if you don’t need to be comforted, comfort is the enemy. go into the cold lake

“one outcome of doing it, and reason i continued doing it, was that i was twitchy and nervous and profoundly uncomfortable with the creeping unstoppable passage of time.”

—Jesse Andrews, “comfort is the enemy.”



Unmindful consumption always makes things worse

“We are what we consume. If we look deeply into the items that we consume every day, we will come to know our own nature very well. We have to eat, drink, consume, but if we do it unmindfully, we may destroy our bodies and our consciousness, showing ingratitude toward our ancestors, our parents, and future generations,” (66).

“Sometimes we don’t need to eat or drink as much as we do, but it has become a kind of addiction. We feel so lonely. Loneliness is one of the afflictions of modern life. It is similar to the Third and Fourth Precepts–we feel lonely, so we engage in conversation, or even in a sexual relationship, hoping that the feeling of loneliness will go away. Drinking and eating can also be the result of loneliness. You want to drink or overeat in order to forget your loneliness, but what you eat may bring toxins into your body. When you are lonely, you open the refrigerator, watch TV, read magazines or novels, or pick up the telephone to talk. But unmindful consumption always makes things worse,” (68).

“I vow to ingest only items that preserve well-being, peace, and joy in my body and my consciousness… Practicing a diet is the essence of this precept. Wars and bombs are the products of our consciousness individually and collectively. Our collective consciousness has so much violence, fear, craving, and hatred in it, it can manifest in wars and bombs. The bombs are the product of our fear… Removing the bombs is not enough. Even if we could transport all the bombs to a distant planet, we would still not be safe, because the roots of the wars and the bombs are still intact in our collective consciousness. Transforming the toxins in our collective consciousness is the true way to uproot war,” (72-73).

“To stop the drug traffic is not the best way to prevent people from using drugs. The best way is to practice the Fifth Precept and to help others practice. Consuming mindfully is the intelligent way to stop ingesting toxins into our consciousness and prevent the malaise from becoming overwhelming. Learning the art of touching and ingesting refreshing, nourishing, and healing elements is the way to restore our balance and transform the pain and loneliness that are already in us. To do this, we have to practice together. The practice of mindful consuming should become a national policy. It should be considered true peace education… Those who are destroying themselves, their families, and their society by intoxicating themselves are not doing it intentionally. Their pain and loneliness are overwhelming, and they want to escape. They need to be helped, not punished. Only understanding and compassion on a collective level can liberate us,” (78-79).

—Thich Nhat Hanh, For a Future to Be Possible

“We have to balance the need in society for a strong functioning ego with the tendency for it to become selfish and narrow. The basic practice of uncorrected mind in zazen sitting meditation does not mean we do not have responsibility to tame the ego. We need ways to remind ourselves that short-range, immediate desires and gratifications are not, in the long run, in our real self-interest—practically, materially, psychologically, or spiritually. We need some strictness with ourselves, otherwise we’ll eat too may cookies or something worse!”

—Richard Baker in For a Future to Be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Wonderful Precepts, p. 155

“We have to bal…

“Sugar is like a bad guest that comes to your home and does a giddy little jig in the living room for fifteen minutes, creating a great euphoria in the whole family. Suddenly the dance ends, she picks up an ax, and proceeds to smash and slash all the furniture in the house. The family, so sleepy at this point, cannot stop her. Just before she finally leaves, you say ‘Wait,’ run to the bedroom, grab your diamond necklace, shove it in her hands, saying ‘Here, this is for you,’ and wave her of with a weary, sad smile. You then do your best to pick up the pieces of the trashed living room and move on. The craziest part is that within a day, you can’t wait to have that ‘little sweetie’ over again, so you call her up for a repeat performance.”

—From The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics by Jessica Porter, page 128.

“Sugar is like a bad gue…

Week #7: Even the bees are humbled by his sweetness

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be sweet: taking or leaving the romance, I’ve always appreciated it as a day where my mom gives me chocolate.

A memorable celebration of this occasion for me was in eighth grade when I’d recently been dumped by the boy I still loved over AOL Instant Messenger (actually, he had someone else do it over IM, but that’s immaterial).  My friends and I all had matching T-Shirts with a Velcro strip: it came with letters so you could write your own message on the shirt.  Honoring Mandy Moore (she just keeps coming up here, doesn’t she), and her track on the recent The Princess Diaries’ Soundtrack, we wrote “Stupid Cupid,” on the shirts.  Armed with bags of sour conversation hearts, we spent the day throwing them at people.

You can hardly be surprised that by the time I was a freshman in college, I was reclaiming Valentine’s Day as V-Day and taking part in the Vagina Monologues.  I guess, for me, the fun of it, the sweetness=girl gangs.  Galentine’s Day, in the words of Leslie Knope.  And, as Leslie would also appreciate, public license to eat candy all day.

As with my birthday celebration, I feared the fun would be taken out of Valentine’s Day in the absence of sugar.  And as with my birthday, I decided to celebrate with a tea party, and put the fun back in.

Discovering the sweetness of the early morning sunlight while wearing a lace-trimmed, American Girl doll-style, floor-length nightgown for sleeping during the day, bringing back childhood pleasures. Arranging strawberry cream cheese sandwiches cut into hearts and rose-flavored chocolate hearts with sugar-free brownies and sage biscuits on a three-tiered plate with a heart handle. Waking up my sweetheart to the sound of the smoke alarm in the kitchen and surprising him with the spread at the dining room table. Sipping sweet rose tea during the brief hour we are both awake.

“Yet even while the formality of teatime makes it feel special, the inherent coziness and intimacy of tea makes it warm and comforting and delightful… A celebration over tea is also a reflective and deliberate celebration.”*

Even in the context of a saccharin holiday, honey on the tongue tastes pure.  The Valentine I received reminded me of the honey of the heart.

A line of bees crawls toward the Shiva temple in Benares, India.  Walking not flying, slowly making their way toward the beautiful blue building.  Even the bees are humbled by his sweetness.**

Devotion is such intimacy.  Is there anything sweeter?


*From page 58 of If Teacups Could Talk: Sharing a Cup of Kindness with Treasured Friends, by Emilie Barnes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1994.  Thanks, Mom, for this sweet birthday gift book, giving me so many great tea ideas and reminding me why I’ve always loved tea parties.

**A story told by yoga teacher Josh at Body of Santa Fe.

Week #6-7: “‘Oh no, so soon?’: A Juicing Story”

My friend Rachel and I, psyched on juicing up a storm with our new juicers, (thanks, Mom!) decide to try a one-day juice fast.  We vaguely follow a plan outlined by Dr. Gillian Something, in her book Something Something* from which we took notes in our local bookstore, and which prescribed mostly vegetable juices, and broth as well as the solid food of fruit, raw salad, or quinoa with herbs, if met with attacks of hunger.  We started our day with hot water and lemon, and juiced serious amounts of celery, carrots, beets, sprouts, apples, and cucumber before our stomachs growled and we made some quinoa to get through the afternoon.  Around 3 p.m. I made the mistake of fantasizing about pizza out loud.  We talked—excitedly—about abandoning ship.  Then our food guru Meghan joined us.  A flurry of chopping got the juicer whirring again for another round.  I sat sipping our savory creation, enthusiasm renewed, and hunger temporarily satiated.  I felt pure and light and cleaned out.  All thoughts of pizza, sweets, and other foods vanished; I was so proud of our commitment and willpower.  Meghan, suddenly, had to go.  Oh no, so soon?  Within five minutes of her departure, the effect of her presence vanished with her, Rachel was on the phone ordering the pizza and I was already making popcorn and sugar-free cookies** at the same time.  We ended the night feeling splendidly satisfied with ourselves and our choices.

The next day was Monday, and I was working the night shift.  I decided to re-commit to the juice fast for both the day and the night.  I made miso soup and a potassium-rich vegetable broth of beets, carrots, potatoes, and turnips.  I had quinoa and fruit and both fruit and veggie juice.  It was hard to maintain my energy level, but I could see how it was possible, on so much less food than I usually had.  It was good to reduce food to energy, the minimum needed for fuel, to see how, at times, less food gave me more energy—though the nighttime was mostly a struggle.  I broke my fast on Tuesday morning, Valentine’s Day.

*Details to follow

**Re-named ‘oat clumps’ to avoid disappointment

A Desert Within a Desert

Every single brand of yogurt and breakfast cereal we serve at the shelter, an assortment of donations, contains refined sugar.  Even the ones that seem or claim to be healthy like Kashi and Nature’s Path, and Quaker Instant Oatmeal.  The peanut butter, the jelly; most of the bread.  What do the diabetics have for breakfast?  I should ask them.  Not to mention the huge volume of sweets we serve.  The food we get is often secondhand, so its days are numbered.  The berries and bunches of greens are often going bad by the time we get them or, in turn, put them out for people. The packaged food (that almost always comes with sugar) is more consistent, easier to maintain.  Don’t we all in America eat more poorly for this reason, for what they are selling to us, what we can buy cheaply, and keep on our shelves?  I ask this and I recognize my privilege in having a pantry; making some selections.  A homeless friend wishes he could still be a vegetarian, but it’s impossible to maintain dietary restrictions like these, relying on food prepared by others, donated food.  Dreaming of a homeless community garden for the food desert of living on the streets.  Does this exist somewhere?

“Not Afraid”

I usually hate Eminem (preferring M&Ms, obviously,) but this is just genius.  The original footage is Cookie Monster rapping about eating healthy foods now.  Was his identity fundamentally changed to Veggie Monster?  This remains unclear to me, as Sesame St. still features Cookie Monster.  It seems he is still the Cookie we know and love, but with new perspective.

An Analogous Conversion

1.  C is for Cookie and that’s good enough for me.

See “Week #4: The Cookie Was Taunting Me and I Just Had to Shut it up.”

2. The Withdrawal Phase.  Such resistance to let go!

Such defensiveness of what we loved in childhood!

3. “A Cookie is a Sometimes Food”