Feeding a Personality

Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati

Food is nutrient for the body and serves a major role in our life. Food not only supplies nourishment to create a healthy body but indirectly it helps to create individual personality. We react to the type of food presented and how it is offered to us. Right from our very first feeding as infants, our reactions at meal times are impressed on the personality and become a part of us.

Personality commences to form in the new-born child as a result of impressions received from parents and the surroundings. Therefore in the early phase of life when feeding and sleeping are the two main events in a child's life, feedings must be satisfactory and the experience positive. It is very necessary to understand how to prepare the correct type of food and how to offer it, if the child's development in body and personality is to be healthy. The child's senses of smell, taste, touch and sight need to be satisfied during feeds. Parents who are receptive to these needs will be able to enjoy parenthood as the child responds.

The idyllic situation is to give correct food in a calm, loving manner in a secure atmosphere. Unfortunately this is not always possible, as parents naturally become tired of the many responsibilities that are theirs and mealtime can be a most disorganised affair. To find the time to prepare and organise meals in a calm, efficient manner is difficult under today's pressures. The art is to keep your lifestyle simple so that you have time to give to the responsibilities you have undertaken. It should never be an effort to feed your child. It should be a time when for a little while the family is together, when all pressing problems are put aside and in a totally relaxed atmosphere food is given, taken, but not lingered over. This way the digestive system functions with ease and there is pleasant contentment in both the mind and the body. So in a happy, positive frame of mind the family is able to get on with living together, growing more positive with each meal.

This may be very difficult for some people to manage. It is not always easy to put worries and anxieties aside, not even for a few moments. We tend to hold on to them and refuse to recognise that we are doing so. Yet if we want to provide the best conditions for a child to develop in, we must provide a cheerful, responsive atmosphere. The child's welfare must be considered first, and in so doing the parents will gain too.

To greet each other at meal times in a happy, relaxed state of mind is a good beginning in laying positive foundations that will continue throughout the day, the weeks and the months. A happy disposition brings a similar response in others, and correct eating habits with proper nutritional foods maintain a bright, alert nature and build a sunny personality.

Negative impressions received by children during feeding in early childhood cause considerable suffering to the child and then later on in adult years too. Negative impressions become mental blockages that damage the personality, thus causing confusions, fears and complexes. In later life these blockages (or samskaras) may cause such difficult problems that it is necessary to seek the help of a psychiatrist or a yoga school to alleviate them.

To avoid such problems it is wise to recognise the importance of food as a medium which affects our growth, not only physically but in other ways, such as personality development. Don't limit the personality, let it expand. Become aware of your attitudes. Are they positive? With a positive attitude investigate suitable foods and their beneficial values. Discover how to present them. You will find the experience rewarding. The family will gain and so will you.