Is Food the Gateway to Bliss?
WE BREAK DOWN THE CONCEPT OF SATCHITANANDA, AND HOW THE BODY IS THE ACCESS POINT TO SPIRITUAL ATTAINMENT
Many spiritual tools and concepts can enrich and even transform your life when you truly understand their potency and how to apply them in your daily ritual. I’ve spent more than a decade studying yoga, meditation, reiki, plant medicine, holistic healing modalities, Eastern religions, and psychology...all the while being a busy working mom, wife, and friend. I'm often asked, “What’s the deal with this?" or "Does [blank] really work?” This column will delve into the story behind the esoterica and guide you into incorporating it into your life in an approachable, beneficial way. Below, we unlock a deeper understanding behind Sakara’s ethos of “food as transformation.”
What does it mean to “live your Sakara Life”? When I first encountered Sakara as a consumer, what struck me immediately was that it was clearly about so much more than nutrition and physical health. Having studied and taught yoga for many years, when I heard Danielle & Whitney speak about their vision for Sakara clients it immediately reminded me of something I’d read about in yogic texts: Satchitananda. It’s a Sanskrit term that can be translated to, “Truth Consciousness Bliss.” This is an enlightened state where the individual experiences oneness— nirvana—and connects directly with divine source. It is the ultimate destination for the spiritual devotee and one that only saints and ascendant masters ever really come close to reaching.
While levitating in a constant state of divine bliss is more aspirational than attainable, there is immense value in working towards your personal version of Satchitananda and it all starts with the food you consume. Yes, really. Danielle and Whitney didn’t set out to help clients fit in their skinny jeans or something mundane like that. Their vision was bigger, much bigger. They want to see Sakaralites thrive then soar. They want us to realize our dreams and even go beyond our wildest dreams. And they realized that a deeply nourished body is the foundation those dreams will be built upon.
the longer you have a body, the greater opportunity to learn (or unlearn) and realize your true identity.
Why would an ultimately spiritual pursuit, start with the physical body and what you put in it? This can be traced all the way back to the Taittiriya Upanishad, an ancient Tantric yoga text likely composed about 6th century BC. In this text, human beings are described as having five sheaths, or koshas, that interpenetrate each other, encasing the soul like the layers of an onion. The outermost layer is the physical sheath, which is actually called “the food sheath” or Annamaya kosha (anna = food, maya = illusion, kosha = sheath), because it is formed from the food we consume. You are, as they say, what you eat. This outer layer is where all the work begins.
Yogis and spiritual seekers have pursued physical well-being for as long as there is record. Many people in the West only know of yoga by its physical exercises, or asanas. These asanas or poses—while designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles—are really just a means to an end. Jeffrey Cohen, a Jivamukti-trained yoga teacher and founder of Satsang Yoga in Charleston, says that according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “keeping the body healthy, of which nutrition is a crucial aspect, supports increased longevity which allows for more years of sadhana, or spiritual practice. Basically the longer you have a body, the greater opportunity to learn (or unlearn) and realize the true identity.” The body then, is the access point for spiritual attainment.
You may have heard the saying that, “a person who has their health, has a thousand dreams. But the person that's lost their health, has only one dream.” Without your physical health, you are less equipped to do the things you were put on this planet to do. You don’t have the focus, the vitality, or the stamina necessary to fulfill your purpose. As Cohen says, “the effects of a poor diet are the same whether or not you are pursuing a spiritual path. Disease, discomfort, disconnection.” When you spend your days feeling drowsy, experiencing digestive discomfort, or even just obsessing over your weight, it takes away from the time that could be spent laughing with loved ones, building your empire, or even changing the world.
“The five koshas make up the experience of who we are, from gross to subtle,” explains Cohen. When your “food sheath” is fully taken care of through diet & movement, you are then able to build a steady, balanced nervous system, which relates to the Pranamaya kosha or breath sheath, which is one layer deeper. You are no longer in a constant state of “fight or flight” and are able to enjoy periods of deep relaxation. Continuing deeper, your mind—Manomaya kosha—becomes increasingly clear and focused and you are full of creativity & imagination. You can sustain attention for longer periods of time; you may even develop a meditation or mindfulness practice.
We nourish your body so that your soul might flourish.
From physical health, to a stable nervous system, then to a sharp mind you are now able to develop your intuition: tapping into a place of deeper knowing—the Vijnanamaya kosha—where our true wisdom lies. As we move through these first four sheaths or “gateways to the soul,” we arrive at the deepest, most profound layer—the Anandamaya kosha or bliss sheath. It is here where Satchitananda exists: peace beyond peace, joy beyond joy. A place that is beyond verbal description. Most of us get only tiny glimpses of pure ananda or bliss during our lives but these small moments are so profound, so life-affirming that their value far outweighs their frequency or duration.
So from a yogic perspective, living your Sakara Life, at its fullest expression, is becoming so unencumbered that you are capable of tapping into this blissful essence. Body, breath, mind, and spirit are all functioning optimally, allowing you to access the bliss that is your divine birthright. From this place, anything is possible. You can create your dream life. And you may realize, your “dream life” is not a destination at all but rather a joyful journey that begins with how you feed your body.
While you can certainly just use Sakara as a tune-up for your “food sheath,” we believe that bodies are spiritual vessels: containers in which our souls reside. We nourish your body so that your soul might flourish.
LISTEN: EXPERIENCING YOUR FIVE SHEATHS IN MEDITATION
EXPLORE THE "DOWN TO EARTH" SERIES