Lifestyle plays a big role in our health. Research shows that meditation and vegetarian diet are two proactive ways of increasing our wellness, says Sant Rajinder Singh
Each of us has the power within us to create a healthier way of life. The choices we make today impact our physical, mental, and spiritual health tomorrow, whether months or years from now. Our choices also impact our family. What we choose today regarding the care of our body, mind, and spirit will determine what our future health will be.
Medical research points at two ways by which we can increase our wellness. One is meditation and the other is a vegetarian diet. Meditation helps us increase our health and well-being physically, mentally, and spiritually. It keeps our body and mind calm and reduces our chances of contracting stress-related illnesses.
Research by medical practitioners and doctors indicates that meditation benefits the body and mind. As someone put it in jest: “we can counter the effects of ill, pill, and bill by being still”. Being still refers to sitting in meditation. This increased interest and popularity of meditation has grown as scientific studies verify what has been known in the East for centuries.
Let’s reflect a little on the two simple steps to staying healthy:
Step 1: Meditation
Be still. Our parents had this one solution for us when we were children. These words really are a precursor for a healthy lifestyle. Being still is another word for meditation.
When we meditate, we slow our heart rate and breathing to a point where we are calm. When we are agitated and upset, the body produces fight or flight hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which may be useful when in danger to help us defend ourselves or run, but not when simple problems of life upset us. We do not need cortisol and adrenaline to kick in when our spouse or children leave the toothpaste cap off or someone cuts us off on the highway. We have been so conditioned to becoming upset about things that are not life-threatening that we produce stress hormones that react on our body in a way that can break down our organs and bodily systems.
Meditation helps us be calm, and in a relaxed state so that we can ward off the effects of daily life challenges. When we are calm, our body is not producing hormones that can lead to stress-related ailments such as heart attack, stroke, hypertension, headaches, digestive and skin problems. When we meditate we also keep our mind calm. We not only suffer physical illness from stress, but we create emotional and mental difficulties when we are not calm. This can lead to emotional and relationship problems or other stress-related mental disorders. Through meditation we can keep a calm and peaceful mind to help us lead happier lives.
Meditation also helps us develop concentration. When we are stressed out our performance level is not as high as we need it to be. When we concentrate we can get better grades, which reduces our stress as students. Our stress as employees or professionals is reduced because we can perform better at work.
How can we prove the spiritual benefits of being still and meditating? This is one area where meditation fits the scientific model. It is based on experimentation leading to proof. Those who have tried the experiment have discovered that meditation leads to wellness not only of the body and mind, but of the soul.
In meditation, we close our eyes, gaze within, and still our mind of thoughts. When the reflecting pool of our mind is still, we see what lies within us. We see Light within, hear celestial Music, and can soar to regions of Light. Through meditation, we thus achieve physical, mental, and spiritual wellness.
Step 2: Vegetarian Diet
Another key to a healthy lifestyle is living on a vegetarian diet. Research proves that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of many diseases such as stroke, heart attack, diabetes, digestive disorders, and even some cancers, among other illnesses. By cutting out meat, and even fish, fowl, and eggs we can reduce the risk of many ailments.
Vegetarianism also benefits our state of mind and spiritual well-being. Think of the state of the animals when slaughtered. Hormones of fear and stress run through them at the time of their captivity and slaughter. It has been said that we are what we eat. All that was a part of the animal becomes part of us when we eat it. This means we are ingesting their fear and panic hormones, which can contribute to our own state of fear and anxiety when it becomes a part of our body.
We also are taking into our body anything the animal ate. For example, antibiotics fed to the animal become part of us, and if we have too much it can cause bacteria to become antibiotic-resistant. If animals are fed hormones to make them grow faster, they too become a part of us which can lead to problems because now those hormones are in our body. We also are taking into our body any diseases that the animal may have contracted.
There are moral benefits to a vegetarian diet. Most cultures believe in the law that “thou shalt not kill.” There is a recognition in many cultures that even animals have a soul in them. Thus, when we take the life of a creature, we are taking the life of a being who has a soul in it. Those who ascribe to a spiritual way of life and meditate have even witnessed that the same Light of the Divine in us also shines in all other human beings and all creatures. Thus, a thread of divine connection knits all life together.
Today, there are numerous delicious and nutritious vegetarian, plant-based foods that we can eat. Besides a growing number of vegetarian restaurants, most restaurants now offer a wider variety of vegetarian dishes. Mainstream supermarkets have many vegetarian options for customers. Even places where it was hard to get vegetarian foods, such as school cafeterias, hospitals, cruise ships, conferences, and venues for professional gatherings, offer vegetarian choices.
It is now easier than ever to be vegetarian and the benefits are enormous. One can try the experiment of incorporating meditation and vegetarian diet into one’s life. You can see for yourself the benefits you will experience. If you track the changes these two choices bring, you will find that you are healthier — physically, mentally, and spiritually. May each of you make choices to experience the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for your body, mind, and soul.
The writer is a spiritual leader