I’ve told the Donut Story to dozens of my patients over the years. Sometimes I call it “Enlightenment in a Heapful of Glazed Donuts” because it wasn’t until my teacher ordered me to admit and give in to this denied desire that I realized how blindly and foolishly principled I had become. It perfectly illustrates how feeling guilt and anxiety about eating certain things is far more unhealthy than actually just doing it with clear intention and pure joy…and then truly letting it go.
So many of us suffer because we really want a cup of coffee, for example. But we think we shouldn’t have it so we pretend we don’t want it. Or maybe we pretend in public that we don’t eat sweets, yet in private we indulge ourselves in our favorite “guilty pleasure.”
We know drinking coffee and eating sweets aren’t the healthiest habits, but how many of us realize how much stress denying those desires puts on our health?
Being genuine about our desires, I have learned, is one of the first steps we can take on the path to living authentically and healthfully.
The day I met my guru (which means teacher), Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, I was a very disciplined student of Ayurveda. I had just completed my first year studying with Dr. Vasant Lad at The Ayurvedic Institute, and was on a strict Kapha reducing diet.
I truly believed that my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being hinged upon following the appropriate dietary and lifestyle prescription according to Ayurveda. I abstained from all wheat, dairy, and sugar and viewed those things as harmful as poison. I was also very young and needing to be self-righteous in order to stand firm in my beliefs.
Following an incredibly profound meditation and discussion, a platter of glazed donut halves were offered to Guruji and then passed around the circle of us seated before him. It is customary to present to a guru a food offering, called prasad, which is then blessed by the guru and shared among the satsang, or community, in attendance.
As the plate came to me I felt perfectly comfortable refusing the donuts, although I truly LOVED donuts and secretly wanted them. Guruji asked me why I wasn’t eating them, and I replied that I was on an anti-Kapha diet and donuts were not allowed (which he, of course, knew as an Ayurvedic physician).
He looked at me like I was crazy, and then I noticed everyone was looking at me like I was crazy. I was! Refusing prasad from the guru? But I felt adamant that my Ayurvedic dietary rule trumped the grace of the offering.
Guruji looked at me again and urged me to accept the donut. Everyone in the ashram urged me to take the donut.
I finally succumbed (which was what I had been wanting to do all along because glazed donuts are my very favorite). Before I had even finished the half donut Guruji had someone to pile a few more halves on my plate.
I knew I had to eat them, and I loved finishing every delicious piece. As soon as I finished that plate, Guruji dumped a few more donuts on my plate.
I was in bliss. I ate glazed donuts until I truly couldn’t eat any more, all with the blessing of the guru. Ayurveda didn’t matter any more, almost nothing mattered any more. The only thing that mattered now was that I was in the presence of a being that knew me better than I knew myself, and was calling me on it right then and there.
There was nothing and nowhere to hide. I could admit I loved donuts, I could indulge and celebrate that I loved donuts, and then I could be free of wanting donuts.
The hiding from desiring the donuts was creating much more suffering for myself than learning to eat the donuts with joy and honesty, and then being done with the whole thing.
Desire is like that: When seen clearly for what it truly is, it is free to rise like a bubble out of water, manifest, and then pop! it’s gone.
Sharada Hall is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and an Ayurvedic practitioner who offers a unique and comprehensive approach to preventing illness, correcting imbalances, and achieving optimal health. She is the creator of Bodhimed.com, an online natural health magazine that delivers health tips from ancient medical traditions in a fun, fresh, and friendly language that you can easily understand and apply to your modern life.