenge, while it can be difficult, does not include the added dimension of resistance.
A struggle is being in once place and needing to be in another. A struggle is not only difficult, but it is a burden. A struggle is a challenge that is filled with resistance. A struggle is no fun at all.
How do you know where your journey stands? All you need to do is simply ask yourself, "Am I complete where I am?"
One of the greatest gifts that I've been given is the gift of completion. It didn't start that way and I've had many bumps in the road, but now that I discovered it, I want to help others discover it too.
My Journey Begins
My journey into the world of raw foods, like many journeys, started off with a lot of excitement.
In August of 2001 I met a deep soul who went by the name of Nature Love. Nature was modern shaman who just happened to be working as a buyer at a local co-op. A year earlier I had heard Ingrid Newkirk, the President of PETA, speak at a conference and it inspired me to embark on a vegan diet - primarily out of animal rights concerns. I had been shopping at the co-op since then for my soy this and soy that and had seen Nature almost every other day. Nature was a fit gentleman with a kind smile and very bright eyes. I always knew something was special about him, but we never exchanged words until that August.
"Hey bro. My name's Dhru" I said, "I see you here all the time and I've always wanted to ask you, what is it that you do? Like what do you eat and stuff?"
Although I wasn't sick or overweight, I didn't feel energized on my processed soy diet and knew there had to have been a better way.
"Hey man, I'm Nature. Pleasure to meet you. Yeah, I see you here too... And, well, I actually eat raw foods."
"Raw Foods?", I replied.
And so the journey began.
Nature and I stood in the snacks isle of the co-op for over 45 minutes while I got an intense download of information on the lifestyle know as raw foods. While what Nature was saying was knew information, it resonated so deeply that I knew I must have intrinsically known it. It was then that I knew this was a journey I wanted embrace. I was ready for raw foods.
Discipline and Excitement
I jumped into raw food overnight and ate totally raw day after day. It was fun making food, I was learning about health and my body was transforming. I got rid of all my acne, I was sleeping 6 hours a night and had more energy than I knew what to do with. I wasn't even 20 yet and I felt I had discovered the fountain of youth.
Then, about 8 months into it, I felt a shift. Slowly the initial excitement and discipline started to wear off. Something was changing and I didn't know what it was. I didn't feel as fulfilled with my simple foods any more and I was getting bored with my day to day routine. Although I "believed" in 100% raw, I started having cravings for cooked foods and satisfied those cravings by indulging on the old vegan foods that I was use to. I was still eating a high amount of raw foods and maintained a high quality of health, but everyday was yo-yo battle of desires and wanting to be somewhere else - somewhere where I wasn't right now.
My initial journey, which started off with much discipline and excitement, had turned into a daily struggle.
What's wrong with me?
When I did have time to reflect on my journey, I would often ask my self what I was doing wrong. Did I not have enough will power? Was a totally raw food diet inherently flawed? Was it the food choices I was making? Was my diet not alkaline enough?
Of course there was nothing wrong with the questions I was asking and, in fact, they were totally valid questions. Especially the nutrition questions. When it comes to health there is so much false and second hand information out there that one must really evaluate what they getting into. But, I had felt the power of raw food first hand. I knew it worked and I felt and looked good. I just wanted to be 100% raw. That was the goal, that was the ideal, anything else was failure. Anything else wasn't for me.
Since I felt that the yo-yoing I was experiencing was fluke, a small bump in the road, I didn't bring it up to any of my mentors, including Nature Love. It had been almost a year since I got started on raw food and I had a fear that if he knew he might look down on me. Of course he never would, but that was a way that my mind played up the drama and kept itself feeling small. Finally, after a particularly challenging day, I reached out to Nature. Over the course of the next few days I asked him about his journey and just how he stayed on track.
"Oh man, I've had challenges too," Nature started, "Many years ago when I was a vegetarian in the army there was a few days where all they had to eat was chicken. As you know I had been vegetarian since I was 15 and felt I didn't want to eat it. But I knew I had to do the best I could with what I had. Now, people could say that's wrong, that's bad and although I felt it wasn't the best situation, I did it and didn't feel guilty about it afterwards. Why feel guilty about it? What's that going to do. I just saw the situation as it was and after a few days I went back to eating a totally vegetarian diet. I wouldn't put myself in that situation again, but at the time that's what it was."
"Oh yeah?" I replied.
"Yeah." Nature continued, "And there have been times that I've wanted steamed vegetables since I've been raw and I have no problem having them. It's not that I crave them, I just enjoy them. It may be once a week, but even if I wanted them more often I would have no problem with that either. And if I wanted anything else that'd be fine too."
"You don't feel bad that you're not eating 100% raw?", I asked.
"But that's never been the goal for me. The goal is to have a beautiful relationship with food and feel joy. And I feel because I do, that's why I been able to come this far without a struggle. I'm healthy and happy. Food isn't my focus, it's my nourishment."
Right then it hit me. Nature didn't struggle, ever. His journey could be challenging at times, but it never contained an element of resistance. I took the next few weeks to go deeper into Nature's teachings and reflect on my own journey.
From Struggle to Challenge
Over the next month my journey transformed from being a hard struggle to a beautiful challenge. I found the joy in my health journey again. And the funny thing is my diet stayed the same way it had been for the past few months. Nothing in my external world change, it was only my internal world that transformed. I dropped the need to be any where else than where I was right now.
I still read and continued to learn and grow, but I didn't do it with a "seeking" mentality. I did it out of the joy of play, there was no attachment involved.
Over the next few months I also made some practical shifts in my diet, including more green smoothies, learning more recipes, but all these additions were secondary to my internal shift. I embraced them because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to. A few months later I realized I had been eating almost all raw without even trying to. I was doing it without discipline.
I didn't realize it fully at the time, but after my conversation with nature I had a small awakening:
I was identified with this arbitrary goal, of eating 100% raw, as a means of completing some in-complete aspect of myself. Because I felt incomplete I thought that when I finally ate and stayed totally raw that life would be better. That I'd finally be where I needed to be. I was treating raw foods as a destination rather than a vehicle of health and conciseness. I was always hoping that the next bit of information, next dish, next guru, next product would fulfill me in a way that I wasn't fulfilled.
A Course in Miracles says that the ego's mantra is, "Seek, but do not find." That was my de facto health mantra. De facto because it came from a place of unconsciousness. After my conversation with Nature, and a few months of reflecting, I was able to transcend my seeking relationship with health by bringing my ego's true goals to the surface.
Regardless of where you are in your health journey, the most important thing is that you are complete as you are. Of course it's okay to have health goals and make practical shifts in your diet, but if it is done out of a place of seeking than your ego will always find a reason to resist.
Transitioning to a primary raw diet is challenging, but it doesn't have to be a struggle. Embrace completion and let everything else be a decoration to your already beautiful world.