Tuesday, May 14, 2019

thea My Abdu'l-Baha-inspired approach to diet and purity

Here is a summary of my recent discoveries in diet, spirituality and the law of the Bab

by John Taylor
May 14, 2019

The distinctive feature of my whole food plant based diet (wfpb) is that it excludes SOS, salt, oil and sugar. "Why avoid salt?", somebody recently asked. Here is the summary of the research by Dr. Gregor:

How do you avoid salt? Here is what I wrote recently:

"We have a bi-weekly health class here in Dunnville, ON, run by a wfpb physician, and this is an issue we have discussed lately. There are dozens of herb mixes specially designed to replace salt. All you do is google "salt replacement spice mix" and you will get a plethora of mixes that you can make up on your own using the herbs and spices you have at home. Failing that, there are commercial mixes, like "Mrs. Dash," but they have msg in them, which some avoid (let us please not get into msg! The FUD on that is incredible, and Dr. Gregor has dealt with it). I had a bottle of herbs for this purpose, but I intentially used them up in a veggie roast lately, so that our group can make up our own mixes together. My plan is to make a large batch and hand out small bottles of it next meeting, so that the other members will have a baseline to work with. Next fall, we can use this summer's crop at Shared Harvest Farm to make a large batch of herbs tailored more exactly to our own palates."

All this begs the question, why is virtually everything you pick up in any store packed with salt? Why else? Profit. Someone on my FB wfpb group expressed the strategy succinctly:

"Salt, sugar and oil are extensively used by the food industry (food chemists) to engineer foods to be addictive. (ie Lays potato chips slogan, bet you can’t eat just one). If you are overweight, there is a good chance that food addictions are part of your story. Avoiding salt helps steer you away from getting caught in this “pleasure trap”, plus once you get used to tasting whole, unprocessed foods your tastebuds become more sensitive and you really don’t crave salt. Try celery if you are looking for a salty taste."

That "pleasure trap" is so effective, I think, because processed foods contain very little bulk, leaving you hungry no matter how much you eat of it. Then you crave to eat more, and more, until you are obese, inflamed and sickly. Kaching. You feel bad, and crave even more ersatz food. Kaching.

Abdu'l-Baha pointed out the best strategy to counteract such vicious cycles. "When you encounter a thought of war, counteract it with a stronger thought of peace." "When you find a thought of hate, oppose it with a stronger thought of love." (paraphrased from: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/PT/pt-6.html) Same thing with diet, when you feel a craving, counteract it with a salad and veggies. The bulk will feed the good bugs and starve the bad ones in your lower intestine, strengthening mind and body -- it actually increases intelligence! I have been having a big Kale and Arugala salad for the past few days and I find that I can string more complex thoughts together into longer sentences without the memory lapses that normally break up my speech. If you doubt my anecdotal experience, there is plenty of empirical, statistical backing for this: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/best-brain-foods-greens-and-beets-put-to-the-test/

There is also evidence that a veggie filled diet helps against depression, one of the most endemic afflictions in the world today.

Anyway, now that my intelligence is supercharged by my dietary choices, I can think more clearly about this approach of Abdu'l-Baha of opposing hate with stronger love. In diet, as I said, this approach is filling up our stomachs with real foods, ending that vicious cycle of cravings intentionally provoked by processed, non-plant based foods. In psychology, it is the same. Fill the mind with good thoughts, the kind that well fed good bugs promote in our brains. There is a tendency of our thoughts to take us down into a vicious cycle of warlike thinking called the negativity bias. Wikipedia defines it thus,

"The negativity bias, also known as the negativity effect, is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one's psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things. In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person's behavior and cognition than something equally emotional but negative. The negativity bias has been investigated within many different domains, including the formation of impressions and general evaluations; attention, learning, and memory; and decision-making and risk considerations."

This bias is even mentioned by Abdu'l-Baha at one point:

"Souls are inclined toward estrangement. Steps should first be taken to do away with this estrangement, for only then will the Word take effect." (http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAB/sab-210.html#fn1)

My mind has been blown lately by the realization that this vicious circle of negativity is worsened and weaponized by air pollution. This article produced by an investigative journalist working for the BBC shows how exposure to air pollution actually causes crime:

She sums up her findings in a short video called "How dirty air is polluting our minds," here:


This finding actually has helped me understand why such horrible crimes take place at all. Every day for the past six months I've been watching Law and Order, SVU, which is about the investigation of sex crimes. So, every day I see horrors that probably would never have taken place if we just kept our air and water pure, and ate a proper diet. Purity, spiritual and physical, was the special concern of the law of the Bab.

“The Báb emphasizes the cleaning and beautification of one’s clothing, and affirms that nothing abhorrent or distasteful should be seen in His kingdom. In gate 7 of the ninth unity the Báb prohibits the smoking of tobacco, and in the next gate He prohibits the use of opium and intoxicants. Gate 10 of the ninth unity ordains the purification of all things, including the purification of one’s heart, spirit, soul, and body.” (Nader Saiedi, Gate of the Heart, p. 318).

“Nothing is more dearly beloved in the Bayán than purity, refinement, and cleanliness…and in the Dispensation of the Bayán, God wisheth not to witness amongst humans that which is other than joy and radiance, and He desireth that all appear in the utmost spiritual and physical purity, that their own souls be not repulsed, how much less the souls of others.” (Persian Bayán, 5:14)

In the Arabic Bayán, the Bab prohibits the commodification of the natural elements of earth, air, fire and water. He requires that water be kept in a state of the utmost purity, a principle that clearly implies protection of the environment, just as His comments about adopting the scientific achievements of the West also point to the modernization of Iran." (Summarized from Saeidi, Gate of the Heart, pp. 315-317; special thanks to Jack and Steve Maclean for researching this and presenting it in a talk I attended last night).