Learning to Relax
From the beginning, my sensibilities were challenged. Wine is ubiquitous in Switzerland, and it wasn't long before I was having a glass of wine (or two) with pretty much every dinner. This is actually pretty moderate, but I have hangups on alcohol, and combined with the ever-present (and delicious) bread served at every meal, I felt like I was letting my diet slip more than I was comfortable. It wasn't the quality of the food I was worried about, but rather the high carb content. Every dinner was a special event though, and I felt a mixture of obligation and curiosity that led me to just eat what was put in front of me. And while we were in Italy, we had to try the pizza (several times), gelato, Italian wine, bread, etc. Basically, a diet I had been trying very hard to avoid in the U.S.
But a funny thing happened in Europe. I didn't get sick, or lose energy, or muscle, or any of the bad things I had feared would happen. Of course, I still didn't eat any processed food, and the quality of Swiss bread or sweets, made from such great ingredients, must invariably surpass that of American bread and sweets, but it was still a lot of sugar. On top of that, I actually felt better in some ways. Of course, my sister and I both missed our fresh veggies and big salads, but I found that enjoying the food, exploring and appreciating the culinary traditions of the places we visited, did a lot for how my body responded to it.
The other thing I discovered is that I actually do like whiskey. There is a scene in The Way of the Peaceful Warrior when Socrates, after putting Dan through a grueling regimen to break all his bad habits, take Dan out to a bar and gets him drunk. He explains this by saying that even good habits are still habits, and a Warrior should be able to choose to act however he or she wants. Consequences must be accepted, but that's part of the game. I have always known my aversion to alcohol has been as much motivated by a fear of losing control as by actual health consciousness, and I could never drink without feeling like I was cheating on myself. Thanks to my sister and her friends, the responsible and moderate presence of good wine, and some really high quality whiskey, I've finally come to a point where I can enjoy a drink without feeling guilt. I eventually got to the point where I could choose to drink or not, even if everyone else was, and if I chose to drink, I did so without remorse, simply appreciating the experience.
This doesn't mean I will ditch all my disciplines. I choose to follow them because they serve me well most of the time. But they can become habits that are as limiting as the indiscretions they counter. If my goals and the ideals I seek to defend require that I break a habit I cherish, it would be silly to hold on to it for its own sake. Our habits should serve some higher purpose of character. And enjoying good food and wine as part of appreciating a new culture posed no threat to my ideals (or maybe I didn't look hard enough :-p). On the contrary; I would say that it was important for me to appreciate my visit, in order to do honor to my hosts and my parents who sent me to Europe.
Now that I'm back, I'm hitting the gym as hard as ever, and am back to my old ways of eating. My performance has improved. And now, I can enjoy a bit of dark chocolate without any guilt to rob me of the enjoyment. And that is my way of tying this whole tangent about Europe into the Warrior Spirit. Thanks for following me, and I hope you enjoyed the travels and the pictures.