Monthly Archives: November 2008

carnival of eating disorders, november 2008 edition

here is the november edition of the carnival of eating disorders!

anorexia and “becoming unspecial”
lola snow has a thoughtful post on the notion of being special, something very important for a lot of people who are in the throes of anorexia. some would say that being anorexic is about being special, about showing the control that results in standing out. in 12-step circles, this attitude is referred to as “terminal uniqueness”, a sometimes literally life-threatening attitude of being different: needing to be different, suffering from being different and the “no-one understands me” syndrome. there are a lot of interesting conversations about what it means to become less terminally unique and still remain the unique one-of-a-kind specimen that each and every one of us is. here’s lola’s contribution to that conversation: becoming unspecial.

anorexia, bulimia, NaNoWriMo
since i’ve participated again in NaNoWriMo this year, of course we have to have an entry here from someone who worked on a novel in november, too. here is a novel excerpt by someone who actually made it and wrote the 50,000 words (not something i can say about myself, unfortunately):

in the eighties, i saw an article in a magazine about a man who eats and then takes 50 laxatives. he weighs 5 stone (about 70 pounds) and looks like he’s going to die any minute. these pictures repulsed me and i thought to myself, ‘how can a person be so foolish? how can he lose control like that? how can he take all those laxatives? doesn’t anyone know what he is doing?’

of course, i didn’t see myself.

read more of soulbrush’s story here.

pro-anas on facebook
there was quite a bit of fanfare last week about pro-anorexia sites on facebook. one of the more intelligent treatments of this topic comes from my friends at PsychCentral:

so what does all of this do for people? isn’t allowing people to discuss their pro-ana needs just plain harmful and potentially dangerous? not necessarily:

marcia herrin, a dartmouth professor who has written several books on eating disorders, finds the public nature of the discussions of anorexia on facebook encouraging, because it shows that teens are less afraid of confronting eating disorders.

the more “out in the open” these kinds of concerns become, the more society learns and can answer the kinds of information (or mis-information) they promote.

insurance companies pay to help with eating disorders
this november edition seems to be the “news” edition. good news, then, from new jersey, where eating disorder treatments were recognized to be treatments for a mental illness, and therefore “worthy” of being covered by insurance. we have similar successes with that here in canada. here is ED bite’s article about it.

anorexic girl expelled from school
all is not well, though. the F-word discusses the case of a girl who was expelled from school because of her anorexia.  i know nothing about the particular circumstances of this case but two things that the post mentions are worth thinking about:

unless a client is extremely disabled, kincaid said, “it’s hard to prove you’re qualified. the more i make it negative, the more i pile on about how ill you are, the more the other side argues, ‘well, you’re not otherwise qualified to be here.


at the pinnacle of my eating disorder, i was carrying a 15-18-credit hour course load. school was my saving grace – if i didn’t have the structure and support of my studies to rely upon and motivate me just to get up each day, i might be just another eating disorder suicide statistic. in fact, it was my education and the accompanying encouragement to self-examine both the world and myself that factored greatly into my own recovery.
would the school expel a student undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer or lymphoma? are new hampton students suffering from depression or who are obese up for expulsion, also? eating disorders are a certifiable mental illness and in some anorexia cases, represent a disease of the brain. it’s time that they receive the same respect that any other medical condition would receive.

big people in the air
another piece of news was the court ruling here in canada that overweight people can ask for two seats on airplanes. here are two reactions, one from the big fat blog, who endorses the ruling, and another one here, symptomatic of how some people who don’t understand eating disorders think about people with weight issues:

the courts in the great white north have ruled that the human chunks eh must be allowed to have 2 seats for the price of 1 on flights within canada. as if airlines don’t have enough problems nibbling at their bottom lines they now have to have to allow the big bottoms to chomp on the airline profits.i have to say i earnestly hope this idiocy doesn’t come to the states since i don’t believe in fat rights. about the only right i think tubbies have is the right to either stuff their faces or not.

body beautiful
wilhelmina has a lovely, inspiring post about looking at our bodies:

all of a sudden, you catch sight of yourself in the full-length mirror. and you look. for once, you aren’t staring because you’re thinking of all the things you don’t like, and all the things you want to change. you’re staring because you notice curves, and tapering lines, and grace.

read here for the rest.

mindful eating – thinking about buddhism
the word “mindful” is often connected to buddhist ideas. it’s interesting, then, to read “exceptionally fat” ‘s post about mindful eating because it demonstrates how to put the “middle way” (an important buddhist concept) into practice.

intuitive eating was absolutely invaluable when it came to ‘legalizing’ those foods i had once completely banished from my house. i couldn’t bake because i wasn’t to be trusted around baked goods. i couldn’t order packages of liz lovely cookies because i would eat them all in a week and then feel terrible *and* have no cookies. i saw complete avoidance of these foods as the only option. don’t get me wrong, i could have a cookie or a brownie, but only when i could go out and buy just one. this was less problematic when i lived in atlanta and had easy access to all sorts of vegan goodies. here, it involves an hour long drive which would make it completely ridiculous to just buy one treat.

so i took the advice in this book and filled my kitchen to the brim with all kinds of formerly forbidden foods. it was honestly terrifying at first, but eventually it worked and those foods ceased haunting me with their very presence. i now keep ‘bad’ foods in the house with no problem.

disciplined eating – christian thoughts
these two attitudes – disciplined and mindful eating – came together quite by accident, and so did the fact that there are connections to buddhist and christian thoughts. healthymahma mentions a book by elyse fitzpatrick, author of love to eat, hate to eat, who uses the acronym D_I_S_C_I_P_L_I_N_E_D E_ating to “remember whether your eating is sinful or not”. as you might imagine, i find the idea of sin not overly useful. however, if we can free ourselves from the fundamentalist tone, some of fitzpatrick’s points could serve as interesting models, for example:

11. D_istract: will preparing or eating this food distract me from something better that god has for me to do? for instance, would i do better by ministering to the lord or my guests rather than spending excessive amounts of time cooking some elaborate meal and being frustrated that others aren’t as impressed about my cooking as i am? (does it really matter if the gravy is lumpy? will anyone remember that you spent hours cooking, or will they remember that you loved them and spent time ministering to them in conversation, prayer, and fellowship?)

a few months ago, i wrote a guest post on my friend alexander’s blog, transcending the murmur, where i talk about “translating” such texts. for example, “ministering to the lord” could be translated into “remembering my values”, and “ministering to them in conversation, etc.” could be “being present to them”.

emotions and recovery
the “E” in fitzpatrick’s acronym stands for emotions. jen talks about this in her post more on anger and recovery, which, the way i read it, is mostly about negativity and recovery from unhelpful eating. (anger, in my book, is not necessarily synonymous with negativity). i really appreciate this image:

there’s a difference between looking for the hidden reasons we do things and clinging to them as some sort of badge of honor and excuse. as easwaran said in the yoga journal article, “can you imagine a sculptor scurrying to pick up the slivers that fall from his chisel, hoarding them, treasuring them, ignoring the statue altogether?”

do you have, or do you know, a post that would be a good addition to this carnival? if so, please submit it here or drop me a line, and we can enjoy it next month, at the carnival of eating disorders on december 31.

thanksgiving, peace, metta

no more war“may there be peace” – what a strange and faraway thing to say about mumbai in the middle of this destructive chaos. and yet. may there be peace.

may there be peace in iraq. peace like i have among my friends, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace in the congo. peace like we have in our family, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace in afghanistan. peace like we have here in canada, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace in thailand. peace like i have at work, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for all those frightened by the current economic upheavals. peace like the peace i have in prayer and meditation, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for my neighbours who are going through divorce. peace like i have in my loving household, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for my clients restless with worry whether they will find a job. peace like i have in the walks through this beautiful city, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for my writer friends, who are using words to dig themselves out of desperation. peace like i am given by watching our beautiful cat, peace i am grateful for.

may there be peace for everyone, right now, this moment, who is pacing the floor agitated by mental illness. peace like i get from many good nights’ sleep, peace i am grateful for.

may the blessings of peace that have been given to me so abundantly flow over, into the nooks and crannies of my neighbourhood, onto the city, the continent, may they join with everyone else’s overflowing blessings and touch the world.

may our friends and enemies, all humans and animals, all created beings, may we all have peace, freedom, health and happiness.

the image of the hiroshima peace memorial park comes from hira3

a hyphenated reality: being canadian ismaili

the aga khan's palacetoday, a guest post by mehnaz from strawberry ghetto, to commemorate today’s visit to vancouver by his highness, the aga khan.


before vancouver hosts the world in 2010 for the winter olympics, this week canada is host to the international ismaili muslim community for the much anticipated visit of his highness the aga khan on the occasion marking his golden jubilee as the leader of this small community.

i often get the question, what is it like to be a canadian ismaili?

first of all, i am a canadian, as much as anyone else who lives in this fair country.  i cheer at the television when the canucks play, i wander over to english bay for the annual summer fireworks, i vote and i partake in the annual bout of insanity known as boxing day shopping.

i am also an ismaili.  the ismailis are a diverse community part of the shia branch of islam (the other branch being sunni) and currently reside in over 25 countries of the world.  they number in the millions around the world from europe and asia to africa and north america.  his highness the aga khan is the 49th hereditary imam or spiritual leader of the ismailis, who believe him to be a direct descendant of the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him).  in 1957, he succeeded the throne of imamat previously held by his grandfather sir sultan mahomad shah aga khan.  the ismailis pledge their allegiance to the imam and live their lives according to his guidance.

the ismaili history is a multifaceted one and canada has been part of the fabric of this history since the 1970’s when many ismailis arrived as refugees from east africa due to idi amin’s expulsion of south asians from uganda, and then again in the 1990’s after the war in afghanistan.  we have since called canada our home.  now the ismaili community boasts a rich civic and cultural life and actively engages in both cultural and economic life in canada.

sitting on the hyphen of the identity known as canadian – ismaili was always a challenge when i was a child.  a phrase i often learned to say when i was younger is “i’m sorry, i can’t. i have prayers on fridays.”  this didn’t result in a lot of friday nights out with friends.  but as i grew up, i realized that the continual theme that influences everything that i do, eventually leads back to the ethic that my faith has instilled in me: to help my fellow man despite creed, class or culture and transfer my opportunities and allow others the same.  this view allows ismailis to keep our finger on the pulse of spiritual life while at the same time fully engaging in the daily work of life, a balancing act that is both challenging and rewarding.

the golden jubilee of his highness the aga khan is a momentous occasion in an ismaili’s life (we don’t put banners up all over downtown vancouver for nothing!).  it is our chance to come together in the spirit of brotherhood and to welcome our fellow community members from around the world.  it is our chance to celebrate our commonality and our diversity.  it is our chance to eat until we collapse and then dance until we can’t walk.  and most of all, it is a chance for us to continue our allegiance to a faith and a way of life that is rich, and fulfilling and allows us to stand proudly on the identity known as “canadian ismaili”.

for those that are interested in learning more about ismailism, there are a variety of sources available listed below. – the official website of the international ismaili community (good source of ismailism 101). – the aga khan development network, the nondenominational private organization dedicated to improving the lives of communities around the world. – the institute of ismaili studies in the uk; home of scholarly work on ismaili history, philosophy and thought. – the global centre for pluralism in ottawa (currently under construction) – an islamic conscience: the aga khan and the ismailis (documentary on the history of the ismailis and the aga khan).


comment by isabella: i want to thank mehnaz for this contribution, for which i asked her way back when we met through the blogathon back in july.  it is fortunate that her contribution arrives on this auspicious day.  my first memory of the aga khan goes way back to the sixties, when he was an immensely sought-after, horse-racing bachelor but who even then showed a deep interest in making the world a better place.  the other day i flippantly called ismaili “the quakers of the muslim world” – but i think it’s not such a bad moniker.  from wikipedia:

the āgā khān has been particularly interested in the elimination of global poverty; the advancement of the status of women; the promotion of islamic culture, art, and architecture; and furthering pluralistic values in society. he is the founder and chairman of the aga khan development network, one of the largest private development networks in the world, which works towards social, economic, and cultural development in asia and africa.

and lastly, since in my november posts, i always want to make a connection to NaNoWriMo, here are some books written by ismaili authors that mehnaz recommended:

anar ali – baby khaki’s wings

sikeena karmali – a house by the sea

m.g. vassanji – the in between world of vikram lal

image of the aga khan’s palace by RCCHALC

wordy ramblings on world philosophy day

once again i’m incapacitated by an awful cold. however, today is world philosophy day, so i just have to throw my thoughts into the mix. because, you know, the world, and especially the world of philosophy, would be so very much impoverished without my snot-nosed words of wisdom.

so here’s a few chatty bits, laced, of course, with NaNoWriMoness. please arrange them in the logical, chaotic, pre-determined or random order of your choosing.

last year i met up with one of my old philosophy profs who i hold in high esteem for a number of reasons, one of them being that he had a wonderful way of facilitating classes. i took philosophy 101 with him, at a community college, so you can imagine that there were all kinds of, um, “interesting” people attending, with lots of wild, wonderful and often extremely woolly ideas, which they spat out with gusto. this prof had the lovely ability of patiently listening to the most hair-raising drivel, picking out from it the one little sentence that made sense and then exclaiming enthusiastically: “fabulous idea, mr. borschthead! now let’s investigate this a little further” – and then bringing the class back on track.

at any rate, at our little get-together for a coffee at starbucks last year i told him of my dream/idea/hope of writing my PhD thesis in novel form. the poor guy was aghast. novels, he snorted, have nothing to do with either science or philosophy. my attempts at pointing at dostoevsky, proust and camus were met with disdain. simple minded stuff, totally unthought-through.

on the other hand, another philosophy prof with whom i had a series of absolutely delightful thought exchanges, was a catalyst in my writing my book of poetry. he, too, was not overly conversant with the convoluted thought patterns of creative forms of writing (why are poetry and prose called creative, by the way? are philosophic, scientific or business forms of writing, to name just a few, uncreative?) … where was i … ah, yes, not conversant with poetic thoughts – but he was curious about it and encouraged me to “translate” my poetry, which then became the theme for my tea table book.

by the way, both of them let me play with my papers. i wrote one in the form of a play, and another as a letter from leibniz to freud. i’m still very grateful they indulged me. they weren’t my most brilliant philosophical spewings but boy, was it fun.

and of course i’m not exactly the first person to think about the connection between literature and philosophy. the good people from the university of tampere in finland (those europeans, ey?) have put together a whole bunch of links for philosophy of literature. this leads to interesting books like between philosophy and poetry

between philosophy and poetry examines the complex and controversial relation that has informed literary theory since ancient times: the difference between philosophy and poetry. the book explores three specific areas: the practice of writing with respect to orality; the interpretive modes of poetic and philosophical discourse as self-narration and historical understanding; how rhythm marks the differential spaces in poetry and philosophy.

the book brings together some of the most prominent international scholars in the fields of philosophy and literature to examine the differences between orality and writing, the signs and traces of gender in writing, the historical dimension of the tension between philosophical and poetic language, and the future possibility of a musical thinking that would go beyond the opposition between philosophy and poetry.

in the final instance, rhythm is the force to be reckoned with and is the essential element in an understanding of philosophy and poetry. rhythm in effect provides a musical ethics of philosophy, for musical thinking goes beyond the metaphysical opposition between philosophy and poetry and sets the frame for post-philosophical practice.

as well as this mouth-watering journal of philosophy and literature

philosophy and literature challenges the cant and pretensions of academic priesthoods by publishing an assortment of lively, wide-ranging essays, notes, and reviews that are written in clear, jargon-free prose. in his regular column, editor denis dutton targets the fashions and inanities of contemporary intellectual life.

definitely sounds like something to check out.

then there’s “archives of nonsensuous similarities”: poetic exploration and extension of philosophical thought in charles bernstein’s shadowtime,” which contains these ponderings:

fault no lease
add thump whimsy
a sash onto

here bernstein undertakes a phonetic transposition to demonstrate the notion of ‘similarity’. simply put, ‘fault no lease’ picks up the vowel sounds of ‘walk slowly’ (/o:/, /ou/, /i:/) as bernstein mirrors the phonetic cluster with different linguistic units. ‘over’ and ‘aver’ as well as ‘the’ and ‘a’ (/É™/) also share the same sounds. the punning also works visually, particularly in the second lines: ‘jump’ and ‘thump’. to reiterate one of benjamin’s statements: ‘if words meaning the same thing in different languages are arranged about the signifier as their center, we have to inquire how they all […] are similar to the signified in the center’.

now i have never taken a course in philosophy and literature so i am sure – and i’m not saying this tongue-in-cheek – that there are precious joys in this niche of philosophy that i have never tasted and therefore am in no position to judge their scrumptuousness.

having said this, i find hard to imagine the usefulness of taking this lovely piece of nonsense or dada poetry or whatever pigeonhole you want to put it into, and throw it on the operating table for such crass vivisection. undertakes a phonetic transposition to demonstrate? poets among my dear readers, how often do you do that? how often do you put pen to paper and say, hm, i think this morning i’ll do me some phonetic clustering with different linguistic units?

is this why my old philosophy prof rolled his eyes when i said i wanted to write a novel for my PhD?

hey, how’d this post get so long?

november buddhist carnival, part 2

here’s part 2 of this month’s buddhist carnival.

thoughts … thank you!
gigablonde offers making peace with meditation, something i can relate to very well. she opens up space for a whole new relationship with meditation through principles of jack kornfield’s buddhist meditation for beginners.

meet whatever arises with kindness and balance and wisdom … and whatever comes to you can be a part of your meditation.
“oh, here’s remembering. thank you for your contribution.”
“worry, thank you.”
“aah, planning.”

buddhism in thailand: ordaining as a monk
we have two posts relating to thai buddhism this month. here is an interesting description of a thai tradition:

in thailand it’s a tradition to ordain as a monk at least once in your lifetime. some ordain for just a few hours while others do it for a whole year. traditionally, it was done for a period of three months known as the rains retreat. ordaining gives you a chance to study and practice lord buddha’s teachings and it gives your parents the opportunity to offer you the monk robes, alms bowl and other necessities.
for someone who isn’t the least familiar with buddhist culture, it would be only natural to view monks as beggars and therefore a burden to society but according to buddhist teachings giving and generosity are meritorious deeds.

read more at monk in thailand.

thai charms and amulets
dr. callaway’s blog has only been around for a short while – talk about a niche blog. it concentrates exclusively on lucky charms and mystical amulets from thailand, made and blessed by buddhist monks. i think there’s quite some potential there – i liked the stories callaway tells, and i hope he keeps up with this blog. good luck charms are a way of life in thailand and southeast asia. it is believed that when chants and prayers are spoken to these charms, the spirits invoked will reciprocate to the owner of the charm or amulet, good luck and protection from harm.

of course this is very different from the more cerebral, less mystical buddhism that we hear about in the west – but i think it’s useful to remember that buddhism, a religion practiced by millions and millions of people (300 million is a number i’ve often seen). with so many adherents, there is a wide variety of practices, and i find it quite fascinating to look at all the different varieties. at any rate, here is dr. callaway’s post, lucky charms.

timeless lessons
reading this post, i am reminded of a twitter remark by merlin mann today, “90% of all self-help is buddhism with comfortable chairs and a service mark“. flippancy aside, i agree with him, although i’d probably refer to buddhist “techniques” rather than buddhism. buddhism as a whole is a rich historical, cultural, spiritual and theological stew, and part of that stew are these techniques – the things practiced by many buddhists: mindfulness, meditation, compassion, etc. of those techniques, many are totally straightforward, and that’s what this last post is about: peaceful simplicity: 10 refreshing ways to live in the here and now. this excerpt is about the practice of smiling:

the foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet. feeling joyful is not paramount for presence, but it’s one of the most powerful ways to induce it. joy creates an almost immediate sense of expansion ” an inner smile that’s like a warm bath. some call this warm bath “flow” or “spirit.” experiencing it connects us to ourselves and to everyone and everything around us.

think about someone or something that you love. this could be a child, a corner in nature, or a cherished memory. whatever you choose, make sure that just contemplating upon it creates an automatic inner smile. then surrender to that inner smile. let it light you up. feel it spread through your body and even beyond it, uniting you joyously with your surroundings.


oh, and before i go, i need to say something about NaNoWriMo, right? here’s a hello then to enlighten up’s buddhist blogger lans in texas, who’s not blogging this month because he, too, is working on completing a 50,000 word novel in november.

that’s it then for this month, folks. if you want to read part 1 of the november buddhist carnival, here it is. as for next month’s – it’s on december 15, and will be hosted by loden jinpa.

if you have a buddhist blog post you’d like to contribute, please send it to me here, or, if you have a hard time connecting to blog carnival, drop me a line.