Two mornings ago when I got up, it was a Sufi Spiritual Retreat day for me, I went to the kitchen to make breakfast, I threw something in the rubbish bin and I saw yogurt my daughter-in-law had thrown out and I burst out crying.
At first I was angry that she hadn’t asked anyone if they wanted it, but as I calmed down I realised it was at its best by date and no one in the house would have eaten it anyway.
I realised that she was very generous with food and so this wasn’t even about her. So what was it about?
I started working with two of the Divine Qualities in Sufism, and going deeper into what might be happening for me.
I saw myself as a child, at the dinner table, and my father telling me to eat up because there were starving children in India. Mixed with eating was guilt, guilt that I got to eat and they didn’t. I had to eat everything on my plate because I should be grateful I got to eat. And others didn’t. Whether I had an appetite or not.
As a child, I had no way of processing the upset, grief and despair I felt that there were other children out there in the world who didn’t get to eat. I offered to mail some food to India but that wasn’t really the point my father was trying to make.
The Haves and the Have Nots
I’m not blaming my father, he probably grew up with less food than I did, but it’s an illustration of how simple things that are said to a child, to get them to do something, can have lifelong consequences.
Seeing that yogurt in the bin brought up so much despair in me, that others out there didn’t get to eat and I did. Throwing away food caused me so much anxiety. As if eating wasn’t a right I had, when others went without.
I Can’t Save The World
I told my inner 5 year old that she wasn’t responsible for the starving children of the world, that she could eat as much and as little as she wanted.
As an adult, without that guilt, I’m able to help from a place of power, rather than despair. I don’t have to feel bad that I got to eat and someone else didn’t.
In my 20s I actually sponsored an Indian girl, even when it was hard to put food on my own table. It was a nice gesture, but it was still this unconscious repetition that I had to feel guilty for eating.
Are you trying to save the starving children of the world too by feeling guilty about what you eat or throw away?
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