• on December 8, 2017

5 food/body learnings for 2017

2017 has been a big year for me and IEWIN. Here are some of my learnings…

 

1.  I’m most able to be present to my food when I’m in a low-tech, low stimulation environment

I spent the first 3 months of 2017 travelling in Ecuador, two months of which I was living in San Cristobal, in the Galapagos. Here, I had no TV. No posters or adverts. No supermarkets. Minimal internet connectivity. Limited food options. The lack of choice was deeply soothing. And without the constant invitation to CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME my brain shifted into a different gear. It took a while to adjust, as I experienced a lot of resistance to this low-stimulation environment. I questioned what the point of it all was. Shouldn’t I be doing, getting, achieving, contributing somehow? I was not accustomed to the gentle flow of island life, unplanned and without an agenda. Spending my days swimming, reading, resting and teaching one hour of yoga didn’t seem enough. I felt deep crave and deep dissatisfaction, despite the beauty all around me.

Then something shifted. I moved through this phase, and I began to experience moments of genuine presence and peace. The shift came when I let go of my projects and goals. I gave myself permission to be here, and enjoy the experience. I don’t have to write a book, or understand my life’s purpose. I can just swim, be with the animals. And then I noticed I was eating more slowly. Being fully here with my food. Not just eating mindfully because ‘it’s the right thing to do and I need to heal my relationship with food right now!’ Eating mindfully because it’s a natural reflection of my state of mind and body in this moment. Our modern western environment is designed to crank us up and push us into consuming. Don’t be surprised if you can’t seem to stop, pause, be present. You’re not doing anything wrong. We’re so porous, so easily influenced by what we see and hear every day. Take yourself into neutral spaces that don’t incite consumption (nature!) and see how it affects your bodymind.

 

2. It’s possible to trust life (sometimes…) 

Coming back from Ecuador, I had created all kinds of stories about how difficult it was going to be to find a place to live. I was deeply fearful of leaving our old flat.  ‘We’ll never find a new place that’s as good as this!  Everything is so expensive in Brighton!’  Get ready to fight, push, make it happen.  And then, a friend of mine offered us her home as she was moving to a different country.  A beautiful home with a garden and an open fire.  For affordable rent.  I didn’t need to do anything.  It was so easy, so perfect.  Life said – here you go.  Take it.  No effort required on your part.  I’m so used to believing that it’s all about MY EFFORTS.  That I need to push push push to make anything happen.  It’s exhausting. And this drive often leads me to overeat, because when something isn’t forthcoming, the frustration pushes me into the food.  Breathe.  Soften.  Trust that life can meet you halfway.  Yes, there is effort, yes there is doing.  But there is also receiving the gifts, there is non-doing.  Remember than non-doing is always available, when pushing for change and transformation isn’t getting you where you need to go.
 
3.  Trusting is really hard
 
Why can’t we trust life?  Because we’ve been taught that CONTROL is what we need.  You cannot trust something if you are also trying to control it.  These two energies and intentions cannot coexist.
 
Trust says – Life is uncertain.  I don’t know what will happen.  There are many unknowns, and I am blind in the darkness.  But I love life and I trust that life loves me.  So I give myself to the void, I jump into the emptiness.
 
Control says – Look at your past experiences.  Predict your future experiences.  Scan the horizon for threats.  Go hunting for treats.  You’re not safe here, so you’d better be constantly moving towards something better.  There’s not enough for all of us, so be prepared to fight it out.  You need to get a handle on this.  Don’t fall apart.  Don’t let your true feelings show.  The more you push, the better the outcome.  Work harder.  More.  More.  More.
 
Where’s the line between doing what I can to live my best life, and trusting life to come to me and deliver the goods? This is classic serenity poem territory here (the well-loved poem many AA members will know by heart). I was in FA (Food Addicts Anonymous) for 5 months and although I don’t practise 12-step anymore, there’s so much wisdom in asking… (this is my inquiry into the poem)
 
Life, can you please help me to cultivate acceptance?  There are some things I can’t change.  There are some things that I keep pushing away, and they just keep coming back.  I don’t want to feel this, but it’s here.  Help me to surrender.
 
Life, can you also help me to cultivate courage?  I know that there are steps I can take to bring ease, peace and sanity into my life.  I know that my participation is required.  Support me to take small steps each day, as I grow in maturity and self-responsibility.
 
And life, could you please help me to cultivate the wisdom I need to discern what’s needed from me?  When to surrender, and when to act?  So that I may use the energies of doing and non-doing in a more skilful way.  So that I may experience balance, ease and flow.  Thank you.
 

4.  It’s all a game of ratios.

 
I’d like to ONLY think about food when I’m physically hungry in my belly for it. That’s not my current reality.
 
I’d like to be able to be with my ALL my feelings of grief, sadness, frustration, loss, confusion… and hold space for them by staying with the sensations in the body and allowing them to arise and be met with love and care. That’s not my current reality.
 
I’d like to ALWAYS have clear, honest and respectful communication with other humans that allows for my authentic self to unfold. I’d like permission to be fully honest, fully present, fully myself, while respecting other people. That’s not my current reality.
 
Of course this is not my current reality!  My black-and-white thinking wants results, now, and wants a 100 per cent success rate.  I’m a human, I’m evolving, I’m growing and changing.  And as a human, I need to consider these aspects of our human experience:
 
-Not all our thoughts are true (I don’t need to eat now, even though my sweet brain is fixated on getting some foodie relief)
 
-Many of our feelings get buried beneath coping mechanisms and numbing behaviours. Don’t worry, you haven’t lost your chance. They’re stored in your body for later.  Which is why meditation is so hard: we feel everything we’ve been running from for so long.
 
-Many of us wear a variety of masks, we hide and pretend, we stay away from authentic sharing because it feels too vulnerable.  
 
Moving towards sanity means valuing each and every time that I manage to…
 
-hold space for a thought, craving or urge and pause before identifying with it
 
-give myself permission to feel the sensations in my body and just allow them to be there
 
-experiment with sharing the truth of who I am with safe and gentle people who can hold my vulnerability and allow me to be the complex and sometimes conflicted human person I am
 
This is about ratios. Maybe you eat 100% of the time in response to food thoughts. Maybe you start to hold just 1 in 10 of those food thoughts. Maybe you get to 90%. Maybe you experiment with truth telling more of the time. Maybe you begin to have a gentle somatic awareness practice (like a body scan meditation, for example) that helps you to enter the body gradually and safely. It’s not either/or. It’s not sick/cured, broken/fixed. It’s moving towards sanity, moment-to-moment. Noticing the ebb and flow. Noticing that sanity doesn’t always seem to be available at all times. But it will come back, if we keep edging towards it.
In this way, seconds of peace become minutes. Days without bingeing become weeks. Weeks become months. We tread the middle path more of the time. We may still swing into extremes, but we spend less time at the poles. We do this by gently working our Process every day, coming to the group if we can, and making our recovery a priority in our life. As long as you have a brain and a belly, you can engage in this work, and you can grow and evolve.  No one is broken beyond repair.
 

5.  Let go of your expectations

Coming to the end of 2017, I don’t know exactly how my life will take shape from here. I’m doing my work – teaching yoga, holding groups, working 121. I’m writing, recording talks and meditations, learning how to create online and offline community. I’m negotiating screen time with nature time, craving and peace, doing and non-doing. Trust and control, feeling well and feeling insane, sometimes wanting to be here on this planet and sometimes just feeling overwhelmed by it all.
 
I’m questioning the story of lack that haunts my life (It’s not enough! Make it bigger! Better! Faster! Now!). I’m asking myself what my days are for. They are for me, because I’m the one living this life. Creating. Connecting. Dancing. Loving. Singing. Resting. Being. Feeling. Listening. Helping. Being helped. Learning. Teaching. Growing.
 
I’m wondering how someone makes a business from sharing their lived experience, and holding space for others.  I’m doing my best to not play the comparison game, although social media often feels like one giant head-f*** of how many likes, how many followers, how much reach etc…
 
I wondering how to bring the threads of food, body and spirit together so we can heal this struggle together.  What the best way to do that is, with so many possibilities flying around my head.
 
I believe in IEWIN as deeply meaningful, fundamental to my life, a reason for being here. And I question – can I do this? Is it just too confusing, too messy, too tricky to build this all from scratch? Wouldn’t it be easier to just follow someone else’s path, one they had laid out for you? Remember Galapagos, and the deep relaxation at the lack of choice, the limited options? We want openness and freedom, and then we struggle to hold it.
 
I can’t chart a course for you, dear friend on the path. I can show you the maps I’m using along the way. But el camino se hace al andar. The path is made as we walk upon it. Let’s walk together in 2018. Let’s check in regularly to reorientate. Let’s drop the agenda, the expectation that we’re going to a better place than this moment right now. There is nowhere to go. But there is a commitment to make your moment-to-moment experience more comfortable, more authentic, more loving. Simply because we’re humans, and our bodies know that we enjoy comfort and ease. We enjoy truth telling. And we enjoy love.
 
I can’t improve you. You are deeply lovable and precious as you are right now.
 
But I can walk beside you.
 
And it is my intention to do so.
 
Join me.

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