About this Blog

Friday, September 27, 2013

LBL Day 5 The Ideal Fast

We both woke up feeling sluggish and "draggy" this morning. I even felt slightly dizzy. (How come some people say they feel clear, sharp and more focussed when "fasting"?)

Fasting has never been one of my spiritual disciplines! I've occasionally had a mini fast of some kind and once joined in the 40 hour famine but generally speaking it hasn't been a priority - probably because it felt "too hard". However, this experience of Living Below the Line has given me some food for thought (interesting metaphor!) This morning I was thinking of Isaiah 58 which is headed True Fasting. The writer is scathing about those who fast in order to look good but carry on "doing what you please". Hmm... It is easy to feel quite self righteous about doing this 5 day challenge... and through these days I have certainly "done what I pleased" apart from the food bit.

Isaiah goes on to say that the true fast is to:
"loose the chains of injustice,
set the oppressed free
share your food with the hungry
provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood."

It seems to me that Live Below the Line is the ideal fast. The various agencies involved carry out all of the things mentioned above. Look at the official Live Below the Line NZ website and scroll through the participating charities to see what I mean.

I am on my way to bed - at 8.30pm. I have felt tired all day - but we made it! Only five days of "living below the line" but it felt quite long enough.  If I do the challenge again I would make slightly different food choices but overall we chose reasonably well.

Was it worth doing? Yes, absolutely! As my previous Blogs show, I learned an enormous amount about what it is really like for people who genuinely live in poverty here in NZ and in many places around the world. It was worth it for my deepening awareness of my own relationship to food and to going without. It was definitely worth it for the money raised for the various causes each charity supports. As I write the total so far raised by TEAR Fund to rescue girls from sexual slavery is $54,863. I'm sure that will rise considerably as many people (like me) will not have sent their money in yet. Multiply that by the 20 or so agencies raising money for their projects and it becomes apparent that doing something like this makes a significant impact. Never say: "There's nothing I can do."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

LBL Day 4 Eeking it out!

Two days to go - so we are carefully dividing up what we have left. I am on cooking dinner for these two nights. Here's what we have - remember each of these meals is for two people!
                                                            Thursday        Friday
Clearly we won't starve! And with every meal we remember those who would think of this as a feast.
I think it is getting harder each day. Probably our bodies are noticing the cumulative effect. And the temptation to "cheat" is harder too. We have each been out two evenings this week and we discussed whether if supper was provided would we be "allowed" to have some. Fortunately supper has not been provided! But my theory is that people who have very little food would definitely be very grateful for a free supper - so I think I would have succumbed if that had been the case :-)
PS There was coffee and chocolate biscuits at an event last night, after I had written the above. I did not have any coffee but I did have a biscuit - and boy did it taste wonderful!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

LBL Day 3: Food and Mood

Living on $2.25 for food per day is revealing much more than just "being hungry". I am aware how often I eat for reasons other than hunger.
I often eat according to the clock: "It's 12.30 so I will eat lunch."
Or out of habit: e.g.  between my two morning clients I have coffee and a cracker and cheese.
Or to distract from emotions: e.g. with this frustrating and agonising America's Cup dragging on I feel like escaping into a nice cup of coffee and a piece of cake! (But I won't this week!!)
Or from boredom: Eating something nice fills a boring or lonely space.
Or simply for pleasure: My favorite cafe has a great double shot coffee and a fruit tart that make an excellent treat!
(It sounds as if I drink a lot of coffee. Actually I don't - and I'm not really missing coffee itself this week - but I can see that it is one of my special treats - especially the "real" coffee in a cafe!)

Today is my day off and I have been to Tai Chi for an hour. Coming home at 11.05am I was really hungry and thinking "I'll be even hungrier later if I eat lunch now!" Then I remembered that I had "saved" half of yesterday's apple. What a lovely thought. So half an apple and a cup of hot water felt like a real treat and lasted me till lunchtime.

When I am really hungry - and don't immediately eat - I notice I get irritable, anxious and distracted. It gives me a much greater appreciation of what it's like for children who go to school without breakfast (or lunch).

Dinner anyone?

A mix of lentils, kidney beans, tomatoes and frozen veg. Quite nourishing but not top of the usual menu choices. We have now run out of tinned tomatoes and will only have enough frozen veges for one more meal.

Today has been a hard day for both of us. We have both felt extra tired and not really focussed. I went for a walk down to the beach this afternoon (in the rain!) to get some fresh air but it wasn't a good idea as coming home uphill felt a real challenge. Again - such a good experience of the energy depletion that goes with less food.

So - the end of day 3. Nothing to complain about - just lots to learn and ponder. And of course I have only two days to go. Billions of people have no end in sight. Very sobering.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

LBL Day 2: Remembering why

Many charities are combining to issue this Live Below the Line challenge. I have chosen to send the money I raise to TEAR Fund who will use it towards giving new opportunities to girls sold into sexual slavery. Here's a quote from TEAR Fund's website:

"Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings, mainly for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. At the moment it's estimated that 27 million are in slavery across our planet. The average age of a trafficking victim is only 12 years old.

We think that’s outrageous and so we’re fighting for their freedom by supporting the work of our local partner Share and Care in Nepal and the incredible team at Nvader. If you Live Below The Line for TEAR Fund you’ll see your money preventing, rescuing and rehabilitating the innocent victims of the fastest growing criminal industry of our generation."

I have received donations from many Church people but if you are a Blog reader who would like to contribute to this cause you can donate directly (without it having to go through me) here. Scroll down to Anti-trafficking in Nepal.

And as for me today - I haven't felt as hungry today even though I have eaten exactly the same as yesterday. Maybe my stomach is shrinking :-)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Live Below the Line Day 1: Hunger

I woke up this morning wondering if I am going to feel hungry today. That is not my usual first thought! Every day I click on The Hunger Site to contribute (by my click) to food for the hungry. It has become a routine (and often mindless) part of my "open the computer, check emails" start to the day. Today I paused long enough on the site to scroll around a bit and found this:

"For most of us, hunger is short-term problem with a simple and foreseeable solution: 
easy access to a wide array of food and nutrition choices. 
But for one-eighth of all of the people in the world, 
hunger is a daily, inescapable reality."

Now it is evening - and yes, I did feel hungry most of the day. Sometimes it is the little things that are hardest - I allowed myself one tea bag for the entire day (and no coffee or milk or sugar). We used to joke about sending used tea bags to the missionaries. Actually I have now re-used that tea bag four times! 
Dinner of rice, beans and frozen mixed veg was OK except that we couldn't have any sauce or seasonings. We relented and allowed ourselves some salt - which helped.

So at the end of day one I am humbled by how hard this is and how easily I "allow" little extras like a tea bag or some salt.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Live Below the Line

From Monday to Friday this coming week Anthea and I are taking up the challenge to Live Below the Line. This is about experiencing what it is like to live below the extreme poverty line, which is where 1.4 Billion people worldwide live. The NZ$ amount allowed for food in this challenge is $2.25 per person per day. To see more about this challenge click here.

Yesterday we planned how we might manage on $24 (for two of us) for the week and I went shopping:
Cheap Bin Inn cereal comes to about 45c per day each     = $4 (without milk, yogurt or fruit)
Home made carrot soup - about the same                          = $4
1 loaf of the cheapest bread (not nice healthy grainy stuff)   $1.48 (less than 2 slices each per day)
1 doz eggs (cage eggs - free range too expensive)                $3.79
1 500gm frozen mixed veg. on special.                                 $1.99
1 small quantity of rice from Bin Inn                                     $1.00
1 tin tomatoes                                                                             .85
1 tin lentils                                                                              $1.50
1 tin chick peas                                                                       $1.50
10 Kiwifruit                                                                            $1.15
5 Apples                                                                                 $2.70
                                                                                     Total $24.37

What I have experienced already:
  • How hard it is to buy healthy options.
  • Even if you want to "make your own" it is often hard to get small enough quantities without blowing your budget on the larger (and cheaper) packages.
  • I understand how low income families buy cheap takeaways to fill them up.
  • How many options I normally take for granted when shopping - eg buy free range eggs, healthy bread, plenty of fruit and fresh veges etc.
  • How depressing it must be for people without enough money for food to see so many food options, cafes etc - and advertising on every side.
  •  There are no dairy products included in our shopping. No wonder people drink Coca Cola instead of milk and think of cheese as a luxury. (We will "cheat" on milk - having just enough to wet our cereal! What we already have in the fridge will expire before the end of the week.)
  • I already feel deprived thinking of no yogurt, no butter on bread, no tea, no coffee, no snacks, no fresh veges (though we will eat some silver beet from our garden!)
Watch this space. I will give a daily update!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Br David Steindl-Rast on the Syrian Crisis

Last night I dreamt about Brother David - a very moving and powerful dream (but not for sharing here!) So this morning I visited once again the Gratefulness website he started. One of the featured pieces was: "The Syrian Crisis, A Reason for Gratefulness?" I recommend you read it!
The by-line is:
"Have we painfully learned something that can only be learned painfully?"
If we have - or even if we are beginning to learn - then there is real hope for the future and 
a reason for gratefulness.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Guest House

One of my favourite Rumi poems:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-       Rumi
-       Translation by Coleman Barks 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This is what democracy looks like!

Following on from yesterday's post about the Demo4Democracy:

As we were walking up Queen St one of the chants we were encouraged to join in was:
"This is what democracy looks like! This is what freedom feels like!" 
I didn't have anyone I was walking with so had no "escape" from joining in the chant by chatting to a companion. My introverted self felt quite self-conscious yelling out the words of the chant! But that got me thinking. Here I am, perfectly free to walk in a protest march in a public place with no fear of being arrested, shot at or otherwise harmed. My biggest concern was feeling rather foolish! Wow! What respect I have for those who protest peacefully for causes they are passionate about and yet may well be arrested, shot at or killed.

I noticed as we walked that the vast majority of people watching from the footpaths as we approached were not Pakeha. Our city is truly multi-racial. I wondered how many of them would be amazed at the truth of what we were shouting out and demonstrating: This truly is what democracy looks like: people free to express their opinion without opposition. In fact a police car was driving slowly ahead of us to clear the road! I imagine that in many of the home countries of those watching this would be a very different story.

Synchronistically, the service in our church that morning was focussed on praying for the horrors occurring in Syria. Among other things we were discussing how easy it is to block out the things that feel "too hard" to think about.

As Elie Wiesel said:
"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. ...
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference."

Helen Keller had a similar comment:
“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings.”

Spending a few hours on a (sunny!) Sunday afternoon is hardly a big contribution - but at least it is not indifference.

Monday, September 2, 2013


I've noticed with concern in recent months how often the so-called "democratic process" has been undermined in NZ by the current government.  So I was heartened to see that a "Demo4Democracy" was being organised in towns and cities around the country. I marched with several hundred other Aucklanders on Sunday 1st September. Below are some photos that give you an idea of the sort of issues that are of concern to many different groups of New Zealanders. The 11 year old boy pictured gave an impressive and well researched speech about food quality, Monsanto, GM and GMO issues and had everyone listening in complete silence! One of the most concerning issues, in my view, is the TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) deal being orchestrated in secret. If you are not yet aware of this see this site.