For the sake of clarity, when I use the term "greed" I am referring to the deeper understanding I have of it from my Zen practice. I use the term greed to refer to both the urge to pull in more of things that are pleasurable and the urge to push away things that are displeasurable.
On one level it is sort of ridiculously obvious how greed and the uncontrolled urge to consume fit into the problem of obesity. Duh.
But what I'm really talking about is how these urges on a more subtle level led me astray and fit into the patterns that were never resolved by a simple reduction in the number of calories I consumed along with a concomitant increase in my energy expenditures. Indeed, the entire fatloser.org concept and execution of the website itself was an exercise in greed (it is no longer such). The process of losing the weight was an exercise in greed. I lived that entire period of weight loss in late 2004 with a leaning, greedy mindset.
I was pursuing a leaner body, better health, and open availability of romantic opportunity. I was leaning with my mind so far into those rewards that I became mindless and deluded. I lost contact with the now, with reality. I did not live for the benefit of all sentient beings. 2550 years ago Buddha discovered that these patterns lead straight to pain, suffering and loss. He's still right.
To put it another way, the problem was that I was not honoring the now. I was trying to skip over who, what, where and why I am now. By doing that, I was operating in and responding to a world of delusion and ignorance, or more correctly IGNORE-ance. I was ignoring reality. I ignored the fact that I was still dreadfully insecure about my competence as a sexual being. I ignored my fear. I ignored my distorted thinking. I ignored my thoughts about myself as if it was actually the shape and weight of my body that was causing them. I thought (and I am moved to remind everyone that this period just preceded the resumption of my Zen practice) that I could just stick it out with all of those mental habits until I lost the weight and they would then disappear as if the extra poundage itself was causing them.
That was some serious delusion. Mind-numbing IGNORE-ance.
So, where does this insight leave me? Being here now. NOT in the same place I was in August of 2004. Now.
Last night it was my turn to give the Dharma talk for my Sangha (Buddhist for "congregation," or "church"). We were working our way around the 12 sections of the outer rim of the wheel of life, a visual tool based on the Buddha's teachings about conditional co-creation (the 12 Nidanas), or how concepts live and die in the mind. The last of these is death, one of my favorite subjects, an area of my expertise, so I volunteered to give the talk. It went well. I was a bit of a rock star for a moment and I had groupies.
Several of the female members of my sangha were very attentive to me after the talk, it was very nice, not the first time it has happened, but what is different is how the experience felt on the inside. I was wide open to the attention. No fear, no resistance, no second-guessing, just open-hearted interaction with a handful of women I am attracted to and enjoy. It was very calm and natural, which is something TOTALLY different from the experience that I used to have in these situations.
I really believe that my work with Mona and Karen in group, as well as the relationship I had with the patient I mentioned a couple of months ago, as well as the current female friends I have, has really begun to move these mental patterns around my conditioned response to this kind of stimulus in a way that changes my outlook on a whole bunch of other things. I notice that my thoughts about food and eating are changing in ways that I did not expect.
Adherence to an eating plan that encourages metabolism of fat stores has always been an exercise in strictly judgmental and paternal discipline for myself. I might try to cushion it a bit with cheerleading about my proximity to rewards, or more abstract concepts like "loving myself," but the fact is I was doing what recovering alcoholics call "white-knuckling." That is, I was hanging on to something very tightly day-in day-out to force myself to do something I did not really want to do, to buck a pattern by simply not indulging it, the proverbial forcing of the round peg into the square hole.
This, I think, is what ellem was referring to with his assertions that I should just stop [fill in blank] if I wanted to effect some change. As I told him, one can effect external changes this way, people do it all of the time, in fact, I had done it this way. The problem I had was that these changes are subject to reversals once I found that I could no longer sustain my grip on being someone I wasn't.
Now, what I am noticing is that I actually think about Mona while I am deciding about food choices. Its not "I have to give up this cheeseburger in order to have sex with her," its "What kind of choice do I want to make in the context of who I am now?" Mona, and my relationship with her, is part of my context now. I have people I care for and want to be close to meeting me, coming toward me, loving me, and that makes the cheeseburger (as a symbol of stuffing my loneliness with food) irrelevant. I rather am interested in what kind of food will sustain and nourish me so that I feel the way I want to *feel* in order to be present for my life, which includes my relationship with Mona, Karen, Carol, Irene, et al.
That's change is now, here. It is not something I am waiting to have happen once I change the heft and contours of this body. That's the difference I am noticing. I am making changes now that will obviously cause me to metabolize the excess fat stores, but the changes are not about something I want in the future, the changes are about caring for what I have now. I am not leaning with my mind into something that is not real right now, I am living mindfully aware of my current context and what taking care in that context means.
That is radically different.
Thanks for reading.