Log: Page Four
Aug -Oct 2003
(newcomers, read this FIRST!)
Oct- Dec 2003
Jan- Mar 2004
April 1st, 2004.
been working my way toward vegetarianism for a few months
now. I've been off red meat for a while, and I dropped
chicken a couple of weeks back. It's been just fish
for the last three weeks or so. Many of my carnivorous
friends tell me that vegetarianism "isn't natural," but, for
that matter, neither is wearing clothes or driving around in
cars, so I'll make a deal: If they start running around
naked and walking everywhere instead of driving, I'll eat at
Krystal's now and again.
heading toward becoming one of these Vegan folks any time
soon --though I admire them -- who won't eat ANY animal
product. The point of a Buddhist avoiding meat is that
you have compassion for all living things, and eating
something isn't a compassionate act. As far as I'm
concerned (and I've had relatives who farmed) milking a cow
doesn't hurt it, nor does it hurt a chicken to lay an egg,
so for now cheese and some egg now and again is still in
One of the strategies
for weight reduction when you eat out is to
realize that if you eat what's set before you, you'll
probably eat too much -- and you'll definitely get a lot of
fat and hidden calories. For example,
I picked all the cheese, nuts, eggs, and croutons off of a
"garden salad" from a local restaurant and piled them on a
plate: three hundred calories, easily!
So you have
to learn to ask your server to prepare your food the way you
want it. To grill it, not dip it in batter and
crispy-fry it to a Golden Brown. And when they grill
it, to go easy on the oil and not grill it in creamery-rich
butter. You have to ASK these things, because a
restaurant will do anything it can to make its food taste
good, and this often means using calorie-rich butter and
so I'm with some friends at IHOP and I ask the waitress for
a salad with no cheese, meat or croutons ...
IHOP, as you
may know, is a favorite place for truckers to eat, and the
food there is GREAT; just not the most health-conscious
place on the planet. So when I asked for an
all-vegetable salad, the waitress looks at me and
says, "Huh? Is that on the menu?"
Of course it
wasn't, most of their salads come in a fried shell with a
half-pound of guacamole and sour cream, or with a half-pound
of luncheon meat and cheese mixed in. I told her that
is wasn't, so she asked me to order one of the salads on the
menu and she'd tell them to leave off what I wanted them to
So I ordered
the Chicken Fingers Salad, and said, "Leave off the cheese,
eggs, dressing, croutons and chicken."
She looked at
me -- bless her heart -- like a deer in headlights, and
asked "Leave off the chicken?"
And could I have some vinegar on the side?"
consulting with the chef, she came back and asked, "Is malt
"Yes, I love
it," I assured her.
I got a big bowl of lettuce, over which I squeezed a lemon
wedge, dribbled some vinegar, and sparingly used the Lite
Italian dressing. I crumbled some crackers on it for
the carbs. A perfect meal, except there were no
tomatoes, or anything other veggies on the salad (they're
purists at IHOP). Fortunately, my son, who was with
me, ordered a Triple Bacon Double Cheeseburger and gave me
his tomatoes and onions. He's a purist too. He won't
allow any veggies to corrupt his system.
still tried to kill me. My Big Bowl of Lettuce came
with a HUGE piece of buttered French toast.
was not a fat guy. That big tubby chap you see sitting
next to the register at Chinese restaurants is the Laughing
Buddha, based on a 10th century Chinese wandering
Buddhist monk named Pu-tai, who believed that worldly
pleasure and material success was GOOD.
sources describe him as obese, with wrinkled forehead, and a
white protruding belly which he left uncovered. That
sounds like me, except I try to keep my shirt buttoned at
all times. You can read about Pu-tai
reality, the historic Buddha lived in what is now Nepal and
was a lean, wiry man of medium proportions, practicing
healthy dietary habits. Like all mendicants of his
times, he ate one meal a day, in the morning, and possibly
some olives at night for medicinal purposes. The
picture to the left shows how he is usually pictured in his
I say this
because at one point, when I was much heavier, word got out
that I was seriously studying Buddhism. Some people,
thinking they were being funny, told me, "Well, you got the
Buddha part down," no doubt referring to my resemblance to
old Pu-tai. I guess being compared to Chinese Laughing
Buddha is better than being called a Fat-Assed SOB. I
I spoke once
about being mindful about eating and appetite.
Sometimes it's hard for compulsive eaters to separate real
hunger from emotional hunger. One technique I've found
useful is to assign a rating system to your appetite.
When you feel the urge to eat, don't act on it immediately.
Examine it; go into it. Is it physical or emotional
physical hunger, assign a scale of 1-10 to it.
I don't eat
unless my appetite crosses the "5" or higher mark. I
try to keep it around the mid-point, because I know if I let
it roam too high I'm likely to overcompensate by overeating.
You should never be too hungry or too full.
Zen masters put it best. When asked how Zen is
practiced, a practitioner answered, "When I'm hungry, I eat.
When I'm tired, I rest." So the student asked, "Isn't
this like everyday life?"
answered, "No, it's not like everyday life. When a
normal person eats, his mind solves a hundred problems.
When he rests, his mind wanders to a hundred places. When a
Zen practitioner eats, he just eats. He is fully in his
eating. When he rests, he just rests. He is
fully in his resting."
essay on "Mindful eating" by Thich Nhat Hanh
Nhat Hanh (From Peace is every step)
One day, I
offered a number of children a basket filled with
tangerines. The basket was passed around, and each child
took one tangerine and put it in his or her palm. We each
looked at our tangerine, and the children were invited to
meditate on its origins. They saw not only the tangerine,
but also its mother, the tangerine tree. With some guidance,
they began to visualize the blossoms in the sunshine and in
the rain. Then they saw petals falling down and tiny green
fruit appear. The sunshine and the rain continued, and the
tiny tangerine grew. Now someone has picked it, and the
tangerine is here. After seeing this, each child was invited
to peel the tangerine slowly, noticing the mist and the
fragrance of the tangerine, and then bring it up to his or
her mouth and have a mindful bite, in full awareness of the
texture and taste of the fruit and the juice coming out. We
ate slowly like that.
Each time you
look at a tangerine, you can see deeply into it. You can see
everything in the universe in one tangerine. When you peel
it and smell it, its wonderful. You can take your time
eating a tangerine and be very happy.
skeletal rattle of the train's crossing
In the screen
door slamming as she decides he's drunken hit her for the
In the last
bubbling gasp of four-fifteen AM
moonlight on lonely hotel ceiling as hours count by until
In stray dogs
and cats about their secret nocturnal affairs
I see hear
feel smell taste.
I see hear
feel smell taste.
But I do not
you'd like an insight into why some people put on large
amounts of weight, try this experiment: Get a friend,
hopefully someone with a good amount of strength, to give
you a good, hard, open-hand slap right across the face.
I mean a vicious one, delivered with lots of power, like a
piston. Hell, get them to call you an insulting name
while he or she is at it.
that sensation. Other than the pain -- which is
intense, numbing, shocking -- you'll feel almost paralyzed
by the rush of emotions, so many of them that you can't even
sort them out for several moments. Go into them;
examine them. Shock, anger, killing rage, perhaps?
Your eyes tear up, you want to cry, and that shames you too.
Now, when you
get past the urge to kill your friend -- who, after all, was
just doing you a favor -- repeat the experiment, but this
time, place a large firm pillow between you and the blow.
You still feel it, but it isn't anywhere near as bad.
And I'll bet you didn't feel ANY of the emotional reactions
I'm sure you
get the point. I won't insult your intelligence by
explaining the analogy between this sadomasochistic
experiment and weight gain, except to point out that not all slaps to the face
are physical ones.
find myself eager to get on with the next phase of weight
reduction -- which of course means tackling another bout of
emotional issues. Fortunately, springtime is a
relatively pleasant time of year to do so. I can find
serene riverside banks alongside which to introspect, and
walk along the bike trails of my youth, etc.
vegetarianism is progressing nicely; I find it isn't all
that hard to do.
Morningstar Farms has some great meat substitutes that I've used a lot anyway.
What I find
funny is how strenuously some of my friends and associates
fight this notion. Some even get defensive. It
reminds me of when I quit drinking alcohol about twenty
years ago ... all my drinking friends got mad at me, like it
was a personal affront.
nature" argument comes up a lot. Sure, it's in a cat's
nature to eat a rat, but I'm not a cat or a rat. I'm a
man, and I have a choice. And my choice -- at least
for today -- is that I don't want something else to die just
so that I can have a meal. Meat doesn't appear by
magic; there's a violent process that produces it that we
have to accept if we're going to consume flesh. For example, if you like pork products
and want to see how that piece of bacon gets to your table
(and if you have a particularly strong stomach)
here's a link
you. But don't say I didn't warn you. Being a
carnivore is not for the faint of heart.
vegetarianism help weight reduction? I dunno ... movie
popcorn is meat-free but full of calories, and I could live
on the stuff.
I told you
about my experience at IHOP. Ha ha -- it happened to
me again ... I was at Appleby's looking for some vegetable
fare, when I noticed that the Mandarin Chicken Salad had a
Lo-Fat symbol next to it but the Steamed Vegetables and
Salad Combo did not.
thought to myself. So I asked the waitress why this
was so. She looked blank, then said, "Because you need some fat in your diet?"
"Well, I don't understand why steamed vegetables and a salad
would be higher in fat than a Mandarin chicken salad ... aha
-- does it have cheese?"
said. "And bacon, eggs, croutons..."
"Okay, I see
now. I'll have the Steamed Vegetables and Salad Combo,
but no meat --"
no bacon. No cheese either."
I had a few
of the croutons, but picked most of them off. I think
they dip the little toasted bits of bread in a bucket of
melted butter. Also, the salad comes with a piece of
"garlic bread," aka a six-ounce crouton (also dipped in that
same vat of melted butter). But I made out all right.
It's tough making the segue from carnivore to vegetarian,
but I can feel my karma improving already.
Well, my weight has begun to
budge again, thanks in part to increased energy and my vegan
diet. "Vegan?" you ask, with a puzzled frown. "I
thought you weren't going that far?" Well, I changed
my mind. I decided fish were off limits for me too.
It's veggies all the way.
Coincidentally (or is it Fate?) I found the
following passage in Buddhist scriptures:
avoid causing terror to living beings, let the Disciple
refrain from eating meat . . the food of the wise is that
which is consumed by the Sadlius (Yogis); it does not
consist of meat . . . there may be some foolish people in
the future who will say that I permitted meat eating and
that I partook of meat myself, but... meat-eating I have
not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not
permit. . . meat-eating in any form, in any manner, and in
any place, is unconditionally and once and for all
prohibited for all.
There's some debate amongst scholars as to whether or not
this is a genuine passage or a later addition to the Sutras.
I don't really know, but it echoes m sentiments and my
interpretation of the First Precept to attempt to do no harm
to any sentient being.
I'm not on a soapbox, nor am I trying to change anyone's
lifestyle. But the purpose of this blog is to document
what's going on with my food, weight and emotional issues,
and I would say that an ethical decision involving meat
falls into all three categories.
I had another one of those
moments of insight today. It seems that when I listen
to my body's hunger, it tells me to feed it healthy foods
and to avoid unhealthy, fatty, sugary stuff.
So what am I
listening to when I crave unhealthy food? Hmm ...
I'll list no
answer for this, as I think it differs for each of us.
My answers are personal to me. Yours are to you.
It behooves us to listen to our heart and ask it what it
I was reading
a psychology textbook and saw a list of the top ten most
stressful events in a human's life. I discovered that
I've experienced four of the ten during the past six
months! And I haven't gained any weight, and
even managed to drop quite a bit.
My plan works
better than Atkins.
Pain is unavoidable. We
all know that, or at least we should. But, man -- how
we try to deny its inevitability! Think about how much
of our lives are spent trying to run from the truth of pain.
is that when we try to avoid pain, we intensify it.
It's paradoxical but true. Eventually, the pain
avoided today will come back to haunt us, with interest.
This applies to both physical and psychological pain.
I would like
to suggest an approach to try the next time you really hurt.
Or perhaps you hurt now, and can take a moment to try this
technique. It's a meditation technique, so you have to
find a quiet spot where nobody will bother you for a while.
First of all,
assuming that this is a physical pain -- like a backache --
you have to realize that your body isn't you.
Understand that thoroughly before you begin. You are
not your body, nor is it you. The body is a vessel or
vehicle in which you reside for this lifetime.
your attention on the ache or pain; don't try to run from
it. Go into it, examine it. You'll notice after
a short while that it isn't a constant sensation, that it
rises and falls in waves. You'll also notice that the
more you examine it, your curiosity about the sensation
increases and the pain has less control over you.
this isn't your body (and by extension, this isn't your
pain, though you are aware of it) can't you find it in your
heart to feel compassion toward that aching back (or
knee, or head)? Send it love, kindness, compassion.
Don't feel sorry for yourself -- because this isn't about
YOU -- feel compassion toward the painful body part.
sound silly to you, but for many people, it WORKS. We
resist pain, which makes it hurt more. With this
technique, resistance ends, we tend to relax to the
sensation, and the body's natural painkillers kick in.
thought, it also works on psychological and emotional pain
as well, but sometimes it's a lot more difficult to separate
US from our feelings and thoughts. It can be done,
though. Here's how:
emotional pain involves an incident that happened when you
were a child. Can you step back and feel compassion
for that child? Not for YOU, because you are not that
child; you're an adult. But can you see the child and
feel for that child? Can you mourn, grieve, sympathize
for the child -- then feel pride for the way he or she moved
past the incident to become a successful and functional
Try this for
any hurt, up to the recent past. After all, you're not
the same person you were yesterday. Consciousness is
recreated constantly, rising and falling in waves too brief
to measure. We die to ourselves each day -- and are
subsequently reborn. All we have to connect ourselves
to ourselves is our memories, and these are imperfect
records of our experiences. In most cases, I suspect
we're a lot harder on ourselves than we would be on others.
So the trick
is to learn to see ourselves through the eyes of someone
forgive the person we were in the past for being less than
perfect? Can we feel compassion for the foolishness of
our younger counterparts? Can we let go of the anger,
distrust and grief that were the legacies of our past?
relationships we find that no matter how hard we try, we
cannot let go of our distrust. We find that open,
trusting relationships are simply impossible. Perhaps
this is because of incidents that occurred in our past.
If we were taught that the world is a frightening and
dangerous place, it's no wonder that we can't trust anyone.
But is it
possible to have a relationship with another person without
Can we have a
relationship with ourselves without trust?
at almost 44 years of age, that I've never really had a
relationship with another human being. I've been
married to people, lived with them, slept with them, argued
with them, maybe loved them -- I'm not sure I know what that
means, but maybe -- but I'm pretty sure I've ever had
that one-on-one, open, trusting relationship I've heard
about. What's known as a partnership.
I'd like to, but
I just don't know how to do it. My mother and my
father taught me to never trust another human being with my
heart. They did this by breaking mine over and over
until I learned that the only sanctuary for it was in
keeping it to myself.
I suppose their
parents did the same to them, and their parents to them, ad
infinitum. You know, the old-fashioned ways are best.
But food, now,
it's always there for you, always warm and delicious.
Pizza is always gooey and rich, and ice cream is sweet and
cold, chocolate gives you that loved feeling due to the
hormone oxcytocin. There's no judgment or trust issues with
food. It's easy to turn to this amenable, too-available
source of comfort.
But too much
food, or even the wrong food, hurts us. It's not an
act of love to overeat. The body is the raft that
carries us through life to whatever healing awaits us and we
have to take care of it. This requires discipline and
compassion for our personal needs. And even though we may have no problem
feeling compassion for others, we often stop short when it
comes to feeling compassion for ourselves.
There is a
lot of suffering in the world, very true -- but this neither
diminishes nor extinguishes our own, personal struggle.
Often, the harshness we feel toward ourselves are echoes of
what we've been told about ourselves by others. We're
afraid -- we FEAR -- that what we've been told about
ourselves is true. The sad truth is that we treat
ourselves worse, and judge ourselves far more harshly than
we would others. But the Buddha himself once said that we could search
the whole world and not find anyone more in need of
compassion than ourselves.
What has this to
do with trust and relationships? It seems to me that
trust can't occur without the elimination of this personal
fear. Perhaps the first step in learning to trust is
feeling compassion for those who break us. Shouldn't this
brave act free the heart of fear? And in that fertile
field, it seems, trust will find a place to flower.
When we learn to
trust ourselves, trust for others will naturally follow.
Or so I'm told. I'll have to take it on faith
Check out the picture I took
of the Luna moth at the left. I saw this fellow a few
years ago on the porch of a place I used to live.
These moths are rare in east Tennessee, by the way.
perfect duplication of the branches and leaves of trees.
The leaves and branches, by the way, matched that of the
Look at the
detail. Even though a cruder replication would
certainly do for Nature's purpose -- presumably protective
camouflage -- this is the work of a master watercolorist.
I was entranced
by this miracle. I sat and looked at the moth,
marveled at it, for over an hour. The moth let me.
I found out later that he Luna moth only lives a week.
An hour of its time was quite a span. I regretted
taking up so much of its short life.
By all accounts,
I'm an educated man. I have a college degree; I
understand evolution, natural selection, adaptive
coloration, etc. But nevertheless ...
I also recognize
a miracle when I see one. I acknowledge Magick.
Magick has been
defined as controlled and properly directed will. By
that definition, I think the moth is indeed Magickal.
I refuse to believe that the miracle of the moth's wings
On the subject
of free will, the Buddha remarked, "So many factors go into a
single event that it would be impossible to determine if our
actions are predetermined or the result of free will."
He went on to say, "Only an Omniscient Being could grasp the
events leading up to a single shimmer in a single eye in a
single feather in a Peacock's tail."
rendered branch proudly displayed on a moth's back?
My mind staggers
in its attempt to imagine what must have gone into the masterwork of that
moth's wings. I'm glad to live in a world that can
present me with such marvels now and again.
This morning I stepped on my
scales and my weight was 248!
This is the
first time I've been below 250 pounds in seven or eight
years. A major breakthrough.
slowly, but I'm doing some major spiritual work right now.
I'm about to begin some major PHYSICAL work too, which will
Mother's Day to all you mother's out there. You are
Sorry I've been
remiss in posting. I've been really busy with shows,
but here's a brief update:
vegetarian -- it's a very clean feeling; hard to describe
but the body definitely feels cleaned out.
Still deep into
Buddhist studies. Not ready to take to the yellow robe
yet, but it's had some very deep impact in my life.
And -- more
importantly to this project --
my weight is
down to 246 pounds!
I've tried my best not to get
involved in this war. I've tried my best.
of the prisoners.
And teenagers in
California SEEING it. Everyone SEEING it on the
Oh no. How
can this be?
The Words of the
Buddha from Dhammapada. Please listen:
tremble before violence.
All fear death.
All love life.
See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt?
What harm can you do?
He who seeks happiness
By hurting those who seek happiness
Will never find happiness.
For your brother is like you.
He wants to be happy.
Never harm him
and when you leave this life
you too will find happiness.
Never speak harsh words
For they will rebound upon you.
Angry words hurt
and the hurt rebounds.
Like a broken gong
Be still, be silent.
Know the stillness of freedom
Where there is no more striving.
Like herdsmen driving their cows into the fields,
Old age and death will drive you before them.
But the fool in his mischief forgets
And he lights the fire
Wherein one day he must burn.
A noble horse
Feels the touch of the whip.
Who is there in this world as blameless?
Then like a noble horse
Smart under the whip.
Burn and be swift.
Believe, meditate, see .
Be harmless, be blameless.
Awake to the law.
And from all sorrow free yourself.
The farmer channels water to his land.
The fletcher whittles his arrows.
The carpenter turns his wood.
And the wise man masters himself.
There's an interesting
concept in Buddhism called anatta, or "no-self."
Simply put, when Prince Gautama was meditating on the nature
of what it is to be a human being, he discovered that he
could break the human being into five skhandas or
"aggregates." After a person is broken down into these
aggregates, he discovered there was no "I" or self.
To the average
person, this seems ridiculous upon first hearing. Of
course we have a self. Don't we? I think I have
a self; there's a voice in my head.
Let's go into
Here are the
five aggregates: Form (body), volition (the
part of us that "decides"), perception (recognition) feeling and consciousness (in Buddhism, the
senses). Within these, we'll look for the location of
Well, I think
we're all pretty well agreed that the Form isn't
identifiable as this hypothetical self. If anything,
it's the vessel. So far, so good.
Volition is will, determination, decision -- basically, any motive
impulse that causes us to DO. It's linked with karma,
which is another story. I think we're safe in saying,
though, that volition isn't the "self."
Perception is the part of us that detects objects. For example,
when we look at a glass, perception recognizes that we're
looking at a glass, that it has a certain color, texture,
weight, etc. Perception evaluates and assigns values
to objects. Likewise with the other senses. Is
this then, "self?" No, because there's no driver
behind the wheel here. Perception simply identifies.
We have to move on.
Nah. Feeling is very simple: pleasant, unpleasant or
indifferent. Feeling is sensation, and we can all
agree that while feeling definitely has its place in our
makeup, it cannot be the "self."
Consciousness in Buddhism is the six senses. Six? Yes, in this
model the MIND is considered a sense organ, because just as
the eye senses visual objects, the mind senses
thought-objects. This is an important concept
later on as a person gets deeper into Buddhist studies; you
can't gloss over this point.
we're most likely to find that elusive SELF. I believe
that when most people think of "I" or "Me," we think of that
voice in our head. We'll bypass the ordinary five
sense-consciousnesses of eye, ear, taste, touch and smell
and get right to mind-consciousness.
what we're looking for is a "self" that exists in and of
itself, apart from any other component. By
definition, that's what it has to be to qualify as a "self." When we strip everything else away, what remains
must be "self." We can do this with every other
aggregate. If we try to make the mind the
"self," let's see why we can or can not.
The "voice in
our head" is thought. So who is the thinker?
The rather startling answer, which you can determine for
yourself simply by sitting in a quiet room and examining
your own inner workings for a while, is that there is no
difference between the thinker and the thought. Each
is a reflection of the other. To an outside observer,
a man standing in front of a mirror appears to be two men.
However, remove the man and the reflection disappears.
This is exactly the relationship between thinker and
thought: If you remove one, the other disappears. You
want proof? Try a severe head injury.
theory tells us that thought consciousness operates via the
electrical firings between neuronic synapses. Where,
in all this electrical activity, is the "I?" Thought
changes moment by moment, rising and dying with each passing
micro-second. Plus, as I rather gruesomely pointed
out, thought can be damaged and impaired by a good blow to
the head. A "self" by definition should be permanent
and unchangeable. There's nothing in us that meets
this definition. So, "self" isn't thought either,
because if you strip away thought, the thinker vanishes
away everything, just as the Buddha did, and haven't found
the "self." Oh well.
So why do we
have this illusion of a continual self? Well, the five
aggregates work together to create the "self" as a
temporary, functional formation in order to operate as a
cohesive entity. Without it, we would be like five
horses trying to pull a stagecoach in five different
directions. It's when we pull the aggregates apart
that the illusion of "selfhood" vanishes.
"But wait," I hear someone asking, "What about the soul?"
Oh man, let's
not go there.
Here's one for you:
pleasure when a sore is scratched,
But to be without sores is more pleasurable still;
There are pleasures in worldly desires,
But to be without desires is more pleasurable still.
And it's time
for another sermon. The First Noble Truth boils
down to "Existence is marked by Suffering," or as
some translators abruptly put it: "Life is
Suffering." When most people hear this, there's a
knee-jerk objection that usually comes out as, "Oh but
life is more than just suffering -- there's happiness too!"
Well, yes there
is, but human HAPPINESS isn't a problem. We don't sit
around and bemoan the state of human happiness.
We don't spend all of our time trying to solve the problem
of too much HAPPINESS in our lives, or in the world.
Actually, there's a problem with happiness, too: it isn't
lasting. Actually, states of happiness never last very
long at all. They're subject to decay and are by
nature impermanent. So even happiness eventually leads
to disappointment. This is part of the First Noble
and I mean most -- of human endeavor is spent on the
alleviation of human suffering. The disciplines of
medicine, science, psychology, law, technology, religion and
philosophy -- you name it, all concerned with the problem of
human suffering and how to alleviate it.
This is exactly
the problem Buddha set out to solve.
Noble Truth: Suffering Has a Cause.
And that cause
is threefold: Clinging, Aversion and Delusion.
Of these three, the Buddha placed particular emphasis on clinging. Clinging refers to selfish desires,
greed, attachment to the pleasant, separation from the
pleasant. An unsatisfied desire is suffering. A
satisfied desire increases desire like drinking salt water
increases thirst, because -- as noticed earlier -- no state
of pleasure lasts forever. We crave more and more,
like an addict craves his or her drug. At the heart of
this Noble Truth is this realization:
The more we
chase happiness -- the more we desire it -- the
further away it seems.
You know this is
true. Look into your own heart, at your own life, and
tell me that it isn't.
This leads us
naturally into the Third Noble Truth: By Ending
Desire, Suffering Ends. Does this take the passion
out of life? Does this mean we no longer love our
friends and significant others?
All it means is
that we quit clinging to (or depending on) anything for
happiness outside of ourselves. We accept that
everything in the world is subject to the laws of
impermanence and change. We still enjoy life. We
still take great pleasure in things. In fact, we take
more pleasure in experiences because we realize that
everything passes away.
Noble Truth tells us that by following the Eightfold
Path we can realize a state of existence called Nirvana.
When you realize that the word Nirvana comes from two
Pali words Nib (end) and bana (desire), it
gives you a clue about the nature of this state.
Nirvana is a state of existence that can't be described.
it isn't a heaven state, nor is it non-existence as some of
the early translators thought. Many thousands of words
have been written telling us what Nirvana isn't, but
what it is exactly nobody who isn't Enlightened knows.
It is the Indescribable.
Two true animal stories from
Diet for a New America : How Your Food Choices Affect
Your Health, Happiness and the Future of Life on Earth by John B. Robbins:
(1) You will not
find very many monuments to dogs in this world. But in
Edinburgh, Scotland, in a public area known as Greyfriar
Square, there stands a statue, erected by the local
citizens, in honor of a little terrier named Bobby.
Why did the
townspeople erect this statue? Because this little dog
taught them a lesson in the years he lived with them - a
most important lesson. Bobby the Scottish terrier had
no owner. And as often happens to small town dogs with
no master, he was kicked around by just about everybody, and
had to scrounge through garbage to get anything to eat.
Not what you would call an ideal life, even for a dog.
But it happened that there was in the village a dying old
man named Jock. In his last days, the old man noticed
the plight of the sorry little dog. There wasn't much
he could do, but he did buy the little fellow a meal one
evening at the local restaurant. Nothing fancy, just
some scraps. But it would be hard for anyone to
over-estimate the extent of Bobby's gratitude.
thereafter, Jock died. When the mourners carried his
body to the grave, the terrier followed them. The
gravediggers ordered him away, and when he refused to leave
they kicked him and threw rocks at him. But still the
dog stood his ground, and would not leave no matter what
From then on,
for no less than fourteen years, little Bobby honored the
memory of the man who had been kind to him. Day and
night, through harsh winter storms and hot summer days, he
stood by the grave. The only time he ever left the
gravesite was for a brief trip each afternoon back to the
restaurant in which he had met Jock, in hopes of scavenging
something to eat. Whatever he got he would solemnly
carry back to the grave, and eat there. The first
winter Bobby had almost no shelter, huddling beneath
tombstones when the snow was deep. By the next winter,
the townspeople were so touched by his brave and lonely
vigil that they erected a small shelter for him. And
fourteen years later, when little Bobby died, they buried
him where he lay alongside the man whose last gesture of
kindness he had honored with such devotion.
(2) A San
Francisco science fair recently awarded a prize to a junior
high school student whose science project consisted of
cutting the head off a live frog with a pair of scissors, to
find out whether frogs swim better with or without their
brains. Of course, this is not the only case of frogs
being treated cruelly in our schools. They are often
dissected by children ostensibly learning how life works.
But what did
this youngster learn through his experiment? I think
he learned that it is all right to treat other living things
as if they have no feelings, as if they are nothing but
machines. I think he learned disrespect for life.
And I wouldn't call that a good thing. The science
fair judges, however, obviously disagree with me, for they
commended the boy on his contributions to the forward march
of science, predicted great things for his future, and
rewarded him for scientifically proving that: Frogs will not
swim with their brain missing unless harassed. A frog swims
better with its head on.
The attitude we
develop towards animals as children tends to stay with us
through the rest of our lives. And it continues to
influence our experience, not only of animals, but of other
people, ourselves, and life itself. There is a great
deal of evidence from all over the world indicating that
people who have, as children, learned to care for animals,
grow up more capable of caring for themselves, and for other
Here's a link to
this "Cut Frog" experiment, with a video:
*All I can say
Still 246 pounds (hard for me
to believe, when you consider that at this time last year I
was nearly 296 pounds) still vegetarian (still hard to
believe how easy it is to avoid meat -- no cravings at all)
and still have a fairly good outlook on life, although I
have my moody moments.
Now, let me tell
you this: the other day, I had this terrific craving for
something involving chocolate and caramel. So I went
to a really good restaurant and ordered a dessert with
coffee and enjoyed every bite, with total concentration (see
my discussions on Mindful Eating). Man was it good.
Did I kick myself? Did I think, "Oh No! I broke
my winning streak! Now I'll gain all that weight
back!" Did I think any of these thoughts?
How silly. My relationship with food has totally
changed. If you've followed the course of this
rambling blog, you've seen my process for reprogramming my
emotional relationship with food over the past year. I
don't do that all-or-nothing, panic thinking, guilt stricken
type of behavior. It was a piece of amazingly
delicious sweet food. And I enjoyed it. It
satisfied a craving. And I let it go. My
next meal was a vegetable stir-fry with tofu, which I
enjoyed just as much. The one after that was a veggie
delight sandwich from Subway. And so on ...
I think the
point here is that if you make something too difficult on
yourself you won't stick with it. Someone, an outside
observer, might say that I was "cheating" on my diet.
There would be several inaccuracies with this statement: (1)
I'm not on a diet; my approach to weight reduction is
strictly focused on dealing with the emotional underpinnings
and letting the food issues take care of themselves as the
body seeks its own "healthy zone" (2) "cheating?"
Cheating who, and according to what rules? There's no
emotional issues tied in with my eating.
that's not entirely true. Vegetarianism is a
different story. I don't eat meat for ethical reasons.
There are a whole lot of health reasons that make a
vegetarian lifestyle very attractive as well, but for me the
primary reasons for abandoning meat are ethical. So,
it's not like I can have a hamburger or a rack of ribs and
blow it off like I did the chocolate/caramel masterpiece.
I can't simply say that it was just a few extra calories
that will even out in the long run. It would be a
violation of my personal ethics, and that's something I take
consider all the factors that contribute to your physical,
emotional and mental well-being -- environmental, genetic,
psychological, the whole spectrum of human life -- the
single factor over which you have the most control is what
Food is very
Weight reduction alert: down
another coupla pounds, this morning I was 244.
I find it difficult to practice Right Speech when dealing
with stupid people. Especially stupid people who read
a few new-age books and try to sound like Enlightened gurus.
I won't go into details but I made many sarcastic remarks
this weekend that probably set my karmic cleansing back
several lifetimes of unfortunate rebirths.
I attempted to
trace back my family tree, but in East Tennessee sometimes
you just DON'T WANT TO KNOW. You know how usually the
chart start with you, then branches off into two, then four,
and expand outward? Well, mine went in angles, doubled
back on itself, traveled back through time, and from what I
could gather, I'm my own cousin.
diagram was so confusing that I took it to a geometry
professor to try to figure it out. He got back with me
and said, "Well, there's good news and bad news. The
bad news is that, genetically speaking, you're probably not
legally a human being. But the good news is that
you've been nominated for the Nobel Prize for coming up with
a new twist on Chaos Theory."
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