David Life is a co-founder (with Sharon Gannon) of the Jivamukti School of Yoga and co-director of the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York. Born in a small town in Michigan, Life – who worked for many years as an artist; moved to New York with his then-wife Kathy in 1980. The couple quickly launched Life Cafe in Manhattan's East Village, which became one of the epicenters of the East Village's thriving artistic scene (the cafe was later immortalized in Jonathan Larson's play "Rent"). Life left his partnership in the cafe in 1984 to establish the Jivamukti School with Gannon. He has since taught yoga to celebrities such as Sting, Madonna, Russell Simmons, Christy Turlington, and Donna Karan. Life is a longstanding member of PETA; along with Gannon, he set up a 76-acre wildlife forest sanctuary in upstate New York.
David Life: Diet is used in many ways in the spiritual life. The fascination that we have for food and for taste is . . . can be a very wonderful and exciting adventure in life. But it can also be a distraction from the important work of life. All the tastes, and sights, and sounds of the world are the same. They’re wonderful. They’re amazing. They should be celebrated. But at the same time, we can use things like restraint in diet as a way to give us more time and energy to concentrate on more . . . and possibly things that we would neglect in our lives through the easy distractions – the sights and sounds of the world, of which food is one of those. So the word in Sanskrit is “tapas” or “austerity”. So you try to simplify your diet to reduce it to the lowest common denominator so that it would be nutritious. That’s one aspect of your diet. Another aspect of diet that is the most important aspect of diet for the yogi is that you try to remove all the violence from your diet so that no one suffered so that your plate could be full; and that you are grateful that you obtained this food with the least amount of suffering. Each one of us causes suffering just by being on this earth. When we just innocently step our foot down on the sidewalk, we’re stepping on many microorganisms that weren’t hurting us at all just trying to establish little communities there in the . . . in the sidewalk. So a yogi tries to be conscious of every step in that way so that we wouldn’t cause unnecessary harm. The same is true for diet. Many of the things that get to our plate get there only through a lot of suffering and deprivation. And so a yogi tries to remove that. And obviously if you take the _________ beings out of your diet – that is if you eat a vegan diet where no animal products are included – you’re taking a large chunk of that suffering that you’ve caused out of your life. And that removal of a selfish path in life; that awareness of how your choices impact others changes you and it also changes the world around you. It’s quite transformational. Recorded on: 10/31/07