What excites me? What inspires me? What tickles me in a way that makes me smile? I have a list of things I turn to. Food used to be my number one choice until a diagnosis two years ago led to major changes in my lifestyle and life habits. My private battle with food turned public.
Food is not an easy subject for me. For many years I made it a habit to overeat as it always gave me the benefit of curtailing my emotions, sensations and tension. I did it with blind awareness. The practice helped me feel in control. Overeating helped me survive so much pain and loss.
While training as a spiritual director, we had to choose a spiritual practice, something we face daily that we learn from. I chose my new food plan. With mentors to speak with and this journey in front of me, so began the unraveling of my food addiction.
As the days became months, I struggled with the limitations in my food plan. I wasn’t able to overeat or to eat any of my familiar and comforting foods. If I did, the penalty was incredible pain and discomfort. I was unable to sit in meditation. My monkey mind was screaming. I was silently crying on the inside.
I held on to the rules of the diet like a bible and followed them meticulously and eventually experienced relief in my physical symptoms. Six months came and went in my limited food choices. I learned to prepare all my foods including homemade mayonnaise and other condiments, crackers and noodles. As the parameters of my food plan loosened a bit with my improvement, I immediately pushed the limit and overate. The painful backlash returned. I felt cornered.
As Joanna Macy coins the phrase “the great turning” I coin the phrase “the great unthawing” in my life. As I continued the changes in my food, I more and more realized a deep feeling of shame. Overeating hid this feeling from me.
I sought psychotherapy for the trauma I experienced as a child and as an adult. As my awareness became clearer and clearer, I felt I was unlocking shame, sadness and deep grief. As I worked through these deep emotions, I was reminded how important it is for me to receive loving attention from myself. I reparented myself through tools I’ve developed over the last many years.
Prayer became an important part of my life. As I uncovered my hidden emotions, I realized how controlling I have been with my food and my emotions. Understandably, this was my attempt not to feel. However, it was time to feel.
I continue to surrender. I am able to see and define more clearly what my specific needs are. It is my right as a person on this earth to get my needs met. During a weekend intensive at Rowe I learned from a brilliant teacher, Tom Yeomans about loving the unknown. I embraced this concept. My unknown existed beyond my food.
Some of the realizations I discovered were:
It is imperative for me to stay in the present. All I have to be is in the present moment.
I was awakening my soul.
Overeating has kept my thinking small.
During a powerful session I merged my less-than self with my powerful self. I gave voice to both selves.
Every meal honors my process.
I need quiet time.
I need space around me.
I have a right to be in balance.
I ask for guidance on next steps.
I surrender my process.
I surrender my struggle.
I surrender my goals.
I surrender my control.
I surrender my story.
I surrender myself.
It’s easy to feel sorry for me as I smell pizza or fresh bread. Poor me for being left out. I hear my sad thoughts and choose not to sit down with the ‘poor me’ and ruminate on my losses. This journey is a battle I fought hard to win. My winning brought me silent meditation. My journey brought me to this community. My journey brought me acceptance of me.
Every day my awareness widens. Through meditation I am more centered. I have a deeper calm within. I realize I am not alone on this journey. All I need do is ask for help and it is there.
My inner demons were doorways to my inner gifts. I am comfortable sitting in silence and have a deep trust in myself. It was my time to face me. This process taught me so much about trusting my ability to follow my path.
“Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging.” - Bob Sharples, from Meditation: Calming the Mind
I was struck by “The inner demons are doorways to inner gifts.” The inner demons kept coming. I was reminded at the beginning of my journey with the spiritual direction program, that I had a lot of things that were clogging me up. I was clogged up with things like complicated grief over my mom’s death. I was wanting to control my child’s alcoholism, and always having a need to know. So, my first weekend intensive involving loving the unknown, I was so far away from that concept, it didn’t register with me. I spent two years accepting the unknown. I still don’t think I’m to the point of loving the unknown. Thank you for the reminder. When I eliminate all of the stuck stuff, then I create space for other inner gifts. All sorts of gifts like hospitality and graciousness and gratitude, and they all seem so light and airy. Not everything is, but those three are. Thank you so much. All of what you said came together for me today.
I loved the thought of “don’t meditate to improve yourself. Meditate to love yourself.” That gave me a tool to use because I have often not felt loved. What I came up with in this meditation is use meditation as a way of loving myself. Then I thought about infusing water with love and then drink the water. Then I thought why stop there. How about everything I eat today, every bite, imagine it infused with love. Then I thought every smell – everything. Today I’m going to try this experiment with everything I bring to my body to be filled with love and we’ll see how I feel by the end of the day.
I focused on the demons at the gates, and it was more abstract. I experienced myself at different gates and different demons. When I felt a certain authentic innocence, I was able to move through some things but then what came up for me to look at was a pretend innocence. It’s a paradox. It’s like knowing and not knowing at the same time. It’s something I have to look at. I think I’m moving from innocence, but the truth is there’s a paradox there and I really know what’s going on. That’s a journey for me to look at.
It reminds me of the phrase fake it til you make it.
Just to pick up on that, the demons as a doorway were very powerful. The idea of meditation as love was even more powerful. The other thing that struck me was the phrase “blind awareness.” It’s an oxymoron. I know but I don’t really know. There’s something there but I can’t quite get it. It circles back to what was talked about.
I’ve struggled with food all my life. Family trauma during high school was very stressful for me and that’s when I started struggling with food. I stopped drinking years ago and joined the 12-step program. The second I stopped drinking, I realized I couldn’t stop eating. I saw that I was an addict who would use anything so I didn’t have to feel my feelings. The Overeater’s Anonymous program was very prominent in my area and I was able to join and be abstinent for many years. It saved me. It is a struggle because we have to deal with food on a daily basis. I had to learn how to separate food for sustenance from the food I ate for emotional comfort. It’s a journey. I’m grateful to the 12-step program which helped me to help me see that. I started another abstinence in January of this year before the pandemic. I’m celebrating my nine-month of abstinence from overeating.
I also appreciate this topic. Food is a lifelong struggle of mine as well. It took me probably half my life to realize it was an addiction. Drugs, alcohol, gambling are obvious addictions. I realize turning to food for comfort is an addiction. I am an emotional eater. It’s not just when I’m sad; it’s when I’m happy too. Every emotion is associated with food. It’s such a source of comfort and joy for me. I do still struggle with thinking about food as fuel. I feel better with healthy nutritious foods. I also love that chocolate cake. I have to be easy on myself. It will probably be a lifelong struggle.
Being the people pleaser I am, I also discovered the discomfort that arises when I sit with people who are eating and I am not. I wasn’t joining in sharing food with each other, and people were uncomfortable with that. It’s an interesting dynamic.
This is a battle I share. I think I’ve gained and lost the same 100 pounds over and over again. It’s difficult. I grew up in an environment where love was shown with food. That makes it very difficult because I internalized that and show myself love through food. It’s a battle separating it. I think this discussion is very supportive. Thank you everybody.
Thank you for being gentle, loving people that I trust enough to share like I do. I see all of you doing that as well because it is a trusting community. I see authentic, loving people. I wish you all a comfortable day.