by Sharon Sandweiss
O fragrant fruit,
Crisp, cool delight,
Shines bright from Nature's seat,
Sweet humble treat.
But something calls from far away,
A sweeter treat than you, I say.
I spy afar a tempting sight
Of pure delight!
A royal dish:
Rich flow of chocolate
Upon the ice cream dome of white,
And on the crown a dollop of whipped crème,
Fit offering for a queen.
Oh simple apple,
Truth be known,
Resistible you are,
Though nature grown.
A different story for
The sinful sweet-
My high-caloric treat.
Despite a firm resolve,
All prohibitions do dissolve.
Try though I can
You'll always get the upper hand!
The four women sat close together, relishing their noon-day meal and the happy camaraderie. Their faces were animated and bright from the fruitful conversation. Peals of laughter rang out as they exchanged stories. They had been friends for many years, and had shared heartaches and joy.
The first to finish her lunch exclaimed loudly, “Time for dessert! I'm getting the chocolate sundae.”
“Sarah,” admonished Kathryn, “You don't need the calories. Let's share a baked apple.”
“A baked apple? Are you kidding? I've been thinking about ice cream through the entire meal,” Sarah retorted. “I just suffered through a boring salad so that I could enjoy dessert!”
Joya and Eve nodded in agreement, and announced that they, too, would be ordering a rich concoction.
But Kathryn could not be silenced. “I don't want to spoil your fun, but think of all the fat and sugar you'll be ingesting. There's an epidemic of diabetes, and Sarah is already pre-diabetic. A rich dessert causes the blood sugar to rise. Do you all want to become a statistic?”
Joya immediately jumped into the conversation “Why so negative, Kathryn? You're skinny, so food isn't a problem for you, as it is for us. You don't have a sweet tooth, so you don't understand our cravings.”
“I sent a copy of the Glycemic Index to Sarah so that she could see the carbohydrates that play havoc with our body,” responded Kathryn. “Eating too many carbs increases our desire to eat more of them, until we're completely out of control! Besides, I know that we all feel guilty when we over-indulge!”
“But Kathryn,” said Joya, “The chicken dish you ordered was swimming in a creamy rich sauce which didn't look very healthy. And I don't want to judge you, but I believe that when someone kills an animal, he causes suffering and pain. The meat-eater is directly responsible for the chicken's death.”
Kathryn looked pained. “Can I share a secret with you that I haven't told many people? In college, I became obsessed with food, and felt that I was much too fat for anyone to like me. My parents were getting a divorce, and I was stressed and sad. I pushed hard to get A's, and along the way I developed an aversion to food and became anorexic. If you think I'm thin now, you should have seen me then!”
“Why haven't you shared with us before now?” exclaimed Joya, giving her a big hug. “Now I'm beginning to understand you. How did you recover to where you are now?”
“Fortunately, my roommate dragged me to a counselor, and believe me, I was very resistant! I'm in a continual state of recovery, but here I am todayhealthy, but a little thin, and perhaps a bit too rigid.”
Joya looked at her friends and said, “It looks like we're all struggling with our own demons, trying to gain mastery over our senses. I'm sorry, Kathryn, if I made you feel badly about eating meat.”
The four women paused for a moment to reflect on the serious turn of the conversation. They had discussed this topic before, but this time it seemed more personal and more real.
Eve looked troubled. She took a deep breath, and began. “I need to tell the truth. My defenses are down and I'm tired of pretending to be happy when I'm actually feeling depressed and desperate! I have high blood pressure, I'm over-weight and out of shape. I've tried every conceivable diet plan: juicing, fasting, low-fat, low-carbs, high protein, vegetarian, and even vegan. But to no avail! My eating is out of control, and so is my life! My husband is unable to help me. What can I do?”
Sarah quickly responded. “Why would God make food so delicious, if we weren't supposed to enjoy it? The kitchen is the happiest room in our house. When the smell of fragrant spices starts wafting down the hall, everyone comes running. When the family sits down for the meal together, we share the day's events, we laugh together, and we feel close and loving.”
“But I do enjoy food,” interrupted Eve, “And that's the problem! I enjoy it too much.”
“Truthfully, it hasn't always been so easy,” admitted Sarah. “I used to feel that my life was out of balance. I tried to be the ideal wife, mother, and daughter, and that made me exhausted and resentful. I couldn't live up to my own high expectations and I turned to food for comfort. A dear friend told me to start loving myself more, to try to have a more balanced life. This advice resonates with me. I've stopped trying to please everyone, because that is an impossible task. I now take time for myself each morning, and begin the day with gratitude and prayer. Food gives only temporary pleasure, so I try to eat to live, rather than vice-versa. I'm a work in progress, but I definitely feel happier.”
“Thanks for mentioning gratitude and prayer,” said Joya. “In our home, we begin each meal with a food prayer, thanking God and asking that the food be blessed. If we feel that we are divine, and that our bodies are instruments to do good work in the world, then perhaps the thought will help us with our eating.”
“Joya,” said Eve, “What does your Sai Baba say about eating?”
“Sai Baba says that when we gain mastery over the tongue, the other sense organs will follow. Simple, pure food gives strength to the body and brings peace and happiness to the mind. A happy, peaceful mind allows us to see the beauty of creation.”
There is an intricate and inseparable relationship between food, head, and God…As is the food, so is the mind. Only one with a pure mind can understand divinity... You should consider food as God, not as mere matter.
~ Sathya Sai Baba
Eve sighed loudly. “Even if I believed what Sai Baba says, I might still have trouble with self-control. I have such a love/hate relationship with food. I try to eat a healthy diet-you probably know the list: nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, sprouts, and yogurt. But I still crave 'bad' foods, and I often eat too much of the 'good' food. It must be part of my kitchen karma!”
“How can I give you advice,” admitted Joya, “When I still haven't mastered my own tongue! Sai Baba reminds us that we must control our mind before we can control our eating. But in order to control our mind, we need to eat a pure diet. So which comes firstthe mind or the food?? All I can do is take one small step each day, and pray for help before each meal. Sai Baba emphasizes the importance of controlling our speech, so I watch that my words are kind and beneficial.”
By controlling the tongue, one can virtually acquire control over the world itself. The power of speech can be either used for a noble and sublime purpose or misused in a mean and mischievous manner. Too much talk brings on premature senility. It also heightens the appetite, which in turn causes more talk.
~ Sathya Sai Baba
Sarah joined in once more. “Would you like some tips that have worked for me, Eve? Try to be balanced so that you never feel deprived. If you want an ice cream cone, then cut back on dinner. I keep a food diary to develop mindfulness of everything that I eat, and I also eat slowly to savor the tastes. Exercise helps with cravings, so it's good to be active during the day. In addition, lack of sleep increases cravings, and so does watching a lot of T.V. My sister, who is always on a diet, uses the acronym HALT before she eats, and asks herself if she is: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.”
Kathryn had been quiet for much of the conversation. Now she spoke up. “Thanks for being friends. I'm sorry that I criticized you, Sarah. I'm too self-righteous for my own good! I see now that my daughter Jill is reacting to my criticism and has low self-esteem. I feel like rushing home to tell her how much I love her and how beautiful she is both inside and out! I don't want her to have the problems that I had. With anorexia, I tried to build up my self-image through a rigid diet. Thank goodness I learned mind control to change negative thoughts to positive ones. I couldn't have done this without faith in God. I see that I have more work to do!”
The four women were silent, absorbing the deeper and more honest friendship. At that moment, the waitress appeared.
“Could we please see the dessert menu?” asked Eve.
“Unfortunately,” replied the waitress, “We have only one dessert item left on the menu.”
“It has to be the ice cream sundae!” exclaimed Sarah.
“I'm sorry. We have only the baked apples left.”
“Awwwwwwwwww.” An audible groan escaped from Sarah's lips.
Seeing the down-cast faces, the waitress added, “I'm sure that we can find a small scoop of ice cream to top off the apple!”
Foods which increase life, purity, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness…which are substantial and agreeable are dear to the satwic people.
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, verse 8