Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New roots

Shortly after I began reading Eckart Tolle's book "A New Earth" I began feeling this weird desire to shave off my hair. I came up with several rational excuses for the idea and a dozen others for why I shouldn't just go ahead and do it. A couple of weeks later, I told my NLP therapist at our session and she commented it probably had to do with my wanting to start anew. After all, when we turn upside down our hair becomes... our roots. That made a lot of sense to me.
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She also said some people here in Quebec shaved their heads to raise money for cancer research and I thought it would be good to do something like that. When I got home I searched the web and found some links to "shave-to-save" events and other related activities nearby, but all were over and there was nothing upcoming. I thought of other ways I could use this seemingly crazy idea to help people, but in the end I just did it for myself.
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It was pretty scary at first. In fact, it's like food - when you start shedding the extra pounds there is no longer that cushioning or protective shield betwen yourself and the world. For a couple of days I was irritable and fed up with everything and everyone around me and even did some uncharacteristic things I would rarely have done (also scary, but it actually felt good).
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Shaving my head was not the only issue involved. During that NLP session, my therapist did a very intriguing exercise in which, in a nutshell, I was able to "look" at two sides of myself and why each of them wants to go a different way. In other words, why does part of me want to binge and anesthesize myself with food, while the other wants optimal physical and emotional health?
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The results were quite surprising. It was like half of me was this pampered two-year-old who wanted all she could get, while the other side was some sort of serene, patient being waiting around to see what happened. Yet I was able to recognize that this "two-year-old" had also got me a long way, as her willpower made me do things my other, mellower side, would have perhaps let go. Both had good intentions, but were not in harmony.
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However, I realized that all that time the "little girl" was screaming for me to do what I should and I was mostly ignoring her and stuffing her with food to keep her quiet - she had grown a long time ago and I was still treating her like a stubborn baby. Thus, at the same time I realized I was being governed by a two-year-old, I realized she wasn't there at all.
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The end of the exercise was to thank each side for what they had done for me, to forgive them for whatever harm they had brought (and vice-versa), and to finally merge them into a harmonious, new (and grown) me.
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At that moment I wondered how that would translate into my eating patterns. A few days later a new "click" came. Perhaps I needed to thank and forgive... my food?
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Whoever has gone through repeated dieting and other food related disorders knows that the phrase "this will be the last time" is often only the beginning. Farewells aren't needed when you're sure of what you want. It's like sleeping with your ex. If you were really over him, chances are that would never happen again. Yet, on the other hand, a relationship cannot be over if you do not throughouly acknowledge and resolve several things first.
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So I thought, maybe that is what is missing between myself and the foods I still eat for reasons other than nourishment and well being. Nevertheless, the moment I realized that I also saw something that is not easy to admit even to myself: I don't know exactly why, but I am still not ready to let go.
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As I said, it's not an easily acceptable fact, but I'm trying not to be too hard with myself. Once it took several months to actually stop seeing a guy I had been with during several years, but then everything had been resolved and it was really final. I never felt like seeing him again. Could it be that way with food too? How long will it take me to let go of a relationship that has been going on for almost 30 years?
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Regardless of being ready to let go or not, I decided to write a letter to my food. I copied it below. "Kit" represents all the food I have eaten and/or still eat for emotional reasons. Let's see what happens after this...
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Dear Kit,
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I would like to start thanking you for all you have done for me during these years: the times you soothed me when I felt anxious, numbed me when I felt fear, filled me when I felt emotionally empty. You were there when the world was too much for me and I needed a protective barrier to insulate me from all of its problems. You were also there when I wasn't able to be myself fully and needed to escape. The sad moments you were there to comfort me are countless. And it wasn't all about bad times. It would be impossible to count all of the joyful times you were by my side: festivities, family reunions, meetings with friends, dates...
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As much as you have been helpful, our relationship must come to an end. I have learned a lot from you - and I'm also thankful for that - but now I must move on. Yet before that I must say that I forgive you for all the harm you unadvertedly brought me: the emotional instability, the headaches, the muddled thoughts, the leg pains, the extra pounds, and all of the other little things. I fully forgive you for that now.
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I also ask that you forgive me for having used you unappropriately and excessively and for the many times I blamed you for all my problems when I was really the one responsable. I am truly sorry.
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In case our paths do cross again in the future, let's take the pledge to respect each other.
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All the best,
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Andrea

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The A-word

Yesterday my husband informed me that our state was once again ranked the most violent in Brazil. The previous report had not been much better: it said one in every four people in our city had a chance of being shot to death at some point in their lives. I don't want to get into detail, but as much as I love my place, sometimes I would just like to leave.

Violence and other not-so-good news is not only limited to developing countries. I hear that right here in Quebec, where we are living temporarily, there are street gangs in Montreal and occasionally other people are hurt when accidentally caught in their fights. Just the other day I saw a documentary on television that mentioned that 13 teenage girls from a single community in a southern California town had had their gallbladders removed. Why? The only "food" they had access to was cheap fast-food - the community had no markets whatsoever (and they wouldn't have afforded the produce anyway). And speaking of California, a fellow raw food enthusiast from Give it to me raw had his San Diego apartment ransacked and all of his musical equipment taken just this week...

The list goes on... I went to a lecture this afternoon on immigration between Mexico and the USA and the stories are ringing in my ears until now - I don't even want to talk about it. I also hear from a friend that there are neo-Nazi groups all over Germany. Neo-Nazi what? In the 21st century?

And what do you say about climate change? The island-state of Tuvalu is going underwater and they can't even find another country to take 3000 of their inhabitants who need out (much less for all 12000 who will have to leave when most of the island disappears or becomes inhabitable during the next 30 years).

Is the world doomed forever? Are we still in the middle-ages or what? Should I just go out and jump off a building?

No. I do think things are changing... for best!! In fact, there's a mega revolution going on.

No, there are no arms, protesters, secret societies or guerrillas. There is no ideology behind this revolution, no "this is right and this is wrong". It is silent, introspective, and very very fast growing.

It is the revolution of awareness.

You may start being aware of what you are eating and how this relates to the rest of the world. Or you may start to think that perhaps you wouldn't like so many chemicals on your body and start making your own fruit-based shampoo. Perhaps you are pregnant and decided to try a home birth after the doctor said you had to give birth a certain way; after all he knows what's best for your body. Or maybe it was the time the school psychologist said your kid had a certain ADS - wouldn't it be better to take him to the doctor to get a prescription for something to calm him down (said what?).

Or perhaps you just sat still and heard your inner voice and felt one with the universe.

None of this is new. There have been people aware of themselves and their rights ever since the beginning of humanity (fortunately!). However, I think there is a difference now. I have no "scientific data" to prove my words, but I believe there are many more of us and the numbers are increasing steadily and in places unthought-of before.

The first time I realized this was when my NLP coach recommended that I read Eckart Tolle's book "A New Earth". She also said there was some sort of online seminar going on that close to one million people were following, from over 100 countries. Okay, one million people in a world of over seven billion is almost "nothing" in terms of percentages. Yet picture it - one million people online at once because each one of them wants to grow as a person and, consequently, make the world a better place (just thinking of it I am energized!).

That is only one example. After starting to read E. Tolle I surfed the web a bit and was taken aback by the number of books with topics related to consciousness and awareness. In fact, there are even a few international organizations dedicated solely to studying a field called conscienciology (I took a course in one of them last year and it was fantastic).

Another, more local, example: the last time I visited my mother I was surprised to see that a center for holistic medicine had opened in her city. She lives in a teeny tiny semi-rural town in Brazil which is quite conservative - it would be the last place I would think of for a clinic like that. I immediately set an appointment with the iridologist (I had always wanted to go to one!) and asked how things were going, if there were a lot of patients showing up, etc. Her answer was impressive. Three years ago when she opened her other clinic (which operates in a nearby and very similar town), people thought her practice was quite strange, but at that moment she had a waiting list of people wanting an appointment!

The whole raw food movement is yet another example of how people are more aware and wanting change, whether it is their food habits or they way their children are taught at school.

The question that remains is: is all this awareness talk just one more fad that will pass with time?

I will answer this question with another story that happened to me last year. I was giving a class to a group of environmental sciences undergraduate students and we were discussing a chapter from Daniel Quinn's book Ishmael. If you are not familiar with the book, a gorilla called Ishmael teaches a guy about what he calles the big myth of humanity and why everything has been faring so badly. At some point he talks about how the hippies and other movements from the 1960's sensed there was something wrong with our society and tried to change it without success (because they were not aware of the myth he talks about). That moment one girl raised her hand and said: "Well, my parents lived the sixties and I don't think they failed. Even after all those movements were over, they chose to live 'apart' from society, the way they think is right, and they are doing that to this day. And they feel very happy and fulfilled".

Wow! That really got me thinking for days. These people not only planted very important seeds back then, they were still alive and kickin'! And even though they didn't "save the world" at that time, they surely had influenced many, many people along their lives, effortlessly, just by having the courage of living the way that made them most happy. Plus, the change they indirectly caused in other people was probably much deeper and lasting as it came from example, i.e., from looking outward and then within.

The new revolution of awareness is all about that. Each person has their own path, whether it comes through food, "alternative" medicine, or even religion. In this revolution, each one chooses which "weapons" are better for their own, personal "battle": there are never any intermediaries or people telling what you should or should not do. Learning is by sharing and example - when desired. It is a path learned and lived within, seemingly alone, but with the conscious or unconscious support of all of humanity, of all life on earth, of the supreme conscience in whatever form you wish to call it. It can be scary but is ultimately the most fantastic experience on Earth - and you end up pulling in several other people on the way.

And you? Will you too dare to use the a-word?