There are many paths to enlightenment. Be sure to take one with a heart.
– Lao Tzu
Eating plants is sweet. Based on my own experience, switching to a plant-based diet is one of the easiest ways to get to enjoy life more. Among the many benefits, I never suspected it would make me smarter. I’m totally convinced it does now. Here’s how.
Let’s start with a crazy Buddhist notion. The Buddhists I hang with are fond of talking about this concept of “interconnectedness.” The basic idea is that rather than separate individuals milling about making decisions that affect only ourselves, we are all part of this web of relationships and each decision we make affects the whole picture. This is pretty easy to see in food. When I buy a particular kind of food, my demand and the demand of others like me encourages producers to produce more of that kind of food. I also set an example for my friends and family with the choices I make, and perhaps influence their decisions, and they influence others, etc.
This is all nifty, but I couldn’t really see it clearly until I became vegetarian (and eventually vegan), because I wouldn’t let myself think about where my food came from. It was a little uncomfortable to think about, so I tended to go play final fantasy instead. As it turns out, feeling crappy came from the fact that I was actually compassionate towards animals but didn’t know it! Or rather, I had forgotten it because from a young age my compassion was buried under this repetitive practice of eating animal foods every day. In fact, I fancy that I was a top-notch compassionate-thought-repressor, what with all the practice I had.
I know this blog post purports to be about getting smarter, but I wanted to just interject quick that I’ve discovered my capacity for joy is directly related to my capacity for compassion, so eating plants makes me happy too!
Okay! Now we’re on to the part about getting smarter. Intelligence requires the ability and willingness to think, right? The broader the space you allow your thoughts to move through, the more creative solutions you are able to come up with.
As a non-vegan, certain thoughts are uncomfortable, so I don’t allow myself to think them. When I don’t allow myself to think fully in one area; say about where my food comes from, I am training myself not to think. Over time, this can become a habit of avoiding thoughts that are connected to painful things, and subtract from my overall ability to use my mind. But when I eat plants, I can think about where they come from — I don’t need to “catch” myself (or more likely, distract myself by playing a sweet video game) from thinking certain things. Instead, I get in the habit of thinking about things, and when they are uncomfortable to think about that’s all the more reason to think about them — I have something to learn, maybe change, and then I get to be smarter and happier!
So I like to eat mind-food! I get to feel great about what I eat from a nutritional, environmental, and compassionate perspective; AND I get to be smarter.