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The Salt Spring Experience: Recipes for Body, Mind and Spirit

by Sharada Filkow and Mayana Williamson

In The Greek Myths, Robert Graves explained that ambrosia, worshipped in pre-Classical Greece for its ability to produce “hallucinations, senseless rioting, prophetic sight and erotic energy,” was actually hallucinogenic mushrooms. Another branch of metaphysics that has lost ground to the annexing power of science is medicine. Where once we had ritual sacrifice, we now have CAT scans. The Salt Spring Experience: Recipes for Body, Mind and Spirit aims to reclaim some of that metaphysical ground.

Not that you’ll find sacrifice and magic mushrooms here, but note that subtitle. The authors, Sharada Filkow and Mayana Williamson, are members of The Salt Spring Centre, a yogic retreat on the B.C. island of the same name. They argue that North Americans are ill – physically, psychologically, spiritually. They also believe that far-Eastern practices like yoga, meditation, and vegetarianism will make us better. This attractive oversized volume, with serenely pleasing colour and black-and-white photography, is their curative prescription.

There’s much in Salt Spring that’s easily accepted and useful. The health benefits of exercise cannot be doubted, nor can the pacific benefits of meditation. That yoga’s main purpose, according to Filkow and Williamson, “is to prepare the mind and body for meditation” makes the activity doubly appealing. Their excellent instructions and illustrations will further inspire, at least the beginner.

There is also much here that is questionable. Where is proof of the authors’ claim that “Being anxious about what you eat can negate the benefits of even the healthiest food”? And while tasty recipes like Curried Garbanzo Rice, Sweet Cinnamon Yams, and Bliss Balls (spiced trail mix bound with honey) aim to be healthy, with their emphasis on pure flavours and organic and vegan ingredients, there is growing evidence that high-carbohydrate diets cause hyperinsulinemia, a syndrome linked to diabetes and heart disease.

Salt Spring will reward readers willing to make a leap of faith. And skeptics should beware: you might miss the moon-lit bacchanal.