I have been faced with addiction of late, a serious, almost debilitating addiction. It could ruin my health, my family’s health, and even shorten my life significantly. The thing is, you might have the same problem, and not even know it. My poison of choice: carbohydrates.
I know. What’s the big deal, right? We need carbohydrates for energy. What could be wrong with carbs? And honestly, it’s not carbs that are the problem. It’s our society’s addiction that is the problem, and the way we keep creating new and delicious ways to make them more addictive. I wrote in my last post about the need for consciousness. I have striven to cultivate more of it in many ways. I pay much closer attention to sensation. I take time to see details, to breathe in the smells that surround me, to listen and to seek silence, and to really feel what I am feeling. Another important aspect of consciousness is tasting the food I’m eating. I’ve changed my diet a lot, in seeking to wean myself from this nasty habit of high-glycemic foods. (Food that are high on the glycemic index are the ones that increase the glucose in your blood more quickly than those that are low. To read more about how I’m doing that visit Dr. Wayne Andersen’s website on developing habits of health.) I’ve gained a lot of energy and lost 12 pounds since I made this switch a month ago. But my goal isn’t weight loss, it’s optimal health. And ridding myself of addiction is a pretty important part of that.
In that last post, I talked about my ability to see since I’ve returned to America. And what I see is so sad. People are addicted to fear. And they are addicted to things that numb them from the fear. The media pumps fear into our bodies with both real and imagined drama and trauma.
While living in China, I restricted my news media intake to scanning headlines to see if there was anything new or important happening. In six years of living there, I think I opened less than a dozen news stories a year to learn more. That doesn’t mean I was uninformed of what was happening, it means that I was more deeply informed of only those things that I felt really had an important impact in the world. But America has multiple cable channels devoted to news, plus newscasts at every hour, for both local and national news. Sadly, international news is generally covered very poorly with a very ethnocentric bias. Compare any national news cast with coverage from BBC or Univision, and you’ll begin to see what I mean. But what that means is that the “non-fiction” that we feed on daily is intended to feed an addiction to fear. Broadcasters and publishers know that if they want to sell it, then “if it bleeds it leads.” That’s what people want. Is it their fault? Who knows where the cycle begins…in the consumer that just wants to know “what’s going on” and “how to protect themselves” or in the media that gives the public what it wants. Add to that reality TV (which fosters a fear of humiliation) and most television drama, serving up a steady stream of violence and trauma, and you have a constant source to feed our addiction.
Regardless of where it begins, there is a common biological response to stress: we eat. And we don’t choose lean chicken, fish or spinach, we choose chips and donuts and cookies. We choose the highest glycemic index foods around. And that makes a lot of sense, instinctively. When you’re afraid, you need a good rush of sugar to make sure you can get to safety. Much of our eating patterns are very biologically based. It makes a lot of sense biologically to eat as much as you can and seek to rest as much as you can. It makes sense if you have to chase down your food and gather roots and nuts and berries all day.
We are Cavemen
Well, my friends, I know it’s hard to believe with all the technology and industry surrounding us, but we are still cavemen. Our bodies have changed very little over the last ten thousand years. And they are just asking that we continue to treat them they way they are accustomed to being treated. The problem is, our activity levels have changed…well, a bit…since we were required to spend energy in equal amounts to our consumption. Man, if you could eat a thousand calories a day while lying around doing nothin’ back then, you were the king or queen of the cave. Today, we don’t bat an eyelash to eating 1000 calories in one sitting, and then we keep on sitting and sitting and sitting. So it’s not wonder there is an epidemic of obesity. We feed our need for adrenaline by watching scary stuff, instead of living it.
But it is scary out there…
Everywhere we look we see the evidences of addiction: addiction to sex, to alcohol, to any kind of drug you can ingest, to video games and social networking sites and entertainment. We see families falling apart, or just struggling to stay afloat. We see crimes that horrify and wars that make no sense. We see an economy oriented towards protecting against our fears instead of educating to prevent our fears from becoming reality. We see political, social and economic polarization so intense that it is without a doubt shattering our unity.
What I’ve noticed while I’ve been striving to stay conscious is that unity is really the only cure for our addictions. When we see that we are one, not one family, not one people, but really one with everything (I know, takes you to that old Buddhist joke about the monk that goes to the hot dog stand and asks for one with everything, right?)…anyway, when we start paying attention, we see our connectedness, not just within our families and neighbors, but within the world. What we eat affects the air we breathe, the water, the land. And what happens to those things affects what we eat. Where there is war, there is famine. Where there is peace, there is excess. And because there is such an imbalance in the world, we don’t even notice when a child starves to death.
So, once again, I’m advocating consciousness. Try it for 30 days, or your money back. Pay attention to what your body is telling you it needs to be healthy. Pay attention to your community because it will also tell you the same thing. And in doing so, maybe we can cure ourselves of our fear addiction and come closer to what we all want…a sense of nearness…to God, to our Source (or whatever you call that which centers you), to each other and to lasting security and peace.