It’s day seven of a cold, and I’m ready to release it. I got up this morning and tried to meditate. My spiritual practice devolved simply into drinking a big cup of coffee. My thoughts were filled with how gloriously wonderful it would be to eat a big greasy breakfast this morning.
Harmony and I jumped in the Jeep and drove up to a local diner where I feasted on bacon, eggs, hash browns and biscuits with gravy. Somewhere, a voice deep inside me, screamed out “yes!” I wrapped up the standard tribute for Harmony of some bacon and hash browns and left. After she shared in my guilty pleasure, we drove home.
Why is it that sometimes you simply have to eat something that your intellect tells you is not good for you? After all, I know all about the dangers of fatty foods, the health risk of eating genetically modified food and so on. I’ve seen all those movies that warn us about our food system… “The Future of Food”, “King Corn”, “Food, Inc.”, and more. Mary and I try to buy local and organic. We consciously try to consistently eat healthy. Sometimes, though the body overrules the mind. What’s up with that?
Here’s my theory for today on this… know that it’s always subject to change… but I tend to think this relates to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This has always been one psychological theory that has appealed to me.
Maslow’s theory says that we are motivated to fulfill needs. These needs can be categorized in a hierarchy, where we move from lower needs to higher needs. Generally, we must have the lower needs met in order to work on the higher needs. His hierarchy moves from basic survival needs (air, water, food) to safety and security needs (shelter, health), then on to belongingness and love needs, followed by self-esteem related needs (achievement, status, recognition). Each of these levels’ needs can be seen as an attempt to fill a void or lack in our lives. If all of these levels are met, then Maslow said, we moved into a new level of needs, where we strived for self-actualization… a level not based on lack, but based rather on “becoming”. In his later writing, Maslow added an even higher level of becoming that he called transcendent needs.
So how does Maslow relate to eating that greasy breakfast? On most mornings, I awake with a sense that all my lower needs are met. That frees me to greet the day with my heart open to gratitude and my eyes and intentions turned towards higher needs, self-actualizing needs to write, transcendent needs to commune with the Divine. Today, my lingering cold kept my attention focused on lower needs…probably somewhere in the area of safety and security. I needed to do something to fulfill these needs. The mind might say, “rest, drink plenty of fluids, take your cold medicine.” The body said, “go get yourself a big breakfast”. Both would be trying to fulfill the needs for health but there’s another factor at play here, which allowed the body to overrule the mind.
When we were younger our experiences fed the development of our beliefs. Many of these beliefs we can consciously point at, but many are below the level of awareness… in our subconscious or subjective mind. One pattern that most of us developed was a sense that consuming certain foods, made us feel better. We got sick, our mother gave us late certain foods, we got better. Friends hurt our feelings, we ate certain foods, we felt better. Sometimes, the linkage between food and feeling better was made conscious, such as in the case of chicken noodle soup and a cold. Many times, the linkage was unconscious, such as in that bag of potato chips that you eat when you’re mad at the world.
For me, I’m not going to feel guilty about my diner breakfast. On some level, it made me feel better, and that’s a good thing. In my opinion, the key is simply to be conscious. The next time you feel compelled to eat the “comfort food” that calls you, simply recognize that most likely there are some lower level needs which are currently unmet in your life and there is a subjective belief somewhere within you that links the food to fulfilling that need. Bringing that fact into your conscious awareness now allows you to make a choice. You can break the pattern of feeling bad, leading to eating food that make you feel guilty and then feeling even worse.
Your choice is this… You can choose not to eat comfort food, and instead deal with meeting your needs with more direct and logical solutions. Or, you can choose to eat comfort food with the understanding of why it makes you feel better, releasing any guilt, and allowing that food and the power of your intention to fulfill that lower need.
The key is to become conscious, to choose from awareness. Set your intention to be comforted and no matter what your choice, you will be.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!