anorexia and the six ways of the bodhisattva

on our somewhat eventful drive back from kelowna, i lost, for the second time, my copy of pema chodron’s the places that scare you. i think the little book fell out when i got out of the car after we had just ploughed into a snow bank in order to avoid a collision (don’t worry, we’re fine, and some good people helped us dig out the car and put it back onto the slippery coquihalla highway).

fortunately, most of what pema chodron says is easy to find on the web. the chapter that i’m going to refer to is here, in an abbreviated version, under the title the heart of the bodhisattva. chodron calls it the

bodhisattva-warrior, one who is brave and confident enough to overcome self-centeredness in order to help others.

we practice and study to sharpen this [bodhisattva] mind so that we can know what is appropriate action. taking the appropriate action is a powerful tool: in one moment we can cross into the mind of enlightenment.

the way we proceed on this path is with prajna, the inquisitive mind that sees the wisdom in each situation. there are six ways to do this … they’re called paramitas, a sanskrit word that means “that which has reached other shore.” [prajna is the first or sixth paramita, depending on how you look at it – isabella]

[one] paramita is generosity … with generosity we overcome attachment.

next is discipline. with discipline we know what to accept and what to reject. the way we use discipline to transport us to the other shore in a moment is to look at our mind, speech and activity with this question, “is this taking me toward enlightenment or suffering?”

the next paramita is patience … it overcomes anger … if we’re about to blow up, the best thing to do is just sit there, settle, breathe.

the next paramita is exertion [in the book she calls it ‘enthusiasm’], which has an element of joy … going beyond ourselves brings pleasure.

the fifth paramita is meditation. with the practice of meditation we discover our mind’s inherent stability, clarity and strength.

as i was reading this, i was thinking of people with anorexia. how could these paramitas apply? does any one of them offer an obvious entry point to recovery? (i say ‘obvious’ because our minds’ and hearts’ ways are mysterious and of course anything and everything has the potential to be an entry point to recovery – there are 84,000 ways to hear the dharma.)

one of the things i like to so much about pema chodron is that she talks in such a delightful way about our imperfections. one such imperfection is that many of us come to a sense of spirituality not out of “pure” motives but because we’re wildly thrashing about for a way out of our misery.

it occurs to me, then, that if a person who is looking for a way out and whose anorexia shows itself in self-negation and a well-developed sense of self-control, might find the paramita of discipline attractive. maybe also long sessions of zazen (sitting meditation).

for someone who is more advanced in his or her recovery from anorexia, i’m sure it’s much easier to look at all the paramitas, perhaps even the idea of pleasure (something so difficult with anorexia …)

you can tell that i’ve never had a buddhist client who was struggling with anorexia 🙂

where am i going with this? i don’t know. but for some reason i’m intrigued by the connection that could be made here. maybe some of the people in tomorrow’s carnival of eating disorders will be able to shine a light on it.

the only other blogger i could find who talked about pema chodron in relation to anorexia is anne at waiting for the rebirth of wonder. anne, what do you say?

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