As you are always in control
of what you want or not want,
when you think you have ‘lost’ control,
it is you not wanting to be in control.
Overeating can become a form of addiction, that causes problems such as obesity, which leads to poor health. How can one stop overeating? First, one has to mindfully and clearly see the many disadvantages of overeating, versus the many advantages of eating healthily. These sharp contrasts should always be firmly kept in mind… till the habit of recalling them arises more readily, before the habit of mindlessly reaching for food does. Next, one has to realise that it is absolutely not true that one ‘cannot stop eating’, because one always has control. There is, after all, no one forcing you to eat. We only imagine we are not in control. We are not slaves to our greedy compulsions. To deny the constant power of choice we have is to continually have bad faith towards ourselves. We are self-victimisers before we are victims. There is always time to reclaim mindfulness and control!
Once, a student who was facing Zen Master Suzuki Roshi told him that he couldn’t stop snacking, and asked for some advice. Roshi immediately reached under his table, whipped out some jelly beans, and said, ‘Here, have some jelly beans.’ As we can imagine, the student was most probably stunned by the direct and counterintuitive advice… and didn’t reach for the jelly beans. He should had realised straightaway, that what he said wasn’t true at all. He can indeed stop snacking, as he just did. It’s all a matter of whether he wants to, whether he acknowledges his power of choice mindfully, whether he had set a firm resolution to stop snacking, whether he continues to deludedly believe he can’t stop. If he was truly out of control, he would had grabbed the jelly beans instantly. But there was restraint as choice was clearly presented to him. Roshi was proving to him that he has control.
When another student asked Roshi about Zen practice, he saw cigarettes in his pocket and replied, that ‘Zen is hard. It is at least as hard as quitting smoking.’ He was seizing the opportunity to skilfully relate his addiction to Dharma practice in a down-to-earth way, which is none other than to acquire wisdom, to compassionately end how we harm ourselves and others; to help one and all instead. Why speak of lofty Zen ideals if we can’t even break an obvious bad habit? Dharma practice is at least as hard as quitting it, as this is part of it! Each time we repeat negative choices, of overeating, smoking or such, we reinforce our addictions. To outgrow diehard bad habits, create ‘dieharder’ good habits! Roshi once remarked that a hippie student probably smoked too much pot, to which he said, ‘Ok, I’ll quit. You’re the boss.’ Roshi replied, ‘No! You’re the boss!’ The real master is always you. Good teachers will urge you to realise this, to take control of your life with guidance of the Dharma!
As you are always in control,
whether you want to be or not,
even if you imagine you had ‘lost’ control,
you can always regain control.
How to Have a Zen diet?