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Gandhi's Guide To Gastric Grief

Like a rude awakening, my illusions crumbled down around me-exposing me. In all my nakedness, I clambered for something to hide behind; but the old masks, costumes and distractions no longer worked. Realizations can be shocking, ultimately freeing; yet, this time it hurt.

Isn't it funny how we create little realities? They are tidy and most of the time comfortable-too comfortable. I buy into my realities so well that often I cannot understand how others do not. Why can't they see things my way? After all, I am a compassionate, level-headed, easy-going sort of person. Right?

This January, I finally gave into a long nagging to discover my "Truths" through diet. The great thinkers and religious hallmarks throughout history had interesting approaches to spiritual pursuits. Fasting or limiting food intake has been and still is a common practice in spiritual or religious endeavors. The journey has been calling me for some time, but my fears and apprehension were great. After all, I never had the desire to become a "hallmark" or religious leader of any kind. What would my friends and family say? How would I feel if I did not do this?

Mohandas K. Gandhi's autobiography highlighting his experiments with Truth pushed me over the edge. I read his tales of fasting for spiritual and political reasons with great interest. Fasting was not his only tool. Dietary self-restraint seemed to fuel his spirituality. How this led him on his quest for Truth; I was not fully understanding though I could grasp the discipline such a practice would require. As each read page turned, so built my motivation.

Like threads in a tapestry being pushed into place revealing the artistry, my fears were replaced with clarity. It was time. My body was coming back into its own after two and a half years of breast feeding my daughter. Spring would be arriving soon; time to prepare my body for a liver cleanse. Spiritually, I was ready.

Naturally, I set the date for My Great Experiment in Truth to begin after vacation. The restrictions were decidedly challenging without disregarding health. And I did not want to loose too much weight. I have been a Vegetarian for a few months short of half my life and have been hyper-conscious of nearly every morsel of food which has passed my lips. Being a Lacto-Vegetarian gave me a good place to start-no more yogurt, cheese or ghee (clarified butter). I also decided to forego sugar and food after 7:00pm. Since my goal was to fuel my body with that closest to life and nature, wholegrains would replace all refined or processed grains. The only exception I would make would be to allow myself a bowl of hot oat bran or rolled oats in the morning.

Don't get me wrong. Some changes have not been for the better, in my humble opinion. Often, though, I feel those changes were forced by us and our desire to rule or overpower.

Since change, evolution, and metamorphosis are necessary and healthy, should they not be embraced? Think of all the cultures that suffer from unchanging turbulence like standing water growing turbid and fowl. Even changes that we perceive as losses are truly lessons and benefit humanity in the long run.

In my life change has caused me to rely on my faith; in my friends and family, in God and my faith in my self, like tossing a jigsaw puzzle, forcing me to evaluate my beliefs. I have resisted change with limitless zeal, clenching my fists so tightly that what I held onto as unchangeable turned to dust-a lesson in humility.

The best changes seem to come hard. We have all experienced the ones which stung at first. After our fists relax and the dust settles we realize it was the best thing to ever happen. Even Mohandas Gandhi (the great believer in change), the source of Satyagraha or passive resistance, said,

"But it was not meant to be. I have found by experience that man makes his plans to be often upset by God, but, at the same time where the ultimate goal is the search for truth, no matter how a man's plans are frustrated, the issue is never injurious and often better than anticipated."

I have grown to realize that New Year's Resolutions just are not for me. I do much better making life altering changes slowly over time. The switch flicking is not my forte. Time is a great guide allowing me to make educated decisions along the way. The funny thing is that even these changes don't always go as I plan. Wasn't it John Lennon who said, "Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans"?

Since pure body, mind and spirit go hand in hand; I would have to find as many organic ingredients as possible. If at the end of this I did not find Truth, I would at the very least have developed a little more self-discipline and a really clean body.

It did not take long for me to realize where this was leading me. Where my usual justifications could not longer excuse, and "emotional stuffing" was unacceptable; I found a place of self-deception. The illusions I created for myself shattered like so many glass houses.

A poignant moment came early in the experiment. It was a stressful morning and I thought that a cup of tea with honey was in order-a sweet elixir for strained emotions. My hot cup in hand my heart was anticipating the sweet R & R. I was on automatic pilot. Grabbing the honey my heart sank. Sweetener! When I began the experiment I said sugar; but honestly, I meant any sweetener except fruit. The essence of the experiment would be betrayed if I drank the honey. Truth would not allow it; and if I had honey that day, would that say I apply my Truth only where it is most convenient? Honeyless, I was forced to deal with my stress head on.

The journey has taught me a great deal about myself and those around me. Forcing myself to look at my food issues, my insecurities, my lies, my emotions-practicing honesty with myself while holding myself accountable has led me to see clearly these aspects of illusions in other areas of my life. Saying or doing anything slightly dishonest or leaning toward justification sends off fireworks in my head. Truth like water in the fountain in my office flows into every crevice of my being. I have grown keenly aware of how I speak, and how I react to people and situations. Weaknesses have been found in relationships that I thought were solid. Where I thought I was being compassionate and patient, I have found self-destructive behaviors, in others co-dependence and obligation.

My relationship with myself has also changed. Once the veils are parted some of what I am seeing is ugly. Over the years I have drifted far from myself. I grieve for her. All the years spent building illusions in the name of virtue, drowning in untruth and abandoning my self for what I perceived to be love. I grieve for those who will not accept the changes in our relationship and for those who see my experiment as a deficit. As if divorcing myself, some relationships that were close will fall by the wayside.

At this point, I do not know when the experiment will come to a close. I revel in the energy I once used to maintain my illusions. What a great feeling. M. K. Gandhi was correct in using food as a starting point in practicing Truth. Now, I understand. While grieving, the healing has already begun.

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