Tag Archives: eating

saying grace

carrotsthere were a number of posts recently about saying grace, for example at maggi dawn’s blog. “why say grace in a world without god?” seemed to be one of the questions. also, “how to say grace without thanking god?”

for today, i will spare you my grumblings about interpretations of who or what god is. i’m just going to give a few gratitudes for the humble carrot i had in my soup today:

  • to the cashier who rung it in
  • to my daughter who carried it up the stairs
  • to the many people who built the fridge where it cooled – or rather, the fridges – three or four at least, i’m sure
  • to the grocery clerk who put it on display
  • to the grocery clerk’s teacher who taught her how to handle food safely
  • to the truck drivers who carted my carrot all over the place
  • to the friendly waitress who kept the truck driver supplied with coffee
  • to the factory worker who made the cellophane bag for the carrot
  • to the mechanic who fixed the carrot farmer’s tractor
  • to the worms who made good earth for the carrot

all good people (and worms) to say thanks to.

image by color line

the definition of addiction

in the last few weeks, a radio interview and two articles have encouraged me to again look at the nature of addiction. one of them is a discussion we are having on this blog here about alcohol use and art, with contributions by danish composer skovgaard danielsen and zen practitioner and painter eden maxwell. another was an article by trisha gura about chocolate addiction. the radio interview was with dr. gabor mate, well known for his work in our inner city, vancouver’s downtown eastside, as well as on stress and ADD.

so let’s look at some definitions of addiction.

cynthia jane collins in her book the recovery spiral has an interesting definition:

if we habitually or compulsively – with or without awareness or intention – use any activity, substance or person[s] to move us away from our true selves, we are practicing addictive behaviours.

gerald g. may proposes that

addiction is any compulsive, habitual behaviour that limits the freedom of human desire.

ben furman and tapani ahola, two scandinavian therapists known the world over for their imaginative work with therapeutic conversations once playfully gave addictions a name: “the muluttaja”. it derives from fascist times in finland and personifies the idea of “oppression and tyranny.”

virginia satir, one of north america’s foremost “elder” in family therapy, and another of my favourite models for therapy, talks of addiction as a coping mechanism for a rule that says, “i can’t feel what i feel.”

aviel goodman of the minnesota institute of psychiatry, who writes quite a bit about sexual addictions says that

addiction designates a process whereby a behavior, that can function both to produce pleasure and to provide escape from internal discomfort, is employed in a pattern characterized by (1) recurrent failure to control the behaviour (powerlessness) and (2) continuation of the behaviour despite significant negative consequences (unmanageability).

finally, gabor mate, whose absolutely fantastic book, in the realm of hungry ghosts: close encounters with addiction has this to say:

in the english language, addiction has two overlapping but distinct meanings. in our day, it most commonly refers to

a dysfunctional dependence on drugs or on behaviours such as gambling or sex or eating.

surprisingly, that meaning is only about a hundred years old. for centuries before then … addiction referred simply to an activity that one was passionate about …

in the words of a consensus statement by addiction experts in 2001, addiction is a “chronic neurobiological disease … characterized by behaviours that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving” …

the issue is not the quantity or even the frequency but the impact …

he then gives his own definition:

addiction involves:
1. compulsive engagement with the behaviour, a preoccupation with it;
2. impaired control over the behaviour;
3. persistence or relapse despite evidence of harm; and
4. dissatisfaction, irritability or intense craving when the object – be it a drug, activity or other goal – is not immediately available.

he concludes his chapter, “what is addiction?” by saying

we need to avoid the trap of believing that addiction can be reduced to the action of brain chemicals or nerve circuits or any other kind of neurobiological, psychological or sociological data … addiction is a complex condition … we need to view it simultaneously from many different angles … to get anywhere near a complete picture we must keep shaking the kaleidoscope to see what other patterns emerge.

now my question to you – those of you who have experience with addiction, either personally, through friends or family, or professionally: what do you think of these definitions? do they define addiction? or do you have another definition that works better for you?

the soup oracle

from my tea table book of poetry, here’s a poem i wrote many years ago. it’s neat to see that eventually i did ask the oracle what it meant …

full moon over bolinas

read the soup last night
12 midnight
was good
good hot soup in the fall
few days before new moon

read the soup and the soup said
“i’m your noodle oracle –
mamma mamma,
hear you cry mamma”,
the noodle soople oracle said to me
“mamma mamma,
hear you cry mamma”
and i nodded to the noodles –
reluctantly, i dare say,
but i noddled, yes,
covered in lavender sports coat over beige lady outfit
cause it was starting to get cold
12 midnight
a few days into fall –
but the soup was good and hot.

a few days before new moon
the noodle pasta ooracle said
– as i slurped –
“listen, between those wafts
of monosodium glutamate fogs
rising up from my steaming body,
listen, i can feel
the eater of my noodle essence
longing for more warmth
than my hot liquid can ever give you.
i can see you yearn
for softer softness
than my white dough even though
it caresses, traverses, mushingly, over your lips and tongue –
and no one noodle, gliding down inner throat into
the depths of your sad, weeping stomach
can fathom the ravine of your soul
– needing more, needing more -”

there i stopped.
i stop now.
do i want to hear more, noodle oracle?
do i want?
do i?

and yes
the moreness of my hungry, driven soul
lifts its arms and says
“give me, soup, more of your nasty, disturbing
give me
as more is that which i always

so the soup says,
“see –
there’s more of me …
in other forms and other words …
i hear you cry mamma
pasta mamma pasta mamma
but mamma is gone
there is more of me …
in other forms and other words …”

and i pretend
not to stand
not to under-stand
pasta oracle noodle words
i pretend
to be hungry for food …

until i can’t stand
i can’t stand
it no more.

that day
i will ask the pesky pasta oracle
what it is that it meant
and where it is that i can get
because i need more.

but not now.
my coat is warm.
my bed, waiting, soft.
and noodles, for now, cover that hungry soul within me.

(this poem was listed in december’s creative carnival)

time to eat or time to feel?

bad buddhist vs. the sixth precept is the title of a blog post by marie that was submitted to the last carnival of eating disorders. i was quite intrigued by it and would like to talk a bit more about it.

buddhist precepts, says diane esshin rizzetto in waking up to what you do

can be thought of as a beacon of light, much like a lighthouse beacon that warns sailors that they are entering dangerous waters and guides them on course … pay attention! look! listen! … the precepts are offered and received as tools to help free us from domination by the ever-changing stream of thoughts, feelings and sensations.

there is a varying number of precepts (5, 10, 227 …). marie talks about the precept to abstain from taking untimely meals.

in observing the sixth precept, the lay buddhist eats one or two simple meals between dawn and noon and avoids taking food beyond that. this cuts down the time spent on meals and allows him more time to spend on meditation.

yes, what do you want to spend your time on? no matter how we look at time, we only have a limited supply of it. come to think of it, do we want to “spend” it or do we want to “use” it?

watching TV and mindlessly crunching potato chips would definitely fall under the “spending” category. it goes into the “expenses” column – and not an expense in the form of investment. actually, it’s an investment in liabilities.

marie goes on

i think the question of timeliness makes the most sense to me in these terms: is it time to be present and mindful of what i’m eating, or is it time to be present and mindful of what i’m feeling?

what a great question. a question that extends, i believe, beyond eating. just as most issues around eating disorders go beyond eating.

  • is it time to listen right now, or time to talk?
  • is it time to sleep?
  • is it time to pay attention to my child right now, or to answer this email?
  • questions that go right back to what rizzetto says about the precepts:

    pay attention! look! listen!

    please read the rest of marie’s article. she’s got a great sense of humour, and she also has a beautiful description of thich nhat hanh’s eating meditation on her post.

    (this post was part of the 111th carnival of healing)