Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book o'the Decade: Savor, by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung

I don't wanna talk about it.

Yeah, I know it's bad.  It's really bad.  Here's another article if you wanna read about what the state of Massachusetts just did to Justina Pelletier. And here's the court decision, which somebody leaked to the media (twas not I); juvenile court rulings are typically not available to the public, so go read it before it disappears. I think she'll be dead in six months, seeing as they won't get her medical treatment she clearly needs.  And I worry even more about her state of mind ("Hey, fifteen-year-old kid, guess what, you can't ever go home until you turn eighteen, if you make it that long.")  But I don't wanna talk about it.  Can't, really. I gotta let other people handle this one.  I'm not even supposed to be watching the news, much less following gut-wrenching custody battles.  My doc tells me there's nothing on the news that won't upset me, worry me or anger me and I don't need that degree of angst in my life, or, to put it more specifically, "Don't. Watch. The. News." Still, I'd probably wave him off if Thich Nhat Hanh didn't say the same thing.  

In fact I'm reading a Thich Nhat Hanh book right now, called Savor.  It's about "mindful eating."  You'd think just the eating of food wouldn't be a big deal, never mind a Buddhist concern, but it is, Blanche, it is.  The way we eat food in the modern world is completely messed up as far as what we actually need.  It's not only that everything is full of sugar, fat and salt (and I've been off sugar for a week now, so I can say that it's damned difficult to find foods that are less than 15g of sugar per serving and are therefore edible by Jen), but it's the way we eat stuff.  Like in the car, pouring it from a cup into our mouths without taking our eyes off the road.  Or at a buffet, scrambling to pack away as much food as possible so as to get our money's worth.  Not only have we lost track of the whole point of food, but we've lost our ability to--get this--enjoy eating.  Our ability to enjoy things is part of what makes us human, so I'm recommending Savor as my new Book o' the Decade, which will stand until I get another one.

And it's not just the eating of food that's a problem, it's the taking-in of all kinds of stuff.  A lot of what we read, hear about, decide to do and think about is toxic to us.  Ferexample, I've always been a big fan of horror movies, horror fiction, things generally scary. I think I read my first Stephen King book when I was about twelve. However, in the last couple of years, I've become very choosy about my horror fiction.  I only read/watch supernatural, ghost story type things, both Western and Asian (best possible example: Shutter, the original Hong Kong version.  Holy cow was that ever creepy--and when you get to the end you suddenly realize that you don't know if there was really a ghost there or not.  It might have all been his guilty conscience.  Seriously, see this movie.)  I don't do serial killer/slasher stuff anymore.  I don't do people being mean to other people.  The book Horns, by Big Steve's son Joe Hill, had a scene in it that upset me so much I talked about it in therapy (!).  And my therapist was a bit nonplussed; as he pointed out, if you read a lot of horror fiction, sooner or later you're going to find something that horrifies you.  Or, as we say outside the therapeutic world, "Well, duh."

So there's stuff you eat, and there's stuff you read, look at and hear about. Then there's the stuff you decide to do, and most important of all, the stuff you think about. (Or, to put it in Proper Buddhist Language, the Four Nutriments; edible food, sensory impressions, intention/volition and consciousness.) If you think about it (and did you know we humans are the only animals, as far as we know, that can think about thinking?), what you think about is everything.  The thoughts you have in your head make up your current mood, your beliefs about various issues, your ability to be there for your fellow human beings and the way you feel about yourself and other humans. 

If you spend much of the day thinking about what you need to do next, how you're going to get everything done, what might next go disastrously wrong and how to prevent it, and what to do if it goes wrong anyway, you're probably not going to be in a very good mood. What's more, you won't be there to do the things you are doing, never mind all the other stuff you have to do.  I mean, are you really there for your friends and family members? Or are you just squeezing them in between appointments? Do you actually spend time with them or do you spend the time you're with them worrying about how to get out of here in time to do the next thing?  This sort of stuff is out of control in our culture. We eat, listen to, read, think about and decide to do more toxic stuff than ever before in history, and it's not surprising that it might be affecting our health. 

I've had bronchitis for the past two weeks.  The doc never figured out if it was bacterial or viral, but it sure did hit me like a truck.  Besides all the cold-y symptoms, I couldn't effing breathe, which is sort of a problem if you, you know, want to do anything.  I missed two days of work, spent the entire weekend lying in bed resting, I haven't been to the pool for over a week and I'm still popping an array of exciting meds (including my least favorite, prednisone, which does horrible things to you but also helps you breathe when you can't).

Now, I caught the germ for this thing somewhere, but if you think about it, I'm coming off about a six-month period of walking around with a monkey on my back. This particular monkey had a gun to my head and kept saying, "Well, maybe I'll pull the trigger in December.  Or maybe in February.  Or maybe I won't pull it at all.  Or maybe..." I mean, you can learn to live with that, sort of. You can't be afraid of something at a high, insistent pitch full-time.  But that's a lot of stress to be under for a very long time, folks.  So it's not surprising, to me anyway, that I caught this thing. I was, as they say, ripe for it. 

Luckily, I am on the mend. I'm still hauling my nebulizer back and forth to work, but I think the day is coming when I won't have to do that anymore.  And I'm thinking about trying to go back to the pool on Friday or Saturday. One of the four nutriments ought to be chlorine, because I certainly don't feel well when I don't have enough of it in my system. Yes, I know it's toxic.

No comments: