Study Notes: Yoga of Eating, Theater of the Oppressed

Two recent "courses" have helped me to gradually re-enter the human body, after having been a disembodied "ghost in a machine" for all these years :) , not really in touch with the body's innate intelligence and wisdom. They helped usher in a new chapter of "embodied rehabilitation" in my journey.

Yoga of Eating

Yoga of Eating is the first book that Charles Eisenstein published. It turns the conventional diet-book paradigm on its head by inviting readers to tune into the authentic needs of the body, and follow those insights to fully enjoy the food.

I picked up the book because I have been wrestling with themes such as food ethics, craving, gluttony, sugar, and fasting. Key lessons that stuck with me from the book:

  • The body knows better; will power is insufficient. 
  • Listen to the authentic needs of the body. But it's not easy to listen, as we've been so distracted and contorted. Natural breathing helps us to listen to the body.
  • I eat too much not because I enjoy the food too much, but because I am not "actually enjoying it" enough. When I hurry to swallow each bite while being distracted in conversations or mind-wanderings, I am not really eating "food" -- I am eating thoughts and emotions. Thus, I overcompensate for the "low absorption rate" of my meal by increasing the size of the pile on my plate. But if I fully chew and enjoy each bite, I will soon be satisfied with a more nuanced fullness and contentment. 
  • The cravings for sugar, fat, oil, etc, are "false refuge" for the deeper longing and emptiness in life. When I am craving sugar, I am actually longing for the sweetness of life. When I overeat, I am actually compensating for a deeper emptiness and discontent that, after all, could not be cured by stuffing my stomach. These cravings and harmful habits are important signals for me to listen to, in order to surface the deeper needs of life. 
  • "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint." - Mark Twain 
Theater of the Oppressed

I am in a summer class on the Theater of the Oppressed (TO), taught by a great teacher who is also a leading theorist on TO, and a long time Vipassana meditator. Am very grateful to have discovered this powerful and playful tool of social and personal transformation. I can see it being very applicable in activists circles, and as a useful tool in China's awakening.

As a very early student of this form of art/revolution, here are some key lessons so far:
  • Experiences of oppression live in the body, and need to be transformed through the body.
  • Traditional theater puts the audience in the role of spectators who use the stories on stage as a catharsis, crowding out real actions and changes. TO engages the audience as "spect-actors", creating and re-writing the stories. 
  • As preparation for using theater as language and discourse, we must first "know the body" and "make the body expressive".  Knowing the body is "a series of exercises by which one gets to know one’s body, its limitations and possibilities, its social distortions and possibilities of rehabilitation." Making the body expressive is "a series of games by which one begins to express one’s self through the body, abandoning other, more common and habitual forms of expression."
I asked the teacher, what is the "Bible" for the Theater of the Oppressed. He suggested an essay titled "Experiments with the People’s Theatre in Peru." I've found it very insightful and eye-opening.


mkozo said...

Thank you for this powerful guidance. Your statement, "I am not really eating food--I am eating thought and emotions" really struck a chord with me. I look forward to mindfully eating in silence with you at Awakin Circle.

Also, powerful insights from Theater of the Oppressed. I am reminded of what Min said about money issues being in the body, and one of the best ways to get at them is to re-embody them through acting and theater.

merle and pete said...

I also recommend 2 books by Ronna Kabatznick (Hampshire F'70): The Zen of Eating http://www.bonanza.com/listings/The-Zen-of-Eating-Ronna-Kabatznick/110967461 and Ronna's entry in Donald Altman's book Meal by Meal 365 Daily Meditations for Finding Balance Through Mindful Eating. And check out the web page of the organization she started The Center for Mindful Eating http://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/ronna-kabatznick