Facebook reminded me today that 4 years ago I was thinking about my health. It’s kind of ironic because, again, I am finding myself thinking about health and the food that I eat and what I can do to be healthier. One of my Facebook friends shared an interesting article about inflammation and it’s link to depression and it has had me thinking. I’ve kind of deduced from my own personal experience that inflammation has been a key to my physical health. For example, if my skin breaks out I know it’s due to inflammation and I will try to eat better (usually I’ve been eating too much sugar). I hadn’t thought about it being related to depression, though. I find this very interesting! It gives me more tools to work with in my fight against this disease. It’s empowering. Admittedly, when I am eating healthier and generally doing things that combat inflammation I feel less depressed. So it makes a lot of sense.
While I’m talking about food I have to come clean and admit something. I made a big deal about becoming (or re-becoming) a vegetarian a couple of years ago, but I decided several months ago that it was not sustainable for me. I really need animal protein. I feel better when I eat it. As a Buddhist I feel really guilty about this. But you do what you gotta do. If I can figure out how to make vegetarianism work for me I would do it. But I can’t seem to figure out how to make it work and have energy during the day.
Last night at my meditation group I got in a discussion about goalless practice. This is a Zen thing – the idea that the state you are in at this moment is perfect and goals imply that you are imperfect in this moment and that you need to somehow change.
This idea of not having a goal is crazy hard to grasp, especially being informed by Western, and even, American culture. Goals are such a huge part of who we are. Who am I if I don’t have goals? What kind of a person doesn’t have goals? A person who veers off in every direction. A person who has no focus. That seems like a crazy idea to me. I was born into a strict set of things I should strive for in my life. I am supposed to get married. I am supposed to be a homeowner. I am supposed to have a good job my entire life and then retire at age 65. These are the basic goals that have been instilled in me from the time I was born.
However, as I get older, I have been warming up to the idea of being goal-less. Indeed when I ask myself that common interview question “where do you see yourself in 5 years” I kind of draw a blank. In fact, that question kind of scares me a little. I like the idea of life taking me where it wants to take me. I think life is more exciting that way. I think that, if you let it, life will unfold in ways you will never expect, and they can be completely amazing beyond your imagination.
Lately I’ve been saying things to myself like, “Why don’t I read ‘The Heart Sutra‘ everyday and see what happens.” Or “What would happen if shot one large format pinhole photo everyday.” Basically doing these things to see what will come of it. I am naturally a very curious person and this kind of experimental living works well for me.
As a result, I have found myself more immersed in the moment, rather than focused on the outcome. And when I do notice an outcome from doing this “thing” everyday I am surprised and excited by what I’ve learned. The wisdom seems to bubble up from inside my heart somewhere, rather than it being all in my head. For example, the outcome of reading The Heart Sutra everyday has been that I have learned about self compassion – which has been what I’ve needed to learn about! The outcome of shooting a large format pinhole shot everyday was that I learned a ton about how my camera works.
So now I am thinking about how I can apply this to health goals. This might be harder. I have some specific things I want to do with regard to health. I want to lose some weight – at least 15 pounds. The sad thing is that I’ve been trying to lose this 15 pounds for a long time. It has been an elusive goal. So maybe it is time to let go of this goal. Maybe instead I should say, “what would happen if I went to the gym twice a week?” Or “What would happen if I ate a salad everyday for lunch?”
Embracing goalless practice when it comes to health might be harder to do…
I thought for today’s post it would be interesting to take a look at what I was doing 10 years ago. It seems crazy that I can do this on my blog. It is more than 10 years old at this point!
10 years ago I was contemplating becoming vegetarian. Again. Crazy, because here I am, exactly 10 y ears later, contemplating the same thing. I have been having Buddhist guilt (I don’t think there really is such a thing but there kind of is, if you know what I mean) about eating meat. I know that it is probably wrong for me to eat meat but I struggled with it because for a long time I really, truly didn’t think it was wrong. I think that for this to stick it needs to feel like the right thing to do in my heart, not just my head. And in my heart I didn’t think it was wrong.
However, I have had a change of heart in the past few months. The big turnaround was a few weekends ago when we first visited some cows on a free-range beef farm, and then the next day when we went to the fair. I forced myself at the fair to wander through the farm animal sections to see if it would have an affect on my feeling about eating meat.
It did. When we got to the area where there were pigs we were greeted, first, with this sign.
Meet your meat
I have to say that I was not offended by the sign but it really made me think! It made me think about whether I really want to meet and make friends with my food. Or do I want to just go to the store and buy nicely packaged products and pretend that this wasn’t a living being at one time. As I thought more about it, I realized that it is wrong for me to do that, to buy the packages and go about my business pretending that this creature died for my nutritional benefit – and probably suffered greatly at the hand of a factory farm! The next question for me becomes, “if it is wrong to buy packaged meat at the store, am I willing to kill my own food?” The answer to that question, for me, is no. I couldn’t do it. I don’t do death very well as it is, I know myself. I know I wouldn’t be able to kill my food. I know people who do it and I have the greatest respect for them.
So here I am, a vegetarian again. With a new-found resolve. I have been vegetarian for all of 3 weeks now. Give or take a dinner or two.