When you eat out of hunger, you tune in to yourself. When you eat in response to cravings, you tune in to the environment.
Try this: some time this week contrast and compare craving-driven eating and hunger-driven eating. On a scheduled craving-driven eating day, eat each and every time you have a craving. On a scheduled hunger-driven eating day, eat only if you are hungry.
Notice a process of social and environmental synchronization. When you eat in a craving-driven fashion, you eat each and every time the environment presents you with a powerful enough stimulus to elicit a craving in you. As a result, you become attuned to the environment, eating in sync, as if line-dancing with a crowd of strangers. Everybody eats, and you eat.
Any mind is a hostage to its habits. Perfectionistic mind – even more so. Perfectionist’s mind is a high security prison guarded by guilt-tripping shoulds. Thomas Hurka, in a philosophical analysis of the idea of perfectionism, observes: “The perfectionist ideal is a moral ideal <…>: it is an ideal people ought to pursue regardless of whether they now want it or would want it in hypothetical circumstances, and apart from any pleasures it may bring.” (1993, p. 17).
Restated the doctrine of perfectionism means that we should strive for the sake of striving, not because it feels good, but just because. Preaching perfectionism for the sake of perfectionism is akin to idealistic hazing designed to override the fundamentals of human motivation and to override free will.
If I tell you to dig a perfect hole in the ground, for no reason other than that you can, and you comply without any questions, you are a soldier of the absurd, a zombie. Striving for perfection for no particular reason or gain, just because, is masochistic insanity that can be only tolerated through reflexive compliance.
Eating changes both body and mind, the total of who we are. What we eat and how much we eat changes who we are physiologically. Why we eat and how we eat changes who we are psychologically.
Mindlessness is Blindness
When we eat mindlessly, the body expands (to the extent to which mindless eating leads to overeating) and the mind shrinks (to the extent to which mindless eating denies us the experience of eating). After all being mindless means just that: being of less mind. Mindlessness hides the reality and robs us of the experience.
Arlington Avenue is a winding, 9% grade-steep street that snakes up the Southside hills of Pittsburgh. It is popular with local cyclists and happens to run right above my house on the slopes. It offers one of many amazing overlooks of the city but without the glitz of some of the more official scenic sights. In the days shortly after the U.S. went to war with Iraq, somebody spray-painted an American flag and the words “mindless followers” on one of the guardrail walls. The street, as you see, has a tone of non-conforming defiance to it.
A few weeks ago, on a cool-down walk with my German shepherd, Sherpa, I stumbled upon a discarded Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong yellow bracelet, right near that graffiti that I just mentioned. Knowing about Armstrong’s publicity troubles, I was intrigued: has the publicity crap finally hit the fan? I picked up the wrist band, brought it home, washed it and started wearing it. This was my first Livestrong meme-leash and I decided to make my own protest out of it. Against what? Well, that’s the point of this writing. Hang on with me for a paragraph or two as I set it up.
“Nature which governs the whole will soon change all things which you see, and out of their substance will make other things, and again other things from the substance of them, in order that the world may be ever new. […] Wipe out the imagination. Stop the pulling of the strings. Confine yourself to the present.”
This imperial thought belongs to Marcus Aurelius, once a Roman emperor. What’s he now? Whatever nature changed him into…
Let go of pulling nature’s strings (at least, now and then). Wipe out all these imaginary distinctions between what theoretically should be and what practically is. There is but one and only one reality of the present: confine yourself to living your life in real time. In other words, do the time.
Words are for communication. When you are alone, there is no need for words. A wordless mind is a different mind. Try it. Take a language fast: isolate yourself for a day, kill the TV, keep mum, and avoid reading or writing.
Without words, the mind is without its usual tools of distinction. Each word, after all, means something; each word defines, delineates, denotes, describes, divides and edits the Suchness of what is.
Put aside this annoying business of counting nutritional calories for a moment and ask yourself: what else am I getting out of this eating moment? How is my Mind being enriched?
A Nutritional Calorie is a unit of energy. The job of a Nutritional Calorie is to fuel your Body. An Experiential Calorie – to coin a term — is a unit of awareness, a unit of conscious presence, a unit of meaning. The job of an Experiential Calorie is to enrich your Mind. Take a moment to count the latter…
One truth is clear, whatever is, is right.
Goodness and being are really the same…[E]verything is perfect so far as it is actual. Therefore it is clear that a thing is perfect so far as it exists.
St. Thomas Aquinas
The word “perfect” takes its origin from the Old French parfit, which in its turn stems from the Latin perfectus, which means “completed” (Online Etymology Dictionary).
If you consult a Latin-English dictionary for the word perfectus you will get “complete, finished, done/perfect, without flaw” (note the order of these meanings). JM Latin-English dictionary translates the verb perficio as to “complete, finish, execute, bring about, accomplish, do thoroughly” (once again note the order of meanings!).
Thinking of the word “perfect” in the connotation of “completed” rather than “complete” makes good sense. What’s completed is complete. What has occurred, what has taken place, is already a fact. It can’t be made into anything more than it is. One cannot add to a fact. A fact—just like perfection—is beyond improvement.
Put differently: completed = complete = perfect.
Or, as St. Thomas Aquinas implied, actual = perfect.
Or, as Alexander Pope similarly suggested, whatever is = perfect.
Or, as I put it, present (by virtue of being already a completed fact of life and, thus, beyond improvement) is perfect.
I know, it sounds like a 180-degree conceptual u-turn. It is. It is about time that we – as a culture, as a civilization – stop this tail-chasing pursuit of theoretical perfection and, for a change, acknowledge the ordinary perfection of what exists. It’s about time we get out of this existential dead-end of trying to lasso an imaginary unicorn of the unattainable.
Inoculation introduces an organism to a nominal threat with the purpose of hardening the organism. Motivational inoculation is a series of challenges (in the form of questions) that help crystallize intrinsic, fail-proof motivation. Here’s some motivational inoculation for weight management.
Inoculation 1: What is my stated motivation for this weight management attempt?
Inoculation 2: Have I tried to lose weight for this reason before? If yes, then on what basis do I believe that a reason that wasn’t strong enough for me to stick to the plan before would be sufficient this time?
What is ordinary perfection?
This morning I’ll let Walt Whitman make my point:
There was never any more inception than there is now.
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now.
Ordinary perfection is when we stop comparing “what is” with “what should be” and we notice “what is” in all its perfectly imperfect suchness.