Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hindering My Hindrances

Buddhism identifies five hindrances that hinder our ability to see clearly or become concentrated, not just in meditation, but in our everyday lives. I’m currently taking a 10-week online course that examines these five hindrances, and have to tell you, a few hindrances are hindering me from wanting to examine my hindrances! LOL

The five hindrances are: sensual desire or greed; ill-will or aversion; sloth and torpor; restlessness, anxiety and remorse; doubt.

While I’ve listened to teachings on these hindrances before, I’ve not thought about them the way I have the last few weeks. It’s quite disconcerting to purposely think about and feel – physically and emotionally – the things I do to avoid pain or to fulfill a desire or craving. Sometimes I get frustrated and tired of the self-examination and wonder if ignorance wasn’t a better state in which to live my life. If I don’t examine anger, I can just let anger do my talking and acting. If I don’t examine anxiety, I can just take a pill or avoid it with exercise or some other distraction. If I don’t examine feelings of ill-will, I can go on hating and feeling justified.

When I examine the five hindrances from a weight-maintenance perspective, I see that restlessness/ anxiety, anger and doubt hinder me most from learning to trust that I have the ability to not gain weight again.

As I told you in my last entry, my weight was up two pounds this week from my most comfortable weight, and the first word that came into my mind when I saw 130 on the scale was “failure,” a word steeped in anxiety, anger and doubt. However, by using the RAIN formula to examine this hindrance, I am uncomfortably able to see where this is coming from and, for now, accept it is there and use it as a focus of meditation.

The RAIN formula is (from Insight Meditation Center’s Audio Dharma course):

R: Recognize it.
A: Accept it.
I: Investigate it, be curious. What is it like?
Physically (How does it feel in the body? Is it pleasant? Unpleasant? Does it change?)Emotionally (What emotions are present?)
Energetically (such as feelings of rushing, sinking or lifting)
Cognitively (What beliefs or stories do we tell ourselves?)Motivationally (Is there an urge to act or cling?)
N: Not personal. Non-attachment. This is just a passing process that comes and goes, not who we are.

Yesterday I went to Pittsburgh to spend the day with both of my girls and my grandkids. Whenever I travel, be it for a few hours, days or weeks, I plan my food strategy. And as I plan my food strategy (sometimes the process begins the night before), always in the back of my mind is some anxiety and a little anger. I didn’t realize I felt this way until I consciously stopped in the middle of packing my food yesterday to examine these feelings more closely. Yes, I was feeling anxiety and anger, but why?

I felt anger because I hate planning my food. It makes me feel like a freak. I can’t eat like “normal” people. I can’t just eat whatever I feel like eating. I can’t do what I used to do because I’ll gain weight again. Ah…that’s right. That’s where I failed every other time I got to a weight goal. I stopped paying attention to my food intake and went back to eating whatever I wanted to. Hmm…so maybe all this planning has merit and shouldn’t warrant anger. Something to investigate.

I felt anxious because I worry I’ll gain weight if I stray even slightly from my daily food plan. I especially spend a lot of time in this anxious state when I plan my food for going out of town.

Here was yesterday’s plan:

Breakfast:
Smoothie (½ C ff Greek yogurt, ½ C light soy milk, 1 C frozen fruit, 1/3 t stevia)
Omelet (¼ C Egg Beaters, 2 egg whites, fresh chives, slice of low-fat Swiss cheese, 1 C mushrooms sautéed in Pam spray)
Iced Good Earth herbal tea

Lunch and afternoon snacks:
2 T PB2 (dried peanut butter) and an Arnold’s Sandwich Thin
2 small plums and 1 C sliced strawberries
1½ C vegetable stew (which included textured vegetable protein)
1 bunch asparagus, roasted with 2 T parmesan cheese
3 large carrots, roasted
String cheese
1 No-Pudge brownie

Dinner:
Salad made with homemade refried beans, spinach, salsa, low-fat sour cream, olives, onions, homemade corn chips, tomatoes
2 glasses of white wine and one Werther’s hard candy

Having at least recognized these two hindrances, I packed my breakfast and lunch and drove to Pittsburgh. (And yes, I ate a smoothie and an omelet in the car. I’ve gotten very good at it.)

When I got to my daughter Cassie’s house, she and Carlene were just finishing up getting ready. They said we were going downtown for a walk and eating lunch outdoors at one of their favorite restaurants. How fun!

Um...yeah…I panicked. I have my food plan all set! I can’t eat out today! I’ll eat something stupid and I’ll gain weight! Oh no oh no oh no!

Then I stopped. Good lord, my mind is noisy. Is it always this noisy when I face a “food trial”? and I realized that yes, it is that noisy. Yes, I do play doom and gloom tapes over and over in my head.

Hunh, I thought. Just by recognizing my noisy mind and accepting it, the anxious feelings didn’t seem as harsh.

After a lovely walk across the 6th Ave. bridge and playing in the fountain with Claire, we went to the restaurant. I ordered a small salad with light Italian dressing on the side, a baked potato with butter on the side, and a side of steamed vegetables. I left feeling in control and happy about my choices and only felt a little sidelined.


We went back to Cassie’s and I ate the brownie and the strawberries and decided to not eat the plums. As I drove home, I ate the string cheese and peanut butter sandwich. I had the veggie soup and asparagus and carrots for dinner instead of the salad, and I drank the wine and ate the Werther and all was well with the world. Well, OK, so I was still a little anxious. Hindrances don’t go away overnight. But when I got up this morning and weighed myself I was 129.3.

Interesting.

I guess what I’m learning to accept is that planning is key to my success. I don’t like it, maybe I never will, but it is the most important thing I do to stay on track. So instead of feeling angry about it, I’m going to work toward accepting it and appreciating it.

As for the anxiety, walking the path of maintenance is like walking on a tightrope. It’s been scary and paralyzing and obviously makes me anxious. But what I didn’t realize until I examined my underlying discomfort is that I’m not walking a tightrope high in the air, and that I have a safety net to catch me if I fall. I HAVE learned how to eat and think more healthy than I did back in my gain-lose-gain-lose-gain days, so now I need to trust that I can utilize those tools whenever I meet a weight-maintenance hindrance.

My hindrances are not who I am. They are part of the process.


Here's a little photo of g-baby Luca awake. What a little man.

17 comments:

  1. Wow what a great post, what insight you are starting to have on yourself. There were so many feelings that you described that I've had as of late and I'm trying to deal with them accordingly and the right way at that. I'm looking up the course you are following if I have the budget for it I'll give it a try. I think one of the greatest tools for us is awareness which is what it looks like you are developing for yourself. Kudos for the great post! You are an inspiration for many reasons but your honesty is the main one.

    Sassle :)

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  2. I don't think that most people can eat whatever they momentarily desire and avoid consequences. There are many that do just that - but, this is why there is an obesity epidemic in the U.S.

    To avoid being part of the epidemic requires thoughtful consideration of what you eat - not just mindless consumption.

    While I have struggled - I'll agree that some make it look easier than others and some (the rare individual) can just eat and their metabolism or their extreme exercise abilities (e.g. marathoners) pick up the slack .

    Perhaps recognizing that thoughtful consideration of food and exercise choices goes on in most fit (or soon-to-be-fit) people on an ongoing basis will make it easier to swallow?

    You're just one of us, not a freak or different or anything... just another one like the rest of us. And, like the rest of us, you sometimes regret having to be conscious of all that and sometimes make choices you regret.

    But, gosh, in the mean time - you are a huge inspiration to me!

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  3. I like your approach to seeing what IS without judgment. Love the class you are taking and look forward to hearing more about it.

    I had to look up 'torpor' - I don't think I have ever seen it - what an interesting word.

    tor•por (tôrpr) n.
    1. A state of mental or physical inactivity or insensibility.
    2. Lethargy; apathy. See Synonyms at lethargy.
    3. The dormant, inactive state of a hibernating or estivating animal.

    AND

    I think that you are brilliant for ordering side dishes instead of trying to find one main entrée that meets all your needs. Sounds like it was much simpler.

    AND

    So very glad that your kids and grandkids are close enough to visit often.

    AND

    My eyes caught your ‘normal’ wishes right away.

    I remember writing a posting where I talked about the fact that I always had my eyes 'set' on 'normal' and Helen (college friend and now blogging buddy) http://hellysbelly.blogspot.com/
    told me to stop and take a look at normal, that I seemed to be a little too hung up on my perception of normal.

    And I did - I looked at normal everywhere I went.

    And I thought about 'normal' as being

    av•er•age (vr-j, vrj)
    n.
    1. Mathematics
    a. A number that typifies a set of numbers of which it is a function.
    b. See arithmetic mean.
    2.
    a. An intermediate level or degree: near the average in size.
    b. The usual or ordinary kind or quality: Although the wines vary, the average is quite good.

    So I looked at the usual choices people were making in food by looking in shopping carts.

    And I looked at the typical body sizes that people had while waiting in line at the license bureau or a store.

    And I looked at the quality of people's muscle tone and posture everywhere I went.

    It was a week or two of looking at everyone EXCEPT me.

    And my thoughts about wanting to be 'normal' have never been the same.

    I don't want normal - I think I am above and beyond normal.

    I think it will take 'normal' a good long while to understand and catch up with my (now) choices and life.

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  4. Yours too.

    And PS - LOVED the pics!

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  5. Lynn,

    What a fabulous post. Your study of the five hindrances and the RAIN formula really piqued my interest. As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to write down the RAIN formula on a notecard and keep it on my desk and in my wallet. I think it would really help me "talk myself in from the ledge" as a good friend of mine calls it, when I get caught in a loop of panic/stress-based thinking.

    I'd like to know more about the study that you're doing. You speak often about what you learn and how you apply it to your maintenance journey. Your "toolbox" is impressive, and I enjoy learning about those tools you use. That you write about using them provides great context for how I might use them myself.

    Thanks for sharing your process. It certainly makes a difference for me.

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  6. Vicki, LOVED your insights, as always, particularly the "I don't want normal - I think I am above and beyond normal." I will definitely rethink my definition of "normal."

    Sassle and Jules, the classes and downloads through Audio Dharma are free, in the tradition of Buddists relying on donations. So you pay what you can when you can. While I don't "classify" myself as a Buddhist (I still believe in god), I've been studying vipassana meditation for a few years now and it has improved my life greatly. I highly recommend it.

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  7. I love your post Lynn and Vicki's comment too. So much good stuff to think about. I know when I'm in therapy we have talked about "normal" several times and bottom line there is no such thing as "normal". We all are our own person and have our own normal.

    You know I always find your words so calming. I must admit I never think of you as a person with anxiety or anger.

    I too look forward to hearing more about your class. It sounds like a really good one.

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  8. Thanks for this post. I have constant struggles within my own mind quite often, not just about weight, but other things. I have been studying buddhism (more as a way to live life than a religion) and freeing oneself from anger is a big part of it.

    "Sometimes I get frustrated and tired of the self-examination and wonder if ignorance wasn’t a better state in which to live my life."

    There are times when I so agree with this statement.

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  9. First, adorable baby! I want one! We'll keep trying and trying and trying.

    Second, I have a LOT of mental chatter all day. Ever moment I am awake I think about food. Sometimes I just want to wake up normal, but I know that isn't me. I'm a planner too. We don't travel much but the moment a trip gets scheduled, I start figuring out what we're taking. A bit obsessive. Me, not you.

    Vee at www.veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

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  10. Your journey, like mine, just proves that there is no going back. Even twelve years later I still plan what I will and will not eat, and still watch the scale diligently. For me, the food choices I made as an obese person were based mainly on emotional need, not physical need. Now, my food choices are more physically based, rather than emotionally based. Learning to dissect the "whys" of overeating was one of the hardest things for me to do. You are doing a great job of figuring out what works for you and you are succeeding. Great post as usual!

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  11. Really enjoyed this post, Lynn! I would not enjoy studying the 5 hinderances... I don't always like to look at the 'pink elephant' sitting in the corner.

    About your food planning - I also think that is the secret of weight maintenance. I have kept my weight loss off almost 2 years now and am (like you) very diligent about planning my meals. What I haven't gotten past though, is bringing my own food to someone else's house. I know that most of the people we gather with wouldn't like what I eat, but my midwest politeness won't let me bring my own. I feel like it would be an insult to the hostess. I would really appreciate any suggestions on how you overcame that. ~ Karen

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  12. Lynn,

    I have to start by saying that I admire you greatly for your amazing weight loss and your ability to keep it off. Please keep that in mind as you read on.

    The day I started losing weight (albeit very, very slowly and I'm still about 2 years from my goal) was the day I stopped obsessing about every single thing I put in my mouth. It was the day I started listening to what my body was telling me about taste and feeling full.

    It was also the day that I realized how overwhelmingly angry I felt being told that I could only eat X, never eat Y and be careful of Z on Tuesdays or after 9:17 p.m. every second Sunday. I think it's the same anger you expressed in your post, but for me it was an anger that I was totally unable to accept and knew would stop me from reaching my goal.

    Because of my work, I eat out constantly. I almost always make healthy eating decisions, but after that, the only decision I force myself to make is to push the plate away when my body (not my mind or my eyes) has told me that I have eaten enough. Sometimes it's really hard to hear that voice because it's so tiny and gets drowned out by the desire to taste MORE and MORE. It's a work in progress.

    Thanks for your references to Buddhism. This philosophy has a lot to teach us. And thanks for listening to someone whose destination is the same but whose road is very different.

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  13. Lynn, I really love your discussion of Buddhist principles, especially as they pertain to maintenance. Thanks for breaking down the process for us.

    ~Shelley S.

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  14. Lynn! Just got back from vacay and I actually thought about you when I was gone. I think what I was thinking was how you are someone who has achieved their weight loss goal and maintained it. I think I thought 'Lynn is just another thin person.' It is hard for me to think of you as ever having been heavy. So to hear all about your food planning, and obsessing when things don't go exactly right, and anxiety and anger. Wow--makes me feel more normal, and a normal I want to be. I tried my hardest to eat well, and get in the exercise, but it was hard. and frustrating.

    Thank you for sharing your mental process with us. I think I will still choose the angst and the planning over the inability to move and breath that was my former life...

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  15. Great post, I am also up a few lbs after a week of hardly anything eating post surgery...I made up for it the week after. This definitely included some eating out of anxiety and depression but I (AGAIN) realized I have the tools to take off a few lbs before it gets out of control. I know what to do. Really liked the RAIN concept, I will use that. Thanks!

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  16. Thanks, Lyn, great post. I totally relate to the planning or at least thinking through the options I will be presented with. I've tried to 'just float' but it doesn't work well for me in regards to my WOE. I think for me I abused food and choices for too long and I'm not willing to risk going back to that.

    RAIN and Audio Dharma are things I'll check out. I took a Buddhist meditation course late last year and although it wasn't 100% my thing, I learned a lot and continue to study meditation.

    Cheers-

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  17. Sybil, it took me awhile to get into it, too. I'm not a daily meditator, at least not daily in the sense that I take 20-30 minutes every day to meditate. I do it in small increments some days. But I do like to implement Buddhist teachings into my daily life, which has helped immensely. Glad to hear you're still studying. The best part about Buddhism is that we don't have to flog ourselves if we've erred :)

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