We spent Father’s day at the Hilltop Center for Spiritual Living because my husband was giving a talk on the power of fatherhood to save a life, his in particular.
The morning began with a question to the children, “What is your father like?”
“My Dad is strong.” “My Dad makes me feel safe.” “My father is helpful.” “My father helps me solve problems.” “My father works hard so that we can have a home, and food, and go to school…” “My father is fun. He loves to play and tell jokes.”
Finally, after a long pause, the youngest child quietly said, “My father gives me lots of kisses.”
When I think of fathers, I think of Prana, Tejas, and Ojas, the vital essences that give life, light and love to all existence, and which any good father naturally seeks to develop in his children.
Prana, Tejas and Ojas give energy, radiance, and strength, respectively, to mind and body. These vital essences are the positive forces corresponding to the doshas Vata, Pitta, Kapha as the bio-energies that lead to imbalance. In other words, if Vata is an imbalance of air and space, then Prana is the power that the air element gives us to breathe, think, and move freely. If Pitta is the dosha of fire, then Tejas is the positive force of fire that gives us light to see clearly, to move with direction, to act decisively, to digest food as well as information and experiences, to metabolize and to transform. Finally, if you think of Kapha as the dosha of water and earth, then Ojas is the vital essence that gives structure, steadiness, comfort, nourishment and ease.
When cultivated, these positive forces give what Eknath Easwaran called “the splendour of the personality that expresses itself in love, courage, creativity, and a melting tenderness that draws all hearts.”
Prana, Tejas, Ojas, huh?
Prana is Energy
Prana is the energy that exudes from the animating intelligence within and underlying all that is alive. It is an intelligent energy that enlivens. In food, it is the energy that knows how to grow the plant, knows how to attract pollinators, knows how to evolve to expand its own kind, knows how to create, generate, regenerate, and populate. This intelligence corresponds to an intelligence within us that meets when we eat, so that what we eat becomes, by the intelligence of nature, exactly what we need for our bodies and minds to grow and be vibrant. When we eat fresh foods, still moist, plump and radiant from the harvest, we eat this intelligent energy. We eat Prana.
Fathers need to have a lot of prana to play with their children.
Tejas is Radiance
Tejas is the power of light to shine from your skin and eyes when you are healthy. It is the glow of health, the color of fruits and vegetables, the sun that is steady, steadfast, reliable, purposeful. Tejas gives warmth, courage and lustre.
Fathers need to have a lot of Tejas to reason, to be helpful, to problem-solve, to be brave, to protect, to lead.
Ojas is Strength
Ojas gives vigor, peace, patience, contentment, a steady mind in a strong body, well-lubricated joints, a healthy immune system, and longevity. Ojas is kisses.
Fathers need to have a lot of Ojas to hold and to hug, to carry their children, and to be that rock we rely on.
Father, Food and the Vital Essences
Loving your father forever means taking good care of him, and carrying on his tradition of playing, helping, protecting, and showering kisses. Here are ten vital essence boosting foods to take good care of dad – and you, his beloved child.
While we can’t make any promises, science is demonstrating what our own experience tells us: these power foods are anti-aging, immune-boosting, disease-eradicating, and delicious, so enjoy them abundantly!
9 Power Foods for Dad and You
Everyone knows that spinach is good for you – full of iron, vitamins, and dietary fiber – but did you know that spinach is high in protein, with anti-inflammatory actions? That it helps with blood sugar, blood pressure, and bone health? That it can lower the risks of asthma?
Be sure to cook your spinach at least 1 minute to disarm the oxalic acids that can increase Pitta, feeding inflammation, arthritis, and gout.
2. Wild Salmon
My Ayurvedic mentor insists that the number #1 superfood for anyone over 40 is wild caught salmon. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating wild salmon twice a week, writing that it is a “good source of protein, and unlike fatty meat products, it is not high in saturated fat.”
It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which benefit healthy people and those with, or at risk of, cardiovascular disease. Again, according to the AHA, “Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of arrhythmias… reduce triglyceride levels, slow the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque and lowers blood pressure.”
Farming salmon reduces the amount of heart, brain and joint healthy omegas, while accumulating cancer causing PCBs and dioxin, not to mention it is unkind to the fish and toxic to the environment. So, please, at least when it comes to salmon – always go wild!
3. Sweet Potatoes
High in the fiber necessary for proper elimination and detoxification, sweet potatoes are also rich in the antioxidant Vitamin A (beta carotene), making it a powerful anti-aging food that has also been proven to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Sweet potatoes are an easy, hearty snack or meal. Just pop them in the oven for an hour, and they come out creamy.
Beans are good for you in so many ways, but no one tells the story better than the Mohr-Fry cousins who grow 29 varieties of organic beans in northern California. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch this excellent video about what it takes to farm beans. It was made by our friend Adrian, producer of the Growing California Video Series, who attests to the authenticity of these devoted farmers. #loveyourlocalfarmer!
Gut health = Immune Health. We all need to improve our inner environment with the right living foods. To that end, yogurt should be a daily habit. Try making it yourself – that way you can experiment with coconut, almond, rice and other delicious, non-dairy sources.
Whether your yogurt is from a cow, goat, grain or nut, always choose organic and make it plain. Fruit yogurt sold in stores has a lot of added sugar – and, according to Ayurveda, is a very bad combination, subverting your good efforts by sabotaging gut health.
My father loved grapefruits. I am always amazed at how naturally he was drawn to the healthiest of foods, and grateful for his example. Grapefruit has the bitter taste that is so lacking and yet so essential in our diet. Bitter is purifying, detoxifying, making it a weight loss powerhouse. It curbs hunger, protects the heart, and studies are now demonstrating it has anti-cancer actions (of course, it is Kapha-reducing!)
Not to mention that grapefruit and its citrus family are high in vitamin c, fiber, and other essential nutrients. Look for the deep red ones for the highest levels of antioxidants. I find them milder, sweeter and juicier, too.
Toss grapefruit segments into your salads for a bite of juicy tang. It’s especially good with watercress, endive, radicchio, avocado and beets.
An apple a day still keeps the doctor away – because not only are they full of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals, apples help clean the liver, the key organ that accumulates pitta. When you have high pitta, you are prone to all kinds of inflammatory disease. Keep your liver healthy and you reduce pitta, resorting your vital tejas, which shows through clear eyes and lustrous skin.
Think pink, when it comes to the liver, not aggravated fiery red, and remember Michael Pollan’s advice, “When it comes to snacks, ask yourself if you are hungry enough for an apple, and if the answer is yes, then eat an apple.”
Rather than nuts, snack on seeds. Ayurveda considers seeds to be lighter, more astringent than nuts and therefore more clarifying, cleansing, detoxifying, while providing all the energy and intelligence of the plant it is to become. Also excellent sources of protein, essentials fats, dietary fiber, as well as selenium, zinc, and iron.
Raw, soaked, blended, toasted, lightly salted, seeds can be enjoyed in all varieties of ways. You can add hemp seeds to anything you might have for breakfast. Sprinkle them over yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, toast, eggs, or add them to a morning smoothie. Flax seeds can be ground and stirred into soups, salads, hot cereals, or a warm evening tonic. We toast up pumpkin seeds to add crunch to our soups and stews. Pureed into a pesto, sunflower seeds are the perfect texture. Or, toss together a few of your favorite seeds, add raisins, chopped dates, goji berries, dried cherries, and you have a great snack to keep your energy up and the weight down.
Dr. Marc Zimmerman, an orthopedic surgeon steeped in the traditions of natural medicine and nutrition, knows that ancient Yogis eschewed garlic. “However,” he says, “the world we live in now is so different, so full of toxins, so compromising to the immune system. I just don’t see how we can avoid the health benefits of garlic in this day and age.” While it may be controversial as a Yogi and an Ayurvedi, garlic is undoubtedly a powerhouse when it comes to disrupting illness and disease.
Cooking makes garlic less pungent, less what we call tamasic, while retaining all these benefits:
Garlic and its allium family vegetables have important anti-cancer properties, with a high intake of garlic (roughly translated as taken daily) has been found to lower risk of virtually all cancer types, except prostate and breast cancer.
Garlic has cardiovascular benefits, having been shown clearly to lower blood triglycerides and total cholesterol, Equally impressive about garlic is its ability to lower blood pressure.
Garlic has been shown to protect from inflammatory and oxidative stress, while its antibacterial and antiviral properties are perhaps its most legendary feature. This allium vegetable and its constituents have been studied not only for their benefits in controlling infection by bacteria and viruses, but also infection from other microbes including yeasts/fungi and worms.
Some people say that it tests like soap. That’s because the brain recognizes a molecule in cilantro that is not the same, but is similar to a molecule in soap. And this is a helpful way to think of the benefits of cilantro ~ a high powered, industrial-strength detergent for your tissues. Cilantro has been shown to help rid the worst kind of toxins, those heavy metals that accumulate from environmental pollution.
If you think cilantro tastes like soap, add small amounts to your favorite foods at first. Once your brain has a few samples to go by, it will create a new “file” for cilantro, one that associates with good tastes and a clean, lively feeling. Your brain will be glad to comply, given that it too will benefit from less toxins, and soon you will be loving cilantro like the rest of us!
When the ingredients are whole, pure and minimal, you boost your prana, tejas and ojas with meals that are satisfying. Health, then, feels like a joyful indulgence – a true celebration of life, light and love!
I hope you all had a Happy Father’s Day, and that you continue to keep your father, or his memory, strong.
Keep yourself strong, too, so his Prana, Tejas, Ojas can shine through you.
If you would like to experience last Sunday’s magic, the magnificence of Bhava and Steve singing and teaching together, please join us in October for our weekend Mastery of Joy Retreat in the mountains near Idylwild.
All life, light and love to you!