CARBOWHORE: Part 2
Despite what I knew and how I felt when I ate sugar, I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t go one day without white sugar. Like a bartender turned alcoholic, my passion for food had turned into an obsession. An addiction to be exact.
The lightbulb turned on after my first Vipassana meditation course. For those of you who won’t know what this is, it is a completely FREE volunteer-run 10-day meditation course held in hundreds of locations across the world. Register here: www.dhamma.org
Seriously. It will change your life. It’s not a retreat per se – it’s quite strict. denominational but founded in Buddhist principles, a businessman named S.N. Goenka discovered this ancient form of meditation when he was dealing with crippling headaches and introduced it to the Western world. After you register and are accepted, depending on the center you go to, you need to bring your own sheets and possibly your own cutlery and plates.
You know why that fancy grain bowl with tons of macrobiotic veggies and yummy sauce is called a Buddha bowl? Because basically monks had that one bowl and went around begging for food. So a mish-mosh of (IMHO awesome stuff).
There were actually real monks at the course I did in Taizong, Taiwan. This woman was was amazing. She was a former teacher, and she was just there with her shaved head and robe and meditated with us. Then in her off time she was running around flying to San Francisco and who knows where else – really busy woman! She invited me to stay at her monastery. I never took her up in that. (Ponders whether or not to dig through all her old papers to find this monk’s name…still pondering…)
So yes you register, gotta bring your own gear, and the long-sleeved clothing and expect to do your laundry by hand. Men and women are separated, and you are either in a large dormitory, a shared room with a few other women, OR some nicer newer places like in France had individual partitioned areas. It’s actually better to share a room so you don’t feel as lonely and are motivated to meditate and go to the meditation hall.
Because – the best and WORST part about Vipassana is – NO TALKING. Noble Silence. And no distractions like singing, humming, exercising, reading, writing, listening to music. Not even eye contact with the other meditators.
You also fast from 4pm until 6am, only allowed fruit at 4pm your first course, but every course thereafter only delicious lemon tea 🙂 And you turn in your phones and books snacks and writing materials etc – so you have no choice but to confront yourself.
This is going to start sounding like an Eat, Pray, Love scene – because it so totally was. After a horrible breakup with the love of my life (my ex happened to be Parisian – we met in California), I moved to France in 2012, worked as a yacht chef, for the rich and famous, eating my way around the gastronomic, hedonistic holy land that is Paris and the French Riviera (Côte d’Azur). Then with loads of money in my bank account and no real place to call home after my first Mediterranean season, I realized I had everything, but absolutely nothing.
This is why rich people are miserable. Because at least if you are ‘poor,’ (c’mon, first worlders, if we have an indoor toilet and running water from the tap we can drink from, we are LOADED), anyways if you are not a gazillionaire with a yacht, you really think that money will solve all your problems and you always have some kind of hope that will be the answer.
But those who have it all externally know the truth. And then they gotta start doing the real work. Inside. Otherwise, die of drug overdoses.
So, like Elizabeth Gilbert in her famed noved, I went to my ashram. And in there, with unbearable pain surging through my body and tears streaming down, not from the pain of sitting for 10+ hours a day but the emotional pain we feed into – the crucial thing I learned, not just read and heard, but what I discovered through the exploration of my own internal, spiritual world – is that:
Attachment is the root of all suffering. As Buddhist said. And the more attached or the more you hate something, the suckier life is. And those who have addictions (be it rat or human), is hopelessly lost in that pendulum between highs and lows. And I realized what I thought was the emotion to be happy, was really just – BEING HIGH. On white sugar. My drug of choice. Chaos. Guilt. Shame. Adrenaline. The harder your climb, the harder you fall.
It took me a really long time to piece it all back altogether. But I had thankfully started the journey. Of my spiritual awakening. It was a pitch black sheet of construction paper, with just a single pinprick and the light shining through. and throughout the years, I have been tearing it open little by little. It’s been more than 6 years later now!
I joined a 12-step program Overeaters Anonymous, which helped me stay grounded while travelling out of my suitcase still. But I was still eating. Hardcore. Daily stint of 6-7 desserts a day. Even to the point when I opened my own restaurant, Graze, www.GrazeCafe.fr , a superfood, organic vegan cafe which is supposed to be the ambassador of healthy eating, I was stuffing my face with banana bread after almost every service. 1) Well geezus my banana bread is so freaking good, and 2) I needed comfort and motivation to keep, going. I was quite lonely, and at one point was sleeping on the floor of my cafe to make ends meet.
So it was not an overnight journey. Even to this day I look back a year ago and remember asking my partner if I could have a piece of chocolate. A bite of his dessert. You think it’s harmless until one turns into 3, then 10 the third day. I learned it was physical, emotional and spiritual legs of the malady. Spiritual – feeling like you have no control in the world and that is scary, lack of faith in a Higher Power, so you control food, others, anything, to just feel like it will be ok. Physical because there is an actual physical trigger and reaction and stronger neural connections each time you consume that substance or repeat that behavior. And emotional because, in a lot of addicts emotional toolbox, there is just one plank of wood with a whole bunch of nails sticking out, that we use to just bash our heads in over and over again. And then wipe it off and put it back in the box. Like don’t be weak, do better, chin up, keep going. There isn’t say, a telephone to call a friend, or a self-help book or something in there.
Funny maybe you guys thought this was going to be about food, which it is, but it is not just that. It is about consumption in general. What you feed on – the thoughts in your head, what spews from the mouth of others, the insidious marketing telling you you are less than, societal programming – how can one compete? Indulging in our addiction does actually tune all the noise out and get in the moment – if only for that split second.
I don’t know about you, but I hated my mundane life. Not only did I go through the completely opposite of a chaotic life where I was in a different city, bus, plane or train every day did I embrace my ordinary ‘landlubber’ problems. If you don’t know what I talking about, watch Office Space 🙂 I actually worked at a place that had TPR reports! (Tracking Productivity Report I think it meant).
If this sounds like you, and you are suffering. There isn’t anything wrong with you. Almost in a way, you are lucky, because when your whole life goes to crap, it forces you to stop and reconsider how you are living your life. And then you can start climbing that tiny spiritual ladder.