In his short essay, Art with a Capital A, Alan Watts reflects on the infamous moment “when John Cage performed an entirely silent piano recital with the full ritual apparatus of evening dress, a Steinway, a score consisting wholly of rests, and an assistant to turn the pages. Be it said at the same time that John Cage is a musical genius, a man with divinely sensitive ears, who used this device in an attempt to persuade people to listen to the magical sounds that go on around us all the time. He was trying to clean our ears of melodic and harmonic prejudices.”
It seems to me that in the conventional medical community, I hear crickets when it comes to this idea of “cleaning out our prejudices.” I am referring to our actual taste buds, for example.
In yoga, it’s known that the sense organs need to be cleaned out periodically. On the tongue, the erratic wave-form of processed food is noisy, like trumpets blaring over violas, and it drowns out any remembrance of whole food, annihilating the sense of subtlety that would lead to refined awareness of how food impacts our biology, or how violas hold an orchestra together ;).
The benefit of an elimination diet, then, would be to remove the everyday noise that impedes our sense of hearing, or in this case tasting, so that we can re-engage refreshed and re-sensitized.
It is a common misconception that elimination diets are maintenance diets; they are not. The full name is elimination – re-introduction. They are not restrictive. They are an experiment where foods are removed and then re-introduced, sometimes multiple times, in order to establish their effects on your organism.
“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Elimination diets provide an inside-out experience where you begin to write the Owner’s Manual to your own body, and they are the future of a health care where the patient lies at the center— autonomous, self-aware, creative and whole.
It’s important to realize that elimination may not be something you do just once, but in fact, several times over the course of a lifetime. While there is tremendous value in even one round of an elimination diet, all important things in life must not just be decided once, but decided over and over again.
To be silent in meditation is to clear out the clutter of habitual thoughts.
To eliminate sound is to hear the music already happening.
To eliminate noisy food groups is to hear the life-producing melody of sun, air, soil, and unprocessed foods.
Most of us have the power to run an elimination experiment ourselves, with or without a doctor, and that – for me – is an empowering thought.
If we are going to become artists of well-being, we would do well to learn how to leverage the theater of the absurd. A behavioral approach can be like a theater where we experiment with various roles, costumes, and cultural norms in order to learn about ourselves. Whether to learn through contrast, to clear out the sense organs (i.e. to tune this instrument called our body), to accept the edges of our own awareness, to accept annihilation itself, or merely to laugh more, absurdity is a friend of well-being.