Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.
The picture above is of a chocolate croissant from Le Quartier bakery here in Omaha. It is one of my favorite things in the whole world. Buttery, flaky layers of laminated dough encasing batons of dark chocolate. With a cup of creamy coffee this makes for one amazing breakfast. I don’t eat these very often, maybe once a month or so. But when I do it will be with my full presence and appreciation. Not an ounce of guilt in sight.
I have learned over the years, particularly through my relationship with food, that my soul prefers the wide open spaces. Once I start placing restrictions and limitations on what I can and can’t eat, my soul forcefully pushes back. I’m sure you’ve experienced this in your own life. As soon as you say, “I’m not eating any more cookies”, all you can think about is cookies. And the next thing you know you just ate half a box of stale Oreos from the back of the kitchen cupboard, and you don’t even really like Oreos.
Staying in this wide open space has become even more difficult in recent years as it seems everyone is seeking a label for the way they eat: Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free. There is always someone somewhere proclaiming that their way of eating is the best way, and they’ve got the science to prove it. Never before have we as a culture felt so pressured to choose a particular restrictive diet to the exclusion of everything else. I think there are many reasons for this: an overwhelming amount of conflicting information about what we should and shouldn’t eat, a lack of a unifying cultural diet that has been passed down from generation to generation (think of the enduring legacy of the French or Italian diet, for example), a lack of fundamental cooking skills, and the desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves and to find an outward identity of sorts through what we eat.
But here is a radical notion: What if, instead of giving our power away to the “experts” out there trying to tell us what is best, we trusted our own experience with food and let ourselves be intuitively led to the best choices for us? In his insightful book, No Recipe, Edward Espe Brown says:
“When it comes to eating, we frequently have things backward. We put a high value on obedience, while putting little value on permission and empowerment….The implicit assumption we often make is that we could never figure out anything for ourselves, so we better do what those who really know tell us. Although that is sometimes called eating wisely, how wise is it to abandon your capacity to find out? Do they know you as you know you? How could they possibly have a formula that matches your uniqueness, your capacity to taste and experience, to explore and play, to enjoy and savor?”
When we eat from a wide open space, from a place of permission and empowerment, we make choices based on how foods taste to us, how we enjoy them and, most importantly, how they make us feel. This requires us to be present and pay attention while we eat, a difficult task in our modern, fast-paced world. It may also require that we get into the kitchen and learn some basic cooking techniques so that we can explore and play with food in our own space and on our own terms. It may very well be that, upon your own experimentation, you find that you feel better when you eat meat, or when you eat a lot of vegetables, or that bread doesn’t agree with you. The subtle nuances of YOUR diet can be unique, discovered through your own senses, through taste and experience, rather than through a blind adherence to an eating plan that is outside of yourself. How we eat is yet another facet of our authenticity, an aspect of our lives in which we must align our inner knowing and experience to our outward actions.
We can reframe the way we think about food and eating so that it becomes, first and foremost, an intuitive and intimate act of self-care. It just takes a little curiosity and a willingness to slow down and pay attention to what you enjoy and how you feel. We all deserve to be nourished and experience the pleasure of food on our own terms. Trust that you know more than you think you do. Give yourself permission to eat in a wide open space. I will see you there…I’ll be the one eating the chocolate croissant.