Keep fast and eat also, stay awake at night and sleep also, for verily there is a duty on you to your body, not to labour overmuch, so that ye may not get ill and destroy yourselfs; and verily there is a duty on you to your eyes, ye must sometimes sleep and give them rest; and verily there is a duty on you to your life partner, and to your visitors and guests that come to see you; ye must talk to them; and nobody hath kept fast who fasted always; the fast of three days in every month is equal to constant fasting: then keep three days’ fast in every month. –from The Sayings of Muhammad, by Allama Sir Abdullah Al-Manum Al-Suhrawardy
So I am healing after the terrible ordeal the world and I imposed upon myself, the one that finally caused me to have both knees replaced and nearly killed me. It was the first foray I had made into the halls of allopathic medicine for quite some time, having concluded long ago that too many of the doctors of today are more invested in making money in keeping their patients sick than in true healing. But sometimes, perhaps, one must elect to be “healed with steel,” as in my former posts about all this; and so I tried that, and it was a terrible way to convince myself that I was right in the first place. And now I work to heal the damage and make use of these new joints which gradually come to seem more and more a part of me. What other choice is there?
These days, my healing process is a nutritional one, through the very important work of Joel Fuhrman, M.D., who strives to take us back to the diets of the Yogis and those other ancients who taught the original lessons we have in healing through the mind-body connection. The above quote from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) shows that those who teach the path of the soul have always shown that honoring the physical self through right attitude and right nutrition and, very importantly, balance, is the way to keep the soul fit and supported by the body on its journey.
It is this idea of balance that concerns me at the moment, because I have been through quite an ordeal, and there must of necessity be times when a pretty extreme balancing act in the cause of restoring health and wellness is warranted. At the moment, I follow a pretty restrictive nutritional regime which includes occasional fasting, and otherwise includes a great many dark green, leafy vegetables, beans, few grains and a lot of fruit. I have a daily exercise routine, and there is theoretically not much room for socialization and celebration in the sense that the rest of the world terms such. I just had a birthday, and of course there is a certain obligation to celebrate on those sorts of occasions, at least so the rest of the family can eat cake, but my daughter lovingly made me a wonderful chocolate cake made with tofu, bean flour and flaxseeds, and the only problem was not eating too much of it (perhaps I should post the recipe here). So I got through that one. But balance is the name of the game on this planet, at least, where we come to learn how to be human, which is to say, fully Whole, fully God(dess). We seem to be a culture of perpetually guilty people. We strive to “do it right” and beat ourselves up when we think we haven’t. We attach ourselves to various gurus who will supposedly take responsibility for us, making sure we are on the right path, and if they are authentic gurus, they generally do advocate balance in living and loving kindness toward the self and others. Yet we continue to be exacting and unkind to ourselves. What is behind that? And why is it that we cannot seem to trust ourselves to do the right thing, and must have someone else to take that responsibility from us? I refer to the aforesaid gurus here.
The true meaning of faith is self-confidence. –Inayat Khan
As far as I can tell, it begins in infancy. Food is the center of our lives of necessity, and as the providers of food and other nourishments necessary to the soul on earth, it is the parents who become the first gurus. If they fail us, and if we believe in the theories of Freud and others, it is in those years that we learn the lessons that will dog us our entire lives. The very act of breastfeeding, if a chid is fortunate enough to be nursed, is rooted in the emotions, the heart-feelings of love and nurture. Sexuality comes into it, simply because it is the same hormones that let down the milk that bring about orgasm. These are inevitably tied to the development of trust. Thus, it is in these very earliest years that we make our decisions about how we will live, and whether we can trust the world. If those first gurus fail us, then we may conclude we can only trust ourselves, or we spend the rest of our lives trying to find someone to trust. If our parent-gurus don’t fail us, if they are there for us and encourage us to develop autonomy out of the womb of their containment, then we are fortunate enough to grow up trusting ourselves.
At least that’s the way it would seem to be historically. In this day and age we are, however, victimized by an increasing barrage of contrary messages to the ones we learned from our first nurturers, and we are encouraged over and over not to trust ourselves. Depending on our innate resiliency, we either survive and flourish despite all the false gurus, or we fall under the weight of the huge corporations, the pharmaceutical companies, the fast-food restaurants and food and alcohol commercials and ads, all of which promise us that if we will just use their product, we will not only be well, we will find the meaning of life and achieve perfect happiness. How many of us can turn a deaf ear to the promise of instant gratification and an easy “fix?”
Recently, I have been privy to a discussion about the proliferation of Buddhism in this culture. The Dharma, I hear, has moved to the West. While my own world-view holds that there is truth in all religions, I can see why the Middle Path is a lifeline to those of us who are trying to swim our way to the far shore through the wreckages of junk food, junk living and junk emotions we have had forced upon us. In fact, as illustrated by the quote I started this entry with, moderation, self-trust and loving-kindness are among the teachings of all the authentic teachers of humankind.
Breathe in and out.
Better to stop short than fill to the brim.
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.
Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow.
Retire when the work is done.
This is the way of heaven. –Tao te Ching, trans. Feng and English
Ah, letting go… It’s been called renunciation, relaxation, even crucifixion: somewhere along the line, if we want to come Home, we have to let go of the untruths and, from the vantage point of a clear playing field, examine What Is. Somehow, somewhere, the voices have to stop clamoring, the frenetic visions have to be tuned out, and we have to come home to ourselves prior to the stories all these tell, all the stories told from the very beginning. Is it possible to live without story, without the myths that shape our days and nights? What if we become able to look at our actions and our practices in a clear light that is not surrounded by Concepts. Then what will we do?
I would say that renouncing the myths I live by (also known as “Killing the Buddha”) is just about the hardest thing I have done or ever will do, because I expect it to be a lifelong project. It requires being constantly present to the moment and to myself. It requires examination of my motives and actions, first to ask myself what myths I’m playing out in them, and second, by deciding what is Right Thought and Right Action when the stories have been cleared away. It requires loving-kindness toward the world and toward myself, and it requires self-confidence. It was lack of self-confidence that made me sick, and it is Wise Pride, as Inayat Khan terms it, that will make me well.