Archive for acceptance

Changing what I can’t accept. Accepting what I can’t change.

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Relationships, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2008 by 99ppp

This post is a followup by my previous one on the Fat Acceptance movement. It is clear that many in that movement have given up due to how hard they believe it is to lose weight and keep it off. So they chose to accept it.  This is a deeper exploration of the word “Acceptance”, both as necessity and liability inspired by my secular interpretation of the Serenity Prayer.

Acceptance is a refuge to today’s success oriented and “chasing the carrot on a  stick” world. Eastern faiths like Buddhism and Taoism also vaunt the idea to accept and live in the moment. But how realistic is that? Fully engage in the moment, one has to decimate the idea of self. The self is how we discriminate ourselves from our environment. It can be argued that the self is an illusion, but perhaps it is a necessary one, the cost of conscious thought and being able to construct time to concoct causality.

So when is it the time to accept, and the time to change things? The question goes to desire. Desire in the western industrialized world is often associated with aquisition of more and more goods. Wealth is linked to freedom as getting more stuff, makes one presume that there is a greater range of activity that could be done. Freedom of possession and freedom of action are not equivalent, and often we sacrifice one to get the other. Imagine having all these possession and not being able to enjoy them out of lack of energy or time. Everyone gets twenty four hours in a day, whether rich or poor.

Acceptance thus is an invitation to live in the moment. Buddhism says that life is suffering and the solution is to eliminate “craving”, which is just a slightly stronger word than desire. Desire propels us to where we can be fully ourselves, but only temporarily. Man’s insatiable curiosity, will move us to change, even out of sheer boredom. No amount of meditation will destroy it.

The dynamic struggle between novelty (change) and tranquility/stability (acceptance) makes many of us confused about which of these two paths to move through. What I find is that this struggle makes many of us running around like a dog chasing his tail, frantic activity heading nowhere. Many of the stoic philosophies tell us to see.. and not judge. The analytical ones tell us to judge then see. A graceful dance between acceptance and change isn’t easy, many will only change facing a crisis, or accept after endless energy has been wasted striving to achieve some futile result.

Making decisions in a state of crisis often work temporarily. A means to an end to alleviate immediate suffering. There are a myriad of self-help books giving suggestions to change, or to accept, but few mention how to harmonize these two. The idea of wu wei, efforless effort, or flow as described by some can only come after getting in touch with whatever authentic self we have at the moment. Our idea of self changes as time goes on, so the idea of a static “true” self is deceptive. Our sense of self is dynamic, like a river whose source can not be rigidly defined.

Changing what I Can’t Accept

The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation – Thoreau

Thoreau’s quote above describes what many experience because they feel they have no choice but accept their lot in life. Desire contained within a cocoon of acceptance, and calling it peace of mind.

Many people don’t change simply because they don’t think they deserve it. They leave their passions at the door, often claiming some higher spirituality (acceptance) to rationalize it. But the acceptance is often an evasion, a lack of faith in one’s ability, or confidence. This has occurred to me quite often, related to writing as I tend to write as I speak, while others weave their words so eloquently that my writing feels inadequate. My lack of consistency lies in my prior belief that writing stemmed from pure inspiration, now I see it as a craft. I believed that reading more about how to write effectively would stifle my creativity, and while I believe that it is a valid concern, it has previously diminished my inclination to hone my craft. I was a strong believer in wu wei, a good philosophy in its proper context, but using it to rationalize my rebellion. In a world full of rules, it is easy to fall into the role of “rebel” without exploring the rules and seeing why some others heed them. My co-blogger and editor here wisely said “You need to learn the rules to break the rules.” I initially rejected this premise as I saw it as an invitation to indoctrination, which I got enough of at school. Now I can read other peoples ideas and not fear their influence by judging them prematurely, and just allowing myself to be exposed to them. Judging comes later, to see if I can selectively use them or amend them to fit my philosophy, or style of writing.

This is the kind of rebellion I often saw in the FA movement, confronting the valid concerns about equality and media images of beauty by self sabotaging and indulging in sensory hedonism, almost out of spite. Behind the surface I saw many people who were discouraged from their lack of success in losing weight. Both of us here at 99ppp have gone on bouts of lethargy and poor nutrition, before finally making a decision to make the shift towards exercise and healthy eating. The road is not a straight line, and we are hardly perfect. We make adjustments to the exercise programs we use, and allow for temporary nutritional indulgences, with full awareness of what we are doing.

Accepting what I can not change

Here the philosophy of living in the moment triumphs, as time melts away and the division between the self and the environment dissipates. Meditative practices and some ancient philosophies mentioned above certainly remind us to look, a relationship with who and what surrounds us before jumping to judgment.

Indulging in perpetual wants, wishing, pining, fantasizing can erode one’s energies and can contribute to feeling helpless, instead of accepting perhaps some harsh realities and acting within the sphere of where one has choice. Finding a vision that is both inspiring and realistic is a challenge to many, often we can sell ourselves short, or overestimate our ability to affect matters.

The wisdom to know the difference: Life as a winding road

Learning this wisdom is where the adventure lies.

We often want novelty and stability simultaneously, and can suffer through the quiet desperation Thoreau describes. There are no answers, only approaches that work well under certain circumstances. There are as many philosophies in the world as there are people, and every path is unique. Many are looking for quick formulas, systems, or rigid ideologies and religions to keep them from the risk of making some mistake. There’s nothing wrong with exploring other people’s conceptual maps, I do it myself, yet at the end we’ll each have to chart our own, and recognize that sometimes we may feel lost despite having one.

I will expand on the tension between desire and acceptance, freedom and security, AND order and chaos in future posts, since this can fly on various tangents but all of these apparent dualities interrelate.

Fat Acceptance: An intriguing idea gone wrong

Posted in Culture, Media, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2008 by 99ppp

I stumbled across Shapely Prose (a Fat Acceptance (FA) blog) as it was a WordPress featured blog. At first, I thought it was a good idea for larger people to have a community where they can get support, as often they can get alienated by media and society at large, saturated with unrealistic body expectations, which we recognize at our blog. Suddenly, I found myself censored at this prominent FA blog, simply due to challenging some of the premises in their advice column (more details here). It got me interested in the movement in general, visited a few other FA blogs, and began to see an ideology and culture crystalizing around it, bordering on dogma. Below are my impressions.

Identity: Fat acceptance as Replacement to Self-Acceptance.

I’ll touch briefly on the word “acceptance” which merits a post of its own. Identifying oneself deeply with fat, and hoping others to overlook it and/or accept it, will create mixed results. This is the problem with pride which often leads to arrogance. This is what seems to happen to some of the FA bloggers more than their readers whose responses tend to be more nuanced.

“…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” – Serenity Prayer

I believe much of the FA ideology is rooted in comfort. It is easier to accept than to change. Easier to surrender to sensory hedonism than mindful consumption. Pure unquestioned acceptance leads to stagnation. Pure unquestioned change leads to stress. Both can lead to a loss of self esteem. Fat is just one characteristic of a person, and no one is its full incarnation. It’s OK to have some dissatisfaction, as it helps us grow as people.

There is no conflict in saying I like who I am but dislike some of the things I do (or fail to do). Self-worth to me comes from a sense that I can stretch my limits in a realistic fashion. This has occurred to us through exercise and applied LONG-TERM nutrition not quick fix diets.

Distortions of valid social issues

We are against bigotry, and believe that people should be respected and granted basic human dignity regardless of their particular nationality, sexual orientation, “gender”, “race/ethnicity” (will elaborate on the quotes in a future post), AND size. I believe this may have been the initial premise of FA, which is admirable. Militancy in extremes can flip upon itself, thus turning feminism into sexism, unconditional love to an expectation of unconditional attraction, and empowerment into victim mentality.

Intuitive Eating

There’s a mantra that is heard so often, which ironically is one I agree with: Diets don’t work. An extension of that is something called intuitive eating. Reading the principles, they sound reasonable except # 5 “Respect your fullness”. Many people (including myself before I began learning about nutrition) use fullness as a gauge to end hunger. This can result in bloating, lethargy and consuming more calories than needed for sustenance and well being. I was using food as a sensory playground, rather than a source of nourishment. I don’t believe in denying myself any type of food, yet one can indulge with full awareness of the caloric density of the food, and consume accordingly.

The term “intuitive eating” itself is a problem, as it suggests honouring the wisdom of the body forged through the millenia of evolution. It overlooks the fact that we don’t live in hunter-gatherer days where food was scarce, it took more body energy to get it, and was unprocessed unlike many calorie-dense, packaged foods we find in our supermarkets.

What can be more intuitive and innocent than a child? I was fairly overweight as one, and I ate what I wanted when I wanted. I was fortunate to have my parents notice my overindulgence and began to practice mild portion control and serve healthier foods. Some parents unfortunately use food as a pacifier. Below is a tragic example of what can happen when a child is permitted to eat “intuitively” in these days of low nutrient calorie dense packaged foods. (Vid: 2:39 min)

Our brain is also a remarkable organ that’s evolved through time. It’s ok to use our knowledge in nutrition in harmony with our stomachs and our palate. Feels right, AND makes sense. Not one or the other. BOTH.

Insecurities of the Flesh

Posted in Culture, Love, Media, Poetry, Relationships with tags , , , , on March 27, 2008 by 99ppp

I wanna be sexy
I just feel ugly

I want someone to like me
I want someone to love me.

Am I too thin
Am I too fat

I just want to eat
I don’t care what people think
I just want to purge
I don’t care what people think
Oh how a little part of me gets lost inside
I retreat, I hide
I just want to be left alone
to die a little inside

I want someone to like me
I want someone to love me

My waist is too big
my waist is too round
My dick is too small
my dick is too long
My boobs are too big
or are they to small

I want someone to like me
I want someone to love me

Why do they all hate me
My physical scars
Which sears my soul
Why do I feel defeated
The images I see  are always
one of insecurities.

I want someone to like me
I want someone to love me

Blame the fashion , blame the T.V. ,
Blame playboy centerfold page number 3
Blame ourselves take a true look at ourselves
Why do I believe the lens
That defines what is  beauty
The mind becomes infected
by their carnival of vanity
reflected in a distorted mirror

That filter showing “what is”wrong”,
instead of what is beautiful

Eroding self confidence…
That distortion exchanged
for a  fistful of dollars
Why do they prosper
from our self-hatred?

Find the spirit
Find the soul
Find true beauty
which can only be defined by oneself

Find love in myself
Find love in life

I want to like me
I want to love me

I will shed my layers
I will shed my skin
I will shed my insecurities
I will transform from within

I will find that sacred space
I will find that balance
I will find peace
One day at a time