by Catriona Mitchell
Pescetarian, fruitarian, locavore. Seems to me it’s hard to keep up with the spate of new words that refer to people’s eating habits. But have you ever heard the term ‘prasadarian’? I hadn’t either, until this afternoon.
In India, ‘prasad’ refers to offerings that have been blessed. A prasadarian, then, is somebody who only eats blessed food – food that nourishes the mind as well as the body. It’s the term Food Yogi Paul Rodney Turner uses to defines himself, and after listening to his careful explanations at a workshop today, I began to see that what he has to say not only makes sense, but even offers an antidote to the host of problems associated with the way we eat today: the industrialization of food and concomitant loss of quality in flavor and nutrients, the poisoning of our waterways through cattle and dairy farming, and the terrifying and ever-increasing incidences of obesity and other health-associated issues.
At the time his peers were going out to explore the world, Paul decided to renounce it. He became a Hindu monk at the age of 19 and remained one for 14 years. He now runs Food for Life Global, a network of vegetarian food relief projects which feeds millions of people around the world, providing more daily meals than the United Nations World Food Program, with kitchens so sophisticated and well-maintained that they hold the same certification as a five-star hotel. But FFL considers itself a peace organization first, and a food aid program second, for the reason that “giving food is the most fundamental act of kindness a human can do, and eating food is one of the few things all humans have in common.” It uses food to bring people together in a spirit of peace.
This year, Paul is travelling the world giving raw-food workshops based on his book Food Yoga: Nourishing Body, Mind and Soul. His focus is not so much on how to create wonders for the palette – though the recipes we explored with him today were sublime – but on how to listen to the needs of the body, how food affects the whole being, and how to be conscious of its influences, because “the kind of food we eat affects our consciousness and subsequent behaviours.”
It all comes down to the subtle aspects of what we eat – something we very rarely consider. “Often when you hear about a diet program or a raw food program, it’s emphasizing the body,” Paul began. “I believe it’s important to nourish all aspects of our being.”
At the heart of Food Yoga is the idea that food quality is influenced by the mind that creates it, and that the mind is influenced by the food that is consumed. Food, therefore should be procured without violence (in either thought or deed – precluding the consumption of meat, fish, dairy and eggs); prepared and served in its purest form (so as not to transfer polluted or negative energy to the consumer) and as close to its natural state as possible (hence Paul’s current exploration of raw recipes); and that food is a gift from the divine, to be acknowledged not taken for granted (hence the importance of blessing it before the meal).
Drawing on ideas as far-ranging as Japanese professor Dr Emoto’s discoveries of the effects of human thought on the molecular structure of water (“food is mostly water – it has to be affected”) and the role of water in the body, to the importance of keeping the pH levels in the body alkaline, to ancient wisdom from the Vedas, Paul moved skillfully today between scientific findings, grass-roots practicality and the philosophy of ‘ahimsa’ (non-harm). He shared his knowledge in a no-nonsense manner, despite the esoteric subject matter. “You don’t need fancy gadgets,” he said. “Just design your life so it’s in balance.” “Grow your own food, or have a real relationship with the farmers. Know them by name – ask them how they grow their food.” “Wild food is superfood. Superfoods are different in different environments. You don’t need to buy spirulina from Hawaii; that’s just people trying to make money out of you. Eat local to where you are.”
Nor is Paul a staunch raw foodist, despite the fact that the practical aspects of today’s workshop were all centred around raw food preparation: “Sometimes we need a warm soup, or potatoes, and that’s fine. People living in colder climates need to eat cooked food.”
Perhaps the most significant aspect of Paul’s practice is the blessing of food once it’s been prepared and prior to consumption, for the twin purposes of offering it first as a gift to the divine, and purifying it, to clear it of any potential negative energies. For example, if food is prepared by an unhappy restaurant employee working in a dirty kitchen, it will bring negative energies to the consumer. This should be avoided or at best, purified.
Paul’s mettle was put to the test when, during the food demonstrations, a couple of the rowdier participants urged him to taste the dishes before they had been offered via a blessing. Paul looked horrified and resisted, despite their persistence. He never tastes food while preparing it, despite his experimental approach; and with correct attentiveness and intuition, it doesn’t go wrong.
Although Paul spoke a lot about his philosophy, the main focus of the workshop was actually a hands-on lesson in raw foods. Paul shared sensational recipes of his own invention, with live demonstrations, and the blenders certainly got a workout – ancient wisdom meeting new food technologies. The recipes included: (to drink) electro-lemonade, almond milk, and coco-chai; and (to eat) seed pate, live nut cheese, nori wraps, kale go-go salad, live pizza, passionfruit white chocolate vegan cheesecake, and live ice cream with avocado, mint and chocolate sauce. All of these were consumed with relish at a late lunch out in the garden. (I regretted my third serving of the ice cream; it felt like I had already violated the principles I had only just learned about, by doing violence to myself, but wow, it was good.)
Paul’s book is dedicated: “To my guru, who taught me: spiritual evolution begins with the tongue.” The book draws deeply from his studies in Hindu spirituality, and addresses in far more detail the topics he spoke about today. Paul intends to give another workshop in Bali in November this year; meantime, Food Yoga: Nourishing Body, Mind and Soul can be purchased online at www.foodyogi.org
Paul’s workshop was brought to Ubud by Jon Dale. See www.rawfoodbali.com
For a “taster” of Paul’s raw food workshop held in a private house in Ubud, see our short video!