If you never learn to love yourself, you will spend your whole life seeking that love from others.
As a young Christian I constantly felt under pressure to discover what ‘the will of God’ was for my life. This is not so different from what people call ‘finding your passion': it’s learning about who you are and what you most want to get out of life. But when it’s framed as the will of God, you really don’t want to fuck it up.
Creating life goals is the work of years, and for me this wasn’t the problem. It was the tiny things that got me stressed out. Did I just hear God telling me to give money to that beggar? Or to go and speak to that stranger about Jesus?
Christians know themselves as the children of God. While this metaphor has its uses, when it is pushed too strongly—and it usually is—the overwhelming freedom of the human condition is sacrificed for something less. The freedom we then know is that of a child who cannot leave his mother. It feels safe, but it’s not real freedom. We prefer this, however, because we never have to become adults, which would mean deciding for ourselves.
We were made for more than infantile clinging to what we think the will of God might be. Fear was not meant to be a permanent feature of our lives.
It is not enough to choose from a set of pre-packaged Christian options. It is not enough to hear the voice of God and trot along, the ever-faithful servant. Freedom requires that saying ‘no’ to God, or to any power that claims authority over us, be a possibility that is so real it is a razor’s edge. When we hear a compelling call to do something that we know is not true to who we are, and can say ‘no’, only then can we call ourselves adults.
I’ve never been interested in detoxes because I feel my body handles toxins well enough. It’s only because I’ve been going to a chiropractor, to address chronic neck tension, that I’ve reconsidered. This chiropractor believe that a congested gall bladder and bile ducts is directly linked to muscular pain and tension in other parts of the body. A series of two-day liver cleanses is the answer, he says.
I trust this chiropractor. Since my first visit the tension in my neck has dropped significantly, and I’m 4cm taller. My new posture feels strong and balanced, and this has impacted the way I feel and the way I relate to people every day. A physical adjustment has brought a clear psychological improvement. I’ve never felt so strong.
Before trying the cleanse I read arguments for and against it online, with a lot of people saying it is a complete hoax. So when I did it, it was because of my trust in the chiropractor’s expertise. And the first cleanse bought such an improvement. The tension in my neck was reduced, and subjectively I felt lighter and cleaner. After the second cleanse I started sleeping better, right through the night without any wakings.
If it didn’t help, people wouldn’t do it, because it’s gruelling. On day one you cannot eat anything with fat in it (which is harder than you’d think), until 2pm, after which you cannot eat anything at all. At 6pm you start drinking Epsom salts dissolved in water, which basically serve to give you diarrhoea. At 10pm you drink half a cup of olive oil mixed with half a cup of orange juice.
Yes, you read that last sentence right.
And now it’s day two of my third cleanse. Drinking the Epsom salts solution feels like drinking metal, and it makes me gag if I take anything more than a sip at a time. Glass number three is down. I have another glass to drink in one hour. At around lunch time I should have excreted a hefty amount of, well, crap, and will break the fast, and hopefully start to feel awesome.
Right now I feel weak, but strong enough to write. I feel proud of myself for making it past the toughest part of the regimen, and that I’m well on the way to completing the four to six cleanses that the chiropractor thinks I will need.
And I feel happy that I’ve done yet another whacky thing for my health, despite scientific evidence telling me it’s useless. I don’t have a strong enough interest in science to find out why the liver cleanse has such a profoundly positive effect on your health. The how doesn’t matter so much as the results. The same goes for Reiki. It may not work in the way Reiki practitioners say it works, but but I cannot deny the deeply positive changes it’s brought to my life.
It might turn out that mainstream science one day accepts our whacky alternative health techniques, but I’m not going to sit around waiting for that to happen. Health, like happiness, is not something you put off for the future.
If you’re interested, the regimen is detailed here.
My life has got quieter since I put my phone permanently on vibrate only.
I always look for a neat answer; it’s just how my mind works. So when I think about who or what God might be, I want–when my thinking is done–to be able to say it all in just a sentence or two.
But God is not easy to pin-down and dissect. Our ideas of God are formed organically, marinated in attitudes and especially feelings from family and friends, from books and school and society. When we say "I believe in God" or "I don’t believe in God", we’re putting in a nutshell years of growth of understanding. We build intellectual arguments to justify the nutshell, but what lies inside is more raw, more basic.
When I read many theists I am confronted by their fear of unbelief (and what that might mean for the fate of their souls); when I read the new atheists (like Dawkins or Hitchens) I am bowled over by their anger at the theists. They paint their positions in the language of rationality, but their basic stuff is fear and a lack of peace.
I don’t want what I call God to be like that. That’s why, although I’m frustrated by not knowing who or what God might be, I’m also tentatively satisfied. Why? I want the question to be part of me. I want to infuse in the question. I want the question to change who I am, to slowly but persistently shift my emotions and grow me into someone more healthy, strong, and authentic.
If I’d found a simple answer, it would probably be a manufactured McGod, something I use to solidify the emotions and thoughts that I don’t ever want to face and resolve.
We are accustomed to looking for answers to our problems from outside sources. But Umair Haque says it so wisely: “Be what you search for.”
The problem with the Buddhist idea that the purpose of life is to become freed from the wheel of life and death, to escape the cycle of reincarnation after reincarnation , is this: that it makes life seem like a curse, something that we would escape if we could.
And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?
A linguist told me about a satire that changed his whole way of thinking about gender-neutral language. I just read it, and it made me laugh and think deeply in equal measure. It’s not a quick read, but it’s worthwhile: A person paper on purity in language.
I was wandering through the grounds of Wat Umong, an isolated forest temple in northern Thailand. Everything in the shade seemed to be covered with moss, everything in the sunlight scorched, baked and faded. As in a lot of Thai temples, many trees are considered sacred, and bear the orange robes of the order. Many more carry little plaques inscribed with pithy Dharma quotations.
It’s an ideal space to have fun with a camera.
I was caught by a strange inscription on the ground, and studied it. As I did so, a young Monk approached me, clutching a piece of paper. Pronunciation exercises. He pointed, and asked in very broken English how to say “cupboard”. He was not quick to take in the new sounds. But he was eager to chat, in any language.
He took me on a tour of out-of-the-way parts of the temple. The broken-down crematorium, the head monk’s quarters. Our English lesson deteriorated; we resorted to Thai and conversation started to flow. So I learned his story, of how he used to wait bars in the den of decadence in Bangkok that is Kao San road, then entered some backcountry monastery before arriving at Wat Umong only that week. He had taken his vows to make merit for his parents, and guessed he would not stay in the order for much longer than a few months. His spirit was wild and not ready for the confines of monastic life.
We parted. Seeing the rich, dark green foliage behind him, and feeling the soft diffuse light of an overcast late afternoon, I risked pulling out my camera.