Tara Brach tells a story of her son who, in first grade, received an ant farm for his birthday. He watched the ants living life the way they do, and in the process, he grew to know them. He saw fellow ants take their dead comrades to an “ant cemetery.” He watched them build homes and share food, and observed their interdependence. Then one day at school, he saw his classmates on the playground squishing ants and laughing. He was devastated. He couldn’t understand why they were killing the same kind of creatures he’d witnessed living their lives in his ant farm. His mother said, and I’m paraphrasing, that his classmates, unfortunately, didn’t know the ants like he did.
You can’t destroy that which you love or know intimately. And, on the flip side, you cannot love what you do not know.
So why is it that we do things that hurt ourselves, the person who should be our own best friend, the person we love most in this world?
The hurt is often subtle. A bag of Cheetos, a donut at a work function, some ice cream after a long day. In and of themselves, these things aren’t “bad” when consumed mindfully. For instance, I chose to eat a few baked chips while writing this blog. I wasn’t subconsciously destroying my food plan. I’m PMSing and I recognized the craving for salt and crunch. It feels awkward to say I “loved” myself enough to eat baked chips, but satisfying that craving by consciously choosing to eat a small portion was, in a subtle way, an act of love.
Now the decision I made yesterday to sit on my ass all day and not exercise when my body was clearly needing movement? Not so loving. My excuses and distractions were like squishing ants on a playground. I was not intimately in touch with what was going on in my body. I put my fingers in my ears and refused to listen to what it was saying.
I attended a lecture last Saturday on the topic of how to change your life. I’m not looking to change my entire life, but there are parts that could use some tweaking. The speaker, Eileen Colianni, is the one who said, “You cannot love what you do not know,” and she went on to emphasize that “knowing” isn’t enough. We must act, too.
I “know” eating carrots rather than carrot cake is a healthier choice. I “know” going to the gym is a better choice, too, than…say…going to Dunkin Donuts (unless it’s for a non-fat latte AFTER a workout!). I know these things and yet…sometimes something stops me from choosing the better path.
As Eileen said, we are often caregivers and are used to asking, “What do you want from me?” She challenged us to turn the question around and ask, “What do I want from me?” And to get what we want, she said, we have to decide something. De-cide. The root of “cide” is to kill. So in order to decide, we must (proverbially speaking) “kill” something to get what we want. For instance, if I want to lose 20 pounds, I need to “kill” the thought that floats around in my head that 20 pounds will magically disappear simply because I want them to. Therefore, the death of a negative thought or a misheld belief is the key to knowledge and, in turn, the pathway to love. Loving what we know.
(Maybe now is a good time to take a deep breath and reassure yourself that you don’t have to fully ingest or even accept what I just wrote. I know I get all tight in the stomach and I scrunch my shoulders and wince my eyes when I read convoluted philosophies about “how to” live my life. So…OK…take a deep breath. Hold it a few seconds. Let it out. Feel better? That, my friends, was an act of love.)
We all have it within ourselves to discover our own truths about what we truly want and need. And it is without self judgment that I urge you to examine what those somethings are. What good is self flagellation anyway?
If you need a reminder about not being able to destroy that which you love, remember the ant farm! Make it your mantra and do what it takes to love your bad self!