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There's always more to learn

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Q: I often get stuck labeling food as either "good" or "bad". How can I change this habit?

A: Oh, my friend. Such a complicated question. Society certainly has helped create all kinds of conflict of this sort in many people's brains, mine included. This is an area where I rely on my understanding of dialectics; simultaneously holding two ideas that seem to be in direct conflict. An incredible struggle quite often, but strangely calming and satisfying when you're able to do it.

Take for example, the image of the bakery case I chose for this post. My brain looked at this and immediately saw both the "good" (YUM! PRETTY!) and the "bad" (SUGAR! REFINED CARBS! TRANS-FATS!) and my brain decided that in order to avoid future negative emotions (fear, guilt, anxiety about starting a binge) that these treats fell squarely into the "bad food" category.

But let's take a look at the other side. What if you were visiting a new city with your family and this was a locally famous bakery that was recommended to you? New information has been added to the equation that your brain is using to make decisions. Now the "good" side includes making a memory with your family, having the experience of tasting one of these local specialties and being able to talk about it with others later, maybe experiencing a new flavor combination that you wouldn't expect, appreciating the craftsmanship of an expert baker. The "bad" side also got some new information, which is basically the flip side of all the positives I just mentioned.

The decision just got more complicated.

Or maybe not. When you practice dialectics throughout your life on a regular basis, situations like this don't become an internal battle of "right" and "wrong". With practice, your brain gets good at quickly identifying both sides of the equation and recognizing that 1) there is no "perfect" choice and 2) your choice in this matter does not necessarily lead to either disaster or success in the future.

This is one situation, one choice, one experience. You can make a choice, practice mindfulness with that choice, and let it go.

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