“Means of Life” is an inter-disciplinary approach to explore how everything is related and to pin-point the differences between what we need and what we want.
“Means of Life” is emerging as I type. I has started as a reflection on food and sustenance and later ventured into areas of medicine, physics, psychology, philosophy and spirituality. It is a bit of a creative hodgepodge, but I can see a red thread leading through it all, and so I will take it up and weave it a bit further.
Food can become an addiction. It works the same way like all addictions do - in oder to avoid a sense of of insecurity or emotional distress, that is associated with a certain situation, the mind forms an automatism, a habit, in order to avoid seeing the truth about oneself. An addiction is a protective mechanism of the egoic mind, a maneuver to distract from going where the truth lies, which is basically the realisation that the ego is not in control and has never been.
There are two elements about food and eating that make it a prime candidate for an addiction. One is the element of nourishment, the “means of life”, that makes it so appealing. Food is war, comforting, giving energy and a sense of fulfillment. Just look at the abundance, quantity and size of portion – everything is just so much bigger than it used to be. This is representing an element of abundance, a cornucopia of a never-ending supply of anything we ever want. The other one is the element of control – provided availability, it is the mind, making choices about what and how much nourishment to give – or deny the body. Food in many ways, is the minds weapon, trying to beat the body into submission – either by dulling the senses and filling it up with food and drink, or by starving it.
This is just such a huge subject, because it borders on the area of eating disorders, that are so incredibly prevalent in these days.
In my daily life am dealing with stress medicine, and one of the first measures I always introduce with people wanting to re-balance and get out of the stress-trap and the state of contraction, affecting their body, mind and health, is to make them realise that we eat to provide the body with a source for energy and that what we eat has a huge effect on how we feel, how fit we are for the day and how well we sleep at night. There is a lot of confusion about the subject in terms of what to eat, but also a lot of defiance and avoidance, as food is often seen as a little time-out, a reward for a hard day. The food industry has played well on that notion, and the theme of ” deserving a treat” can be found in many advertisements.
We are dealing with a lot of beliefs and conditioning when it comes to our eating habits. Mental images about the “what, how much and when to eat” dominate the thinking, as opposed to the instinctual guidance of hunger, appetite and satiety, being overruled by gluttony and greed. You just have to observe the behaviour of a crowd gathered around a buffet, that always makes me wonder what it is, that makes people to get so greedy at the sight of huge platters of somewhat appetizing looking, but still mostly low-quality food ?
Like breathing, taking in food is connecting the world of energy with the body. Food is grounding and lends weight and stability. The process of eating – tasting, chewing, swallowing – allows for a brief sense perception, an experience of touching something real, as opposed to the fearful thoughts and avoiding pattern of the chattering mind. Having a bite, is giving it a break – unless of course one stays in the mind and does not even notice what we are eating.
So here are the themes that are emerging in terms of pointing to the “global food crisis” in terms of desperately grasping for something that grounds us, stabilizes us, nourishes us – on our terms. The flip side of this is the hunger and shortage of food in large parts of the world, the droughts and aridity, a direct reflection of the abundance and gluttony of the wealthy nations. Food is not a national problem or a health issue – it is fundamentally linked to how we live our life today: Feeling lack in the abundance, gluttony as an expression of the desperation of of a sense of never getting fulfilled, despite all the delicacies.
There is a phrase ” spiritual starvation” and this is what it makes me think of: using food and the act of eating to dull the senses, blunt the instincts, stupefy the inherent wisdom, to deaden the longing of the soul to be congruent. We kill ourselves eating, destroy the body, our health and our sense of wellbeing. Spiritual starvation means not giving our soul the nourishment it really craves – authenticity. And the consequence is a burning, gaping hole, an emptiness we fear to look at or come close to.
So both mechanisms – overeating, over-indulging – but also controlling the food-intake – from a diet to an eating disorder – are expressions of the same underlying causes – to thwart and silence the burning longing of the soul. Both go along with fear and both can only be addressed by facing this existential fear of the truth about ourselves.
Isn’t it amazing how we have become slaves to the process of the ego ?