I took myself off for a much needed short retreat in order to recharge my brain, mind, spirit, self; i.e., the whole me. For years I was unable to get away for “me time” though I strongly felt the need for it. Now with just my husband and myself at home, and with his support, I can go off to the lakeside cabin in the Poconos and live in great simplicity, spend my days free of any demands of work, house, family, community. I often use a portion of this time for a few days of fasting* to clean out the debris accumulated over the long portion of my life when I was ingesting far too many pesticides, herbicides, and of course the ever present sugars. I grew up among orchards where DDT was heavily in use, and fasting is one way of helping to eliminate such toxic substances from the body. So for a week I had only mineral water, and weak green tea, and felt the freedom I’ve come to enjoy in not having any time spent on food. I do admit that this is far easier when in a place where there is no food, but I have done several short fasts at home with no problem.
My point in this post, though, is not about the fasting, but the reflection time I had which gave me a chance to really look back at the last few years and review the path I’ve been on as my body was changing so dramatically, and all the hard work at regaining control.
In general I think our need for control, or sense of control, is often mainly a form of self-deception, but when it comes to one’s body and health, then exerting control seems to me a very good thing. I am the only person who puts food into my mouth, or sends me to exercise, or to do most things. As I have written before, my most challenging times were when I listened to the people saying things like: have some cookies-ice cream-pasta, etc, life is too short, enjoy it; being too strict is a set up for failure; you have to have carbs for good health; and other such platitudes in support of the SAD status quo. I learned that this was really about having the deprivation mindset, and, as long as I felt deprived, I continued to try to eat “just a little” then suffer the devastating consequences.
During my retreat, as I read and wrote, I reflected that the biggest achievement for me in this area of health was accepting that my brain/body react to sugars-starch-most artificial sweeteners just like an alcoholic’s brain/body react to alcohol, and no one would be so stupid as to tell an alcoholic that a little is okay, or that life is too short to not have some champagne or a highball occasionally. Once I had that as a given, it became my security, then my certainty that finally I had both the knowledge and the tools to get on with my life and not have constant cravings interfering with my days, and the constant struggle with weight. What freedom!
Socrates said that the greatest lesson in life for any person is to “know thyself.” I personally believe this is the greatest spiritual lesson, and it is also the greatest practical lesson for how to live life more fully. I feel healthier and happier and more productive now now than at almost any time in my life. Life is once again truly joyful, for I don’t every day get up and look in the mirror at what seemed my greatest failure, and the one that was apt to lead me to an early death if it continued unchecked.
The Buddhists teach that our suffering comes from desire or attachment to things that we cannot have, but they also teach that we are not exempt from trying to learn the source and nature of our condition, be it physical or mental. My life will always have plenty of ups and downs, but at least I don’t have to go through it with a foggy brain, an overweight body, and that deeply felt sadness that I was not living as fully as I might.
Well, I could go on, but mainly I want to encourage anyone reading this that whatever supposed deprivation some people might think I have in terms of food, I have so much more in terms of feeling good about myself again. I finally don’t have to worry about the food part any more; I just do what works for me. That’s enough.
Yours on the path,
Nan aka Sugarbaby
*Note: Fasting, as in water only, should only be done after you learn something about it, not just on a whim, for then you will understand the physical processes, and also enjoy it more for understanding the benefits. Weight loss is not normally one of the benefits, though, since the metabolism is lowered during the fast, and though a person will lose about a pound a day, as soon as you begin to eat, even if you are careful and eat well, most people will quickly regain the weight. I do know of a couple people who lost weight and kept if off by maintaining a very strict low calorie, low carb diet for many weeks after. But the main value of a fast is the cleansing and giving the digestive system a rest.