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Putting Eating in its Place

Posted by tinako on June 3, 2012

I read an article my dad clipped out of The Wall Street Journal for me, “A Divine Way to Resist Temptation,”which is about how it seems to be easier for people to control what they eat when the restraint is religious-based, such as kosher rules.

We’re not Jewish, and my dad probably recognized that I would appreciate this not from a religious law basis, but from a values perspective.  It is not hard for me to resist eating animal products, because they are so dissonant with who I want to be.  A friend, standing with me in front of a non-vegan dessert display, once told me I must have a lot of willpower.  Her comment took me by surprise because willpower doesn’t enter into it.  These products represent misery and do not appeal to me at all.

This brings me to something I heard in a Buddhist talk.  Gil Fronsdale made the point that sometimes what seems like patience, isn’t.  For someone whose buttons are being pressed, say by a long ticket line, they have to actively be patient, but if their buttons have been deactivated through practice, there is no call for their patience – the wait in line is just not a problem.  And Starbucks desserts don’t press my buttons any more.

Returning to the title of this posting, when we forgo the pleasure of certain foods or accept the boredom of waiting, whether for a higher power, compassion, or just to remind ourselves of the Buddhist concept that waiting in line is a perfectly fine place to be, what we’re doing is taming our sense that we have to have what we want when we want it, being slaves to pleasure of all sorts.  (Do you understand the difference between pleasure and happiness?  This seems like a good explanation.)  One of my favorite parts of my daughter’s choice to become vegan is that she will get lots of practice saying no thanks; I believe this will make her stronger in every aspect of her life.

Veganism was the big push – it was a painful decision, but then I was highly motivated to say no to a lot of food.  Since then I’ve found that every time I decide to reduce another food in my diet, it gets a little easier, counter-intuitive if you consider that with each restriction the pool gets smaller.  But I’m just not that attached to any particular food that much any more – I love my choices and the taste of food, but none of it has hold of me.  What a feeling of liberation, and this from someone who couldn’t have candy or tortilla chips without gorging.  I find this decrease in attachment translates over into other parts of my life as well – I could just as well call this post “Putting Pleasure in its Place.”

So if your habits seem too hard to overcome, try to find a more compelling reason to let them go.

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