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Archive for September 1st, 2010

Today I feel like my monkey mind has been flinging its poo towards the insides of my skull. Even tonight while sitting at the Zen center I felt my mind fighting me with everything it could. I was wanting to just sit and be quiet and focus on my breathing but my mind just wouldn’t calm down. It never really did. It started when I realized that it was so quiet in the room that I could hear my ears producing a steady hum. It wasn’t really a ringing in my ears, it was more like hearing the blood flow through them. Since that was the only thing I could hear, my mind kept fixating on it and wouldn’t stop returning to the noise of the silence. I was very thankful that we had a fan going for our walking meditation and our second round of sitting because that meant there was enough background noise that I could no longer hear the distracting sounds of my own ears.

Once I was free of the ringing, I had to deal with a barrage of crazy thoughts one after another. I’d keep bringing my mind back to the center where I was only focused on breathing but I couldn’t stay in that place for long at all. Whether it was the numbness in my foot or the itch on my back or a song I had heard earlier in the day being played on a loop I could not keep my mind under control. I know that this is normal for meditation so I’m not going to get too upset about it. This was more of an annoyance than anything. I am thinking of it as being similar to when you are trying to have an important conversation with your spouse and a your child keeps interrupting to tell you something completely pointless and not worthy of a lot of attention. You wish that the interruption would go away but you still love the thing doing the interrupting.

My mind has been like this all day. I had a hard time at work because I was constantly having to bring myself back to the task at hand. I’m trying to tackle a couple of difficult problems and I needed to be able to concentrate in order to really solve them. I’ll still have some problems to deal with tomorrow because I just couldn’t get through all of them today due to a lack of concentration. It’s a good thing that tomorrow is a new day. That means I have a whole new set of opportunities to be able to concentrate and focus. That’s the great thing about the present: it’s always new.

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Last night I had half of a fried cheese stick. I haven’t eaten anything like that in a while and I have to admit it was really good. Even though it was cold it was very tasty. I figured that I’d like the flavor of it but what I wasn’t expecting was what came next. About 5 to 10 seconds after swallowing it I felt this wave of euphoria pulsing through my brain. I could actually feel my brain release endorphins in response to what I had just ingested. I couldn’t believe how strong my reaction to it was. I would occasionally feel that kind of response from coffee or soda in the mornings when I had my first cup but I’ve never experienced it in response to food. I know that there is still some debate about whether one can really be addicted to food but my reaction has convinced me that I am an addict to high fat/salty/fried foods. I’ve said here a number of times that what I’m trying to do is to change my lifestyle and I know that means making long-term changes but last night I realized just how much of a commitment that really was. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat some of the things I used to enjoy so much ever again. Much like a person who is trying to quit smoking, I am trying to quit unhealthy foods. I have actually experienced a craving today for more. I badly wanted to walk down the street to the burrito restaurant and get myself a big hunks of meat and cheese and beans and salsa and fried corn chips and potatoes all wrapped up in a tortilla. I called my wife on the phone so that she could give me the encouragement I needed to not do that. I ended up going to the cafeteria and getting a salad as I usually do for lunch. Even there, it was really hard to walk to the salad bar instead of getting a burger or pizza or ravioli or soda or ice cream or candy. I considered each one of these things today as I walked through the cafeteria. After all, who would know what I had eaten? No one is keeping me on this path except me. Instead of giving in to these cravings though, I stopped and really focused on my breathing. I spent a little time in mindfulness and I went to the salad bar and got the food that I knew would be the best for me. If I weren’t on a path of mindfulness and meditation, I would never have been able to stand up to the cravings that my brain was throwing at me today.

When I was standing there, surrounded by wonderful smells and sights all tempting me, I remembered back to something I used to do when I was out of control: I would eat in secret. This wasn’t something I did a lot of but occasionally I would get off of work and go through a drive through and get a fast food meal and a soda. Then, when I got home, I’d eat dinner with my family. They had no idea that I was on my “second dinner” (Honey, I know that you’ll read this before I get home to see you so I’m sorry I never told you). I was never happy with myself when I did this but I felt so hopeless and lost at the time that I just didn’t care. I knew that if I got the foods that I was craving that I’d be doing what I used to do: eating in secret and then covering it up. In this case, I knew that it’d also mean having to lie about what I ate since I knew my wife would ask me what I had for lunch when I got home. This was the motivation that I needed to stay away from the cravings. I had an enjoyable lunch and was filled and satisfied with my salad when I left.

It’s amazing the kinds of things that your brain will do when it is craving something. The appeals to logic, emotion and threats of pain can be quite intense. I found myself thinking “I’ve lost 35 pounds already. Isn’t that enough?” The one that made me laugh was when I thought to myself, “I’m really suffering here. Don’t I want to end my suffering? I can do that if I grab a slice of sausage pizza and some hot wings”. The appeal to the Four Noble Truths to end the suffering of my cravings was quite amusing. Fortunately, because focused on breathing and be mindfulness I knew that it would be a temporary easing of the craving but it would end up causing even more suffering in the end. When the food drug comes calling, I’m glad to know that I have a few weapons to resist it. It’s also good to know that I’ve had some success and that I can continue to do so. I’m looking forward to this evening when I go to the Zen Center and I spend time in meditation. I think that focusing on my breathing and sitting quietly are exactly what I need right now. I also think I’m going to go to the store on the way home and pick up some fresh spinach for a salad. Unlike lunch, I’m looking forward to dinner.

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