Category Archives: Inquiry

If We Were All Supermodels

If We Were All Supermodels
If We Were All Supermodels

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of being someone who “everyone” loves, who “everyone” approves of, who “everyone” finds sexy. On an intellectual level we know this is impossible, but on the emotional and psychological levels, the part of us that needs love is susceptible to this type of fantasy.

Once in a while it can be amusing and/or enlightening to blend some sort of thin fantasy with realistic human values. For example, let’s say we abide by a principle of fairness, and grant that everyone deserves to be considered super-sexy. We’ll use the images that our sick culture feeds us to define sexyness for the moment, since so many of us get caught in a war trying to match these images. So, we imagine every single woman very thin, perfect hair, etc.; every man tall, ripped, etc.

When I first imagined this, I had the thought, hehheh, everyone would just go nuts in the streets. Everyone would be attracted to each other constantly. Thinking past that aspect, I imagined everyone being included at every party, everyone being given what they wanted, everyone taking tons of pictures of themselves.

These are just my own reactions based on silliness combined with certain beliefs I always linked with being thin or “hot.” You might find it useful to explore your own ideas about how it would play out. If you’ve never done a “thin fantasy” before, the point is to discover what you may subconsciously believe is attached to having a thin body.

But in this case, imagining what would happen if we were all supermodels, I find that after the initial upheaval, we’d all be left with the same situation of being human beings sharing a world with each other. What would happen when someone really got pissed off? How many times could that happen with someone having the, “Aw, but she’s so cute though, I’ll forget it,” response, before they snap?? What would happen when someone got killed in a car crash? The supermodel family members would have utterly broken hearts. What about pollution and the economy? Supermodel government officials and many supermodel citizens would still be struggling to implement solutions.

When you put the focus on your body aside – ideally through healing your relationship with it, and also through thought experiments such as this – you realize that much more important than what you look like, is the fact that you are a human soul who found herself alive in this world. And every day, no matter what’s up with your body, you’re still left with the task of living. Exploring yourself, learning how to relate to others, navigating feelings, and yes, buying clothes and eating. Dealing with the fact of poverty in the world. Dealing with family issues. Dancing and working and trudging through psychological issues and hanging out and zoning out and all of it!

So… If you find yourself getting too caught up in the endless “what-ifs” of being soooooo hot… or “just thin,” or even “just my natural weight!!!!!!”… Remember, you’re kinda distracting yourself from all your life that needs to be lived.

Judy

Why Your Personal Work is So Important

Why Your Personal Work is So Important
Why Your Personal Work is So Important

It’s really easy to get absolutely fed up with “working on your personal issues.”
Some days it’s all you can think about, and you get inspired and you sign up for something, or make a plan, or journal and feel like you’ve reached a very important insight.
But many, many other days, you’re just sick of the same old shit happening… over, and over.
Sometimes, you get disgusted with yourself, not believing how “selfish” or “pathetic” you are for constantly thinking about your own flaws and problems.

But, here’s the thing. There’s a reason your mind keeps bringing you back to your own suffering again and again. It’s because deep down, you’ve always had a sense of what you’re like when you are truly being yourself, and a sense of you-when-you-are-happy. And you’re secretly in love with that, we all are.
It’s actually a great thing: Your best self won’t let you off the hook, won’t let you live a half- or quarter-life when you already know how life could be.

It would be so much worse if people paid less attention to their personal suffering. That means they would go about their days feeling defeated and shitty – and how do people act when they feel that way inside? They may become withdrawn and isolated, they may externalize their pain by “letting it out” on someone else, they may actively or passively cause damage to their surroundings because they just don’t have it in them to give a damn at the moment.

Your personal work is so important because: If everyone truly allowed themselves to focus on and work to heal their own suffering, the resultant peaceful minds and hearts are what we would all be interacting with when we go out into the world.

There’s no heart in this world that doesn’t want relief from suffering, peace. Consider even a drastic example: a suicide bomber wants to eliminate what he believes is displeasing to his God; he believes his God knows what is good. He wants to please his good God because it gives him peace; there’s nothing like believing that God is good and that God loves you, and that therefore all is well and at peace. We all live a version of this when we are tiny children. There’s nothing like knowing that mom and dad are smiling, proud of you, everything safe and happy for the moment: peace.

The thing with the suicide bomber is that something has gone terribly awry when one adopts the delusion that violence can lead to true and lasting peace. It’s the same crisis that unfolds when you believe war can lead to no war, that shame can lead to positive change, that deprivation can lead to a feeling of enough-ness and abundance. These are all terrible substitutes for the mechanisms of change that really work: patience, learning, understanding, lack of instant gratification, tolerance, sustained effort, genuine interest, respect, humor. It all amounts to a lack of loving attention. Out of that lack comes a desperate and forceful attempt at change. We know from both our personal and global experience that those types of attempts do not work.

When you do the hard work and you do find some peace, you cease to have a desire to harm yourself, others, or the surrounding world around you in general. You are naturally gentle, loving, energetic, giving, happy.

So if you find yourself completely sick of working on your eating behaviors, your negative self-talk, your resistance to living a life you love, then firstly, notice that you are actually suffering in this very moment. Then, remember that every bit of healing you create for yourself, takes away a bit of the conflict in the world.

There’s no better work for you to do. Your inner state affects EVERYTHING you do, every interaction you have with any other beings. Work with the suffering you have right now. That is your most important work. You can’t skip over it, you can’t put it on the back burner and expect it to go away because you’re doing other “good and important” things. If you’re not paying attention to your own suffering, then you’re off doing those other good and important things with less energy, happiness, authenticity, and effectiveness than you could be, by far. Your creativity is WAY held back. Others don’t feel how much you love them as much as they could, no matter what words you say or even what acts you do. It’s the feel of you.

It’s about how you REALLY feel, NOW. That is what needs attention. Know it will be excruciatingly frustrating at times, but keep going. Remember what the world could be like if everyone did this. We have no idea what difference one person who’s truly on fire can make in this world – cliche or not, you know it’s true. Trust that you are enough, you are important enough to spend your full attention and compassion on. Touch the depths of yourself. Go all the way. You are the only one you can do this with, I don’t care if you’re a therapist, lover, spiritual teacher, mother – you can’t touch anyone with the same intimacy that you can touch your own self with. But the closer you get with yourself, certainly, the more you can offer that depth to others.

You are so important. Pay attention, do the work, do it now! =)

Judy

Resistance to Taking Excellent Care of Yourself

Resistance to Taking Excellent Care of Yourself
Resistance to Taking Excellent Care of Yourself

It’s the nature of all life to evolve in the direction of surviving and thriving. Every living organism is wired to move towards pleasure and move away from pain, and every living organism either adapts well enough to survive or they die.

If you’re reading this, you adapted well enough to survive. And you can be damn sure you did a lot of adapting.

You’re born as this little creature whose first task is to come to terms with the fact that it is a separate body. You spent 9 months NOT being a separate body, and now you are separated and experience the primal fear of abandonment. You never before felt the pain of not being fed on demand, of not being warm enough, of over-stimulation to the senses, and suddenly these are a daily reality.

Already at this point, some babies “fail to thrive,” and die. Making it through being a newborn already implies that you as a tiny creature adapted to tolerate the new stressors of being a separate human being-body.

Then, as self-consciousness develops, we gain a sense of our autonomous capabilities, as well as their limits. We delight in our powers of throwing a ball at the wall and we cry at the disturbance of the ball bopping us on the head in rebound. We begin adapting to the physical reality we find ourselves in as we learn the laws of physics, and play with manipulating them.

By age 4 we’ve also adapted to something not having to do with the physical body or its physical surroundings. We’ve adapted to the emotional reality of the people who are raising us. If this seems like a stretch, consider the fact that if a mother and father hate (an emotion) their baby, they may decide to not feed it, or otherwise physically harm it. It is not some archaic psychoanalytic theory that states that for an infant, the emotional is completely interwoven with the physical. This is simply self-evident. If an infant screams, a mother can physically calm the infant’s body by holding the infant and conveying emotional soothing. Or she can scream with the emotions of frustration and anger and cause the baby’s body to release more of the physical chemicals of anxiety. Have no doubt that for you, for me, for all human beings, our first few years of life were completely vulnerable to and dependent on the physical AND emotional landscape of our surroundings, in a way that is very different from adulthood. For example, when we are adults, someone else’s emotion of anger almost never directly threatens us with abandonment to the point that we will not be fed or sheltered.

Looking back to age 4, it is clear that a system of behavior has been internalized, as indicated by developmental theory as well as common observation of children. Kids don’t act randomly at age 4. They’re already acting certain things out, and more crucially, they already have a sense of what’s safe and what isn’t. They know what makes mommy sad, they know what makes daddy angry. And they behave accordingly so as to not “get in trouble.” We learn what physical and emotional behaviors get us fed, get us played with, and get us praised. And just like all other living beings, once we learn that information, we increase those behaviors so that we survive and thrive to the maximum we deem possible.

Think about an animal that gets beaten. Soon, if the abuser merely raises his hand, the animal flinches. It’s made the association and it automatically adapts its behavior for optimal survival in response, before the impact. Now what if we look at an emotional analogy? When you were about to cry, did those around you say, “Sweetheart, that was hard for you wasn’t it?” (positive, affirming feedback)? Or did they say, “Now now, you’re okay,” “No need to cry about it,” “I should be the one crying!” “There you go again, trying to make everyone feel bad for you meanwhile…” “I can’t believe you’re crying over that,” etc.? These latter responses are all feedback that amounts to a rejection of a child’s own experience, and a child’s own sense of self. Whichever form the feedback takes, the child subconsciously records, “This is the feedback that letting myself cry results in.”

The point of this is not to blame those who may have had those responses. The point is to understand why an adaptation you developed in order to enhance survival/thriving years ago may manifest itself in your behavior today. Unless you’ve spent time literally re-training yourself, you operate according to your default systems. You may find yourself eating when you’re not hungry, and attribute it to lack of discipline or willpower. But, upon further examination, if you could freeze that moment in time and look at what was going on in your heart and mind before that moment, you would undoubtedly find a trigger that used to signal severe turbulence ahead. To continue with the example of crying, let’s say something very upsetting came up earlier in the day. Right underneath the surface, it actually upset you enough to make you want to cry. But, as it was wired into your very nervous system years, decades ago, you learned that crying leads to negative feedback. You might also have learned that not crying earned you positive feedback, such as comments that you were “strong,” “tough,” “reliable,” “mature.” Your brain now automatically perceives the trigger of might-want-to-cry, and routes it into take-evasive-maneuvers. We can spend other posts talking about why you developed the particular evasive maneuver of eating, but nonetheless, your brain routes the trigger into the action of eating.

What does this accomplish? You don’t cry. (Evolutionary success: negative feedback from caretaker avoided!) And while you may swear that at this point in your life, you’re perfectly okay with crying, you want to cry if it would heal you, you truly think there’s nothing wrong with crying – your body-history learned otherwise, painfully. There’s nothing like pain to wire in the deepest anxiety-association in the nervous system. It’s how organisms grow safer and stronger and avoid death. Where would we be if, decades after we were first taught verbally or through experience that the stove is hot, we decided: “Yeah… but.. really, I’m okay with touching the stove now.” We’d burn our hands. Decades passing does not change our very body’s ingrained, visceral, instinctual knowledge of pain triggers – and remember, as a very small child, painful emotional feedback is just as threatening as painful physical feedback. So we really are talking about the same intensity of avoidance of crying, in this example, as the intensity of the avoidance of holding your hand on a hot stove.

So intellectually or even spiritually knowing “it’s good to be open to my own emotions now” is not gonna cut it. Your body, your subconscious, your inner toddler, however you want to think of it, is not interested primarily in emotional healing or any of your enlightened thought – it’s interested in staying safe and secure, and you’re talking about being open to getting burned. Would a toddler listen to you explain the biology of why it’s good to eat vegetables often and chocolate less often? Would she listen to you explain what emotional freedom means? No and no. With this level of your self, you have to operate using only the concrete reality of cause-and-effect. Think: How the toddler feels after she’s guided to eat in accordance with the needs of her body (energetic, light, healthy), versus trying to convince a toddler to automatically eat this way because she should know better after you explained the nutritional principles to her. You’ve heard you’re supposed to feel your emotions instead of eat them – well, that has very little effect on the part of you that’s driven to do so.

If you find yourself – over and over, and over again – not taking care of yourself in the way you want to (for example, to feed yourself in an attuned, healthful manner), you can be certain that it is because there is a threat, wired into the deepest levels of anxiety in the nervous system, resulting from some current trigger.

It is not because you suck. It is not because you are lazy or don’t care enough. It is not because you are pathetic. It is not because you are not meant for greatness. It is not because it is impossible for you to change.

It is because those old threats have not yet been faced and lived through – they persist as full-fledged demons with the emotional weight of impending death and abandonment. They are fed by every additional act of avoidance, just as the monster in the closet becomes more and more terrifying the longer you don’t open the door to discover it’s not there.

It has felt and continues to feel like taking care of yourself is giving yourself your little hit of soothing (eating, drinking, shopping, gossiping, virtual reality, you name it) when you feel like having it.

But would you take care of a child by saying, “Okay, okay, we’ll sleep in the other room tonight since the monster is there”…?

Maybe once or twice. But knowing that this child needs to grow to stand on her own two feet, with confidence and ambition for exploring the unknown world, you would quickly lead the child to open that door and realize she survives and is not overtaken. That would be taking care.

If you experience great resistance to taking care of yourself, if you feel that for so… so long, you have stood in your own way, understand that you have not yet been able to risk the consequences of not giving yourself your shots of reassurance. Which logically implies that there has been an ongoing need for these shots – an ongoing sense of triggers and threats. That’s what you’re living with.

The healing work that’s possible is this: (1) to admit and identify what it looks like when you are reacting/giving yourself superficial shots of security (2) to identify the triggers that cause these reactions and (3) to allow yourself to experience the emotional consequences of facing a trigger, rather than reacting to it by taking your familiar shots.

Just say no to drugs n all, right? =)

Yeah, it’s not that simple. But, it is doable, and you become more alive each time.

Remember the rush of a child’s discovery that there is no closet monster. The bedroom is free! The closet can be used to play and hide in! You can smile as you rest your body and fall asleep rather than curl up in anxiety about making it through the night.

There’s such delicious reward to be had in going through this process.

Sending my heartfelt support.
Judy

 

Teaching Yourself how to BE Happy Again

Teaching Yourself how to BE Happy Again
Teaching Yourself how to BE Happy Again

The reason most programs-for-change (diets, self-help books, even psychotherapy) very often don’t result in lasting change is that we sign up for them expecting SOME aspect of ourselves to change, while a much more fundamental shift is required in order to have a truly different ongoing experience of ourselves – which is what we’re looking for.

Let me break that down.

We’ve heard this common wisdom before, that happiness must come from the inside rather than the outside, that there are no quick fixes, that no one thing can make you happy. And we’ve all had moments of agreeing with these sentiments, being cynical about them, struggling against them, trying to accept them. We hear these lines, and perhaps unconsciously accept the ideas as “true but not practical for MY life”: somehow you can’t simply convince yourself to not want a new iPhone, to not want the perfect significant other, to not want to be thin, to not want the fulfillment of a particular dream you’ve ALWAYS had. You just want what you want, and you believe certain things will make you happier if not happy with a capital H – even though you’ve heard all those lines, and even though you might sincerely want to be the type of person who’s “down-to-earth,” “knows what’s really important,” a person who lives a simple life, etc.

The problem is not that you have the wants. The problem is not even the ideas you have about how a certain change might make you feel (for a few moments or days or weeks, a desired item or change in ourselves will affect our mood).

The problem is when you become an unhappy person who always lives feeling as if what you want, the things that would grant you peace, happiness, and ease, are always out of reach. This leaves you with an ongoing sense of depression, that on some days is very far in the background, and on other days completely knocks the spirit out of you. Bottom line, it’s there, threaded throughout your sense of being, so deep that you don’t recognize it as resignation, hopelessness, sadness… You just see yourself as a “realistic” type of person who is “responsible” and “does what she has to do.” (Read: your lust/energy/life libido, your spontaneity, your ability to feel fully whole and engaged in a moment, have all become severely weakened), and the only way you deal with this is to fantasize about the next thing you need to acquire or do that will remedy the situation. You find something (or many things) in your current situation that are THE PROBLEM, and you spent a GREAT DEAL of your mental time criticizing and plotting yourself into what you should be and could be doing about it.

MEANWHILE, a much deeper solution is called for. Even in psychotherapy, which I believe is one of the best ways to come to understand yourself and get to the roots of longstanding issues, it is possible to get used to a cycle of thinking about the reasons for a problem, struggling to work against it, and then becoming depressed that all that work only leads to seeing more problems to be fixed.

At some point, you actually need to make a fundamental decision to BE happy again.
This is radical when contrasted to a lot of the other mechanisms-of-change that are suggested to us. And again, we’ve heard things like this before, that make it sound so simple, and even if we’d like to be the type of person who could just make such a decision and then “be all better,” it’s never really worked for us.

What I’d like to offer in this post is a reminder of why deciding to be happy IS realistic and IS necessary in order to make true change. If you reflect on our deepest motivators in life, it doesn’t take too much philosophizing to uncover love, comfort, engagement, peace, and happiness as primary reasons that people choose to live at all. It’s really not debatable that as children we all start out with a default of wanting ourselves and others to be happy – and, in the absence of abuse or trauma, very young children are happy most of the time!!

You’ve heard this before too. Oh, why can’t we just learn to be childlike again, be interested in the blue sky and get more playtime. Again, we think it’s a good idea, and are unable to implement.

What I believe we’ve forgotten is that we don’t need a reason to be happy – and very young children have not had the life experience or mental capacity to mentally conclude themselves out of that truth yet.

As human beings we are physiologically and spiritually/emotionally built to feel peace and happiness when we feel that our needs have been met – when we feel that our existence is being supported wonderfully.

After enough years of conditioning, we learn to link up whether or not we are being accepted with whether or not we are going to survive. (As a child, if your parents do not accept you, and leave you alone to fend for yourself, you would die). The evolutionarily beneficial nervous system response of fear to not getting our needs met, gets hooked into our later interpersonal life. So that when we’re 12, or 25, or 45, we have a completely out-of-proportion response of despair if someone rejects us, when really, we are still completely safe physically despite that rejection. We will still feel joy again despite that rejection, we will still eat again. But, because the fear-wiring is hooked in, we are susceptible to feeling bound to many, many, many things as derivatives of needing to be accepted. “Needing” to be successful, to be seen as savvy, to be seen as physically beautiful, to be seen as funny, to be seen as having “made something of oneself,” these all derive from feeling a “need” to be accepted – and we feel this “need” regarding others AND regarding our own selves. We internalize all this so that we feel like WE will not accept ourselves if we are not physically beautiful, if we have not “made something of ourselves” by a certain age.

The antidote is to realize the fundamental delusion in believing that we cannot be happy, we are not okay, unless _______________. It’s not new-age-shit, it’s not Buddhism, it’s not low standards, to understand that it is a delusion to think that ANY certain condition determines whether or not you can be okay, whether or not you can be happy. The reason it’s not true is the fact that we are born with a default of happiness – physiologically we are evolved to feel peace and happiness when we feel our existence is being supported – in other words – THAT WE ARE, that we continue to be in this moment, ALIVE. Even ONE moment of aliveness requires every cell in the body to be functioning well enough to allow us to inspire and expire air. When we calm the hell down and feel this (often known as meditation, or taking stock of what you’re grateful for), we DO automatically touch peace, and happiness is never far behind.

I know this has been perhaps a bit dense, but I wanted to explain why I believe programs-for-change often go on endlessly and leave us feeling essentially the same as when we started the program in a very deep way. What doesn’t change despite the amount of self-change work we do is our deepest orientation towards whether or not we are okay, whether or not we can be happy right this second, and this second, and this second.

It’s true that you can be. It is 100% definitely, completely about letting yourself be. You don’t have to create your happiness, manufacture it, will it, work on it, hope it into existence.. It is everyone’s default and your suffering is in direct correlation to how far you’ve been led towards believing the opposite, that happiness is something you may have lost a long time ago and that you as you are now cannot have it.

You as you are now has it, but you won’t let yourself believe that. And although this is a simple truth it is not a quick fix because you have to re-orient your entire way-of-being. All the moments in your day where as a default you slide toward unhappiness, you have to consciously wake yourself up.

But it’s do-able, and it creates permanent change..
Once you’re on board, you can already start experiencing yourself as a “happy person.” You don’t have to wait until you’ve suffered enough to deserve it. You’ll make the fundamental shift from “depressed person who struggles to be happy” to “happy person who works to remind herself that her existence is always being wonderfully supported, whenever she forgets.” You’ll forget less and less. You’ll get your energy back.

This is the difference between chronically struggling and waking up right now.

No One Else Can Talk You Out of This

No One Else Can Talk You Out of This
No One Else Can Talk You Out of This

I just got home from my weekly session with my therapist, Janet. There are some sessions that seem to have the sole purpose of listening to how much garbage comes out of your mouth. And this is a good purpose – because when you actually say it out loud in sentences, instead of accepting it as a constant garbled hum in your mind, you see exactly what’s being said and how terrible it really is.
Some samples of beliefs I expressed in the session:
I cannot start learning something new because I will look too pathetic in the early stages.
It doesn’t matter how I look for the rest of my life because I didn’t look how I wanted when I wanted to.
It’s cooler to have friends who like you for your body or skills than for your personality.
I’m too old to ___________.
I can’t have a “normal life” until I ____________.

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggghhhhhhhh. Miserable just to read, forget live with everyday.
So, I found myself saying some of these things as if I were expecting my therapist to give me 8,000 “oh, sweetie, of course not”s. As if that would just knock those silly thoughts right out of my head, for good, banished, as if they had never affected me.

But… When you’ve read as many amazing, beautiful books as I have, listened to as many brilliant speakers, done workshops and retreats.. You have to realize that it’s not about someone telling you the right thing enough times. Of course, hearing the right thing at the right time can be very helpful, and can sometimes make the difference. But as for long-term change, that is going to be based on YOU putting in consistent effort towards owning up to your true beliefs and making a conscious decision about continuing to endorse them or not. You don’t get to say you believe there are things much more important than being thin, act as if you believe the opposite, and then lament that you continue to have eating issues. If you are acting as if being thin is what matters most, this requires inquiry; denial will only lead to going through the motions of someone who believes there are more important things, and sooner or later collapsing into the underlying belief with self-hatred and likely bingeing. As usual, the problem there would not be the bingeing, which is always the side effect, but rather, it would be the failure to acknowledge that the damaging underlying belief is still reigning.

When you’ve got a damaging belief in charge, you must ask yourself what the benefit is of continuing to hold the belief.

So let’s see: Why would I want to continue to believe that you cannot be truly loved or wanted unless you are thin?
When I imagine dressing and acting as if my acceptability is not dependent on my weight, I sense a fear basically that others will mentally laugh at me for “trying to be” cute or normal or sexy or feminine when clearly I am not (because I am not thin). So at least 2 things are implied here: Cute, normal, sexy, feminine = thin, and, I am afraid of others judging me as a failure, trying to be something I’m not.

Again, at this point, you might imagine kind others and the better part of yourself saying, “oh, you know those things are not true. You don’t have to be thin to be those things, don’t worry about what others think.” But it takes more than that. You already know the truth here – the question is why you are not willing to live it out. For me, I think it is that fear of mockery, exclusion..

And at that point, I must ask myself: Okay. Is avoiding that hypothetical mockery and exclusion worth feeling bad about food and my body for the rest of my life? Is being safe worth losing the life I really want?

After high school’s over, who would really want to be around anyone who would meanly mock someone in real life? When you’re not a trapped kid anymore, you can realize that people who make fun of other people like that will likely make fun of you too sooner or later, and you can choose to find people who are not like that, who actually enjoy each other. It’s not a matter of not being cool, it’s a matter of not being desperate. You only feel like you need to be “cool” or “sexy” more than you need anything else, when you don’t really feel like you have anything else. Hence the other old well-known fact, when people insult you it’s all about them. Only someone who feels they have no value other than their looks would make fun of a woman dressing as she likes at any size.

So don’t just wait for the things you already know to eventually “click,” after the next book, blog post, workshop, streak of “doing a good job.” It’s deeper than that. We’re talking subconscious, OLD, deep beliefs that are wired with fear. They require active, continuous confrontation, and ultimately a decision about what’s worth believing.

Re-program yourself for the greatness you want to live now and for the rest of your life.
<3 Judy

Waking Up in the Morning

Waking Up in the Morning
Waking Up in the Morning

I’d like to do a bit of inquiry right now, because I just woke up and some of the first images through my mind are bagel with cream cheese and jelly, bowl of cereal, tea. Nothing’s wrong with those foods, of course – it’s just that I’m not hungry at all yet, and I am feeling some pull to make these images a reality for my mouth!

So let’s see, since I lost my job almost 3 weeks ago now, I have not been on a regular schedule – today I woke up around 11:30AM. I think this already bothers me, because it means I will likely be awake late tonight past when everyone goes to sleep, and for me this is a great environment for bingeing. But hey – why am I already thinking about the end of my day? I just woke up! There are never too many times one can remember to stay in the moment. Okay, coming back here. I feel my feet on the floor. It’s slightly cool, which is pleasant to me. I feel my thighs and butt against the seat of the chair.. It’s not the softest, but comfortable enough. I feel the texture of the thin, smooth keyboard protector on my fingers. It’s nice, it almost feels like suede..
Ah, and at this point I am feeling more in this moment.

Okay, how’s the impulse to go eat doing? Well… It’s still an alluring fantasy, in my head. As for how my body would feel afterwards.. I imagine I would feel somewhat sluggish, maybe wanting to plop back into bed.. And emotionally I would be disappointed that I passed by another opportunity to be kind to myself and heal the relationship with food.

I often think about other addictions, other fantasies people might have, and what it would look like for people to overcome them. I imagine someone who’s married and having an affair, for example. This person finds themselves utterly seduced at times, if they go into the fantasy of what it feels like to be with the other person.. And the only way to end it would be to make a true decision, a true commitment to their marriage because they’ve decided THAT is what they truly value.. And then, to recognize the beginnings of the seduction in their mind, and to choose to refocus their attention.
I also like to think of the example of someone who gets high on marijuana every single day, since there is much about this I find similar to my own eating (mostly bingeing every day). Marijuana’s not cocaine, and you can function while high to an extent – and my bingeing isn’t usually physically as severe as some other eating issues, and I can usually function despite it. So basically I see both as somewhat hidden, somewhat underestimated forms of zoning out throughout the day. So I think of this person, and what they would have to do to go from so much marijuana use to giving it up.. And again, I find that they would have to make a commitment to a life that is better, deeper, truer, than the one that’s available with all the zoning out. Then, when they had the craving, they would have to identify it as not what they truly want, as a slippery slope, as a destructive fantasy.. And they would have to refocus their attention from getting lost in the idea of unconsciousness/zoning out/taking a break, to getting back in the moment and finding out what they really need.

One of the reasons I sometimes think about these other addictions is because there’s often a sense of urgency or of “serious stuff at stake” when drug use or affairs are considered – you may crash your car under the influence, you may lose your children in a divorce. Whereas in my case, it’s so easy to get lost in my head, in external standards, and think: I did very good in school. I have such a loving relationship. People who know me think I am friendly. I have a roof over my head. I’m going to be fine – and thus judge that there’s nothing urgent here.
Meanwhile, if I was instead consulting with my heart, I know from the times that I have been willing to listen that I would find a vast landscape of unmet longings. You know what’s at stake if you lose your kids in a divorce because of an affair? Aching longings for everything to go back to normal, for the ability to turn back time and change what you did, to see your children all the time as they grow, REGRET, REGRET. At stake if you crash your car or get arrested while high? The longing to undo the physical injury or death you caused to an innocent person, the longing to be out of jail and to have a chance at your life again, the ache of wishing you pulled yourself out of that downward spiral of substance abuse long ago.. REGRET.

So… what’s at stake for me, eating this way? What’s at stake for you reading this?
Maybe I’m not obese, and I’m not skin and bones.. Maybe I won’t get arrested for bingeing.. Maybe my life looks good compared to many others.. (I will discuss the difference between gratefulness and ignoring your true self in another post)..
But….. Who are we really pulling a fast one on here?
Who do YOU wake up with?
Even if there is physically someone at your side in bed in the morning, you know those moments of being purely in your own mind, in your own skin, in your own heart, before getting lost in thought and getting plugged into the day.
We live with ourselves.
If others praise you for your performance and you hate yourself for being an empty shell, guess which one affects your eating. Guess which reality determines how life feels for you. It’s obvious, and we all know the sayings and stories about those in the most wretched of conditions finding happiness and those with health wealth and fame being miserable. Because it’s about your OWN experience, and your own longings, wants and needs. Your very own once-in-creation truth.

So what’s at stake in allowing yourself to get lost down the path of bingeing, restricting, obsession with food and body.. is that you are losing the connection to what is the very most important to you. You are telling yourself: “The life you truly want does not matter, and it’s not possible. You’re going to deal with living this way instead.” How much different is this than being thrown in prison? Being awake but not being able to live how you want? Feeling trapped, hopeless, degraded?

The luckiness is here – for you, for you and lucky, lucky me… It does NOT have to be this way. We are not deathly poor, we are not in jail, we are not in a country that dictates what we can or cannot do. Freedom is possible for us! Yes, for many reasons we wound up with a food issue – perhaps damaging enough to drive us to wishing for death, perhaps just enough to cause chronic frustration and dissatisfaction. But either way – it’s not something we can’t heal. The invitation is open every single time you eat, each time your body’s hungry – “Come closer, come closer.. Come closer to the life you long to live.”

How many more people do we need to tell us about regret? How many more years, days are we going to let pass by before we close up the gaping wound of I-wasn’t-supposed-to-be-this-way..?

We intuitively know the truth that you find wholeness and peace when you Be Yourself, no matter what the circumstances of life. How to do this? Look at what’s keeping you from being yourself – look at what’s going on when you act out with food, when you cause yourself regret.

At this point, I feel much more aligned with myself and do not feel the need to go and get my fix. I’m going to try to let food do it’s magic – nourish my body, when it’s hungry – and to find out what would nourish Me-Being-Me right now. Writing felt pretty good for Me ;)

Give yourself a chance,
Judy

Longing

Longing
Longing

Longing is what moves us. Whether it’s the physical longing for food when you are hungry, or the tight-chest shallow-breath longing for the object of your desire to fall for you, longing demands our attention, and can take us over.

And when it does take us over – we may plunge into the depths of the feeling of separation from that which we long for. All of us have felt this, many times in our lives. You may remember a time before you were 5 years old, crying out for your mother when she was not with you. You might recall utter heartbreak as a teenager, after being rejected by someone you dreamed of, loved. You may recall a recent missed opportunity that left you bitter – the gap between what you wished for, and reality: longing.

I believe longing is one of the forces that has the most power over our souls… Nature itself is designed with the longing for survival, the longing for the continuation of life.  So… For something so strong, and so necessary – why does it have to hurt so much??

Well… suffering can move us towards truth when it motivates us to try to end the suffering, or at least to understand it.
I won’t forget a recent session when my therapist said something like, “Maybe you act one way during the day, you act one way with your family, you function well in this or that way… But your eating, now THAT won’t be suppressed, that kind of bingeing is like.. HERE I AM, this is rage, this is hopelessness.”

The point was to understand that what I was describing to her: eating 3 slices of pizza, then movie popcorn-candy-soda, then PB&J sandwich, milk, fruit snack, string cheese, all within a few hours.. that this was SAYING SOMETHING – something, truly, important. Something about –  some longing.

Why would you binge like that when you don’t want to? When you even hate yourself for it? When it causes so very much suffering?

You must be believing that what you truly want, or even need, is not possible for you – and rather than live with the ache of longing for something that may not be possible – you try to get hit after hit of temporary release.

But, here’s the thing with trying to deal with longing by numbing out:
Longing’s with you as long as you live.

And so is food – so there’s a choice here: learn to live with longing, or continue to be tormented by food in an attempt to perpetually numb longing out.

My suffering demands my attention. “WHY, WHY, WHY again, why eating with such resignation, eating with such a vengeance. What would I have felt like, thought about, if I did not eat that way right now…? What am I doing?? What’s going on?! With everything I know and understand, how could I continue to do this…….?” My suffering leads directly to these questions – and the answers to these questions lead directly to my longing. Now.. Where does the longing lead?

A poem, if you will:

Love Dogs
by Rumi

One night a man was crying Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with praising,
until a cynic said, “So!
I’ve heard you calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”

The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.

“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”

“This longing you express
is the return message.”

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.

Give your life
to be one of them.

I share this poem because Rumi is trying to show us what the longing leads to, if you allow it. It leads you to yourself. But don’t just take that as a “sounds-nice-whatever” statement… Think deeply here. You have a longing. Let’s say it is a very, very old longing, that you eventually learned to mute in some way because living with it all the time was too painful, too overwhelming for a child. Let’s say you lived with the pure longing to make your mother happy, until before you knew it, you were bingeing or restricting each time you felt that you had disappointed her. Now let’s say a decade or 2 or several have passed, and you find yourself still bingeing or restricting in this same way – and you cannot get yourself to stop. Why? There is a part of you that still lives within, because at some point it became forbidden to be expressed. It is a truth about yourself – and you know all the sayings about truth by now, right?

A personal illustration of following the suffering to the longing to the truth/myself:
I wanted to binge on dinner very badly.. to the point that I could not imagine moving on with my night without doing so. I explained this to my boyfriend who laid down with me and tried to talk about it. After some time, I became distraught with the idea that no matter what I do, it doesn’t help – what if I can never fix my relationship to food?? What if I can never feel better… And, I started crying, hard.. Soon, my boyfriend noticed that I was trying to stop crying… And he told me to breathe into it. When I did, I cried harder and harder, and soon I couldn’t believe how long I had sustained crying that hard…
At some point, I had a clear feeling/thought of: no matter what I do, it doesn’t help – What if I can never fix Mom…?? What if I can never feel better…

If there’s a desperation that lives in me now, because by 10 or 11 or 12 I couldn’t stand it anymore and stuffed it down… Then my soul, my psyche, my true self, whatever you think of it as.. will make sure that it gets expressed somehow. If it’s not going to be consciously, met with loving awareness, then it’s going to be unconsciously, meaning acted out, meaning – I will feel the exact extent of desperation I am avoiding, because of what I do in the relationship to food.

For some it’s love relationships: To the extent that there’s feelings of deserving punishment that haven’t been acknowledged, your soul will make sure you find someone to be with who will emotionally punish you to that extent. For some it’s entertainment: to the extent that there’s unacknowledged feelings of never getting to be your childhood-self or to be carefree, your soul will make sure you find no true relaxation no matter how many hours you spend in the false reality of TV, video games, internet. For every way of being in which one causes suffering to oneself, there’s an explanation that involves suppressed self-expression, past or present. It’s you bringing your attention back to yourself through suffering, when healthier modes of communication with yourself have been closed down.

For some, it’s food. Geneen Roth calls the suffering in the relationship to food “the unexpected path, the doorway.” What she means is this: If you have an identifiable issue with food (you can see when you binge, you can see when you have the urge to count calories, you can see when you’re drowned in obsession about food or body), then you’ve got a BLARING SIGNAL that there is something longing to be expressed at that very moment. You have a way to identify the moments in which you are calling out to yourself – the human experience is giving you something true about you, something precious to taste, and it is making you scared and inclined to run.

Rumi’s saying that what we long for is ourselves – our own love, to know ourselves, to know the truth of what we are. Feel your longing, and see the truth that you don’t want to eat more pizza, you wanted your mom to be happy so that you could be happy, and it ripped your heart to shreds. The truth that, ah… I loved her. What happened was I loved her.. I loved.. I, love…
You start with pizza and you end with facing yourself as a loving, vulnerable being.

Imagine the possibility of uncovering your longings each day – who would you be?

From the Inside Out

From the Inside Out
From the Inside Out

You cannot simultaneously act out an eating issue and fully trust yourself.

Compulsive overeating will soon fall under the clinical label, “Binge Eating Disorder” (BED), in the next edition of the psychiatric diagnostic manual. I define compulsive eating as eating for reasons other than physical hunger. However, I believe several of the core issues involved can apply to those with anorexia, bulimia, and all other forms of eating problems as well.

In an instance of disordered eating, where exactly does the lack of trust happen? Essentially, the disconnect occurs at the moment when you subconsciously decide you cannot afford to treat yourself with kindness.

Some examples:
I cannot trust that I will eat an amount that is healthy for me, I must count calories.
I cannot wear this shirt, because although I love how it looks and feels on me, others have told me it makes me look fat.
I cannot NOT eat right now even though I am not hungry, or I won’t feel better.
I must eat at mealtimes, and not whenever I am hungry, because then I might eat all day.
I cannot eat a salad, or it means I am dieting.
I cannot eat only what my body wants, I’ll get sick or die on that tiny amount of food.

These examples illustrate some painful underlying logic systems. These are moments in which there is some perceived threat – and the choice is often made to shut off from oneself somehow, as an alternative to dealing with the expected negative outcomes. At times like these, you may use food as a buffer, instead of exploring the fears any further. Falling back on a painful ritual, instead of taking the path you truly want to take (wearing that shirt, eating when hungry, etc.).

Let’s take one of the examples, “I cannot eat only what my body wants, I’ll get sick or die on that tiny amount of food.” Every cell of our bodies has been crafted by evolution to do one thing: survive, and ideally thrive. There is no way, if you were truly sensing in to your body, that your body would let itself starve. The same goes for adequate nutrition. Your body gives clear messages about a lack of protein, vegetables, whatever is necessary. The body is not what’s in the way of natural eating – it’s the distrust of our natural hungers. However, after days, weeks, possibly decades of eating out of sync with the body, you fear the unknown territory of what it will actually feel like to let your body tell you what to eat. You cut yourself off from the body-healing, self-loving possibility before giving yourself a chance to make it through.

You’ve got a Natural Self that’s starving for simple expression, gasping for room to BE. There is nothing defective about you that makes YOU unable to “just eat food and get over it!!” whereas seemingly “normal” eaters can. The only difference between you and them, is that due to many individual and cultural factors, you developed habits around eating that created a system to override your natural hunger/fullness mechanisms.

But the sweet news is that those mechanisms are still there in you, for you! Although it might take practice to slow down and tune in enough to sense them, they are there. This means that you have a physical basis for trust in yourself. This is a monumental discovery and a crucial part of recovery – just knowing that you have what it takes in your body to be a “normal eater.” That you’re not just cursed with boundless hunger, that you’re not out-of-control at the core.

As for the emotional trust it takes to allow the tuning in to your body – it’s similar, but more complicated because this is where thoughts and beliefs come in. Yet the same truth about an intact, wise nature applies: If you are reading and understanding this, you have the equipment inside to feel longing (emotional hunger) and to make an effort to tend to it. Picture this as a mother being at least able to hear her child’s cry and know that this means something is wrong. Without this, the baby would die, because the mother would have no ability to recognize when to take appropriate care of the baby. But with at least the ability to sense when something is wrong, this mother has a chance at soothing her baby. She may need to learn how to discern whether what’s needed is food or a diaper change, she may need to learn how to breastfeed or swaddle the baby – but these are skills that can be learned! She already has that essential mechanism of registering the baby’s pleasure and pain.

So your body can tell you when it’s hungry and what it needs, and your feelings can tell you whether you are stable or need soothing. What could go wrong?

What goes wrong is that beliefs about “how things should be” cause you to doubt yourself so severely that you either rely on an external judgment system (dieting/calorie-counting) or throw “trying” out the window (bingeing). You think, for example: “If I don’t eat whatever I want right now, I will be in a bad mood for the rest of the night and maybe even lash out at someone.” You’ve deemed a “bad mood” as unacceptable; you “should” be pleasant and should keep any negative feelings away from others; and in failing to live up to the “shoulds,” you’re driven to escape.

The alternative to being a slave to your fears is living from the inside out. You put the external expectation of always being happy to the side, you put the external expectation of a relationship always going smoothly to the side. You tune into your self, inside. You make the decision to find a personal, quiet space and sit for a while until you know how you want to take care of yourself. You dedicate yourself to what it would mean to be kind to yourself in each new moment. The kindest thing might be allowing a “bad mood” to inhabit you as much as it wants to, and to inquire into it. Your sensations and feelings are your true self talking to you! What’s not your true self talking to you is: “Oh my god… I can’t believe you ate this way AGAIN. Unbelievable… Tomorrow’s another day.” That’s only the uprooted, survival-mode version of you.

Trust yourself. Trust that whatever is presenting itself to you in your body and in your heart is something true for you in that moment, and that you can respond to it with kindness. That’s what hurts the most about living with disordered eating and body image, after all – the harshness, the constant pressure and disappointment, the feeling of not being your true self.

Your true self is there in every moment, right now as you read this. Always there to tune into, to know, to offer kindness to as only you can. If you can, don’t smother it with food or starve it… Don’t allow anything to override your own truth.

Open to yourself.

Judy