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Between Health And Religion (Rituals, Retreats, And Other "unsafe" Situations)

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Hi all


There's been occasional discussion here about the difficulty some Christians (particularly Catholics) have when trying to participate safely in religious/spiritual rituals that involve food. This could mean communion, but also potlucks, ritual feasts, and during group retreats.


I'm Buddhist (Tibetan mahayana), and while food isn't the first think that comes to mind, it actually plays a pretty important role in the community. There is tea and cookies after meditation sessions, receptions after programs, potlucks, etc. These I can choose to not anything or bring my own. Day programs in my own city are no problem since I can bring my own lunch and such.


However, I've been hesitant to go on longer retreats (a week or month) partly because I might not have control over my food. Of course, they would do their best to accomodate dietary needs, the LAST thing I'd want is to be accidentally glutened and suffering through it for days when I'm supposed to be meditating, which I really can't do when I'm sick. I'm not sure if I'm being paranoid and trying to avoid doing it (a retreat is not an easy thing to do regardless!), or if I'm legitimately concerned for my health. But by not taking that risk, I'm holding myself back on the path, so to speak. It's been a hard thing to deal with for me, and something I still need to discuss more with my teachers.


Anyway, I was wondering if anyone else out there has been in a similar situation or had any advice? Of course, whether or not I can do a group retreat will not lessen my faith, but I do feel left out of one of the more important experiences for a Buddhist meditator. Would I be able to/brave enough to do a solitary retreat instead?


I'd also like to hear of any other non-Christian religious situations where one might have to balance their health and their faith.

(please be respectful of others' beliefs)






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To be honest, I'm no expert on any religion, so my advice may not be too useful. I tried to go to a Hare Krishna temple when I was newly diagnosed, and they provided such wonderful food. There were a lot of people there that were on a gluten free diet, but I was still so full of anxiety (mainly because I was so new to this and hadn't lost that symptom yet) that I was hesitant to eat anything. I can't remember if I got glutened or not. If I did, it was because I felt so guilty asking "is this safe" every time someone handed me food that they made. I haven't gone back since, sadly, because I feel a lot of shame for having to turn away food. I was also raised as a Christian but have turned away from that. For some reason, I worry too much that I'm not able to fit in anywhere, despite how much they welcome me, but that's my own self delusion. I just feel ignorant, and I want to defeat that. 


My best advice is pretty cliche. Ask if you can bring your own food, provide money for special food to be made on the side, or ask if you can take charge of preparing your own meal. I honestly don't know how that works in the Buddhist community, but in my eyes, any religion or spiritual organization should be understanding of the human body and its limitations. Like you said :)


I'd actually recommend asking Forrest, this wonderful, wonderful Buddhist that I've been following for some time. He is incredibly helpful and answers questions with patience. Look up the Purple Buddha Project, and send him an ask. I follow him on Tumblr, but he has a facebook as well. He has really helped so many people through so many different situations and may be able to guide you through this. 


I'd say though, go for it. A retreat of this nature is what I dream of, and I'd love to participate in something like this. It would probably take a lot of careful planning before hand, but, if this is an important journey for you spiritually speaking, then it is a journey worth taking. If you don't feel good about it, follow your intuition and stay home, but dedicate time for your own personal journey anyway.


The best of luck to you, let me know if you're able to go!! 

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Hi Peg,


I think you should consider the week long one.  Talk to your teachers about a menu and what you can bring to suppliment yours with what they have scheduled.  You can do something like taking a hugh batch of a soup or rice dish in case you find it is not safe for you.  You also can ask to be part of the Kitchen prep staff so you can have some control in the kitchen. And take your toaster and colandar and cutting mat.


This would be a great thing to do, I wouldn't want you to miss it at all, it is too important.  I think it is very doable.



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I guess it's just one more thing to worry about, when you're supposed to be trying to not worry about stuff. Of course, I meditate to help deal with life as it is, and part of that for me has been accepting that there's going to be certain things I just can't/won't do and shouldn't feel guilty about that. However, I can't use my dietary needs as an excuse. There are a couple other people with Celiac in my community who go on retreats and help out with food and etc etc, so I do still feel awkward about deciding not to take those risks so lightly.


So when I finally have time to do a proper retreat (probably only a week at a time, since I can't see myself having enough time to do more than that) I'll have to figure out the kitchen stuff with the staff. I'd be traveling to Vermont, or maybe even Colorado. Thankfully though there's a couple who run a lovely retreat centre out of their home not far from Toronto, so might be able to go there instead (I went for a weekend once. Very very accommodating and amazing cooks!) So there are definitely options.


Anyway, all part of stopping making excuses and getting back "on the cushion"

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