The Holistic Diet

Are you really what you eat? Well maybe, if you really think about food as what you take in and process through your body and mind. I was introduced to this way of thinking about food by my teacher of Agni Yoga, Russell Schofield. He suggested that food can be thought of as having three dimensions or orders.

He referred to what we ordinarily think of as food as “third order food.” These are the physical substances we put into our mouth, chew, swallow and digest (which includes assimilating what is of value and eliminating the waste). Attention to this kind of food is absolutely necessary for health as is supporting the processes of digestion. Eating food that contains little or no toxins, food that is organically grown, has balanced nutrients, etc. is strong on the radar of anyone who wants to be healthy, as it should be. We can include also all that is in the air we breathe and water we drink. As well, the things we touch.

“Second order food” is the psychic energy we take in. In more ordinary terms it’s the conversations we have, contacts we have with other people and also the things we listen to watch or read through various forms of media. All relationships involve the exchange of mental and emotional energy, thoughts and feelings that we process more or less consciously just as we do physical foods. In all aspects of our life we are metabolizing the energies of our experiences including what comes to us from the outside and what arises from within us as we react to events.

Processing life experience consciously, as one might do in therapy or on ones own, we absorb what is helpful for us and we shed or eliminate what is not needed. We often describe this as letting go of old fixed ideas, attachments and prejudices while we learn lessons, grow as persons and mature.

It’s at least as important to be mindful of the second order foods we are taking in as the third order (physical foods). We need to recognize the power of the thoughts and feelings to which we give our attention. Many folks are recognizing that they can overdose on certain news programs, finding themselves depressed or chronically irritated. While paying attention to the news can help us to be aware of what is happening in the world around us, we can overload on the negativity that is packaged through the sensationalist and polarizing media outlets. We may be unable to digest it all.

The practice of discernment is vital here. Paying attention to your energetic responses to what you ingest may be better than any formula about what to eat, what to watch, or who to spend time with. Your body will feel the heaviness of overindulgence in some food just as the weight in your heart may be telling you to take time for some healing or regenerative practice. Of course, holistic models tell us that the mind and body are not separate, that physical foods effect mood, just as our emotional state effects our body. We are really paying attention to a spectrum of energy with which we interact that may harm or benefit us; a good reason to say grace before a meal.

What my teacher, Russell, called “prime order food” is the light of spirit, life energy or chi. Practices that attune us to this energy are like drinking from a pure well within that cleanses and heals. Or we can say that we are eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, the essence of our true nature. Perhaps this was the “manna” described in the Biblical story that kept the desert wanderers alive as it does us in our life journey. The prime order food nourishes our mind and body and supports and enhances fully metabolizing the second and third order foods.

One could say that a healthy diet involves paying careful attention to all three orders of food: eating and drinking organic and balanced foods; spending time with people of goodwill and reading or watching things that are clarifying or uplifting; and having a regular practice of meditation, prayer or other form of spiritual practice. The holistic diet model of 3 orders of food is helpful in that it allows me to recognize the full spectrum of my daily nutrient needs and take the steps toward a balanced and healthy life.

(This article will appear in the Fall 2019 edition of Four Winds Journal).

Not Fearless, But Fear Less

“Our deepest fear is not that we are weak. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world … As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

       There is a space within each of us where there is no fear at all. What some call our essential nature or soul is that which is free of all attachments; no holding on, no gripping, no clinging, no fear. When we know and feel completely that we are that, we are fearless; we are in a state of grace. But the truth is also that we live in the consciousness of our body/mind and have instincts and conditioning that often flood us with worry, anxiety and fear.  Continue reading Not Fearless, But Fear Less

Frustration, Annoyance, Anger and Meditation

(This is one in a series of essays about meditation. I hope you enjoy and benefit from these ideas and I invite you to share this with friends. I also want to invite you to attend the next full-day Tree of Life Meditations retreat focused on Agni Yoga. Agni Yoga is a unique form of meditation practice with which you can  transform negative psychological and physical patterns.)


One thing is for sure, Meditation will not stop you from feeling anger. I say this with some certainty, not only because I’ve been meditating daily for over 45 years and still get angry… Continue reading Frustration, Annoyance, Anger and Meditation

Agni Yoga as Full-Time Yoga

Next Tree of Life Meditations Retreat – June 11th


There are many understandings about yoga, what one seeks through it, and what practices are involved. My orientation is that yoga is a path towards experiencing my physical body and my mind as aligned with and in union with the spiritual essence of who I am. This then leads to an experience of inner peace and access to healing, creative, and other potentials that lie within. This is a full-time process, not simply something one does in a class or for a short period on occasion.

In 1969, I attended a retreat that changed the direction of my life. I was introduced to Agni Yoga and spent the next ten years in a school dedicated to spreading the teachings and healing practices of this little known form of yoga. It was the first disciplined spiritual practice that I learned and there has not been a day since that time that I haven’t made use of its teachings. It has been my profound honor and privilege to share these teachings with students from a wide range of backgrounds and present circumstances. I’ve experienced that this form of practice makes it easier to bring yoga into awareness not just during the intensive practice sessions, but throughout ones daily existence.

The Tree of Life Meditations process that I teach has Agni Yoga as one of its three core lineages, along with shamanism and mindfulness meditation. All three weave together beautifully to enable one to have a complete spiritual practice: for healing self and others; bringing kindness and love into personal relationships; awakening to inner direction from one’s soul; and finding a meaningful and fulfilling way to relate to the issues of the world.

Previous Tree of Life Meditations retreats focused on mindfulness meditation practices and shamanism, while this next one will be focused primarily on Agni Yoga. Please see here for more information on Agni Yoga.

Tree of Life Meditations Retreat

June 11th, 10 AM – 5 PM

Tomkins Cove – $100