By Gabriel Cousens
North Atlantic Books, 2000
Located on 166 acres in southern Arizona, The Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center is devoted to "the integration of all healing life forces of complete body-mind-spirit energization and renewal." Visitors of the center are taught the skills to empower them to change their lifestyles, to break their addictions to unhealthful lifestyle choices and diets that lead to chronic illnesses and unhappiness. They are offered personalized healing programs as part of an "ecological, spiritual, health vacation."
Not everyone has the financial resources or the time to experience this center, but those who can't may gain an understanding of the principles underlying this program by reading Conscious Eating.
Author Gabriel Cousens' curriculum vitae has enough entries to spread among three or four people. He is a holistic medical doctor, psychiatrist, family therapist, and a licensed homeopathic physician. His credits include serving as a Senior Essene teacher, Reiki Master, and meditation teacher. He is a teacher of Kabbalah and a Sundancer in the Lakota Native American tradition. His experiences in these areas and his study of yogi, ayurveda, and Chinese medicine are incorporated into his eclectic program for healing.
In this book, an expanded revision of his 1992 work, Cousens endeavors to make his readers aware of how their food choices affect their bodies, minds, emotions, and spiritual life. He emphasizes there is no one-diet-fits-all approach, but rather a consciousness on the part of the individual of what works. He includes information on the oxidative, autonomic, ayurvedic, anabolic-catabolic, endocrine, blood-type, and acid base diet systems. In personalizing a diet, the individual needs to answer these questions:
Cousens details studies where poor diets were fed to indigenous groups such as the Kurds, Yemenites, and Zulus. The indigenous people studied had been introduced to highly refined carbohydrate foods and suffered from degenerative conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. He points to a diet of fast, frozen, and processed foods, adopted by Americans and peoples of most industrialized nations, as one that is inadequate. He characterizes this diet as one loaded with refined sugar, white flour, and pesticides.
The author establishes guidelines for healthy eating by recommending that people consume natural, whole, and organic foods and that the diet be primarily fresh, live raw foods. He advocates a high-complex-carbohydrate, low-protein, and low-fat regimen with attention to receiving adequate sunlight. Deep breathing, bathing, and contact with nature in the form of gardening or hikes all have therapeutic effects. Genetically engineered and irradiated foods should be avoided.
People with a host of health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, arthritis, and digestive disorders can benefit from plant enzyme supplements. Cousens views enzymes as the pathway to "better health, vitality and longevity." Everyone needs food enzymes to assist in metabolism and digestion. The food enzymes that naturally occur in live foods activate the digestion of those foods. These enzymes are destroyed in cooked, microwaved and irradiated foods.
Cousens devotes a large portion of the volume discussing "The Choice of Vegetarianism." He presents solid information to refute the need for a high-protein diet and shows that vegetarian diets increase endurance by giving examples of famous vegetarian athletes. He devotes an entire chapter to show that healthy vegetarians need not worry about receiving enough vitamin B12, especially if they eat a live-food diet.
A spiritual person himself, Cousens shows there is no conflict between vegetarianism and religion. In Judaism "vegetarianism fulfills five morals of the Torah." He lists compassion and noncruelty to animals, world peace, preservation of personal health, feeding the hungry, and preservation of the earth. Although he has no proof that Jesus did not eat flesh food, he points out that He was raised in an Essene vegetarian community that opposed animal slaughter. Cousens says that many early Christians were vegetarian and "some claim to have been instructed by him (Jesus) to be vegetarian." Cousens also shows that the vegetarian way of life is compatible with the teachings of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, and Hinduism.
For those wanting to learn how to become vegetarian the most valuable portion of this work is the chapter on transitioning. He outlines a four-stage process.
Cousens comments that Americans overeat and recommends cutting back to two meals a day, all the body needs. By having the second meal at 2:30 p.m., the eater gives the digestive system 3/4 of a day to achieve a rejuvenating rest. He cites cultures like the Vilcabambans of Ecuador and the Hunzakuts of Pakistan who eat 1/2 to 1/3 of the calories and protein that Americans consume. He also strongly recommends fasting for its beneficial effects on the body and the spirit.
Following a section on nutrition for pregnancy, the author concludes the volume with a more than 100-page section on "The Art of Live-Food Preparation." He begins with a discussion of what should be in the live-food kitchen and some secrets for warming, but not killing live foods. He also includes a glossary of herbs and how they affect the body.
The raw food recipes include those featuring nuts and seeds, grains, vegetables, soups, salads, salad dressings, sauces, spreads, dips, sea vegetables, fruits, fermented foods, dehydrated foods, desserts, and smoothies. He concludes with a 14-day menu and information on sprouting and soaking.
The volume contains an extensive bibliography, a glossary, an explanation of EM (effective microorganisms), a raw food resource list, an index, and information about the author and his other books.
In this era where so many things are condensed or encapsulated, reading a book with 850 pages is a daunting task. In this case, it's worth the effort. In Conscious Eating Gabriel Cousens has compiled a handbook that emphasizes the benefits of a raw food diet. He has woven together many philosophies from around the world and incorporated them into a body-mind-spirit program that will be beneficial to the individual and to all mankind. The book is a valuable reference tool that belongs in every vegetarian's library.