The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
You are what you eat, or so the saying goes. You become what you consume—not just through your mouth, but through your eyes, your ears and your mind.
Certainly science has proven that what we physically ingest into our bodies has a tremendous effect on how we feel, our energy, our physical health and even our mood.
But how about the images, ideas, and concepts we ingest mentally, emotionally and spiritually? These things can affect us even more.
If you are what you eat, you are what you see and hear. – E.A. Bucchianeri
Pure water, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healing herbs give life and vitality to the body. But our spirits also need nourishment. We would not feed our bodies with moldy produce, polluted water and contaminated meat, after all. Doesn’t it seem natural that we should also not feed our thoughts with prejudice, fear, hate, envy, and anger? Ingesting such negativity will make us sick too, but on a very deep spiritual level.
Envy consumeth the body and anger burneth the liver: avoid these two as ye would a fierce lion. – Baha’u’llah, The Tablet of Medicine, provisional translation by Stephen Lambden.
Your worst enemy cannot hurt you as much as your own unguarded thoughts. – Buddha
Just as eating foul food will make our bodies unhealthy, consuming dark images and thinking bad thoughts makes our spirits feel unwell:
You are not what you think you are, but WHAT YOU THINK, the thoughts that habitually possess your mind, that is what you are. – Claude M. Brisol
When we ingest negativity, the immediate affects are more subtle and perhaps not immediately noticeable—but we can contract spiritual poisoning as easily as food poisoning if we’re not watchful.
I have felt these affects when being exposed to backbiting. Even if I didn’t join the conversation, I could feel the subtle stench of sadness that was left behind in its wake. Then, when turning on the latest hit on the radio, though the beat was addictive, the lyrics subjugating women left me with a sense of sorrow. Consuming a meal of violence, inhumanity and the marginalization of the innocent from the big and small screens brought me spiritual dyspepsia.
So at a certain point I said, “I can’t do this anymore!” and started making a conscious effort to avoid people, situations and media that felt spiritually toxic:
O My Son! The company of the ungodly increaseth sorrow, whilst fellowship with the righteous cleanseth the rust from off the heart. He that seeketh to commune with God, let him betake himself to the companionship of His loved ones; and he that desireth to hearken unto the word of God, let him give ear to the words of His chosen ones. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 42.
I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet. – Mahatma Gandhi
Just as we try to avoid negative people, situations and media that seem toxic, we must seek out their positive counterparts. Choosing to associate with loving and kind people in a spirit of service and unity feeds happiness. Inspiring music, art, theater and literature uplifts and enriches our souls. Partaking of the pure wisdom in scripture from all Faiths elevates the heart:
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. – Psalms 34:8.
Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths. – Baha’u’llah, The Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, pp. 118-119.
Since we know our thoughts are powerful, are we consuming negative thoughts or choosing more loving ones? We are not all the thoughts we think. Entertaining negative or cruel thoughts about ourselves is especially damaging. Such inappropriate thoughts can wound and leave us feeling powerless and unloved. Being vigilant in expelling unproductive thoughts takes practice. I still question daily if particular thoughts are valid or not. I look at it this way—if the thought causes me pain, it is false, or from fear. If it causes me joy and peace, it is from God.
You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. – Louise L. Hay
The thought manifests as the word; the word manifests as the deed; the deed develops into habit; and habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care, and let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings. – Buddha
When it comes to what we eat, and what is eating us, how do we find the solution? It all has to do with understanding the law of cause and effect. Every aspect of our bodies, our minds, our emotions and our spirit are connected.
Choosing foods that nourish us brings about a body that will serve us well. Good thoughts, service, prayer and noble purposes feed the heart. Finally, if we eat of the fragrant fruits of love, the sweet herbs of unity and the pure nectar of forgiveness, our spirits can attain everlasting health.