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Putting the Mind on a Glutton-Free Diet

A person I love must eat gluten-free because she has celiac disease. We’ve learned how to take great care in preparing meals when she visits to prevent even the smallest amount of gluten from entering her body. This requires knowing how to avoid “cross contamination”—inadvertent gluten in a meal from careless practices.

I began wondering recently about putting my mind on a glutton-free diet. I wonder what it would be like to live for a day, a week, a month, or a lifetime without feeling cross-contaminated by the “more is better” messages generated by my own reptilian brain and our consumeristic culture.

The energies I most want to prevail in my consciousness include peace, joy, compassion, and purpose. If these energies were flowers in the garden of our souls, a more-is-better way of thinking presents itself as the fertilizer that will make them grow. Maybe if I had more of this, I would finally be happy. Perhaps if I had a lot more of that, I would finally be at peace. In reality, a glutton-laden mental diet is like applying Preen (a product that kills seeds before they germinate) to the garden of the soul.

Dominican monk Meister Eckhart wrote 800 years ago: “Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God-seed into God.” Peace, joy, compassion, and purpose are God-seed in us, but our “more is better” thinking makes it impossible for these seeds to grow to their fruition in us. In their place we get a crop of weeds such as craving, discontent, comparison, emptiness and many other dis-eased states of being that flow from constant “more is better” thinking.

Just as a good meal can go from satisfying to uncomfortable with one helping too many, we are on firmer spiritual ground when we question the assumption that more money, sex, square footage, status, or success will move us incrementally closer to happiness. In consistently allowing thoughts of “more is better” to travel the neuronal pathways of our minds, we actually move further away from inner peace and its companion energies (joy, compassion, and purpose).

British philosopher Bertrand Russell said: “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.” This single line is, for me, a starting point for giving my best effort to putting my mind on a glutton-free diet. Contemporary Rabbi David Wolpe has written that “Holiness is a greater ideal by far than happiness because it embraces struggle.” If holiness is our goal, we need to guard the mind from glutton-laden thinking as carefully as we strive to keep every molecule of gluten out of the body of a loved one with celiac disease.

Gluten in the diet of a person whose immune system attacks it can lead to major health problems and premature death. A glutton-laden mental diet just as surely attacks the very energies which define a holy life and a wholly alive human being.

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