Dreams of Pad Thai
Dreams of Pad Thai
There was a time in my work life when I lived for lunch. At 11am, around the time my morning cappuccino and brioche had worn off, dreams of my next meal would infiltrate every task I did. If it was coffee that got me to go to work, it was the fantasy about the next meal that moved me through the mid-morning slump.
Imagine this: Here I am, cleaning my patient’s teeth and fantasising about charcoal roasted chicken and hot chips with gravy … or maybe a focaccia with ham, cheese and baby spinach from the Italian deli. Not even the most gruesome dental task, such as an extraction, would interfere with my reverie about what craving I had today that only lunch could fulfil … how about the soup of the day from the cafe downstairs, with a toasted bread roll? Working in a busy suburb, filled with every conceivable cuisine from around the globe meant that what I could have to eat was limited only by my imagination.
There was a point when my chronic digestive issues prompted a shift to a gluten and dairy free diet. The transition was not as difficult as you might imagine. I happily traded my bread rolls and cheese because I discovered the fragrant (and gluten and dairy free) delicacy of Pad Thai. The local Thai restaurant made a spectacular version of this dish – it was perfectly sweet, spicy and tangy – a delicious takeaway container of steaming hot sugar and spice. The texture of the noodles was the ideal Thai version of al dente – just the right amount of chewiness and softness to appeal to every sense. Pad Thai easily merged into my 11am fantasy slot, with the only question revolving around whether I should get chicken, or vegetable, or tofu?
I did notice the post lunchtime slump, but that was easily remedied with coffee …
… until coffee started to give me heart palpitations. Even the decaf I substituted it with started to give me the same heart racing irregularity. Eventually this became so distressing that I gave up all forms of coffee altogether.
This was a very revealing moment. Suddenly the post Pad Thai sugar low became a real and unmanageable phenomenon. I became so exhausted without my caffeine prop that I could barely keep my eyes open after eating it – could not bring the essential clarity a dentist needs to the next two patients after lunch. Rather than admitting there was an issue, I got clever with it. I told my staff to only book easy tasks after lunch, just check-ups and cleans. Nothing too demanding; nothing to interfere with the fulfilment of my Pad Thai dream.
Don’t read past this point without stopping for a moment and considering what this means. How would you feel to be in the hands of a dentist who is not working at the top of their game – for any procedure. How would you feel having your check-up and clean deemed less important, less valuable than anything else? I was so dedicated to my lunch-time fulfilment that I kept this dawning and horrible realisation at bay for a far longer time than was entirely necessary.
But once I felt it, really let sink in how disrespectfully I was treating my patients, there was no un-feeling it. Pad Thai had to go.
Did it go immediately? No, it did not. For behind the Pad Thai, there hid an array of issues that I had never considered, never allowed myself to fully observe or feel. These issues were entirely emotional; a revolving door of upset, drama, neediness, perfectionism, disappointment and performance-based desolation that played out every single day of my working life. Before Pad Thai, those emotions lurked behind chicken rolls, gravy, toasted rolls, cappuccino froth and the buzz of caffeine.
Without coffee, without my sweet and spicy noodles I felt as bare as a freshly shucked oyster, exposed to the elements of an emotionally drenched existence that I did not even know existed.
Frequently I would buckle, as desperate as an alcoholic for their gin and tonic. I felt after a morning of distress, need and panic that I would die without my Pad Thai fix. The dreams of it would kick in at around 9 or 10 am now, with no coffee to buffer the drama that ravaged the inside of me. I would walk, as though walked by the noodles themselves to the Thai restaurant, place the order, already filled with remorse. I knew what was going to happen but felt helpless to stop it.
At this time I was a fledgling student of The Way of The Livingness. I was in fact more of a student of the aspirational-ness or a student of the thinking-ness. This is not said with disrespect to myself or any person who has the grace to set their feet upon the path home to the Essence of their being. This is no easy path for all of its beautiful simplicity. It took me a while to stop wrestling in my head with the end of the line result (Pad Thai with its post Pad Thai slump) and start to examine more deeply what it was that led me to dream of noodles and finally succumb to them with such self-abandon. The process that actually allowed the change was the central tenet of the The Esoteric Way, which is to feel deeply from the body, to attend to its absolutely honest communication – uncluttered by a mind with all of its reasons, rationales, complications and self-destructive concealment.
What I discovered, to my initial horror, is that I was an emotional ‘hot mess’, a bundle of need to be the best, to be liked, admired and praised. Constantly. Anything less than the best, the favourite, the most loved and I would sink into a pit of despair. Before discovering The Ageless Wisdom, my low moods and desolation could last for months, over a single event. As a dentist such events can occur on a daily basis. And it is not as if the dentist is ever going to be the most loved or even liked person on the block. What a set up I was embroiled in – destined to fail, destined to turn to something for a moment of respite from the agony that not only started when I commenced work, but had filled my student days and my childhood before that.
Pad Thai was just the final destination on a long line of more subtle and insidious thoughts and ways of being that needed to be unravelled step by step. How this occurred for me was through the only thing that could deliver honesty and eventually guide me to the door of truth (an eternally open door, that in fact has no door or doorframe and has ever awaited us to simply move through it) – my body.
The food and the coffee that I thought I loved and needed, were no more than a distraction, a fleeting sensation overlaid on a constant stream of bodily communication telling me, ‘Rachel, it does not need to be this way’.
The food was a mere cover over the emotional pain and angst of living so untrue to my essence.
The emotional pain and angst were a mere cover over a greater whole that had never disappeared, just got buried under the unfulfillable lie of trying to be the best, to be the most liked, the most something or other that I could never get to – like Alice Through the Looking Glass, never able to reach for the most beautiful reeds that always hovered at the edge of her vision . . . What are we reaching and striving for when at the core of our Being is The Soul, the Kingdom of God from which we strayed but never needed to.
In the end the Pad Thai disappeared like the non-issue it was, but only once I got real that there is no best to be. All there is and ever was: to be deeply honest, deeply focussed, absolutely caring and utterly dedicated to the service of all people – to care for them as I would want to be cared for myself.
The body and my attentive care to it steered me out of the turbulent surface waters of ceaseless need to the depths of my being. Work steadied and with it my absolute attention to that which is before me. And the depth is endless. Often, I feel like a child, starting again when I sense the endlessness of returning home. Tiny dramas and addictions arise, pointing me with renewed purpose to that deepening which is evermore on offer and ever has been.
There is less need to battle with what we think are our problems than we can ever imagine. All that is needed is surrender to all we already are, the true and divine essence contained in the inner-heart. In a world that tempts us with an array of delicious distractions, what is ultimately and inevitably discovered is the emptiness of them, beyond the momentary thrill. What they leave us with is an emptiness that seeks more of the same to quell itself – a hunger that can never be satiated.
It is only the wisdom of our body in alignment to our Soul that offers deep steadiness, settlement and the love that once we tried to earn from others. If we are willing to listen, we discover that it is our true and only guide home.