Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Avoiding Sweets- Finding Sweetness

Lately- okay, for the last few years- I find myself wanting to eat sweet things in the evening. There are lots of reasons why this is not a great idea: sugar burdens the immune system, creates swings in blood sugar, and does nothing good for the waist line. I assume the craving mirrors a need for more non-food sweetness in my life. So, I'm on a bit of a mission to discover what other experiences provide sweetness in my life. I'm not interested in sentimentality- a kind of saccharine for the soul- but the things that are truly worth savoring slowly, experiences offering a taste of life that gives me a whole-body smile.

At first it seemed my list of known and easily available sweetness wasn't very long. Oh I knew that lying on sun-warmed granite in Northern Ontario, or floating in a canoe on a quiet lake watching the stars in silence were moments of sweetness, but I live in a large city where these experiences are not available daily. Also, I live alone (and notice I crave sweets most after I've been working all day in solitude,) so although there are moments of great sweetness with friends and family I wanted to discover where I might find and savor sweetness when I am not with others.

Just starting the inquiry helped me slow down and receive the life-giving nectar that ordinary moments can bring. I'll share a few of those moments here, but I'm really writing this blog to invite your input. Because I know I'm not the only one nibbling cookies or chocolate after the sun goes down, and because. . . . well, life can be challenging at times, so it makes sense to be aware of and make sure we are accessing and truly receiving the sweetness that helps us sustain our awareness of life as a gift.

So here are a few of the experiences I've come to recognize as feeding the need for sweetness in my life:

Music- particularly chest-expanding cello and violin music listened to on my headphones, or the clear sweet sounds of a fine soprano or tenor voice (think Charlotte Church, Josh Groban);

Feeling warm in my bed beneath my duvet in a room make cold by an open window on a dark winter night;

Waking up to watch the sunrise before the alarm goes off; watching the sky go from black to grey to pale blue streaked with pink;

The scent of lavender that releases tension from my shoulders one cell at a time;

A hot water bottle or heating pad applied to a muscle that I didn't even know was tight until the heat penetrated and started to unfurl the tension held there;

Poetry- reading a poem I love aloud and sitting in a sustained silence when the last word is spoken, following my breath, letting the words and the silence wash over and through me; discovering a new poem that splits me open with its honesty, with the way it places a precise finger on a feeling, or sensation, or insight I had not been able to describe- living with it, putting a copy up on the kitchen cupboard until I know it by heart and it lives in me;

Pausing to listen to the sound of children playing in the park next to my balcony- following the squeals and laughter like lines on a map to joy;

Playing with gravity no matter where I am- turning my attention to the places where my body is being supported, in contact with the ground or floor, a chair or seat on the bus- and allowing myself to give in a little more to the way Grandmother Earth pulls me to her and lends me the energy to ground and move;

Walking anywhere with full awareness, taking in the world around me, letting my body set the pace, feeling the movement that comes so effortlessly. 

There are more, and I invite you to add yours here. What I noticed as my list lengthens is that sweetness recognized and received prompts me to slow down and be present. And perhaps that is the purpose of life's sweetness: to encourage us to be fully here, to savor the moment and receive from it what we need. 

Oriah (c) 2013


  1. Hearing in the distance, this morning, the arrival of the very shy black woodpecker on his round to the area. He rarely shows himself but the resounding tapping in the far off distant forest can be heard so clearly. It certainly adds to the sweetness of life to hear him.

    1. Lovely. We had woodpeckers in the woods when I lived in the country- I think of them as "the little drummers." :-)

  2. Oriah,
    I know this isn't what you asked, but as someone who is interested in the intersection of nutrition and spiritual health, I just thought I'd pose the question (if you'll forgive me) - are you getting enough protein? Sometimes I find I crave sweets when I'm neglecting the protein aspect of my diet.

    1. Amy, appreciate the question and yes, my protein intake is fine- this is really a physical craving that is rooted in something other than physical need. :-)

  3. This is a really lovely blog post - and I think it is all about becoming present. I have these cravings myself sometimes, and now that I think about it, it is about trying to escape something. I notice your sweetness solutions have a definite winter flavour, understandably :). At the moment, in Australia where I live, it is in the scorching middle of summer, so my sweetness lies in moments of cool - the first cool of the morning, the feel of the cool river as it hits my hot skin, a cold cider on a hot afternoon :) Thanks for being so humble and wonderful, and enriching our lives with your wonderful writing!

    1. Sara, funny I had not noticed the winter theme but you are right- would be interesting to do this in July and see what other "sweets" come to mind :-)

  4. I usually don't need chocolate or other sweets when I have a guy who truly kisses like heaven and who hugs me and cuddles me and we laugh together and make love with true soul-meeting intimacy when the eyes of both stay open and sink deeply into each other. As there is only one guy around with whom I have this and who is -unfortunately- married to someone else, I have to settle for chocolate these days ;-)
    Of course there are many other things that sweeten my life:
    Being able to see and not be blind, being able to read books and see all those gorgeous colours outside and in nature.
    Being able to have a warm shower whenever I want one and revelling in this pure bliss when the water kisses my skin.
    Music that touches my heart and soul so much and so deeply that it makes me cry.
    I wish it were the protein missing, than at least I had an excuse for now and then pigging out on sweets LOL

    1. You mentioning books reminds me once of hearing a man who could not read talk of his burning desire to do so. It took my breath away- just the thought of not being able to read- so central to my life, so much sweetness there. May all those who want to be granted the gift of literacy.

  5. Enjoyed your topic and how you reflected and discussed sweetness. I was thinking about it and had a few things I'd like to add that creates that particular sweetness I so enjoy. Here they are:

    1 - The sweetness of living in the mountains and the sound of the wind starting off in the distance and moving like waves through the pines as you hear and feel it pass by.

    2 - The sweetness of laughter. There's nothing like getting caught up in a good laugh when someone is tickled over something and snorts and then it starts and it continues as you laugh at each other laughing.

    3 - The sweetness of a moonlit night whether it's casting light on a mountain field or an ocean.

    4 - The sweetness of telling stories and reminiscing of times past with good friends or loved ones.

    5 - The sweetness of curling up with a good book and a hot cup of 'Joe' late at night or early in the morning.

    6 - The sweetness of the sound and smell of a crackling fire when the temperatures are zero outside.

    7 - The sweetness of hearing the sound of a child say "I love you".

    8 - The sweetness of the smell of good cooking simmering on the stove.

    Got carried away and turned out to be more than a few things that I realized were sweet to me. Hope some of these you can relate to and add to your collection. I enjoyed the read and sharing with you.

    1. Pat, lovely how it just starts expanding once you get started, isn't it. One of the very few things I miss about the home I shared with my ex in the coutnry is the woodstove- love the sound, scent, feel of a wood fire in the winter months.

    2. It does keep expanding - sweetness just kept coming to me when I was writing this. You inspired me to write a story about it.

      Thank you Oriah!

  6. Lovely, thank you. I was wanting sugar tonight myself. Sweets in life........ The first crocuses in the Spring; my dobergirl (well,she can't be a Doberman now can she) doing downward facing Dog under us; my 86 year old mother asking is we need help with the dishes or anything (really, how vey sweet is that); the call of a chickadee as it swoops over the bird feeder; my husband bringing me tea.....I am indeed blessed.

  7. This is a truly touching post - and thank you so much for inviting comments.
    The sweetest moment is at the end of the day when I relax into my bed with my Kindle and a cup of peppermint tea to read my cares away!
    Or in the morning, bleary-eyed, ironing out the creases in my daughter's school skirt, and getting my thoughts straight for the day.
    Or being greeted by the robin sitting in a tree as we leave the house for school.
    Or settling down to write my journal with a cup of tea when there are no other pressing tasks to accomplish.
    The white silence of a snowy day that makes me sink more comfortably into my writing chair.
    A golf shot sweetly struck off the tee, and the sight of it landing plumb in the middle of the fairway and bobbling just a little way further on towards the green.
    Or the first waft of scent from the wisteria in April or the jasmine in July - the cyclical beauty that brings sweetness into our lives like clockwork every year.
    I love noticing sweetness in the most mundane things - we can always find a sweet meditative place while sorting the laundry or doing the dishes!

    1. Juliet, yes, the more we do this, the more we see that most moments are in fact filled with possible sweetness if we have eyes to see and a willingness to receive.

  8. The sweetnes that envelopes me with warmth and comfort is watching the pleasure that my dog gets from hopping through the snow, looking for her bright orange ball that I've carefully thrown out for her. Her pride and honour abounds when she eventually finds the ball hidden deep down in the snow and she so proudly pulls it up and brings it 'home' to me to once again throw out for her to search for... ah, the simple things. Thank you Oriah for sharing this.

    1. Amazed at how many of the shares on Facebook included folks talking about their animal companions- dogs and cats mostly. Surely the sweetness they bring is why so many include them in their lives.

  9. My sweetness is cuddling with my little dog, feeling the love the flows both ways, wallowing in the warmth of his furry little body. I need that to be enough, and a good reminder today. I've read this a few times, savoring the beauty with which you describe your life. Ah. That's sweetness, too.

    1. Carol, I can FEEL the sweetness of you with your little furry friend as I read this. Thank you :-)

  10. Thank You Oriah for sharing with us Your need-for-sweets story...I was getting sweet-mad periods all the time for 20 more years,after I went for Hypnosis.It helped..I stopped craving sweets,but I think I have lost sweetness for my life,I have become moody,depressed person...Until I have replaced my need for sugar with: listening to Native American music,watching movies about them,studying they history...I live only 'cos of them...They became a sweetest nectar I drink daily.. Sondra

    1. Sondra, interesting how we uncover new sources of sweetness at different times of our lives. Thanks for sharing this.

  11. The sweetness in my life is just telling 2 co-workers how I am in love with a man that is always concerned about me and my well being. A daughter that is now becoming a young woman that I am proud of and a son that has lived through his teen years and I still have my mom. Oriah, I just want you to know that your poem The Dance that contains "the Earth beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again" was what helped make my family's heart whole again when my dad was sudenly taken from us 11 years ago. You are the sweet memory of healing and I am so glad I found this site.

    1. Teresa, such sweetness for me in knowing that a piece of writing that flowed from my heart was able to touch someone else in a moment of need. Thank you for letting me know.

  12. I just experienced a sweetness Oriah.
    Listening to Billie Holiday at 4 A.M.
    by candlelight.
    Thanks for reminding me about sweetness.

    1. Ahhhhhh, Bille (although I admit 4 pm suits me more these days than 4 am :-) )

  13. Your wonderful post reminds me of another one I read these days. I hope I am allowed to put a link here to
    The topics are related, and thank you to all writers for reminding us!
    Very nourishing for my soul is being in Nature, going into meditation (outside or at home), listening to classical music, let a pencil wander about a sheet of paper with no intention, just watching what my hand will produce.
    I had the protein problem myself until I realised that my body needs 1,5 gram per kilogram body weight - much more than I ever thought. Now my craving for sweets has almost entirely vanished.

    1. Nora, I love that: "watching what my hand will produce." Reminds me of Michele Cassou's Zero Point Painting that is very body-centred and open ended- process (instead of product) oriented. Sweetness in seeing what emerges.

  14. Standing barefoot in a pool of sunlight on the wood floor.

    Looking up to find the moon out the window.

    Climbing into bed at the end of the day, the way it receives me.

  15. My list could go on and on but I will limit it to these two:

    Sitting outside in the early morning hours, wrapped in a blanket, as I watch the sun come up over the mountain.

    Hearing Pachelbel's Canon in D anytime, anywhere.

  16. Oh divine timing...

    I have been battling sugar addiction since I was 10 years old when sugar was my only comfort/survival tool. I too suffer with inexplicable sweetness cravings after years of tweaking diet (yes, adequate protein and water were two factors to address) and sorting health issues. My desire this year was to learn how to really relax and to also discover what fills my cup that isn't related to a role.

    I have cravings when I am alone (often) and at night and I get frustrated that they aren't easily identified as stemming from an obvious source. I get them even when I feel calm and okay within myself. Loneliness would seem an obvious answer, but as you said Oriah, it is a physical craving rooted in something other than a physical need, so might sweet cravings seem to need more than company/hugs/friendship.

    My sweet moments come from listening to my 18-year-old daughter laugh with her friends after two horrendous years of battling her mental illness demons, watching my home-grown mangoes ripen and anticipating their juicy lusciousness, a cool day amongst weeks of soul-wilting heat (here in Australia), and finding posts and responses from people who are anonymous and far away in the blogisphere, yet close in the desire to live a rich, full meaningful life.
    thanks Oriah, for your searing honesty and willingness to keep going deeper and deeper.

    1. Watching your own mangoes ripen- wow! And yes, the connection with others around the world who like to take the inquiry deeper is a sweet deliciousness :-)

  17. Oriah, that sweetness for me is writing poetry. There are moments when I write that I feel a spiritual presence so strong that I have to stop writing. Something literally pulls at my soul in a way that brings tears to my eyes and I must yield to this power. Yielding brings the sweetness and the power to complete what literally overwhelms me:

    Caressed by the Hand of God

    As I watch the wind
    massage the trees,
    I wonder what's that
    inside of me
    familiar with that touch?
    What's that
    shut up in my soul
    that begs to be caressed
    with such gentleness?
    Deep inside of me
    reaches for you.
    My spirit sways a dance
    I have not known;
    searching for roots,
    I have not grown,
    waiting for rain to
    pour down on me
    a sweet cleansing
    that will help me see.
    I am caught in a moment
    when nature teaches me
    how to stand
    how to bend
    and not break.

    How to awe the world
    with beauty
    that is incorruptible.
    How to keep on giving
    in a world polluted
    by its own ego.
    She teaches me that
    you don't always get to see
    growth when its
    incubated in darkness,
    but it will spring forth
    mighty when it's time.

    When I watch the wind
    massage the trees
    I know it's God
    caressing me.
    I know so much in life
    is misunderstood.
    I know my journey
    is incomplete...
    I know I am still learning
    and my soul has so much
    to teach me as I yield
    to an infinite wisdom.

    Hasandra Heyward