Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Should I Eat the Cookie or Not?

On the way home from teaching today, I listened to a talk given by the American-born spiritual teacher Adyashanti (http://www.adyashanti.org/), which ended with two simple suggestions:

     1. Be willing to get very very quiet within, in order to listen to the truth in the heart;
     2. Then, do it.

To me, these are just different words for Alexander's concepts of "Inhibition" and "Direction":

     1. Stop doing; stop the habitual noise, the inner chatter, the mindless habit of unconsciousness;
     2. Allow direction into movement to occur.

When the talk was over, I sat in the car for a moment and thought about how simple these ideas are.  Wouldn't it be nice if I could practice this all the time?  Wouldn't my life be much simpler, easier, more truthful, authentic, and peaceful, if I could just stay quiet, inhibit, and direct myself with my whole being, all the time?  Wouldn't I ultimately be much happier if I could stay conscious in this way from moment to moment?

Next, I entered the house, put away my paraphernalia from the day, went into the kitchen, and was immediately struck by the idea of eating a chocolate-chip cookie. 

"Oh, drat!" Do I really have to put this into practice NOW?!  Can't I just go ahead, relax, and eat the darned cookie without having to think about it?  I'm tired!  It's been a long day! It would be so nice...  so sweet...  I worked well today, don't I deserve something delicious, something pleasurable?  Do I really HAVE to think about this now?!?!  (I started feeling just a wee bit sorry for myself, annoyed, frustrated...)

Hmm...  With Adyashanti's words and my own AT teaching from the day still reverberating in my being, I stopped and stood in the middle of the kitchen.  Instead of "doing the usual" and instantly gratifying my desire to ingest the cookie's comforting sweetness, I remembered my freedom, and decided to try things out for myself, thinking:

"NO.  I am free."  

I am not a slave to habit.  I refuse to give in to habit.  I want to be free.  I know I AM free, right now.  I am free to stop and consider.  I am free to choose.

I am free to eat the cookie now.  
I am free to give in to habit.  
I am free to not eat the cookie now.  
I am free to take my time as I think through what is really best for me right now.  

What is the truth inside me telling me about this? 

I allow myself to get very quiet inside...listening to the part of me that knows what is best for me right now.  Would it be best for me to make myself feel good by eating the cookie?  Would it be best for me to restrain myself by not eating the cookie?  Would it be best for me to turn away and go do something else because I "know" that eating the cookie is not in my best interest?  But what  would I go do?  There is nothing I want to do now, other than be here...

Stopping.  I am here.  I am free.  The neck is free.  I feel the ground beneath my feet.  I am waiting for clarity, waiting for my awareness of direction to strengthen.  The hips are free, knees are free..........

Hmm....  I'm thirsty.  I would like a glass of water.  Interesting idea! 

All of a sudden, without any hesitation, I found myself moving away from the cookies towards the water.  I drank a glass of water, felt satisfied, and came here easily and willingly, without a second thought about the cookie, to write about the experience.


The above process is an application of what F.M. Alexander discovered and taught regarding decision-making.  When faced with a choice, if we want to live consciously instead of falling back into mindless, instinctual habit, we must first stop what we are doing (this stopping takes only an instant, but can be continued indefinitely). This gives us some time to pay attention, to become aware of what is within and without; past, present, future; what do we really want?  Then, we can choose from the following options:

- continue on in the same direction (towards eating the cookie, in this case)
- continue to do nothing...wait
- do something else entirely (such as, continue to think constructive thoughts...Adyashanti-style or Alexander-style, etc. and/or move into activity)

I believe this process is essential in overcoming any kind of temptation or addiction, great or small.

By the way, sometimes choosing to eat the cookie is the "right choice", and sometimes it is not.  But the only person that knows whether it is best for us or not in any given moment is the one inside of us who makes the choice.

"People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures” - F.M. Alexander

* cookie photo by blackstock http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=3342; water photo by winnond http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1970


  1. Very thought-provoking post Jennifer, although it came right after the 'cookie moment' for me ! I love that you make it clear that the obvious predictable choice is not necessarily always the 'right' one - that we literally do have a choice rather than just a token 'freedom'. I notice that we often forget this, but also we often at some level don't want to make the conscious choice (darn it I just want the cookie!) so we don't stop but just rush ahead.

  2. Great. And of course this about so much more than whether to eat a cookie or not. However, this seemingly inconsequential act of eating a cookie: What if you're diabetic? This decision becomes a very, very big deal. Same with Celiac Disease, allergies etc. Thanks for this important post.

  3. Sandra and Mark: Thanks for your comments!

    Sandra: yes, it is so tempting to not stop, and just rush ahead into what feels good/habitual (I admit that I've mindlessly eaten a number of cookies since writing this post yesterday)!

    Every day, devout Christians say, "Lord, lead us not into temptation!" I think the temptation to fall into habit...to not stop, to rush ahead mindlessly, without awareness of our best interest, without respect for our deepest needs, is the fundamental "temptation" that we need to be liberated/saved from. It seems like the cookie is the temptation before us, but that is actually only the superficial face of something much deeper--as you say, Mark. And yes, even the seemingly inconsequential and relative outer choices can have huge consequences for our lives, depending on the context.

    May we be liberated from the addiction of rushing/falling into mindless habit!

  4. nice idea.. thanks for sharing.

  5. Wonderful Jennifer. Yes it is just like Michael Frederick's example. I guess the only difference is that Michael uses the A.T. directions as the 'means whereby' to find that inner freedom you talk about. ellen

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ellen. I'm glad you liked the post! Of course, I also use A.T. directions as a 'means-whereby' to find inner freedom, although in the above post I did not continue to elucidate the basic traditional directions after I wrote, "Stopping. I am here. I am free. The neck is free." To my understanding, when the neck truly is free, the head automatically and naturally must also aim forward and up, the back/torso expands, and the knees aim forward and away, etc. Usually, when practicing A.T., these directions are verbalized (as a preventive measure against the habit of aiming in the wrong direction), but not always.


Your comments are welcomed with an open mind and heart.