Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cravings & The Elimination Diet

Dated: February 16th, 2009

In my recent learnings about Yoga and also Buddhism, a theme that has come up a lot is
craving and aversion, and how through these two states we create a lot of suffering for ourselves.

I recently experimented with these states through a long overdue "elimination diet."

The Process:

In the diet, you test your own body's sensitivity to certain foods by eliminating those items for 2-3 weeks, and then adding them back in one at a time to test your body's reaction (essentially you eat fruit, vegetables, nuts and rice).

The rationale being that you don't notice how food affects your body when there is a constant, low level of a substance (say, wheat, or sugar) in your body, but the reaction (say, fatigue, or sinus congestion) will be more pronounced after cleansing.

Besides informing me that wheat, eggs, dairy and sugar all cause me to become lethargic, moody and bloated (never mind the mucousy, stale, almost rotten feeling in my mouth and at the back of my throat that I never even noticed because I was so used to it!), the diet was an interesting experience in observing my patterns associated with food.

4 Conclusions:

1. Smell vs. Taste:

Living in Chiang Mai, and I am often exposed to a multitude of delicious smells, especially when wandering the many markets.

There is one lady at the Sunday night market who cooks these waffles that smell amazing.

Every time I walk by, I get a craving for one (based on the smell) and every time I eat it, I'm disappointed (the dilemma of Thai baked goods - look and smell great, don't taste that good).

During the diet however, I would go and stand to the side of her stall, and just smell for a minute or two.... mmmm waffles.... and then keep walking. I found myself quite satisfied. Just smelling was enjoyable, I didn't need to follow the automatic reactive pattern of eating.

2. Taste vs. Expectation:

As with the waffles, I am often disappointed when I eat things that I have expected to be really good and aren't.

This stems from my expectation of how I think it's going to taste based on how it looks, or similar things I've had in the past.

The thinking often gets so salient, that I don't even taste the food itself, I am simply "satisfied" because I am eating whatever it is, and my mind says "yes, good, chocolate cake".

When I eat, I am often so distracted by thinking about something else, talking to someone, walking, looking at things, tripping over myself because I am eating and talking and walking and looking at things all at the same time....that I'm not present to the act of eating, and don't even enjoy the flavor.

3. Food as Love:

In my family, when you love someone, you either cook for them, or take them out to dinner.

So naturally, I have come to associate food with love (and reward/special occasion) and was surprised at how often emotions are my reason for eating (I know this seems like an obvious one "eat your feelings, blah blah" but it's more subtly pervasive than that, when I'm feeling bad, it's how I show myself love, too).

This one will take a little longer to get to the bottom of...

4. Pleasure vs. Nourishment:

One of the most amazing things about the diet was this new kind of energy that came up in me.

An energy that I'd never felt before. Not caffeine (coffee was also not allowed during the diet - gasp!), not sugar and not short-lived, surface energy... but a more subtle, deep, enduring energy that I know came from the food I was eating, and made me feel so healthy and alive.

Desserts and coffee and bread and cheese may all be delicious, and I'm such a foodie I don't think I'll ever give them up completely, but now that I've felt how nourishing and life-giving certain foods are for me, it's a different kind of choice I make to eat the ones that aren't.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Dated: March 12th, 2009

Today I did 108 Sun Salutations. God guided me through each one.

It was like going through an entire lifetime... each round of the postures a year - some fast, some slow, some easy and flowing, others challenging and sometimes painful. It was intense and magical.

My God is the God of sunrises,
the God of running into old friends
because a traffic jam made you late.
The God of cool breezes,
who leaves lessons for life in the flowers.

My God is the God of teachers just when you need them,
and silver linings revealed when you had given up hope.
The God that laughs when you make plans,
but ensures you always get where you need to be.

My God is the God of sunsets,
who hugs you when a door is slammed shut,
and winks at you through the window cracked open.

My God is the God of song and dance,
who prefers this form of prayer,
and delights in creativity, and other expressions of love.

My God smiles at me from the moon and stars
and reminds me that life is never not perfect.

Note: this is the first poem I've written in 11 years, since I was forced to in grade 9 English class. At times I still struggle with using the word God to describe my concept of God/The Universe/Creator/The Great Spirit/etc. because of all the cultural baggage that follows the term, but it seems the simplest way for now.

The Perils of Blogging

Alright, so it's obvious that I haven't been in the blogging mood for quite some time now... the thing is that it's not because I haven't been writing.

In fact, I've written about 30 blog entries in the last two months, it's just that I have this mental block about getting onto the evil time-sucking interweb and actually posting them.

I'm sure The Artist's Way and Havi Brooks have some brilliant solutions to my creative block, but it extends so far as for me to avoid the internet, so I haven't been reading Havi, and well... maybe I just like being stuck?

Anyway, I find myself alone in Melaka, Malaysia thinking about the people I love (and any other potential readers who by now have abandoned me due to lack of posting) and feeling very guilty indeed for not updating.

So I will commence to randomly post things I've thought and written in the last two months with dates in hopes of orienting you, the reader, as to when they were written/happening/being thought about.