A lot of people ask about ACIM and diet – are we encouraged, as students of the course, to eat a certain way? Avoid certain foods? Do we fast at this or that time of year and so forth? Does A Course in Miracles forbid eating meat?
I think those are natural questions amongst seekers in general. Lots of religions have rules and regulations around food. When I was an aspiring Buddhist most of the men and women with whom I sat and studied were vegetarians. It was an extension of compassion – a way of demonstrating kindness to all life.
I was a vegetarian for many years. I have fond memories of those years, particularly after I met my wife and my cooking really took off. We had – and still have from time to time – some incredible veggie dishes.
When I was Catholic – especially as a child – we refrained from eating meat on Fridays (a point somewhat lost on the fish we consumed). As I grew older and more committed to Catholicism I did a fair amount of fasting – avoiding meals, limiting what I ate, and sometimes going for many days with only juice.
Nor are Buddhism and Catholicism the only traditions where food is regulated in some ways.
But when we commit to practicing A Course in Miracles, we leave that behind. Well, we leave it behind in the sense that we no longer associate a way of eating – or a type of food – with salvation. The course has a single goal – to heal the mind that believes it is separated from God. Its references to behavior are scant at best.
So you can be a devout meat eater – taking down a meat lover’s pizza every night and a rasher of bacon at breakfast – and be a student of the course. You can also be a vegetarian. Or a vegan. You can be – as Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes once said – a dessertatarian and be a student of the course. There is no right or wrong way to approach food. As Krishnamurti once said on the subject, eat meat or don’t eat meat but get on with it.
In other words, the healing the course contemplates has nothing to do with our bodies. We can’t eat or fast or exercise or dance or walk our way to Heaven. It’s all in the mind.
That said, I don’t mean to be cavalier about the issues that can come up around food. For many of us, it is an area in which we need considerable healing. Forgiveness is always appropriate! If you are addicted to food in some way, then your practice of the course is going to involve forgiving – seeing with Jesus – that relationship. And that forgiveness – which, remember, happens in the mind – will probably have some effect on the outside.
Our practice of A Course in Miracles is deeply personal. The course never looks the same from one student to the next. We are called to heal in very specific ways. I have friends who are course students who are very passionate about not eating meat. I respect that. My own practice with food has been to deepen my relationship with it at the level of production – we grow a tremendous amount of veggies, pick most of our fruit locally, have chickens for eggs and meat, buy beef from local farmers and have even kept bees and a goat for milking. I don’t think your practice of the course has to mimic that – it probably shouldn’t. But it is neatly tied into forgiveness for me – a kind of simplicity, a kind of self-reliance, a kind of healthy diet.
It is important that we not be bullied into thinking that we have to practice a certain way. A Course in Miracles meets you where you are and helps you move – from that place – closer to Heaven. What is right for you in an external way is not going to be right for somebody else. The question is: as you approach food and think about your diet, with whom are you doing the approaching? Are you talking to Jesus? Are you asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit? Are you listening to the still small voice inside? That voice – those teachers – will take you where you need to go. If you will listen, you will be told what to do – about everything, food included.
Remember, the course is about changing our minds. Sometimes that change shows up in the world. Obviously my house and property looks different because it is devoted to agriculture. Obviously, my relationships are in many ways shaded by our family’s commitment to growing, raising and preserving our own food. But what really matters is the love that is internal. I am eating and relating to food in the most loving way that I can. I can’t figure that out on my own – I need help. So I ask. I ask and I am answered.
It can happen that way for you as well.