I’m jumping up and down (well, not literally–but almost) with joyful anticipation of the Eating Peace Retreat starting this very dark and rainy evening in Seattle.
What better time of year than to be in a retreat? It’s cozy and warm inside, and misty, mysterious and cloudy outside. The warm inside beckons. We go inside our hearts and minds. Let it rain!
We get to gather kinda like we did down in the dark Breitenbush woods last month, only we’re in a secluded elegant spot right in the city.
It struck me last night, during the eating peace group immersion call, that feeling connected to oneself in some ways is all this whole entire healing-from-compulsion-or-any-suffering thing is all about; it’s about feeling separated, or feeling connected, and how that moves based on our perspective of What Is.
On the inquiry calls that I run, we always do The Work. I have programs that run 7 months or a year: Eating Peace Immersion and Year of Inquiry (and shorter programs too where we’re meeting on video–like the Divorce/Break-Up/Separation is Hell Telecourse that started a few days ago).
People who dial in to the calls check in, share where they’re at, and honestly speak what they notice about their thinking. We tell the truth. We say our painful beliefs out loud.
Whether our thoughts are about eating, our bodies, certain foods….or about other people, our fears, agonies, irritations, disappointments, worries….we share them.
So last night, the stressful thoughts noticed were about losing a friendship, being banished, not being included, feeling separated.
From our clan. From our group. From our family. From a love interest. From a best friend. From mom, from dad, from sibling.
We’re so distressed about this separation, we feel nauseated, numb, terrified. (And maybe we eat….or drink, smoke, spend, grab, work, distract, drug).
Maybe these kinds of thoughts about being separated from love start at a very young age: they kicked me out, they cut me off, they hate me, they don’t want me, they withdrew from me, they dismissed me, they broke up with me, she ditched me, he left me.
Can you find a moment when you believed this to be true?
I remember my best friend Sarah. We were in sixth grade.
Sarah and I both loved gymnastics because Olga Korbut had just won the Gold Medal. Sarah taught me how to do a cartwheel and stretch daily for the eventual splits. We both had crushes on the same boy named Josh. We both wore levis with the leg hems picked out so it they had shaggy edges.
We went home on the bus almost every day–on HER bus instead of mine–after school. We ate raw brownie mix dough and watched TV (both of which weren’t allowed at my house) in her spacious empty living room.
Then I walked home from her house, down north Capitol Hill on the steep sidewalk, along Lake Union where boathouses floated, through the big apartment building parking lot into the tall reeds and wetlands and secret shortcut walking trail, popped out into the Montlake playing field, then up the hill to the busy road and a block to my family’s home.
One day, Sarah seemed irritated with me when we were on the bus. Like she was tired of me, or bored with me, or wanting to do something else, with someone else.
I don’t even remember if there was a specific argument (I don’t think so) but this plunging feeling of my best friend being tired of our time together….felt devastating.
On the eating peace inquiry call, the person doing The Work had a similar story.
Headline: Girl gets ditched by best friend!
A Mean Girl experience.
I didn’t get on Sarah’s bus the next day. She didn’t call me on the phone. She didn’t really speak to me at school the following day, either.
I felt a slight panic, and pushed it down and away. I pretended it didn’t bother me.
But it did.
Several years ago, as an adult, a very dear friend of mine sent a false accusation to the government body overseeing my mental health credential here in Washington, prompting an investigation which was soon dismissed, as the complaint was untrue.
But it was a shocking experience at the time.
I wrote at least five Judge Your Neighbor worksheets on this friend and got help with facilitation. It felt so serious.
How could she betray me like that?
How could Sarah get tired of me?
What does it mean when someone doesn’t want to be in your presence anymore?
Something about the inquirer’s work last night reminded me not only of the profound rift in my adult friendship in the past decade, but also the memory of my dear friend Sarah.
Sarah and I had an encounter where we came down the hall at school in opposite directions, approaching each other when class was in session–both of us going to the bathroom with a hall pass.
We couldn’t avoid each other.
In the bathroom, she smiled, and we connected and my memory is one of us might have even said “I missed you” and the other might have said “I’m sorry”. I’m not sure much was actually said–we were eleven, after all.
Shortly after that, Sarah moved away to White Plains, New York.
Sitting in the inquirer’s childhood work last night I felt the profound awareness of how we betray ourselves, don’t speak up, don’t say “hey, where are you going?” to our partners, our friends, our family members, with a concern that’s open, wondering, curious.
Instead, some of us have curled up like those little pill bugs that tuck into a tight hard roly-poly ball. We’re crushed.
I once did The Work with a lovely woman who was brought to her knees, and to The Work, because of a very close friendship that ended–and she never knew why.
Who would we be without this thought?
Who would we be without this dreadful story and all we think it means about our future, and about love?
One way we would be, as I heard from the inquirer last night, is aware of what did not leave.
Which is everything else in the world, almost.
Even that person didn’t fully “leave”–she was still around, and there was still a connection, and unsaid words, and possibility that might have gone a different way if I hadn’t believed so fully in separation.
Even if the person died, they’re in my heart and soul. They’re part of my DNA. They’re part of my life journey.
Without my belief in separation back then, I might have seen I didn’t help myself, I ditched myself, I dismissed my own feelings, I betrayed myself, I ignored me, I didn’t reach out for what I needed.
“Each apparent separateness is a micro-glimpse of the whole, each word spoken, each syllable broken down, each wave of a hand or crossing of the legs, each squeeze of toothpaste onto the bristles of a toothbrush. Each is different, each is necessary. Someone lives, someone dies, someone laughs, someone grieves. For now, that’s the way of it, until it’s not.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy pg. 148
Who would I be without my story that I’m separate and alone, even if someone else leaves?
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t feel like overeating. I wouldn’t want to drink. I wouldn’t want to get away from what I’m feeling….I’d be kind to myself, whoever that is (or whatever).
Turning the thought around: I am connected. Fully, entirely, deeply, profoundly connected to all of reality. Including those friends and family and partners I’ve loved so much. Including the chair I’m sitting in, and my blanket on my bed. Including new friends I meet at retreat, or gatherings of fellow travelers.
Could this be just as true, or truer?
Find examples. Spend the whole day finding examples of what you’re connected to. If you want or need a hug, find a human to give yourself one.