One of the first things you do when your child is born is feed them—put them to your breast—nature’s own perfect formula. Good nutrition is the most basic element, along with love, that your child needs in order to flourish.
When my daughter Amrita was an infant, I had to be very careful with what I ate or her stomach would get upset. At first it was hard because she was sensitive to almost everything, but I began to enjoy the process of being very aware of every little thing I put in my body. I felt very healthy. It brought to mind the saying, “Your body is a temple,” but now my body was not just my temple, but a vessel through which the well-being of my daughter was channeled. It is such a powerful connection when mother and child are linked energetically as well as nutritionally.
It is said that a mother and child at first share the same energetic aura, as if they are one person. A child receives their security and protection through the mother. I would often awaken right before Amrita would when she was little, and I always feel my heart pulled in her direction, no matter where she is. Little by little as a child grows, he or she becomes more independent energetically. The same transition occurs with food, as a child begins to eat more and nurse less.
My mother was always very health conscious about what she fed my brother and I—hardly any sugar when we were little, lots of fruits and veggies and to our chagrin, only whole wheat bread. As a parent myself I have largely followed in her footsteps, although I am slightly less strict about sugar. One question that came up for my husband and I was whether we should raise Amrita as a vegetarian. My father ate meat and my mother was a vegetarian, so I always had the option to explore both paths. For many years I found that eating fish best fit my body. When I was pregnant, I ate meat because of very strong cravings for it. I still on occasion eat a little meat because the cravings have not subsided, but it is something I feel very duplicitous about. On one side, I feel that I should listen to my body, but I also feel slightly sickened about eating another being. I am also very careful to eat only free-range.
My husband was raised vegetarian. In many Yogic traditions, one does not eat meat, drink alcohol or ingest any other stimulating substance, because the goal is for the body to be as pure as possible for meditation. Some people believe that when you eat meat, you absorb the karma of the animal in question. Other schools of thought assert that if an animal experienced fear when it died, you are eating the chemicals that its body released when it was afraid.
We decided that we would start out raising Amrita as a vegetarian, and when she was old enough to understand the origin of meat, she could decide if she wanted to eat it. One day when she was around a year and a half old, she grabbed a piece of salmon off my plate and plopped it in her mouth. I waited to see how she would react. Her mouth broke into an enormous grin of satisfaction and she proceeded to eat every last morsel off my plate. She asked me what it was. I told her it was fish and tried to explain a little about it. I still wasn’t sure what I should do because her understanding of what she was eating was obviously not very clear, but she began asking me for fish almost every day. I felt that it agreed with her physically and it was healthy for her, so I have continued to feed her fish on a regular basis.
As Amrita grows, we help her to understand where her food comes from; not just meat and fish, but everything she eats. She loves to learn about how orange juice doesn’t just come from a container at Trader Joe’s, but how an orange grows on a tree and needs sunlight and water to survive. As her understanding expands, so will her knowledge of the resources needed to bring that orange juice to the table and its effect on the health and energy of her body—her temple, her altar.