Thursday, April 26, 2012


The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher, poet, and peace activist has said that the United States is a land of "hungry ghosts." These are mythic creatures who have huge bellys and pinhole mouths; they can never satisfy their desires.  Their cravings.  Their hunger.

Today is Day 13 of my first long-term all-juice fast.  (And it's 18 days since I last had fast food, soda, processed foods, red meat, sugar, and wheat!)  I'm learning something about hunger.  About craving.

As I cook dinner for my family I suddenly realize that whatever it is that I'm cooking -- last night it was rotissery chicken, alfredo noodles, and salad -- is my all-time favorite food in the world and that without a little taste of it I will dissolve into nothingness like the Wicked Witch when faced with water.

And when I'm getting ready to leave a nighttime meeting at church I become accutely aware of how delicious the Quarter Pound Big Bite hot dogs taste at the 7-11 I pass on the way home.  There is no finer cuisine on the planet, and my body is telling me that I desperately need something from the oversized, overprocessed meat-like food group in order to maintain optimum health.

One of the things I keep trying to teach my kids -- now 10 and 8 -- is the difference between "needs" and "wants."  "I need a new beyblade," one will say.  "No," I'll reply, "you want a new beyblade.  You need food, clothing, shelter, and love."  I think it's part of my parental duty to pass on such important information.

And yet I am discovering anew just how much I need to take my own life lessons to heart.  In this immediate instance it's food -- I need some crackers!  I need something to chew on!  But it's becoming clear to me (again) how often I make the same mistake my kids do.
  • I need more financial security.
  • I need this or that person's respect.
  • I need to attain this or that level of professional achievement.
  • I need . . .
Through the process of this juice fast I am learning to differentiate between my food needs and my food wants.  And when I'm able to do this I'm also able to see that I actually want to be healthy more than I want the taste of a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese.  Needs must be attended to; wants can be weighted against other wants and decisions can be made.  We have at least some measure of control over our wants.

This is one of the great gifts of fasting -- whether it be a food fast, a media fast, a fast from negative-thoughts.  It can help us remember the difference between wants and needs, and help us (re)gain control of our living.

In Gassho,

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Lynn said...

There's another way of looking at this, and that's to figure out what real need is posing as the need for food. I've been working on that one, as caloric substances I am denying myself keep popping unbidden into my head. Today it is diet cola. On another day it might be M&M candies. I am rolling along smoothly (or, more likely, bumping over some obstacle), and oh, yes, that would taste SO GREAT. I need it.

I first discovered this years ago when I had a sudden craving for a cigarette. Since I have never smoked, it was relatively easy to discern that a true physical craving for a cigarette was impossible. I needed a [cigarette] break, which just meant stop scrubbing the toilet at the coop preschool and lug my 8 months' pregnant body to a 5-minute pause before I fell asleep on the drive to go pick up my 2- and 4-year-old children. Or, in other words, I NEED A CIGARETTE.

It's less obvious now (and easier to find the pause I need), but when I don't know how to tackle a problem, caramels pop unbidden as solutions. When I feel betrayed, my good friend Pepsi would be happy to rescue me.

I have gotten pretty good at turning down this help, and every refusal makes me stronger. Until those canny friends from the old neighborhood come calling again, because I don't think there's any permanent cure.

RevWik said...

Good points, Lynn. Thank you.

Just yesterday I read that true hunger can be satiated by anything. When you're hungry for something in particular, it's an addiction talking. "I'm hungry," means your body needs more nutrients. "I'm hungry for a slice of pizza," means . . . well . . . something else.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, reverend. Your thoughts are always so nice. This one certainly fits! It helps me think more positively......Smiles and miles....