Healing the body, mind, and world
Healing the body, mind, and world
Part of a series of short talks about how to think about food and eating in a Buddhist context.
- How making healthy choices can heal body and mind
- How our choices can enable us to benefit others
I’m Bobby Sweetheart. [laughter] The only reason I did that is because in my journey of life I’ve had a very challenging time at certain points of being kind and loving to the being who lives inside of my own skin. Part of that is to treat myself with healthy foods, healthy choices, walking around.
This is the book that I wrote called Lighter and Free from the Inside Out. I appreciate Venerable for allowing me to post the lamrim teachings that were translated for non-Buddhists on my website to help people blend healthy living and really Buddhist practice, but the key of all of this is that we are all interconnected and interdependent. In my group of beings who I’m incarnated with in this life, many of them struggled with achieving and maintaining healthy choices in their lives, and I saw that that really caused immense suffering for them. Suffering for them personally, but all of my family. My heart grieved, was very touched and saddened by their distress, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
I weighed 400 pounds in the 8th grade. Finally, at 21 I said, “Holy petunias, I’ve got to do something.” That’s when I lost all of my weight. Now I’m 65 and have maintained all of that loss. But that’s the easy part. The part, to heal my mind, Venerable came into that aspect. I cried out to life, “My mind’s a mess.” I’d tried numerous spiritual practices, and I really, really have a deep spiritual belief and guiding system in my life, but it had not answered my deepest quandaries, and that’s when I prayed out to life, “Please help. I don’t know what I need, but I need help.” And then Venerable came in my life at that point. It’s been the most miraculous piece of this. In my teaching health education for the last 26 years (I just retired four months ago, after being there, seeing like 20 to 60 people every week) I can really tell you personally, in seeing thousands and thousands of people, that the principles you teach here, you literally become what you think, and what you eat, and what you do. Your moment by moment choices shape your entire life. And it’s all based on karma.
My weight is like 157, and I stayed that way for forever, automatically, when I listened to my inner wise self that guides me. The piece that Venerable mentioned is that if we say we love our family or our friends and we do not take care of ourselves, it’s really not showing them that. Because then they directly are affected by your disease and your illness, and it’s hard to take. However, conversely, my first relationship was not very healthy and I loved him and will always not put him out of my heart, but he did not know how to be healthy, so finally I ended that relationship and was single for 10 years. Then I did extensive spiritual practice and emotional healing work, and then found my companion (and I’m gay, by the way). So, straight folks have a problem finding healthy relationships. If you’re gay it seems you have to go to Mars. So I asked life and said, “Holy petunias, I am just not going to harm myself to find a companion.” So I really went through counseling to explore: “How do you create healthy relationships?” I never saw any in my family group. Do they exist on Earth? And if they do, what are their characteristics? Because I didn’t know.
I studied and I asked life, the mystery of life, and my karma ripened into the most wonderful teachers as Venerable. I mean, you’re just precious. I so appreciate your gifts and your hard work for the world. But those teachers helped me heal the wounds that my dear and precious family has never been able to heal. I’m sad about that. But now with the companion I’ve been with for almost 20 years. We got married last year, because in Oregon they’re very schizophrenic. It was yes, no. Yes you couldn’t. So we finally did. We were companions for 19 years, and now spouses, is we never have had a fight in 20 years. We use non-violent communication. It doesn’t mean we always agree with one another, but when we notice…. We are invested in this and I do not see it the way you are seeing it. We’re able to communicate about it. We don’t have to scream at each other, throw things, and run out of the room.
The food part is that we make complete, healthy food choices. We have lots of fresh, healthy food. We don’t bring any junk food into the house at all. I left where I was working for 26 years with 750 hours of sick leave. So eating healthy food choices, doing this regularly, was a great gift. We also go to the gym three days a week to do strength training and those things, and offer it up as spiritual practice. When I’m at the gym I say mantra, I do practices and send out healing energy to all the people who are sick in our sangha, who have multiple injuries. Because doing those exercises is as exciting as watching paint dry. So I try to turn it into a spiritual practice and offer it up to all beings. And I can see, to the people there who are struggling in their [inaudible] and they’re trying to keep their [inaudible] relatively healthy, and I pray for them, because I don’t know what struggles they go through. So healthy food has really completely transformed my life.
It’s really Buddhist practice. Every day I’m so appreciative that I’ve never missed a day of prayer and meditation in 43 years. I truly take time to contemplate and send prayers and healing energy out to everybody. This has so changed my life. My life is an absolute miracle based on following these principles. It really is. The ripening of karma, you never know, you keep practicing, practicing. My urge to compulsively overeat was completely transformed, and has not come back once in 43 years. And my urge to drink alcohol and take drugs was completely transformed and has never come back in 28 years. It’s all based on the principles Venerable has been teaching. It’s just so wonderful to have someone who has had such a vision of helpfulness to the world, follow through with it, asked for guidance and support, and now I’ve assured other people that you’re very determined and passionate Dharma teacher. In other words you’re very passionate about it and I really appreciate this.
Remember that we offer this, our Dharma practice. I came up with a phrase “creating peace in a chaotic world.” We truly, truly are doing that here. And just realize that as you choose to eat healthy and pray for all those people who struggle with their own emotional and physical distress be healed, that you are planting seeds for healing in the world. I walk around the store and I offer up all the food there to all beings, and then buddhas and bodhisattvas, and pray for to the people there. And so you never know, you truly are sending out healing energies around the world, and this is so precious, beyond contemplation, so you can just really appreciate it. I always say, “Yay, whoopie Buddha.” So, thank you.
Venerable Thubten Chodron
Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.