New Eating Peace Masterclass on the Barriers in The Mind That Come Between Us And Eating Peace. Watch the webinar live on Tuesday 1/10 at 5:30 pm or Weds 1/11 at 8:30 am. Register here. (It’s free).
When it came to food and eating, or weight loss and getting into shape, the first place my mind always went was to the solution.
I’ll eat like “x” and avoid “y” and add this exercise to my daily routine and resist “z” and control myself and apply willpower. I read many books on nutrition and dieting, all of which had pages of information about what was happening with the cells and molecules in the body, what recipes I should follow in the kitchen, and how I should plan my day (take the stairs, not the elevator).
All of that was ridiculous, considering the actual problem was in my mind. It was in the way I viewed the world, and how I was adapting to very stressful situations.
I was full of fear, anxiety, worry, nervousness and discomfort in some areas when it came to living life….
….and the way I adapted and coped show up in the way I ate.
The way through this very agonizing dilemma?
Identify clearly your stressful beliefs and fears, and question them. Find the opposites, the turnarounds, and practice living them.
As Einstein said (paraphrased), if he had an hour to solve a problem, he’d spend 55 minutes defining and studying the problem, and five minutes “solving” it.
So I quit studying food, nutrition, and exercise and I began to wonder what was below the surface of this whole thing in the first place.
When I questioned my fearful assumptions about life (and eating, food and body image) and spent the majority of my focus on this issue there….I cracked open the barriers I had to freedom.
When I questioned my fearful assumptions about life (and eating, food and body image) I cracked open the barriers I had to freedom.
I still feel nervous and anxious sometimes–I still have bad dreams occasionally, or concerns and I’m not sure how to handle a situation. But turning to food to handle them, or to help me cope or comfort or support my emotional state, is not something that even occurs to me. Nothing like it once was.
To begin to understand what your blocks are to freedom from compulsive eating (or any compulsive behavior) you can start with Byron Katie’s wonderful question that invites us to see what we’re afraid of. It’s not comfortable, always. But it’s profound, and offers insight to our inner fears that can be found in no other way than by identifying them, and looking at them.
The great question?
What’s the worst that could happen?
Here’s how. (The text on the screen will vanish in 50 seconds, hang tight at the beginning if you find it distracting).
Have you ever had the thought about something you did….
.…Dang it. I wish I hadn’t done that.
Well, of course you have.
It would be almost strange to answer the question “No! I have never, ever wished I did anything differently than they way I did it!”
I’ve had this thought a million times. I’ve caught myself wishing I had not done something yesterday, last night, last week, last month, or twenty years ago…or how about forty.
I really wish I hadn’t done that.
The trouble is, it’s a very painful thought IF you believe it’s absolutely true.
If you absolutely believe you shouldn’t have done something in the past, something you did do, this belief brings up shame, guilt, horror, embarrassment, reprimand. For some people they’re so distressed about what they did, they feel like they don’t deserve to live.
Long ago, in a dorm room of a small liberal arts college with high prestige, I broke down and out of a semi-fast of several years of eating “perfectly”.
I was extremely strict about my diet and food plan, and followed it with great precision (although I could question what it means to be so precise, since I didn’t weigh my food after the first three months or so of being on this food plan-I simply copied/remembered what to eat and the approximate portions). I learned this food plan from 12 Step meetings I attended.
In the meetings, they meant very well, they were offering a very, very clear and uncluttered approach to eating. Lots of items in the world of food were eliminated. Things that commonly incited cravings and urges….gone from the plan. You simply did not ever eat those things and you weighed and measured every bite that went into your mouth. It was like giving up alcohol or drugs if you were alcoholic or a drug addict. The first thing to do: stop the activity of consuming. Just stop.
The problem for me was that I was bound to this food plan like a criminal in a maximum security prison. It was as if I had locked my cravings and urges and desires and conflicts about food and eating in a deep dark dungeon behind a massive concrete and barbed wire wall, never to be found (I hoped) again. And then thrown into the bottom of the ocean, just to be on the safe side.
My attitude and beliefs about myself were that I could not be trusted. I could not eat (think) normally. I couldn’t feel normally. My emotions were tricksters, and often “wrong”.
The shout in the wilderness of it all was CONTROL YOURSELF FOR GOD’S SAKE!
Which is what I attempted to do.
People have this attitude towards many things they believe they shouldn’t have done.
The game plan is…..kill it. Control it. Deafen it. Quiet it down. Lock it away.
Not that many people related to eating the extreme way I did. But the energy below the surface, in many ways, had nothing to do with food or eating.
This may surprise you.
But have you ever decided you’re going to be a more generous, nicer or kinder person? Have you ever thought to yourself “I am going to get a handle on money”? Have you ever thought “I won’t criticize my spouse or get into an argument with my teenager”?
And then, sometime later (maybe the very next day) you yelled at someone you love, or said a mean nasty critical thing under your breath, or started fuming about your job, or you got super nervous about speaking up, or said yes when you meant no, or spent money you didn’t really have, or declined a new invitation, or decided to work longer and harder and wait on your vacation for another date and time…..when you PROMISED you wouldn’t keep doing this.
Maybe you tell yourself, like I did, that you should know better by now. You should have this figured out. You should have your act together in this department. You should be farther along…..well-spoken, calm, efficient, successful, the right weight, good at “x”, brilliant at “y”, resistant to “z”.
Another time I thought severely about myself the thought “I shouldn’t have done it” was after flirting very heavily with someone who wasn’t my primary partner at the time.
Or the time I lost my temper with my daughter. Or when I told myself I’d meditate daily. Or start yoga.
Or one of the worst situations of my life (it seemed at the time) I shouldn’t have had the abortion. There must be something wrong with me. So irresponsible. So wrong.
You shouldn’t have done it.
Is that true?
Yes, of course it’s true. There is no good reason to have done it, I already knew what would happen afterwards, I gave myself a terrible thing to live with!
Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Now, this is amazing that I answer no. But I looked and looked over time. I can’t absolutely know it–not with any of these things I was so sure I shouldn’t have done. Was I the one ruling the universe? Did I really have an overall world-view of every element of the situation? Was I entirely in charge? Was the whole thing that went down my choice?
Even if you answer “yes” keep going here.
How do you react when you believe you shouldn’t have done it, and you did do it?
Torn into pieces internally. Self-hating. Hopeless. Frustrated. Punishing myself. Trying harder to control it. Deciding to go on severe diets because I can’t be trusted.
But who would you be without this thought that you shouldn’t have done it?
Wait for it.
The mind might have a hissy fit twisting itself in knots without this thought.
What??! Aren’t you letting yourself get away with murder? Destruction? Violence? Hurting others? Hurting yourself?
This isn’t about pretending you didn’t do something that had major consequences. It isn’t about forgetting reality.
But without the belief I shouldn’t have done something that has already been done…..I am a little lighter.
I can start here, from right now. I rest and relax. I notice I’m still breathing, still living, not struck by lightening. Perhaps I can bring some kindness into this moment, starting freshly. Now.
Turning the thought around: I should have done it.
How could this be just as true, or truer? Are there any advantages, genuine reasons why doing it led to this moment now, where you’re more awake?
In every single situation I’ve ever sat with in The Work where I believed I shouldn’t have done something, I can find a good reason for doing it. An advantage. An unexpected shift of awareness.
Long ago, in that dorm room, I was suddenly struck with the insanity of living with hyper-control, hardly aware of the homework or reading assigned in my classes, the lack of freedom and spontaneity and kindness, the loneliness and unhappiness I was experiencing.
Back then, I got on the next airplane home and never returned to that college campus. I started doing the internal work I really needed to do with my family, my own psyche, my relationship to food and eating, group therapy. Life has been a wonderful road questioning the slavery of stressful thinking.
Plus I saved my parents thousands in college tuition, and didn’t waste my time in a school better built for others, not for me. After a short time, I got a job on a ship which was a magnificent and difficult experience, and I’ll never forget it.
Doing that thing I *thought* I shouldn’t have done was a life-changer and a life-saver and put me firmly on a new and different path than the one I and my entire family had expected.
Another turnaround: it shouldn’t have done me.
That moment, that binge-eating episode, that act of unkindness, that meanness, that behavior, that situation….
….it shouldn’t have “done” me in. It shouldn’t have wrecked my entire world (well, it didn’t actually). It shouldn’t have become such a huge way for me to punish myself or condemn me for life to needing to control myself even more.
Instead, that act I committed, that experience I engaged in, that thing I did….it should be a teacher of love, showing me where not to go in the future, or showing me my confusion.
Byron Katie said in the School for The Work the first time I attended it that the thing I was most ashamed of doing, I could question if it really was as awful as I imagined.
I notice, the thing I shouldn’t have done….it ended. It’s over. It came to an end, despite my own thinking then, or now.
“The Work is about noticing our thoughts, not about changing them. When you work with the thinking, the doing naturally follows.” ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is
If I think you shouldn’t have?
Investigate. Understand what was going on. Listen to yourself in the most deep, powerful, empathetic way. Share with others, so they might hear you, too.
“There is no peace in the world until you find peace within yourself in this moment. Live these turnarounds, if you want to be free. That’s what Jesus did, what the Buddha did. That’s what all the famous great ones did, and all the unknown great ones who are just living it in their homes and communities, happy and in peace.” ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is
Despite all those mistakes you’ve made, making you very human by the way…..you are here, now.
What is peaceful about this moment? Certainly not thinking about how you screwed up in the past.
If you have a particular habit of moving towards food and eating when you aren’t hungry, or fighting cravings, or forcing yourself into off-balance diets, or feeling very unhappy about your body and your weight….and you’re ready to do a deep exploration for almost three months, I’m accepting enrollment for the Eating Peace Process which begins January 14th.
The eating peace process includes inquiry into stressful believing, about food, eating and body image….but also about all the other stressful beliefs you have that fuel off-balance eating.
Everyone in the program will have access to brand new slide presentations you can watch on your own time (plus two live optional calls per week) where we follow our thinking, question it, and learn practices that keep us steady, clear and learning what has kept us from the peace we truly want.
Everyone will find a rhythm of self-inquiry and commitment to their freedom and health, and I’ll be doing it all right alongside you.
This program does involve writing in a journal. We’ll do written exercises to help uncover our hidden commitments and fears, so we understand why and how we’ve moved off the peaceful path in the past when it comes to eating (and thinking).
Most of all, the Eating Peace Process is a way to practice resting. Not putting yourself into a straightjacket. It’s a way to understand ourselves and what prevents deep change and transformation.
To read more about the Eating Peace Process, visit here. I’ll be doing some webinars and sharing more about it if you’re on the eating peace mailing list (update your profile below in the teeny small print to see if you’re on the eating peace list).
Today, whatever you fight, whatever you wish you didn’t do….even if it isn’t food and eating, but other things you’ve felt ashamed of and frustrated about….
….you can do The Work, in this new moment, now.
“All suffering is an invitation to deep acceptance of the present moment.” ~ Jeff Foster in The Deepest Acceptance
This month in Year of Inquiry, we’re looking at Hurt, Anger and Fear. One aspect of YOI this year that’s new, are some of the topics. Plus we always have a 90 minute Introduction ABOUT the topic, before we go into the topic, and best practices for The Work on it. With slides.
Someone said today as we’re in our second week….It’s big, this one.
She said she felt a lot of anxiety and like her nervous system is a little overstimulated.
Looking at the times we’ve been hurt in our lives seems overwhelming, sad, infuriating.
Well, it certainly produces anger, and fear. Feelings of Never Again.
Hurt brings out the urgency to relax and get away from the wild feelings of anxiety or tension.
It’s truly profound to take one situation, only one (not too many, not more than one, not EVERY situation we’ve ever known where we felt hurt)….
….and then sit comfortably and quietly and write down our thoughts that were born out of that situation, using the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.
I notice, if I keep holding every situation in my mind producing “hurt” I’m going to feel pretty full of despair, sadness, hopelessness, fear, or overwhelm. I see flashing pictures of people I’ve felt hurt by, difficult situations.
But a very core, underlying belief appears for inquiry in all this. It’s so simple, I almost didn’t see it.
I was hurt.
Is that true?
Yes. It crushed me. It broke my heart. I was physically changed. My life was never the same again. It was terrible. So hurt.
Picture only ONE of those situations where you felt hurt.
Are you absolutely sure it’s true you were?
Are you positive, without any doubt whatsoever, you were hurt by this outside force–a person, incident, experience–and it was awful?
It’s OK to say “yes” if you think so.
But as I investigate this thought…..can I absolutely know I was hurt for all time, forever? Can I know I was damaged? Can I know whatever broke should NOT have broken? Can I really know absolutely that nothing important came from it?
How do you react when you think “I was hurt”.
I avoid any situation that could appear to be like it again. I’m careful in relationships. I don’t share. I keep to myself. I give up. I remember the pain. I run away.
I feel like someone who was hurt.
So who would you be without this belief “I was hurt”?
My mind almost goes….Wha??
What do you mean? But I WAS! I was hurt! I can tell you the whole story of how hurt I was and the scenes and proof and incidents and terrible moments! You would agree! Other people DO agree, who have heard my stories. I won’t be silenced!
OK, this isn’t about saying you’re crazy, or being in denial, or pretending what happened didn’t actually happen when it’s vivid in your mind’s eye. It’s not about keeping quiet, either.
It’s simply noticing what it’s like in the spaces between the thought “I was hurt” and without the conclusions you make about being hurt that never end.
It’s being without the belief that “I was hurt and it for sure means (terrible, negative, awful, horrible, vile, horrifying).”
Without the belief I was ever hurt….I’m at peace right now.
I feel completely content, relaxed and comfortable in this moment. All is extremely well, and I notice the only thing alarming–if they appear–are my negative thoughts about being hurt.
Turning the thought around: I was not hurt.
What are my examples?
Well, I’m sitting here writing about it.
You find examples you know are real for you, no matter how small. I’m physically intact. I grew up. I survived. That person never yelled at me (the situation I’m thinking of, she just disappeared).
Turning the thought around again, can you find any examples of how you hurt the other person, or you attacked…..either someone else, or yourself?
I hurt myself by repeatedly remembering it and speaking the story to lots of people and holding it as a story of endless pain and agony and fear. I hurt myself by believing it was not-get-over-able. I hurt the other person in my mind, wishing for her failure and suffering, believing she was incapable of love and honesty, thinking of her as so powerful as to ruin my life.
Long ago when I was doing The Work on this very thought, the person facilitating me said she saw another turnaround.
Oh? I thought I got all three, and found examples for them all.
Well, she said, you could turn it all the way around to the complete opposite “I was healed” in that situation. What do you think?
I was back to No Words. What?? Healed?
That wasn’t a healing situation, it was a suffering, painful, difficult….
(I was already back into proving my original thought, even though I just did The Work. Already back into bolstering up how awful and hurtful it had all been, how painful, how much I had suffered, how it was all that other person’s fault, or God’s fault).
You sure do ask a lot here. Isn’t it enough that I’m doing The Work at all?
And yet….I began to find it.
I was healed, in that situation with that person, because I lived my life onward with greater awareness. I began to stand up straighter, move forward despite my thinking. I felt the presence of life, of the earth, of this temporary organism called me and how difficult situations are temporary–they aren’t happening endlessly 24/7. I unhooked myself from depending on the physical body, or relationships, or the place I’m standing, or money, or anything in reality to be a certain way in order to feel peace.
I was offered the experience of accepting loss, and seeing beyond it.
“Don’t anticipate and don’t regret, and there will be no pain. It is memory and imagination that causes suffering….When the mind takes over, remembers and anticipates, it exaggerates, it distorts, it overlooks…..Question, observe, investigate, learn all you can about confusion, how it operates, what it does to you and others. By being clear about confusion you become clear of confusion.” ~ Nisargadatta
When you’re discouraged, or you think your situation is too big and too overwhelming to question….
….narrow it down. Inquire into only one difficult moment. Write the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet. Then start with one concept, only one.
Who would you be without that one thought, in that one situation?
Wait for the answers.
Having a time when you were hurt does not mean forever, does not mean revisiting, remembering, anticipating, distorting.
Could it be also true something here is OK now, that healing also happened?
I know I keep mentioning the Eating Peace Retreat in January in the Pacific Northwest. There are 3 spots left, and no private onsite rooms. Commuters are welcome, though.
And here’s why I talk about it.
Because I’m not only very excited for the new content and ways to share with those who attend, giving you insight into how you can take the practice of questioning your thoughts with you, in every moment (including eating)….
….but also because I know people receive what’s possible at the retreat from the neck down.
You stop staying up in that head which is yelling at you.
The mind that says things like:
“Did you see what you ate last night? What were you thinking? You did it right in front of all those people, too….have you no shame? You should fast every year in December. Rather than stuff your face. Do you know how many times you’ve done this? Yeah….too many to count. You’re pathetic.”
It’s really not that funny. It’s dreadful, vicious, and nasty.
I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and immediately think “ugh” instead of “oh hello you lovely person!”
It almost doesn’t even matter what’s in the mirror, it’s a judgment, an assessment, based on deep conditioning about what you’re supposed to think of as beautiful or ugly.
But what if you can’t do it wrong?
Especially if you think you failed lately (you’re gaining weight, you’re eating a lot during the holiday season, you’re going off your food plan, you binged yesterday).
For those of you feeling extremely discouraged during December, try this for a change.
It’s called Not Fighting.
And, I’m so thrilled about the art practice I will bring into our retreat, by living this from the neck down. And movement. And being in the presence of food and eating in a peaceful way for 3.5 whole days.
Let’s do this together.
If you want the experience of disconnecting yourself from your thinking….come to the Eating Peace Retreat in January. You won’t regret it. (The mind loves regret).
People have written to me lately, and individual clients I work with in person or on skype or facetime or phone, and people in Year of Inquiry, and messages on facebook….
….and they’ve said something I have also felt in my life.
For me, I’ve been working hard, but not efficiently. I love working, I love my life’s projects, but I found my mind began to be filled by “have to”. I have to do this, that, this, that. No stopping.
A fatigue, feeling discouraged. Maybe a sense of failure. Or a feeling of having lost.
I’m not making it. Some people overeat with overwhelm. Or overspend. Over-plan. Then, unfortunately, even more failure.
It brings enormous suffering into the mind.
I remember not being able to get out of bed, with a physical sense of deep, deep low energy. I remember drinking strong coffee, trying to put something into the body to change the foggy and dreadful feeling of slow movement. I wanted to find an “up” feeling.
Being “up” is better. Right?
But what if you didn’t believe where you are right now, no matter how you feel and what you feel, is wrong….and must be changed?
What if there is nothing that could make you happy outside yourself, including an elevated mood, or a million bucks, or health, or love coming to you from another person?
Strange, I know.
Something here, in the empty, dark, tired space….
….thinks happiness must be somewhere else. Even if you’re too tired to try to find it anymore.
It isn’t here. Nope.
What if we remembered inquiry, in the middle of depression, or feeling like we’re making a mistake, or falling backwards, or failing in some way?
But if even that seems to hard, here’s what to do.
First, take a very deep breath and stop. Even if you’re lying in bed, just stop trying to figure it out.
Then, you can wonder….what are my thoughts doing right now?
Oh, it’s churning out stories. Concepts.
Despairing ones. Sad ones. Angry ones.
Thoughts like “I am always like this” or “I’ve failed” or “I need x to be happy”.
But something else is here besides these thoughts, besides “thinking” running amok.
The mind might feel resistance, fighting, feeling oppositional to What Is.
Who would you be, though, without believing these thoughts?
Who would you be without the belief you’re doing it wrong? Without the thought you’ve lost? Without the thought you’re missing it? Without the thought you can’t find happiness?
Can you make a place in the room, in your surroundings, inside of you, for your thoughts….and also notice what else is here?
Can you let this be here, all of your thoughts and images and painful stories, and not fight against them and wish you were different and pray for your mind to stop talking?
Maybe let it run today, in this moment, like a river running through.
Then once you sit still awhile, wondering who you are without your troubled stories, you’ll notice who you are without a past, and without a future.
A fantastic group of people will be attending the Eating Peace Retreat January 19-22, right here at a lovely private lodge near my little cottage in Seattle. I’d love you to join us. People are traveling from every corner of the US so far, literally New York, West Virginia, California and of course up here in the Pacific Northwest. For travelers, there are still queen sized mattresses we can set up for you in the loft (no private rooms left, although someone may be willing/interested in sharing).
The most important part of the retreat….if I could say there is a MOST important….
….is being with yourself compassionately.
Like the way you are with other people.
You’ll slow down, we’ll eat together, write together, question thoughts together, have an experience of art and movement together. We’re in session daily from 9:30 am until 9:00 pm. No matter how far down the road to overweight, underweight, crazy eating or simple unhappiness about food…..you will be welcomed with open arms.
Enroll here. Space for 4 more. As mentioned in the Eating Peace Masterclass, included in this retreat registration is a one-on-one session to use any time in 2017 whether in person or online.
Have you ever noticed how your thoughts seem to direct your behavior (including eating, obviously).
And yet, you don’t have to DO what your thoughts say.
You might get wound up full of cravings and compulsions and reaching and the agony of urges to stuff yourself with food.
It seems like that Voice that says GO GO GO is nasty, unconcerned about your peace or your freedom, busy, rude, critical of you. That Voice suggests that you….eat. It almost demands you eat, if you have a craving for food. As if there’s no other option.
But there is another option.
You actually take this other option all the time.
It’s called Not Listening To Or Doing What Your Mind Says.
It’s not the King of everything (it might think so, but it really isn’t).
Based on the Tao Te Ching, here’s a way to work with the mind that’s yelling at you to eat: tap into what is NOT your thoughts.
Several people who couldn’t attend the new Living Turnaround group that started yesterday wrote to me this past weekend and asked….
….I want to know how to investigate a situation so I can find out how to make the lasting changes I always want to make, but never seem to find!
Can you point me in the right direction with Living Turnarounds and how to do them or find them?
Where do I begin?
Some shared with me they feel like they have a ton of places they’d like things to be different. They wished THEY were different, most of all.
You might notice the same.
Where do you wish things were different? Relationship status, body, aging, money, house, career, service to others.
Sometimes, you may notice….there’s something imperfect and improvable about everything you consider!
But as I asked some of the amazing people who came yesterday in person to the group….
….first, you begin by making a short list, or scanning in your mind what you wish was different….
….whether you feel slightly uncomfortable, just a wee bit disappointed, or really upset.
You may notice, something rises to the top asking to be seen.
Yes, THAT situation with “x”. I really wish it were otherwise.
Now, instead of going straight to a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, consider the following question and journal about it and get ready to do Step #1 in understanding YOU.
Observing yourself, without so much dreadful internal screaming about what’s wrong with you.
Seriously. Don’t jump to how awful you are so fast.
It’s a diversion.
Studying yourself and contemplating some important questions come out of work and research I’ve gathered for many years on desire, goals, and action-taking….how these happen in life, how they don’t.
Some of this work comes from extended research in the field of human motivation, behavior and transformation ever since I studied it in graduate school in the late 1990s.
This was before I ever heard of The Work….but the research and study of human behavior is oh so connected to questioning your stressful beliefs.
Because what do experts say, quite often?
Action is about what people are thinking, what’s in the mind, that drives their behavior.
To “live” a turnaround and experience deep or permanent change is about first, identifying the underlying beliefs that create fear, lack of ease, inaction, or action you don’t really want (like overeating, my old favorite personal example).
So, follow along with me here.
Let’s say you want to be in better shape physically, or as I used to want all the time, let’s say you want peace with food and eating.
Here’s the first question you want to keep in mind, before racing to The Work:
What do you do, how do you behave, what actions do you take….that crushes or destroys this state of peace you so desire?
As in, you ain’t gonna get that thing you want if you keep doing “x”.
For example, long ago when I suffered from binge-eating, I might have said “I don’t ever experience eating peace because…..twice a week I binge-eat from one end of the continent to the other without stopping to breathe for one second”.
Let’s say you’re having concerns with lack of money, and you feel like money’s always been a problem, or has been for a really long time. (Some of the members of the Living Turnaround group mentioned this…..OK, all of them).
What do you do, in that case, that keeps you from stability with money?
Make a list. Really answer the question thoroughly. Be specific. Sometimes, you even have to observe yourself for a week (or longer) and watch what you do and catch all the moments, because it’s easy to forget or be unaware.
Academics and researchers might calls this collecting the data.
You’re being like a scientist with yourself, watching, looking, taking notes. Don’t let shame or guilt come in and slam the door on this looking!! (I had that happen all the time around eating issues and was very secretive for fear of other peoples’ judgment).
So long ago, when I was getting help for this weird binge-eating behavior I seemed to live with….I studied what was going on during those binges. I wrote down what was happening. I wrote down what I had experienced earlier, before the urge to binge began. What was my state of hunger physically? Who did I encounter? What was I thinking?
Then…you can answer this next interesting question:
What’s the worst that could happen if you did the OPPOSITE of this behavior or activity? What would bother you about doing this? What’s the danger lurking for you, when you think about not doing this activity you’ve been doing–maybe for years?
So, in my example (lacking eating peace) I would wonder by writing in my journal about why, if I stopped binge-eating, I might find this threatening? What would disturb me about stopping this behavior?
If you had asked me without explaining that something important is going on that prevents normal behavior with food, or if you asked me what I would have been afraid of if I stopped binge-eating, I might not have been able to think of one single answer.
I might have even said….WHAT??! Are you crazy? It would be GREAT to no longer have cravings and then stuff myself, it’s what I always wanted….to STOP suffering from an eating disorder.
But just open your mind a little and give this a minute.
What if you are not ridiculous, and what if there isn’t anything wrong with you?
What if your mind is a genius at making sure you avoid, at all costs, what could really be emotionally, physically, or spiritually painful?
What if this idea of no longer having your actions (in my case “binge-eating”) available to you made you raw, exposed, nervous…..for any reason whatsoever?
What kind of young woman would be afraid of stopping binge-eating behavior?
As it turned out, there were several reasons why I would be afraid to stop binge-eating.
One was, because in between binges, I was always thinking I should be starving myself. I DID starve myself. I used lots of willpower to push really hard in athletics.
I was also terrified to speak of my true inner feelings (we don’t do that in this family) or to show I felt upset about anything.
So, feeling super upset, sad, afraid started having a wild condensed response to it….all piled and smashed up in a ball of unexpressed energy inside, and it exploded out with binge-eating (and purging, for me).
Now my behavior was very extreme.
This can be done with much more quiet and mild behaviors. You don’t have to be a crazed addicted-acting person to study yourself (some of us need things to be extreme or super obvious, apparently).
If you have a mild case of doing something you wish you wouldn’t….or NOT doing something you wish you would….
….really consider very, very deeply what you might be afraid of, if you stopped this uncomfortable behavior, or if you started doing the thing you wish you’d do.
What is it about the ACTION or NON-ACTION itself you want to learn from?
It’s your teacher.
Usually, the normal way to address human behavior that needs “correction” is to fix it ASAP. Get a diet, get an exercise plan, mark your calendar, force yourself to “do” it, ignore the fears.
As I said, several people in the Living Turnarounds group mentioned trouble with money.
You can do this around money and your relationship to it. Notice if you feel you MUST have it, you need it to survive, you grab for it, you store it.
Or, maybe you stay really foggy with it. You have no idea how much is in your bank account, you write checks you’re not sure will clear, you borrow and owe. Some part of you doesn’t like seeing how much you actually have (hint: it’s dangerous).
What does this behavior mean about the world, about you, about people you’ve known or encountered?
Study your fears.
I really hated (at first) seeing what I was most afraid of in my late teens and early twenties.
They were thoughts like….I can’t make it on my own, but I should. People are critical (“people” being parents mostly). I have nothing to offer. I can’t do it perfectly (so why bother trying). People don’t really care about the honest me. You can’t say what you really think or feel (people get hurt). If thin, people will love respect me. If I’m not in great physical condition, people could criticize me. Food is the only pleasure I have. Food is easy to find everywhere, and comforting. I love eating forbidden foods, no one tells me what to do for once. When I’m eating, I don’t have to think about what I “should” be accomplishing, I don’t have to push myself, I can finally quit trying to be perfect every second of the day.
How could it be helping you to do that activity you notice you criticize yourself for doing? How could it be helping you to NOT do that activity you wish you’d do?
This is a huge topic, and there are ways to break it down slowly, carefully, one step at a time….
….but I say, run with it.
Wonder what you’re afraid of. Ask the powerful question Byron Katie asks “what’s the WORST that could happen?”
Keep a “thought journal”. (If you’ve been on retreat with me, especially at Breitenbush, I always hand out thought catchers to carry around with you–little notebooks to write down your stressful thoughts).
Who would you be without your story?
You’d be living your turnarounds.
“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short cut to meet it.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” ~ Joseph Campbell
And the best news of all?
The cave, the fear, will follow you until you enter it or take a look at it. You don’t even have to worry about avoiding it endlessly, or how you’re going to address it. It’s probably not up to you, anyway.
I’m thrilled today to offer, for a third time, the MasterClass on our human barriers to doing The Work (I walk through ten of them I’ve identified)….and what helps to dissolve them. We get underway at 2:00 pm Pacific Time and will be going for a minimum of 2 hours.
What I know about doing something many times is, you get better and better at it, naturally. You learn through doing it.
This applies to doing The Work, too.
But we sure do feel lousy when we look at ourselves and have the thought “you’re doing a horrible job” or “you made a mistake” or “what a dummy!”
Yikes, that self-flogging is hard to bear, and yet very common.
Just the other day, in the Summer Camp call, someone had a worksheet on The Work itself.
I was so moved by the honesty and the thoughts about this “thing” called “Doing The Work” and then this other entity called “me”, noticing how the “me” in question is a Big Fat Mess….
….and “The Work” needs to fix it. ASAP.
Problem is, when you really believe this is true, the BFM (Big Fat Mess) is attacked. It must be stopped.
We’re at war!
We feel the need to do The Work, or many other modalities that tend to invite and result in powerful change, because of one single basic deep assumption:
What I Am Is Not Good Enough.
What I am is not working, not succeeding, mediocre, imperfect, a procrastinator, a mistake-maker, poor at decisions, basically and inherently Less Than.
It’s hard to question all the thoughts you identify that are directed at YOU, this entity with so many problems, because part of you can’t see the underlying assumption that hurts so much and lies beneath everything and every strategy to fix it.What is happening isn’t good. I can make it change.
So what if for just a second, you stopped trying to fix yourself and your BFM (Big Fat Mess) ways……..and you directed your attention to what’s happening that hurts or feels very frightening?
If you think you’re a dork at making money, how about looking at money….instead of condemning yourself and beating yourself to a pulp trying to get yourself to pursue more money all the time?
If you think you’re horrible at love and relationships….how about looking at those relationships and wondering why you want them, what they give you, what you believe is necessary about them or necessary about getting them away from you, so you can be happy?
If you think you’re a ridiculous parent….how about looking at your kids and how they behave that suddenly has you acting like an eight year old yourself, and then feeling ashamed of it?
If you think you’re a terrible employee….how about you look at your boss, or co-worker, or the place you work and seeing what annoys you or frightens you about it that rubs you the wrong way?
If you think you’re an addict….how about you look at your terror, the times you felt traumatized, the encounters that made you feel deeply upset, maybe from the distant past?
The attack at the self often comes right on the heels of seeing a situation and thinking “This can’t be so, I can’t take this, this is failure, I’m afraid of what’s happening!”
All I know is, I have found it far more powerful to stop looking at improving myself, which is really Step 2 that the speedy mind comes up with anyway, and go for the jugular.The jugular, the most important vein, the source of nourishment and life to those thoughts about “me” and what a terrible person I am.
This is the situation I see around me, the condition of life I’m living in, the contact I have with reality….and how upset and frightened I am by it.Money, Time, People, Change, Earthquakes, Physical Injuries.
If they scare me, then I’ll work on myself forever trying to make it so I can be resilient, amazing, tough, brilliant, successful and a master of them all!
And…..dare I say it…..Rule The World!
(Little joke. My former husband who is hilarious says it with a British accent, which you should probably try, too, wringing your hands together like a mad scientist).
Isn’t that the ultimate goal, even if you have wonderful, favorable, morally beautiful goals like “enlightenment”……..you’re trying to get yourself to be different, better, more improved, beyond human?It’s gonna hurt.
Because you ARE HUMAN if you’re reading this. At least I’m pretty sure you are in the way I mean it.
And what is a human?
An incredible, genius life-force of powerful creative, spacious, aware energy turned “on” for “x” amount of years on this planet by something we-know-not-what but we call it Source, God, Universe, Reality, Life, Mystery.What else is human?
Making really goofy mistakes, having big emotions and crying, feeling fear, learning about people, wailing and suffering, doing dingy things, loving, forgetting stuff, dying, believing thoughts, hurting other people, sleeping, waking up, going to war, illness, going on adventures, feeling joy, grabbing, breaking apart, sharing, coming home.In the midst of all this….a most incredible mind built for inquiring into meaning, built for wondering.
A mind somehow here to help us feel what it’s like when we let all parts of humanness dance, dance and dance.A mind capable of identifying and questioning fearful thoughts, and unraveling their power, one questioned thought at a time.
“Truth is not lacking or held in abeyance for some later date; it is given in full measure, and abundantly so. Do not be afraid of what appears to be chaos or dissolution–embrace the full measure of your life at any cost. Bare your heart to the Unknown and never look back. What you are stands content, invisible, and everlasting. All means have been provided for our endless folly to split open into eternal delight.” ~ Adyashanti
If you’d like to join the amazing inner adventure of personal inquiry practice, Year of Inquiry early bird closes Friday, and our first group telecall is Tuesday, September 8th.
The curriculum? Your life. All the most common topics we humans tend to experience as painful. You know what stresses you out. This is the scaffolding that allows you to question it. Read all about it here.