Monday, August 6, 2007

Great Article by Karen Knowler

The Eye Of The Needle

From Successfully Raw Issue 55:

The following article is one I've been meaning to write for a long time. Exploring the concepts of "extremism", freedom, contraction and expansion, the "eye of the needle" is the perfect metaphor for the way we approach, experience and come out the other side on our raw food journey.

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that my dietary beginnings were just about as broad as you can get. There wasn't a lot that was considered off limits for me eating-wise - except to say vegetables, rice and nuts, which I hated with a passion! (Rather ironic to say the least, non?!) As I grew older the diversity grew as I did. In came more junk, more meat, more sweets, more crisps, more fizzy drinks, and then of course in came the alcohol at 18, as well as the Saturday night take-aways and goodness knows what else!

From this perspective we can liken the breadth of foods eaten by me then to the wider edge of a triangle or funnel, where pretty much anything goes.

The next stage of my food journey (January 1992) was my venturing into piscetarianism. That is, not eating meat any more but still eating fish, and a fair amount of it at that. And with this of course came the "loss" of burgers, sausages, various pies, steaks and more, and in its place came rice, some vegetables, more salads and other comparatively-speaking healthier stuff.
My first move in towards the eye of the needle had begun!

Eight months later, in August of '92 I dropped the fish, and was officially now a fully-fledged vegetarian! A few months later dairy was pretty much a non-event with my first serious exploration of veganism, and simultaneously bread was also being cut out of the equation with increasing frequency as I became more aware of my sensitivity and almost compulsive addiction to it.

From the outside looking in it must have appeared that I was very much in "high-restriction" mode as I cut these foods out, and yet, of course, I had never looked or felt better for what I was leaving out of my diet and bringing in more of instead!

Thus I was merrily tripping my way with increasing speed towards that eye, where very little gets through at all...
At the turn of spring in 1993, having now read the inspirational "Raw Energy" by Leslie Kenton, I was starting to dabble more and more with raw foods for the first time. In came the spirulina, more fruits and vegetables, more salads, juices, smoothies, sprouts, sea veg and wheatgrass and other great new stuff and out went just about everything else, bar a few cooked carbs to bulk up my meals and the occasional revisiting of anything else I fancied at the time.

At this point I was now obviously speeding towards the "eye" with mounting haste with old foods, drinks and menus being tossed very happily and enthusiastically over my shoulder as I went!

Between then and 1998 the journey continued apace, sometimes fast, sometimes slower, but all the time I knew that I was most definitely going to a place of increasing purity with my diet, and this proved to be the case - until I reached the amazing point where all my foods were raw, all my meals were "pure" and no cooked foods at all were eaten or even desired. Oooh! I had finally reached the eye!

And this is the place where I want to rest a while and discuss as together we enter and later go through the eye.

Over the years I have seen countless healthy eaters follow the same pattern as the one I describe. Whole food groups get discarded, others are added in or expanded upon, but ultimately the overall diversity appears narrower than before. I say "appears" because when we give up foods like cooked wheat, because of its widespread use in commercially manufactured foods, we feel we are giving up so much more than just wheat as we see pasta, bread, cakes and all manner of other "foods" removed from our diet which tends to make the outside world think that we are giving up "such a lot".

By giving these foods up, our choices become increasingly refined, until the point where, as raw fooders, we eat "only" fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sea veg (and a few groups more) and our diet becomes clean, clean, clean. This is the place that I refer to as "the eye of the needle" - not a lot can pass through that eye and what does pass has to fit the most stringent of criteria - in this case 100% raw and pure and nothing less will do.

I think each of us probably has a slightly different idea on what passes through our own eye. For me personally I was about 26 years old when I reached that place and the criteria was strictly 100% raw, vegan, and no supplements at all (not even B12 - silly girl), although some superfoods were "allowed" (oh, how I so don't like that word!). I also eschewed any borderline raw foods such as sprouted wheat bread (which tastes very alive but usually is preserved at cooking temperatures), oils, vinegars, that kind of thing. Oh the beauty, clarity and sanctuary that pure eating brings!

Now, as you can tell, I very much feel that the eye of the needle is a very fine place to be in a lot of ways. We know where we stand, we have tight boundaries, we are eating clean and we are no doubt feeling rather fabulous if those choices are genuinely healthy and supportive ones, but what I have found for myself and 99%+ of others is that the eye isn't a place many of us want to or are able to stay in for very long.

The main reasons for this being: It can start to feel too restrictive after a point, we still have to have social lives and real-world interactions, we start to miss or desire other foods, we feel trapped within walls of our own making. And more.

So, while the initial journey towards they eye can be exhilarating, fascinating, enjoyable, enlightening and so much more (despite what anyone watching us may think!!), it would seem that once we hit our "destination" and can certainly sit there and enjoy the view for a while, there has to be a place we can move on to, otherwise, as with everything in life, things become stale, stagnant and uninspiring. And then we find ourselves scratching our head and asking, "what was the point of all that?!"

So the journey through the eye, unlike the journey in, which is more about contraction, then inevitably has to become one of expansion. This is the part that I really love!

When we reach this point, by the very fact that we have done the journey towards, have actually now gone through and are about to re-emerge we have by this point already been through the "fire" of redefining our diet, our self and our lives (otherwise known as "The 5 Stages of Raw Transformation"), but there definitely comes a point where we have to stand back up again, strap on our backpack and ask ourselves, "where to next?"

Obviously the details of what happens next will vary from person to person. Food-wise some will choose to bring in some more "recreational" raw foods and stay with that exploration interspersed with some more fine tuning in order to pursue raw foods in an expansive and adventure some way for potentially the rest of their lives (this is me), others may turn their back on 100% raw foodism, opting for more of a "balance" that they feel is better suited to them long term, and others may stay with the intensity of their self-created raw food diet but start exploring life in other more expansive ways.

As I say, the details can be as varied as the ones of the journey coming in, but the most important thing to recognise in all of this is that we absolutely need to understand and joyfully embrace coming through the other side - because it has the potential to simply get better and better and better!

So many times in raw foods and other "stringent" eating philosophies I see people getting incredibly particular about what they will and won't eat, even though it is, by most people's standards, just about as pure as you can get. At this juncture, which is very much in the heart of the eye, the primary focus is usually "is it 100% raw?". I'm sure you know what I'm talking about! This is where cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamias, agave nectar and all manner of raw foods and ingredients come under intense scrutiny in order to ascertain their level of purity and raw-ness. And this level is what can go on to define whether that food is "in or out" of our diet at that time. No problem; this attention to detail most definitely has its place, is very much a "normal" part of the journey from what I have seen and is even, I would say, incredibly useful - in the grand scheme of things (the more attention we pay to our food the more this pays dividends in other aspects of our lives overall); the only thing to watch for is the less enjoyable scenario of "meanwhile back at the ranch" where potentially every other area of one's life may be quietly falling apart while we navel gaze, smiling with "truly raw cashews" in hand. : )

And so, by now it's obvious, I hope, that I am a great fan of this whole journey towards and away from the eye. It's exciting, enlivening and, despite what other people might think as they solemnly shake their heads as we eschew bread, milk and sausage rolls, it is absolutely priceless and life-changing, no question.

My job here is simply to remind or inform that the best is always yet to come, and to sit in the eye - like a holiday basking in the sun - is good for a while but sooner or later we have to get up off our deckchair and explore other just as exciting terrain in other parts of our world. This, I feel personally, is where the journey really begins : )

© 2007 Karen Knowler
Karen Knowler, The Raw Food Coach publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at


Naturegirl said...

This was extremely interesting to read ..I admire those that reach
~the eye~ and can stay there! It takes much disipline and dedication and most of all meal planning!
I am losing weight and am trying to eat MORE raw less sugar.processed that is! Raw nuts ,,,yes the ones without salt and oils..a good choice..Stay clean NG

EcoDea said...

Hey, Jessica!
Happy to know you have been reading my raw blog and working on your Portuguese :)
Are you still in Brazil? Is your work linked to an NGO? I live in Pernambuco and am part of an environmentalist NGO here.
Take care,