Category: asceticism

Alone season 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

So far, *spoiler*, I’ve been thinking the most about the ex-police officer lady who seems to have PTSD, as have many of the ex military contestants, except the current ex-sniper. She got in combat mode when a bear and her cub were sniffing around her tent. Afterward she tapped out because she didn’t like clicking into that mode. On one hand, I think she may could have worked through it, given more time. But on the other, a body gets tired of stress, and more stress isn’t really going to help. Sometimes you need community support and can’t go it alone.

But in the olden days, people didn’t really give themselves breaks, but maybe that was only certain people. Other people did collapse.

There’s an interesting dichotomy between those who endure, and those who succumb. We admire the first, but have sympathy for the second. The tension between righteousness and mercy I suppose. Still, St. Paul says to press on.

highly efficient metabolisms

by Andrea Elizabeth

Just read a post from a woman lamenting having metabolism problems similar to mine. I also saw a young girl interviewed who just lost 100 lbs by having a very strict, gram counting diet who had to walk 4 miles a day with her family to lose it. She was very overweight as a 1 year old too. All the testing was negative. She was told she just had a slow metabolism. I would also call it a very efficient metabolism. A person who can function and even hike on 400 calories a day gets pretty high gas mileage. But we are not thankful for this. 1, our appetites are for a normal 2000 calorie diet. This is what normal people can eat, so portions are sized and given often enough for this. 2, we don’t feel that well and aren’t very motivated to move. I wager that it takes us more calories to have gumption than normal people. We need a sugar high to just get out of bed. Physically speaking. This only makes it worse because, in addition to the subsequent sugar low, it’s harder for fat people to move. So, basically motivation comes from pure will power or finding something else to get worked up about.

Will power where one is motivated by a sense of duty, responsibility, vanity, or selfless love for others does not take one’s mind off of feeling sluggish or wanting to eat. It only allows one to muddle through moving and not eating. There is not enough energetic joy.

Joy comes from doing what one loves. Only that will get one’s mind off of food and energize one’s steps. Thankfully caffeinated drinks can come without calories and will provide a sense of fullness, well-being, and energy. But who wants a liquid only diet. It’s not the only thing one will reach for, but if you reach for it first, it’s easier to deny food.

For me, going to Church, and visiting children and grandbabies, and driving and hiking though beauty are very motivating. When I’m on a trip, it’s easy to get out of bed. Coffee will sustain that feeling though the activity. But coming back home to the daily responsibilities, while nice, is not quite enough to quicken my steps away from the kitchen. Will power must come to the fore.

Additionally, fat people are very negatively judged as lazy gluttons. Way more judged than people who get their bursts of energy and sense of well-being from shopping and alcohol, for instance. Just because it makes them ugly. Being rejected for being fat ugly can make a person resentful and more drawn to salve their low feelings with food. Resentful for not being able to eat like normal people and for being judged for outer appearance. Resentful faces are not pretty either. The outer appearance thing goes both ways. Curbing food intake to be more liked is vanity and being co-dependent with people’s lusts. Craving beauty is not the end all be all virtue. As I said above, I love driving through beautiful places. But this can become selfish if one is neglecting their responsibilities and their relationships. Same goes for Church attendance.

Also, genetically modified food that is more efficiently grown, is probably more efficiently digested. It’s a catch 22 if people would modify the way they ate. If you consume less, then they don’t need to grow as much, but that’s not what happens, is it?

My caffeine just ran out and it’s too soon to get more. I’ll go put chlorine in the pool now, because taking a trip for over a week caused the pool to be neglected and ugly. So I’ll slog through the procedure. And if I had more energy, I’d make this post more artful by drawing more corollaries with gas mileage. Like how Yugos couldn’t go uphill. You go, get it?



by Andrea Elizabeth

Alone is George’s and my new addiction. We’re 3 episodes into the survival show that put 10 guys about 10 miles apart in a cold, soggy, bear, wolf and cougar infested forest on Vancouver Island to see who could last the longest. Before one guy found fresh water he talked about how becoming upset elevates your heart rate and blood pressure, so he kept calm on purpose. It is interesting how one can somewhat regulate one’s bodily responses to stress.  It takes a psychological toll though, which usually catches up with you. I’ll call it Pelagian Buddhism. It is manufactured peace without grace*. Graced peace is effortless. Perhaps manufactured peace can become a habit and be effortless too, but I wager it is not as good. We have a stress response on purpose. It enables us to flee or fight. To stay in a dangerous situation and basically ignore your impulses can be a Buddhist feat and impress people at parties, and can sometimes save your life, such as not gasping and gulping while still partially submerged under water, but there is a time to gasp and gulp, flee and fight.

Several people in the show obviously were letting themselves panic. They were not expecting the conditions to be as bad as they were. Expectation has a lot to do with peace. One needs to know what they’re in for to prepare themselves. I’m very interested to see who can cope with the isolation and imminent danger. I sympathize with the ones who have already “tapped out”, but they do seem a little babyish. They aren’t handling disappointment very well. They seem to feel betrayed by the show letting things be that bad.

Back to keeping calm on purpose. I don’t think this works very well if one is resenting their conditions. One needs to be convinced that they are in the right place to have genuine calm. I remember going to get my 5 year old vaccinations. I was hysterically fighting against them. I did not believe shots were necessary to sustain or improve my life. I felt betrayed by society and my family. I have learned since then to not fight or flee many situations I do not like. However, I’m not very easily convinced the situations are depriving me of necessary conditions for my life. Sometimes I just feel powerless and that it’s useless to fight or flee. Sometimes it’s blind faith that God will work it out in the end. It’s also a pretty stubborn belief that I don’t need a lot of what society tells me is necessary. I am pretty minimalistic about and question a lot of customs. I think it is better to learn to live only by grace from God instead of things we normally think of as necessary, like food, water, clothes, shelter, and certain types of community. But for the uninitiated to do without them cold turkey with a stoic attitude alone, that’s not going to last very long. The desert can destroy people. The ones it doesn’t know its secrets and have gradually conditioned their bodies to withstand deprivation.

You can tell the guy who cut down all those trees depleted himself too much too soon. He’s not in his right mind right now. I hope he eats some slugs, has some salt with his water, and rests for a while before calling it quits.

*I can’t say for sure Buddhistic peace is without grace. Maybe God doles it out based on intention. And maybe there is grace in being one with God’s naturally graced creation without acknowledging him.

Your nous will out you

by Andrea Elizabeth

Psychics develop this, but everyone, I assume, has the ability to know where someone with sunglasses is looking. I’ve often wondered how you can tell, and recently it came to me that it is because nouses are detectable. This is how you sense that you are being watched. It’s not fool-proof, but an attended gaze is a powerful thing that impacts those involved, photographed, in proximity, and as St. Nicholai Velimirovich says, the whole universe.

St. Nikolai Velimirovic
The Prologue of Ochrid ~ February 20 Reflection

Water is finer than earth; fire is finer than water; air is finer than fire; electricity is finer than air. Nevertheless, air is a dense element in comparison to the spiritual world and electricity is a dense element in comparison to the spiritual world.

Electricity is very fine but the voice is finer than electricity; the thought finer than the voice; the spirit finer than thoughts.

The air is fine and it carries the voice over a great distance. Electricity is fine and it carries light over a great distance. Nevertheless, how much more is every deed, every word and every thought of yours carried to all ends of the spiritual world. O how awesome it is to commit sinful deeds and to speak sinful words and to think insane thoughts! To what immeasurable distances are amassed from that on the waves of the spiritual sea! But do not go into the details of the unknown world. The main thing is that you know and that you measure how all of your deeds, words and thoughts unavoidably create an impression on all four sides: On God and the spiritual world, on nature, on men and on your soul. If you train yourself in this knowledge, you will attain a higher level of saving vigilance.

Many Years!

by Andrea Elizabeth

On the occasion of His Grace Bishop Alexander Golitzen becoming our next Bishop of Dallas and the South, and who is a famous scholar of St. Dionysius, I read all seven pages of Saint Dionysius’ Mystagogy from CCEL.org.

The spiritual therapy books that I have recently posted about are more in line with the ascetic tradition of completely emptying yourself of desire for anything except God. This is extreme asceticism. And it is similar to what St. Dionysius describes as God being beyond being. It is like when you take away all the anthropomorphic attributes that we use to describe him and sink into the abyss. I would say that this is not for the beginner, nor the intermediate nor even the above average practitioner. It should be done incrementally by giving up one thing at a time and becoming comfortable, familiar, thankful, and almost satisfied with the gift God gives you in return. To quit all pleasure in created life cold turkey could leave one devastated if not delusional. First one should probably start chipping away at the wrong attributes that one has learned about God, such as Calvinistic TULIP, and read Saint Athanasius’ On The Incarnation, St. Dionysius’ The Divine Names, or other Orthodox books instead. Same goes for fasting. Your body has to make a big adjustment if you cut out all meat and dairy sources of protein, and similar adjustments when cutting down on amounts of food. I say give yourself a lot of time.

on chastity

by Andrea Elizabeth

The cure for lust is explained in Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet’s Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses as chastity. I was specifically looking for the place of pleasure in marital relations. Indeed it is more nuanced than the explanations about food. Marital relations are not to be despised as Paul explains in I Cor. 7. But the priorities are laid out as loving and obeying God first for the proper context, and receiving the spouse in Christ before physical pleasure. It is acknowledged that to be purely chaste and not ruled first by pleasure in marital relations is very challenging.

I understand that a monastic seeks to prioritize pleasure in God instead of the physical pleasures of marriage and food, and that there is compensation that a monastic can attain that makes him not miss natural pleasures. Also, that food and marriage can serve to teach us about the delight that can eventually be found in him when our world of necessity is overcome.

for the enjoyment of food

by Andrea Elizabeth

I skipped to the third book in Dr. Jean-Claude Larchet’s Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses for the chapter on curing gluttony, which is temperance. I keep thinking of the movie, Babette’s Feast where Babette prepares a sumptuous gourmet feast for the pious, austere Danish pastor’s daughters who have taken her in, and some villagers and friends. As a result, the guests break out of their shells and learn to enjoy themselves, and become more pleasant and merry. I know that America in particular swings way too far the other way so that obesity has become a very expensive and life-threatening epidemic, where austerity is the remedy. But not austerity to the point of becoming dower and fearful, imo. The chapter on temperance talks about measuring your intake enough to weaken the passions, but not enough to become too sluggish and depressed. While amounts should be closely monitored when you have the weakness of gluttony, which not everyone has as interest in food varies dramatically between fat and skinny people, I believe flavor enjoyment also has its place. The book talks about the proper attitude of thankfulness to God for nourishing food, but I believe we can also consume with thankfulness for the taste as we eat in obedience for our necessary daily bread.

Additionally, Americans become easily bored, so that Snickers bars are no longer good enough. Now we have to fry them. Hamburgers aren’t good enough; now we have to put hot dogs, chili, and onion rings on them, and serve them with tacos. The cure for this isn’t adding more and more spices and ingredients, but in abstaining for a time, so that one can appreciate simpler food. A piece of bread can taste like the most decadent cake if one is hungry enough, provided they have a functioning pleasure sensor in their brain. Pleasure is supposed to be a motivator to engage in healthy activities, not something to be completely ignored, imnsho.

noisy food

by Andrea Elizabeth

The above video gives a very fascinating insight into how biochemical reactions in the brain can influence a person’s eating habits. It is interesting to me that the anorexic does not get positive feedback when they eat. The response is a mix of neutral non-response and very loud “noise” comprised of lots of negative thoughts. Many times this does not change with treatment, but, similarly to a diabetic, the person has to learn to approach food from a strictly measured medicinal standpoint that remains unenjoyable.

I do not have anorexia, but the ambivalent argument in my head regarding food is very noisy and stressful. The act of eating is very positive with lots of pleasure sensations involving my mouth and nose. I have a neutral digestive response. I do not feel full most of the time, so there is no, “stop now, we’re done. This will last a long time.” I could easily weigh 1000 lbs by eating a moderate to large amount of food all day with very short breaks in between, and enjoy every minute of it. However, I do notice that the longer I wait between, the better food tastes, but the payoff of occupying myself with eating is greater than the taste advantage to waiting. I could very well live to eat, occupying myself only with planning, executing, eating, cleaning up, drinking, then repeating with only sleep or entertainment breaks. I force myself to moderate this craving as I do have some impulse control, thankfully. This is the argument. “you are overweight (well, not that fat, you still have a shape), you are eating more than your share (yeah, but if I only take this much they wont miss it), you are gluttonous (I don’t eat as much as those 1000 lb people), you just ate half an hour ago (but it was just half a sandwich and one bite wont hurt), it’s too expensive (but not as much as Panera), you will run out and have to go back to the store which you do not like at all (with enough planning I can make it last), people think you’re fat (I still get some looks), they will admire you more if you lose weight (this is the most ambivalent of all. Weighing vanity and prideful indifference, having a habit of how I relate with people based on how I used to look and whatever else influences how I want others to think of me), temperance leads to theosis and the conquering of other passions (you fast from meat and dairy half the year! you deserve it!).

A few years ago during clean week I fasted completely for about three days and was surprised at how relieved I was not to have that argument going on constantly inside my head. I understand what the lady above is saying about the peace of a quiet mind by not eating at all. As much as I enjoy food, I do not enjoy my relationship with it. As soon as I had a meal though, and the suggestion to fully abstain was lifted, I went right back into the cycle. At almost 50 with my metabolism slowing way down, I’m wondering if eating a moderate meal only once a day around 7pm with a little grazing allowed until 10, not just on fasting days, will be nutritionally enough and allow me to keep my mind quiet the rest of the day,. It would relieve me of the constant guesswork for 21 hours a day. I think I might can do that and enjoy the break to develop other interests.

on gluttony

by Andrea Elizabeth

Chapter 3 of Part 2 in Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses deals with gluttony. Here is the main point,

“However, the passion does not reside in the act itself of eating, but in the presiding intention and the purpose given the act by man. “In the usage of food to eat out of need and out of pleasure are one selfsame action, but the sin lies in the intention,” St. Dorotheus of Gaza states clearly. The passion, then, rests in a certain attitude of man’s towards food and nutrition – more precisely, in his turning food and nutrition away from their natural end goal. Since God has given food to man for a precise purpose, to have it serve other goals is to pervert its use and make use of it wrongly. St. Maximus writes: “The things that we eat have been created with a double goal: to nourish us and serve as a remedy. To eat for other motives is to use wrongly what God has given us for our benefit.” [Four Centuries on Charity] Man then respects the natural end goal of food and nutrition when he nourishes himself of necessity so as to maintain or preserve the life of his body, to guard or regain its health. But when he turns food into a means of pleasure, he makes a contranatural use of it and the nutritive function.” (pages 152, 153)

Isn’t a bit harsh to say that to get pleasure from food is sin? Should we really not spice our food except for the mineral content? Should we be taking blood samples to see how much salt we need before we add it? I do have a passionate attachment to food. But to me mastery entails knowing how to time and measure amounts and eating what my body needs, which is different from other people since my islets of langerhans are a bit sensitive. I have to pretty much eschew sugar until the end of the day. But for someone who is hiking the whole Appalacian Trail in 45 days and who thus uses 7000 calories/day, they need sugar, so they can twinkie it up. Or at least eat a lot of raisins. Should they not enjoy it? I think we should have a fast and feast attitude where you find the right balance of fasting and subsequent feasting. If a person fasts until 7pm, their evening meal is going to taste better than it would have if it were the fourth meal of the day. Should they not feel rewarded by the added pleasure? Provided they don’t binge on a whole tub of blue bell afterward.

The following video comes to mind, which I watched a few years ago. An Anglican Priest seeks out the desert life of St. Anthony with the question, ‘what is wrong with enjoying a bowl of tomato basil soup and having a nice day in the shade?’ Like I said, I agree with the answer he finds, but I don’t think tomato and basil plants were created by God just to tempt us.


Four new state parks posts

by Andrea Elizabeth


Politically though, I wonder if some conservatives find the idea of state parks socialist. If so, then maybe I’m socialist to some extent. Some people think all land should be privately owned. And over 90% of Texas land is, making access to the prettiest parts restricted to those with better networking skills than I have, if it weren’t for state parks. True conservatives think you need to know somebody in order to get the nicer things in life. I am a bit alienated, and think networks in general make you compromise and schmooze. This is why I identify with Derrida’s marginalized people. I prefer establishments that will serve my kind, even though I don’t like wheelchair access hiking trails. Too straight and boring.