In fact, it feels so sickening sometimes, we’d rather die, or dissolve into the floor, or go live on another planet.
The thing is, when you focus on your shameful self, your dreadful act, the horrible way you eat….
….you miss some exceptionally important information about why, and how, this strange way you ate came to happen.
What was going on before you had the thought “I know, I think I’ll go eat something, that’s it!”
How did that process occur? Why do you think it occurred? (And no, the answer is not “because I’m an idiot” or “because I can’t do it right”).
Condemning yourself and beating yourself to a pulp is what leads people often to a violent approach to solving their eating problems. Training regiment, torturous exercise, alarm at 6 am to hit the gym, eating exact amounts of food, weighed and measured and documented and counted with many foods left off the menu, weighing yourself with a scale, measuring body parts with measuring tape.
I repeat often there’s nothing wrong with a food and diet and exercise plan. But they rarely work long-term. They rarely offer permanent peace and satisfaction. They fix the symptom without addressing the underlying cravings and hungers that have nothing to do with food.
At least that’s what happened for me. Thank goodness I couldn’t ever stay on a food plan or diet for longer than a few hours. Something inside of me was determined to get to the bottom of the issue, to see myself and know myself from the inside out, and to end the struggle.
Anyone, including you, can do this.
You don’t need to take vows and oaths and make promises never to eat that way again (or do any other troubling activity you get pulled towards to cope with your thoughts and feelings).
When you identify what you’re thinking and feeling, without shame and self-hatred, and inquire with kindness and self-compassion….
….eating off-balance is no longer necessary.
If you notice shame and meanness arise towards yourself because of the way you’ve eaten….stop. Ask what else is going on, besides failure to eat peacefully?
Get to know the wonder of YOU. It’s not as bad as you think!
Eating Peace Process has just begun. If you want to join, you still can. You’d watch the first presentation (one-hour) and begin the powerful written exercises. You’d start the practices that provide structure, like a diet and exercise program but for the MIND (not for the usual yada yada eat this, weigh that). The first practice is to sit in silence 5 minutes day. Then, those who can will jump on the first Thursday inquiry call which is tomorrow 1/19 at 8:30 am Pacific Time.
The cornerstone of the program is….self-inquiry. We do The Work of Byron Katie, questioning painful beliefs about eating, food, your body, all bodies….and following the breadcrumbs (literally) to OTHER stressful beliefs we have about life, thinking, feelings, satisfaction, fulfillment, power, and control.
Such an adventure. Read about it here and join soon, before we’re too far underway for you to catch up.
And even if you never, ever join a formal group program like Eating Peace Process….you can use you own imagination to do the following exercise, which is part of The Work.
It goes like this.
Imagine….who would you be, right in any situation where you’ve typically had trouble with food and eating, with friends, alone, at home, at work, at a restaurant…
….Who would you be without your beliefs about being fat? Without your negative or stressful beliefs about eating? Without your thoughts about what you can’t do in your life? Without your fearful thoughts about why you need to be careful?
Who would you be if you loved every feeling you had, and didn’t fight your thoughts, but allowed everything, including you, to be as it is?
The key is to only wonder who you’d be without ONE thought at a time, otherwise it’s too much to hold in the mind all together, at least I find.
What would you be like, in the presence of food, if you let yourself be honest, powerful, clear?
You can use your imagination and find it, feel it. See what happens.
I am sooooo thrilled about starting the Eating Peace Process today with a small vibrant group of inquirers.
Everyone in the group receives the first presentation today (or any time in the next several days).
It has meant a ton of prep work. For me.
The Eating Peace Retreat also happens this coming Thursday right here in Seattle. Which involves 12 hour days with the amazing people who come here to do this work in person for 3 full days. (Remind me next time not to start them both at the same time).
This email is not about announcing these programs–you already know about them and I’ve probably done that enough by now.
I’m here writing now because….the ton of work. Noticing my stressful thoughts about these tasks.
My neck was aching, my eyeballs were hurting from staring at the computer screen or concentrating on creating my keynote presentations. I stayed up until 1:00 am two nights in a row I was so excited I guess.
I even had a local event only 2 nights ago in the middle of this planning and creating time, doing The Work with folks in Seattle at the marvelous East West Bookstore on eating issues.
I was there, rather than working on my Eating Peace Process Presentations. (There’s a lot of ‘P’s in these titles, I know).
Things got a little backed up. As in, tightly scheduled with a wedge and a hammer. No down time, no free time.
Have you ever had things wildly scheduled so close together you’re not sure you’re going to have time to breathe?
So even with all that going on, I’m here. Because. Thoughts.
Is it true, I need to WORK WORK WORK (picture sort of matronly looking nun clapping her hands and saying chop-chop)?
Um….yeah. Who else is gonna do it?
Can you absolutely know it’s true, you need to keep at it until you drop? Are you SURE you must push past the point of neck aches and a hot meal (speaking of eating peace)?
I’m remembering Byron Katie musing about sitting at her computer, looking at 200 emails, and knowing she didn’t have to answer any of them if she couldn’t or life moved in another direction.
Nothing’s actually required here.
How do you react when you think you have to stick with something until it’s finished?
Kind of like a dog who can’t let go of a bone, or a squeaky toy. Jaw lock down. Like the sound of high revolutions, the way it sounds when you push hard on the gas pedal without being in gear on a stick shift. LOUD WHIRRING. Neglecting softness.
I just took a spontaneous very deep breath here, as I wrote.
Who would you be without your story of chop-chop stiff-upper-lip discipline high-rev don’t-take-a-break?
I’d drink a big glass of delicious water and go to bed.
Pretty much, right now.
“We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.”
For the many people who have emailed asking for the replay link for the Eating Peace Masterclass, here it is: Watch here.
(Yes, you submit your email and you’ll get all the information in your Inbox. You can unsubscribe to any future emails from me immediately by unsubscribing, or updating your preferences, at the bottom of any email you get).
Someone had a wonderful and fascinating question: Can I take the Eating Peace Process and apply it to my break-up in a love relationship?
How fascinating, because what this person can tell by knowing about self-inquiry, is that the feeling of addiction, craving, reaching, and agony around your target of choice….can vary widely.
Her “target” (the thing desired) was LOVE. Keeping it. Getting it. Upset about love gone wrong.
Somehow, a deep inner target or desire we have, no matter what the things, seems to reach for attention, appreciation, approval, acceptance, pleasure.
Now, I’m not sure the Eating Peace program specifically would work for the sense of being addicted to stressful stories about love relationships and worry about loss in that department….
….but this inquirer was onto something as she noticed that wanting a relationship to be a certain way felt like an addiction or compulsion.
Most of us have probably noticed from time to time (or a whole lot) that you’re THINKING about something AGAIN, and you wish you weren’t.
It feels like you can’t stop thinking about it.
(When can I get some cookies, how can I get him/her, I need to keep consuming this, I need to keep texting him/her, I need to get rid of what I ate, I need to get him/her out of my life, I need to fix myself so I stop craving, I need to fix myself so I stop liking him/her).
Here’s something you can do as you notice your thoughts arise.
It’s kind of simple: Write Them Down.
Allow your thoughts to be petty, ridiculous, desperate, needy. Write down what you want that person or the food to do, be like, offer, give you.
What would it feel like, if you got what you wanted? What would you have, if you had it?
If you NEVER got it, what would be terrible about it? If you never received, acquired, consumed this thing you want, how painful would it be? Would you go mad with frustration?
What else would come to the surface, if you did NOT get what you believe you want to relieve the craving? (Don’t just jump to thinking “That would be GREAT!”)
Study yourself and your compulsive moments. You are the One you’ve been waiting for. You’re the one with the best answers for yourself.
You question your own thoughts, the ones YOU notice in your mind….you answer the questions with YOUR answers, which also appear in your brilliant willing mind.
Welcome to The Work.
P.S. Wonderful small group starting tomorrow in the Eating Peace Process. You start with your own work in writing on the weekend. We meet for the first week live on Tuesday evenings and/or Thursday mornings. Compulsive thoughts about food can be so painful. If you’re ready to go in and explore the root of the addictive process, join us here.
One of my favorite Byron Katie prompts or questions to help dig down into The Work is:
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT MEANS?
The “it” of course, is your stressful belief.
What does it mean, if it’s true? What do you think it means about you, or about other people (or that one other person you’re concerned about)?
What are all the meanings you give this thought?
This question comes in especially handy if you think something stressful is a solid fact, not open to interpretation.
I am going to die. My car tire went flat. I tore my hamstring. The carpet needs vacuuming. I weigh 500 pounds. It’s raining. I have $10.19. I got married. I moved to a cottage. My husband went to live in Timbuktu. She has cancer.
If you notice something seems like an irrefutable fact, a simple fact, a thought you can’t argue with….
….and yet you notice you feel stress or pain when you think it or write it….
….it may be time to answer that question about what you think it means, if this is 100% true?
Last night I got to spend a beautiful evening at a local bookstore where I live called East West Books.
Inquirers both familiar and brand new to me came to gather and do their work about food, eating and body image.
Several of them shared their brilliantly honest worksheets about their weight, the food they feel pulled to eat, a body part they hate seeing in the mirror.
The work on the thoughts brought forward was quite incredible.
But I especially loved one woman’s thoughts about having too much weight on her body.
“I am too fat”.
And what do you think it means about you, about other people, about your life?
Ouch. Because here’s what she said, and it reminded me of my own mind attacking itself for what it thought was true.
It means I am guilty, I am wrong, my life isn’t good, I’m not happy, I can’t wear fun clothes, I can’t be seen on the beach (another inquirer quietly uttered the word “whale” about his own appearance in a bathing suit), I can’t stop worrying and thinking about food.
For some others, being heavy or assuming you’re fat means….
….no one will love you. People will criticize you. No one will be attracted to you or date you. People will think you’re lazy, or greedy.
One thing I suggest is finding a moment in time where you first learned this thought that you are indeed too heavy.
Who did you hear it from?
Because you didn’t have the belief when you were born, that’s for sure.
Where’s your proof that fatness or heaviness or something-wrong-with-this-body is actually the case here?
(If you have a vivid image, like someone else in the group last night did, of mom saying “you are too big to have stripes that circle your body, you need vertical stripes only!” at age 7, then you might have a perfectly clear moment for a situation to investigate with The Work).
When you write down what you’re thinking, the thoughts are caught on paper, not zipping out of the air around the corner.
You’re too ____. (In this case, fat).
Is it true?
How do you react when you believe this thought?
Horrible. Heavy. Despairing. So I go eat to get some sweetness and feel better.
Who would you be without this story of “I am _____” (fat, thin, tall, short, old, young, smart, dumb, sick, stupid…..and on an on, you pick your most frequent flyer).
Who would you be without the story of “I am too fat”?
Going about my business. Playing more. Doing art. Spending time with friends. The woman voicing The Work for everyone present last night said “I’d probably know a lot more people”.
Turning the thought around: I am NOT too fat. My THINKING is too fat.
Yes. My thoughts are heavy, dense, thick like flies surrounding the body, buzzing and yelling at it all the time. My thoughts are big, extra, overloaded, especially when it comes to the body. They’re focused on the body, not life, not expanding in other areas besides the body!
With the thought? Pain and suffering.
Without the thought? Light, free, living life.
“You’re either believing your thoughts, or questioning them….no other choice.” ~ Byron Katie
It may be quite disturbing at first to write down such a thought as “I am too fat”. It can be frustrating to even think about it all over again, and realize, as you write, how much you HATE this problem that’s been here since childhood.
But would you rather write down your thoughts and then take them one by one through the inquiry process known as The Work (it is work, after all) or keep on believing them?
If you’re twisted up about this topic in any way, if you’ve found yourself eating from one end of the refrigerator to the other, if you’re wondering more deeply about the connection between your weight or your eating and your thoughts….
….and accessing peace with eating, your body, food….
….the Eating Peace Process Online begins on Saturday.
Everyone enrolled receives their first writing exercise on Saturday and the first “lesson” for looking at the food, eating, body, mind. Our first calls are Tuesday 1/17 at 5:30 pm, and Thursday 1/19 8:30 am. If you’re in the program, you can come to one or both (everything’s recorded).
I can’t wait to share the practices and exercises that worked best for me in my own healing journey, so you can choose what to take into yours.
And the most important practice of all, the cornerstone of the Eating Peace Program…..The Work of Byron Katie.
Read in detail about it here. Join me if it’s time.
The Eating Peace Masterclass on the Barriers in The Mind That Come Between Us And Eating Peace meets this evening at 5:30 pm PT OR Weds 1/11 at 8:30 am. Register here. (It’s free). You’ll receive the link to join in your Inbox. If for any reason you don’t see it delivered to you, please hit “reply” to this email and I’ll help.
You don’t have to have a heavy “eating” issue (although my focus and language will be around reaching for food) to join this class. If you get the link to join, you can unsubscribe from Eating Peace list any time by clicking on the little letters at the bottom of anything I send out (Unsubscribe/Update Your Profile).
So what do I actually mean by “barriers” to peace, or specifically barriers to eating peace?
Oh so intricate, slippery and complicated, it seems.
There are many reasons people have, often very personal, for eating off-balance or having battles with food and eating.
There are many personal reasons why people have all kinds of whacky or obsessive behavior, or do something unnatural or less-than-peaceful.
I once worked with a man who was very disturbed by his use of pornography. He paid lots of money for various sexual stimulation, all online and without any real contact with other human beings. He was incredibly lonely, even though he spent a ton of time engaged in his activity.
I’ve spoken with many people, from my years working at a cancer treatment clinic, who smoked tobacco and were so disappointed in themselves for getting addicted and continuing with their smoking for many years. They felt awful, guilty for causing their cancer, and yet really felt they couldn’t quit.
There are so many other human behaviors that involve confusion about the way we behave.
Usually, eating wars aren’t directly associated with the food itself.
I’ve mentioned “hidden” beliefs or assumptions running that make eating get out of whack. If you’re not so sure about the word “hidden” you might say they’re protective or adaptive mechanisms, to make sure you stay safe, don’t enter a threatening situation, remain comfortable, avoid the pain of suffering, avoid emptiness or despair.
The thing is, the deeper, maybe long-term reasons you eat the way you do (or whatever the behavior) is usually quite personal to your own life, even if it’s not unique as an activity or adaptation.
The barriers I’ll be sharing with everyone on the masterclass are the thoughts, generally, we think on the surface that keep us from looking under the hood at what’s fueling our compulsions.
These are attitudes like “I’m in a hurry!” or “There’s something wrong with me!”
The voices in the head that shout internally, and make sure you never “see” what you’re really nervous about in any moment where you feel….well, nervous.
I used to feel like I was SUDDENLY overcome with the urgent need to binge eat. I might have been only a little hungry, or I don’t even know what I felt (because I paid little attention to my stomach or physical sensations that meant it was time to start or stop eating).
It was super emotional: ANGER. FRUSTRATION. DESPAIR. NERVOUSNESS.
I know….I’ll get something to eat.
It was like everything locked down on eating, and I was aware of almost nothing else but the need to eat and the continued urge to eat. Then later, of course, stubborn self-hatred about what a dunce I was for eating like that.
I thought the only thing that could alleviate the pain, the cravings, the urge, the “wanting”…..was the act of eating itself, or succumbing to the cravings.
Whatever kind of crazy behavior, or unwanted behavior, you’ve engaged in….I say, there’s a very good reason for it. It doesn’t just come out of the thin blue air for absolutely no purpose.
Get below and past and through these barriers to “seeing” and you’ll be looking at an inner landscape of your reasons you personally consume.
I’ll share with you in the Eating Peace Masterclass some of the ways you can work with these common barriers, and get deeper into what’s eating you, and to stop eating.
(By the way, if you want to come on board to watch the masterclass and apply the teaching to a DIFFERENT compulsion altogether, go for it and you might find some insights into how to address your behavior).
But even if you can’t attend the masterclass at all, here’s a few wonderful questions I’ll leave with you today, if you’re curious about this conflicted inner world when it comes to some kind of activity you do that seems weird, confusing or bad for you:
Is there anything that frightens you about quitting your escape, comfort, pleasurable activity?
What’s the worst that could happen, if you no longer had this behavior to help you cope?
What’s dangerous about being at a normal or slender weight (if this applies to you)?
What’s upsetting in your mind (pictures, thoughts, scenes, memories, feelings) if you didn’t have your activity to help you forget about them?
Where have you felt powerless in your life, like you have no say, no control, no choice?
Each one of these questions is worth spending some time with.
The most important thing with deep investigations, with archaeological digs into the past….is to take them slowly, just like an archaeologist takes a delicate brush and tiny instruments to sweep away the dust and dirt of some precious gem buried for thousands of years.
Slowly. With compassion for yourself.
The best way to proceed with this exploration?
Write down your thoughts….notice what frightens you….
….and do The Work.
“When a child gets lost, he may feel sheer terror. It can be just as frightening when you’re lost inside the mind’s chaos. But when you enter The Work, it is possible to find order and to learn the way back home….That is how The Work functions. Once the mind is met with understanding, it can always find its way back home. There is no place where you can remain lost or confused.” ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is
You don’t have to do it all by yourself. (Hint, another one of the barriers is thinking you have to).
Start with only one situation you find particularly troubling, when it comes to your compulsive behavior. See what else was going on in that moment that might have sparked a reaction.
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).
It’s weird how agonizing thoughts that conflict with one another can be sometimes.
On the one hand, I know it would be great to lift weights again. It’s been a few years. You’re supposed to lift weights when you get older, right? Build calcium or something?
On the other hand, how boring can you get…..lifting weights, ugh.
I remember being in a decision dilemma about my old job.
On the one hand, I’ve got great health care benefits, awesome co-workers and boss, nice environment (there’s a fountain named Grace on the campus, how sweet is that?) and a solid paycheck every two weeks.
On the other hand, I commute every day sometimes for an hour, I don’t have enough time for my other pursuits including my business, the actual work is kind of boring.
You could go this way.
Or you could go that way.
You’re free to make the decision. You’re completely and utterly free to do as you wish.
What if you feel uncomfortable or stuck, but for some weird reason, you do NOT make a move, or make a change?
What if you’re believing an underlying stressful story, and you’re not even brightly aware of the story?
(What if all you do is attack yourself viciously….why can’t you fix this, or move on, or stop thinking about it, wake up, get a grip, CHANGE?! Jeez! Fume, fume, fume.)
But what if there are a few things to explore and dig into under the surface, things you may find a little uncomfortable to address or even “see” in the first place, that all contribute to this stuck-ness you’re experiencing?
What if there was something that yelling at yourself was hiding?
For example….eating too much.
(I know, my favorite topic, what can I say….I was a nut case for years with eating).
You know you should lose weight, you know it doesn’t serve you to binge-eat, you know you need to stop starving yourself to death and then overeating, you know you need to quit the junk food at night….
….and you might even do The Work on some of the thoughts that appear, such as “I should lose weight” or “I need to eat that food” or “I should go outside and exercise” or “I’m a loser” and find the turnarounds and notice, nothing changes.
Not that there’s anything wrong with doing The Work on those powerful and stressful beliefs.
However….your mind may be brilliantly distracting you with these first thoughts that appear. The ways to FIX this situation. It’s off the to races on what you need to do, say, think, feel in order to change this (especially the “do” part), without really looking deeply at what’s actually going on for you.
So of course, when you fall into this “FIX IT NOW” way of viewing your problem, when you have urgency and fear about your situation or condition, the weird thing is often when there are underlying beliefs that oppose the surface beliefs…..not much may change.
Fear kind of has a way of blocking things from sight. Clever energy, fear.
I speak for myself.
Some time ago, as I’ve mentioned before, I had a raging eating disorder.
Can you imagine how many times I said “I am going to stop this” (starving, overeating, binge-eating)? Yes. about a million.
It was not until someone very wise got to know me, and cared about me, and suggested I might be adapting to something completely different that had nothing to do with food and eating….that I began to consider what it was like to be close with people.
What was I afraid of, that overrode the desire to stop the insane cycle of eating the way I did?
What was the worst that could happen, if I DID stop binge-eating?
You might ask yourself a similar question, even if you don’t have an eating issue: What’s the WORST that could happen if I quit my job, do what I want to do, leave home, start a business, go to the gym, write every day, lose weight, quit drinking coffee?
But those things are all soooooo wonderful. I should do them, it will be good for me, I’ll succeed.
Are you absolutely sure?
Long ago, I discovered that I was actually nauseated to confront someone in my group therapy and tell the truth and speak directly to them about what I wasn’t comfortable with. If someone confronts me, I still feel anxious initially, even now.
If someone says what they don’t like, and I’ve done it, I feel terrified of disappointing them. I feel frightened they’ll attack me, or slink away and never talk with me again.
I was so very committed to NOT BEING A DISRUPTIVE or MEAN or UNLIKABLE or REJECTABLE person, I would do anything, including not actually have friends and eat in secret instead.
Anything to avoid being dismissed or disliked. Anything to get rid of anger and rage (overeating really helped, and vomiting too). Anything to slip under the radar of the judgments of others (namely, mom, dad, grandparents). Anything to stay as safe as possible, in an unsafe, judging world.
Including risk my life by stuffing myself with food and forcing myself to vomit or exercise like a maniac.
You might not have such an extreme case of avoidant beliefs, but if you have something you keep repeating, or don’t act upon, or don’t do even though you know you’d feel happier (you think) or some way you procrastinate, hurt yourself, avoid action….
….there may be a very important frightening story you’d kinda sorta rather not look at, if you please.
But looking will make all the difference.
Not long ago, I realized I have been carrying the thought around “if I stop and slow down, it could be dangerous (money loss, failure, boredom, lack of creativity, fading into oblivion). So I really need to keep up this pace and work all the time. No extra meditations. No reading for pleasure. No netflix. No movies. Morning coffee required.
Who would I be without that story?
“Your suffering may be caused by a thought that interprets what happened, rather than the thought you wrote down….When your statement is about something you think you don’t want, read it and imagine the worst outcome that reality could hand you. Imagine your worst fears lived out on paper. Be thorough. Take it to the limit.” ~ Byron Katie in Loving What Is
This work is not always easy. I notice, there’s sometimes initial resistance and refusal inside me to want to look.
And then, when there’s no other alternative (there isn’t, unless I prefer to suffer)…..The Work.
P.S. One spot just opened up in the Eating Peace Retreat–a cancellation. If eating, food or your body image is one of your dilemmas, we’re going in to find out what we’re believing, and what’s really true. Join me January 19-22 in Seattle. To find out more, visit here.
P.P.S. If money is a problem, I’m doing a 4 week money class by donation. To read about it and to sign up, visit here.
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