Posted by: innerpilgrimage | March 31, 2011

Eating, Learning, Loving (Praying)

      Right now I am watching the director’s cut of Eat, Pray, Love while I am composing this. I’ve been thinking about being the message over the last two days, and I’ve been enjoying some really good spiritual enlightenment.

      I read the book last year, at the beginning of July. It moved the Hell out of me, despite the romance in the “Love” (return to Bali) section. I resented that part so very, very much. I was on a spiritual journey and wanted “the big self-love” answer not a relationship with a sexy and interesting man who just triggered that anxiety of the dangers of romantic passion (which is why I landed in an SLAA room not long after reading that). The book’s sequel, Committed, is much more powerful in terms of her internal journey as an individual in a relationship. She had to come to terms with a lot of messages about love, marriage, and commitment in order to unburden those loaded words from what she had learned over her life.

      I just took a break from the movie to continue my journaling. Right now, the taxi she is in is speeding-slash-careening toward the ashram in the middle of the night. There were some good messages in the first two parts–New York and Italy. Expectations, infatuation, and learning to appreciate being loving to one’s self. Yes, it’s through food–my great and powerful addiction–but the permission to eat so far has not been to avoid, but to appreciate. To nourish. To experience life as it comes and feed the mind (she does it through learning the nuances of the Roman lifestyle), feed the body (she does it through tasting Italy without guilt), and feed the soul (she does it by making friends instead of turning to a man–which she could have done but chose not to). Yes, it’s possible she shifted addictive acting out–moving from a love addiction and the need to have a man to have an identity to one of eating to fulfill that passion–but she also ate with others. Like she lived with others. And she learned to be alone, even with the food.
      Looking forward to the part about Richard from Texas at the ashram. (Sadly, Richard passed away Thursday, March 4, 2010, but his life lessons live on). His were lessons I felt intensely, a homespun manner which resonated even as he shared his understanding about finding G-d and the soul.
      So, I got some journaling in my paper book, and I’d like to share it here:
      “Spiritual recovery is about acceptance, progress, and intuitive growth. It’s about surrendering the illusion of control for the reality of acceptance. It’s about things that must be discovered within, not taught. It’s about breaking down the filters through which I learned to see a world which I thought was only pain.
      “Others controlled my world as a child. I relied on them for all of my basic needs. My physical needs were met. I had food (in abundance), shelter, clothing. My mental needs were met–I had educators, books, and any number of authorities to teach me how to manipulate the physical world around me. My spiritual needs were not met.”
      I have/had a gaping void where love should rest. As I learn how love permeates my existence, how it is defined without words (as a “normal” person enjoys effortlessly), I am learning to love as an adult through spiritual trial and error. I have given myself permission by doing Steps 2 and 3, to believe in something which is everything. And part of that everything is the power of order and creation beyond my human imagining. Spirituality is about the unknown, about, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers explain in Snow [(Hey Oh)]:

“When it’s killing me
What do I really need?
All that I need to look inside.

“The more I see, the less I know
The more I like to let it go.”

      My physical and mental recovery are all about this world, the one which I am limited by. My physical recovery is an outer journey, one people see all of the time. My mental recovery is part of that broad expanse within my head, that place no one can truly see except in my personality and even my writing. These belong to this world, and are limited by the physical body I occupy–from the skin the world sees to the expanse of mind held within the brain that sits nestled in a fishbowl of bone on top of my neck.
My spiritual recovery has no limits. It has no beginning, no end, no depth, no breadth. It is timeless. It never ages. There is never a limit or a saturation point I could reach. And it, unlike mental and physical recovery, is not so much worked toward as experienced fully. The body changes; mental messages change; spiritual truths embed themselves and change us completely.
      A mental message is not a spiritual truth, because it doesn’t have an organic intuitive part to it. A mental message is generally a logical progression which comes from experimentation through trial-and-error. It is an hypothesis, an experiment which requires the correct conditions to have an outcome fulfilled. Mental messages can be disproved, and it requires a lack of acceptance to maintain them when reality shows itself as not having the correct conditions most of the time.
      A spiritual truth can change a mental message, but it’s not a mental message. A spiritual truth comes from an “aha!” moment. It cannot be disproved because it is part of faith. It is expansive, not limiting. It isn’t bound by perfect conditions to make it happen. A spiritual truth brings with it the acceptance and serenity that correct conditions aren’t necessary to find and know (even if there are no words to express it) what is. It transcends time, it transcends the beginning and the end of the human journey of one life–from conception to the body and mind ceasing.
      In my experience, I feel like spiritual truths aren’t like learning to do something. There is no gradual increase in a skill through practice–like reading or writing or praying or cooking or eating compulsively or manipulating people. To learn a mental message requires one success which drives the desire to pursue it. One successful use of food to distract me from the pain of real life drove me to practice it as a constant life distraction. I became a pro compulsive eater. One successful application of manipulation (particularly by denying my personal power as a human being and taking on the ideal, helpless woman) to distract me from the pain of not getting the approval of my core family drove me to practice it as a constant life distraction. I became a pro Distressed Damsel.
      They sustained me far beyond their usefulness. I definitely know this because I started vigilantly searching for G-d in my mid-30s. I had my mid-life crisis at that point–realizing that I had buggered away half of my life (seeing as a lot of people die in their 60s and early 70s). I didn’t have the advantage of having my twenties to make up for it any more. And middle age (being 40-plus, as I am now) bore down on me like a freight train with no brakes. I started to search for meaning, and I found none because I was searching without, not within. I was seeking the authority beyond myself for the truth about G-d.
      Problem was . . . I had left religion for precisely that reason. And that was a good reason to leave. I found my Higher Power in those walls, was led to a sense of peace and spiritualism through the simplicity of the message as it was presented to me as a child. That is one of the most beautiful things of spiritual lessons–the simplicity. When layers of complexity were lain down, when rules were thrown out which conflicted with that simple message, the facade became more important than the message. As was said once to me (I paraphrase, since this was in 1992, at an SVDP loading dock gorgeous early weekend morning): “I don’t have to go to church. G-d is everywhere. I can find [G-d] in the mountains, outside, anywhere.”
      Religion is the building to me. Religion is a construct of man which states, “This is where G-d lives. Wipe your feet before you come in.” Spirituality is the sky to me. It is not a construct; I have no idea where it begins or ends or if it does at all. There are no walls, there are no rituals, there is nothing I must do specially to curry favor to a deity with human qualities. In other words, the minute G-d–for one second!–has a human quality, It gains fallibility. The minute anyone can say they know what G-d wants (of course, it’s most often couched in a lesson about what I am doing wrong), then G-d has opinions and will. And that, to me, conflicts with the concept of omniscience and omnipotence.
      The concept of a Devil is probably the biggest “Hunh?” for me. A being which is supposed to be inferior to G-d has so much power that the beings G-d loves are allowed to be tormented by it? That’s malice, right there. Love is not pain, no matter how much people try to say it is. Love is acceptance, and when we accept things as they are, the loss and fear and anger we experience become opportunities to grow. They, in essence, become “good”. For example, if I believe G-d doesn’t make mistakes, then homosexuality is not a mistake. If it was, it wouldn’t exist because G-d wouldn’t allow it to exist. To put a Devil into the mix to explain one’s fear of what is not one’s expression of love is to condemn love, itself. The gay men and women I have known love precisely the same way that straight people do. Why? Because love is not part of the physical and mental experience. Love is not infatuation or passion. Love is not limited because it exists in the unlimited realm of the spiritual. How our minds and bodies express love is part of this realm; how our souls express love is beyond it. And it doesn’t matter what the vessel containing that spark of eternity turns toward in order to express that love in physical and mental form–be it heterosexuality, homosexuality, or non-sexuality. To say that something is a sin is to tell me that G-d is human, belongs to the physical and mental planes, exists as a limited creation of man. Nope. My Higher Power is much simpler than that. My Higher Power IS. It does not DO, it does not HAVE, it does not WANT. It simply IS.
      As for me? I’m human. I make mistakes and can learn from them. I can be open or I can be closed to spiritual truths. I can try to control though closing my eyes to possibilities because those possibilities are daunting. Those possibilities show me how infinitessimal I am in the grand scheme of things. I don’t want to be the Universal equivalent to one of Dr’ Seuss’s Whos. I don’t want to have my grandiose thoughts of myself distilled into the possibility that I am as insignificant as I was taught by those who had authority over me because I was limited by my infancy and childhood needs.
      Once upon a time, my parents were G-d. I called on them to feed my physical, mental, and spiritual needs. If they were suffering from the hunger of spiritual nourishment? They couldn’t feed me that.
      I consider it’s why people who have suffered starvation and lack of education in Third World countries can still have a depth of peace that transcends time and space. They might not have the nourishment I had in abundance, but they were fed spiritually.
      In Italy, Liz is asked what her word for herself is, and a conversation about the words which distill us, the single words which describe cities. She comes up with “writer”, which honestly is what I’d come up with for myself–since that is what I feel I am. Someone at the table points out that it is what she does; she again is asked what word describes who she is. And as I think about it, I realize that I do writing, too, just like I do recovery and do addictive affliction. I practiced and got good at those things in the physical and mental worlds. I used my limited self to make those things happen through regular application.
      I think my word is “Message”. This is a huge part of the policy of attraction rather than promotion in Overeaters Anonymous. I mean, I have the kind of staggering weight loss over a short period of time which could get people in the door. In eighteen months, I lost more than 100 lbs.–after spending my adulthood obese and most of my child and adult life overweight. In 13 months (June 2009 to July 2010), I lost 100 lbs., and in 19 months (June 2009 to December 2010), I reached a 125-lb. weight loss that I have settled at–give or take 5 lbs–for three months. This appears to be where my body has landed, because I don’t feel denied food-wise and I feel able to move through this world with exceptional ease. Well, except when it’s 75 degrees Fahrenheit or less. I chill easily, and I’ve recently learned that when I am cold, I actually am in physical pain. Lots of body aches, major discomfort. Just like I was when I was obese and it was hot, though that pain was a dull thrum and I felt sluggish all of the time. It’s part of reality–there is no perfect condition for this theoretically perfect weight. I still feel pain. I just feel it under different circumstances, now.
      Kinda like moving from the pain of fighting for control while in addiction to the pain of being a human in reality. I don’t get a life without loss or conflict or fear. That’s not reality, and that’s what I struggled with until I submitted to the food and the romantic obsessions. I had to escape, to take a vacation. And I didn’t have the expanse of reality to vacation in–just my overactive imagination and the physical places my money and my body could go.
      Anyhoo . . . though I’m not sure what the message I am supposed to be is, it allows me to open myself up to those infinite possibilities. Sharing the message of recovery involves sharing my physical, mental, and spiritual progress. It involves sharing what I do (physical and mental) and who I am (spiritual).
      And if someone wants what I’ve gained so far–even in the infancy of my recovery–I will share it. My life is not perfect because I lost the weight and I’m changing my perceptions of my role in the world . . . thank HP.
      My name is Jess, and I am an addict. My drugs of choice are food–from bingeing to anorexia–and obession–from overt manipulation to gain approval to retreating into isolation. And now I am on my way to an ashram in India to see Julia Roberts learn from actor Richard Jenkins what Elizabeth Gilbert learned from Richard from Texas.


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