In the field of Nutritional Medicine, so much has changed since I graduated with my BSc degree in 2003 that I wonder if my years of study and clinical practise are of any use these days at all! They were wrong about low fat foods, they were wrong about cholesterol, and they were way too confident in the results of clinical trials that ignored the emotional, inner life of unique, complex, ever changing human beings. But of course they were ‘wrong’. Buddhism 101 – everything changes.
One of the (many) things I’ve taken to heart from the teachings of Suzuki Roshi, is that things are Not Always So. It was one of his trademarks – he would contradict himself even within the space of one lecture! A wonderful and inspiring biography of Suzuki Roshi, ‘Crooked Cucumber’, tells many stories of the young Suzuki’s Zen training in Japan, where rather than being given established expositions or encouraged to study philosophical texts, he was trained (often by very unconventional means) to investigate the world around him. Not with a text book, not in a lab or with a control group, but just by being mindful, and developing and using his sharp, discriminating wisdom.
Since moving to Glenorchy, I’ve often felt a hole in my life that I wish a dharma teacher would fill. But on re-reading Crooked Cucumber, I’m reminded of how Suzuki Roshi’s earliest American students initially came to him requesting teachings and advice. (We always want something don’t we, even from our spiritual practise. But what are we willing to give?) And seemingly, his reply was usually “I sit zazen at 5.45am each morning. Please come and join me if you wish”. That’s one thing I can, and do do, every morning. Maybe I am exactly where I need to be.
I’ve taken a week off work, and have been travelling south, to Fjordland in the south-west of NZ’s south island. I think we can all agree that travelling is sooooo good for us! A chance to rest, explore, be still, be creative. I’ve been thinking a little about the things in life that feel important to me, and cooking and wellness are still right up there. But back to the question of nutrition; what advice can I, can anyone offer, with any certainty? I don’t know what you should eat. I don’t know how many eggs per week is too many, whether broccoli is better than kale, or if cacao is truly a superfood… But I have done a lot of exploration and I do cook every day. Please come and join me if you wish!
One of my new heroes is the young Instagram star, Rupy Aujla @doctors_kitchen (currently with 55k followers) He is a British doctor, in general practise with the NHS. He also is a high profile advocate of using food as preventative medicine, and is against fad diets or obsessing about our foods. He walks the middle way! Rupy also talks passionately about meditation and other ‘self love’ practises that he believes contribute to our wellness. This resonates so deeply with me, as the turning point for me (away from the clinical side of Nutritional Medicine practise) was a client who was deeply unhappy and troubled, following my nutritional programme TO THE LETTER yet not making any improvements. If we are not happy, how can we ever be well?
This is something for us all to investigate, for ourselves.
I know that I love cooking. I also love photography, poetry, music and writing, irrespective of whether I have any creative talent whatsoever.
Not long before my grandma died, she would repeat to me ‘Just enjoy your life’. That seems to be as good advice as any.
And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.
~ Neil Gaiman
Thanks for reading!