One of the things I love best about having a blog is that my writing is not set in stone. If I have a typo or a brilliant post-publish-thought, I can, in a few key strokes, make changes. I also love that my blog serves as a living, breathing storehouse for my teachings –– which are evolving –– and which must evolve –– as I do.
In early December I shared a post titled The 3 Steps to Loving Yourself which reflected my view of the stages I’ve passed through on my way towards inner peace. The are 1) make peace, 2) make friends, and finally, 3) make love.
Writing that “3 Steps” post lit a spark of clarity for me and led to many other core teachings coming into focus for me, including this one about how we relate to our hungers.
My experience personally and with my coaching clients is that there are four ways of being in relationship with our hungers: as enemy, indifferent, as friend, and in deep communion.
If you attended any of my Well-Fed Woman Retreatshops this won’t be new to you, but perhaps you’ll appreciate having it written down so you too can refer to it as needed.
My hope is that this framework will help you come into greater harmony with your hungers –– and ultimately –– become the Well-Fed Woman you were born to be.
While I wouldn’t have self-identified at the time, in my late teens and early 20’s I certainly related to my hungers (and often myself) as though they were the enemy. My hungers were big, mighty, unrelenting, and overwhelming. I didn’t feel worthy of feeding them, nor did I think it as possible. That warfare tactics offered to me were: denial, numbing, distraction, repression, and restriction, and strict repentance for any failures on the battlefield. I had internalized the idea that I needed to defend myself against these “beasts.” I was on high-alert and at the ready to stop any incoming enemy attack –– enemy being everything from calories and second helpings to hungers for touch or love.
In 2002, after a solid 6 months of therapy to treat my anorexia, I moved from relating to my hungers (and myself) as the enemy to a place I call indifferent. I describe indifferent as wholly neutral. Like looking blankly at a pen laying on a desk. There it is. I see you. I’m not threatened, nor am I motivated to take action to feed or avoid.
Sometimes I describe it as if a random stranger at a bus stop turned to you and said “I’m going to the post-office today.” You probably wouldn’t feel neither here nor there about that. Simply indifferent –– and sometimes we relate to our hungers this way. Ho-hum, nothing to do.
Often we relate to our hungers with indifference if we feel powerless to feed to them. If we think there is no hope and we have to way to satiate ourselves we shrug our shoulders, sigh, and move on (albeit still hungry).
Spurred by the Oprahfication of our world and my growing collection of self-help books I was able to move from being indifferent about my hungers to relating to them (and myself) as a friend. I began to have a natural warmth, curiosity, and kindness towards them. I felt inspired, rather than resistant or forced, to support and feed them. I softened and truly looked upon my hungers, for food or other primary needs, as friends delivering a message for my well-being.
This third stage – being our own best friend (and viewing our hungers as friends) – is often thought to be the holy grail of self-actualization, but I found a place beyond…
In Deep Communion
The only way I can really describe what it’s like to be in Deep Communion with one’s self and one’s hungers is to use the analogy of a child’s request for water. How would you receive a child’s request for water? Would you judge it? Would you ignore it? Would you insult the child or tell the child it wanted too much? No. You would, in a reflex, get the child a glass of water. You would trust wholeheartedly that the child knew best what it needed and you would act once asked.
If no water was immediately available, you would do what was needed to find it. Right?
From this place of Deep Communion we can receive all our hungers like the child’s request for water. Our hunger for touch, the ocean, meaningful work. We hear the call and we act.
If you’re wondering what to do if you don’t know HOW to feed a hunger, I’ll be writing more on this soon and remember, they’re patient.
Last week I shared with you an interview I did with The San Francisco Zen Center about the upcoming Well-Fed Woman retreat at Tassajara in June. My hope was to let the Zen Center community know a bit more about me and to let everyone know more about what they can expect at the retreat.
Now I want to let you know more about the amazing woman who I will be co-leading the retreat with me: Dana Velden or Ikushin Dana Velden as she’s known in zen circles (Ikushin means she is a zen priest). In last week’s interview I shared how I met Dana and how the retreat came to be:
…before becoming a coach I worked in the Bay Area sustainable food community. In the summer of 2008 I was awarded a fellowship to attend a food conference in the Napa Valley. As part of the conference a large group of us were shepherded on a bus to a nearby vineyard and on the ride I struck up a conversation with woman seated in front of me. Low and behold it was Ikushin Dana Velden who I knew as the author of the Weekend Meditation column on The Kitchn website. I had been enamored with Dana’s wise writing and was thrilled to meet her in person. We’ve been good friends ever since and when Dana, who has a long-standing relationship with SFZC and Tassajara, approached me about collaborating on a retreat together, the answer was a wholehearted YES!
It goes without saying that to teach the Well-Fed Woman teachings alongside me you must be a pretty well-fed woman. Dana’s participation in this series is both overdue and right on time.
Dana, what are you truly hungry for?
Purpose, a more balanced life (both for me and for the planet) and a culture that is welcoming to diversity. Not just welcoming but excited by diversity, where all people can be celebrated and appreciated for whatever it is that they bring to the table. Also, this pretty corn-flower blue bike and the kind of life where I can ride it as much as possible. And maybe a backyard suitable for a few chickens. And a meyer lemon tree. And kissing. And breakfast. I always want breakfast.
What’s a craving that you previously denied that you now satisfy? How has that impacted you?
I lived for many years in Zen monasteries and training temples where the focus wasn’t really on personal adornment or an overtly feminine expression. I left my residency last year to step into the wider world. It’s been taking me a while to rediscover how to nourish and encourage my feminine spirit but last month I took a big step towards that when I splurged (really splurged!) on a bottle of perfume. It was worth every penny in that it reminds me to open up to a part of me that hasn’t had much attention these last several years. I think that this might be only the beginning as evidenced by my growing obsession for deep red lipstick. (The perfume is called Mythique by Parfums DelRae and it was inspired by Diane de Pointiers, the mistress of Henry II who is described to be a women of learning, compassion, glamour, and guile. Oh yeah.)
What are you a conduit for? What comes through with ease, meaning, and spark?
I am very focused on connection and deep friendships and the many people in my life. When I lived at Zen Center, we called it sangha which is the Buddhist name for the group of people you practice with, people who have a shared desire to wake up and engage with their lives in a more compassionate and wholesome way. I also really dig writing about food and the magic that happens in the kitchen.
Favorite bite in recent memory?
I recently wrote a post about the chickpeas stew with roasted egg at Boot & Shoe in Oakland and how it brought me back from the brink of despair. But I would add that the little picnic Rachel and I shared in early April with Il Facchino cheese on Firebrand bread was mighty wonderful, perhaps made more so by sharing it with each other!
Creativity.Parenthood. Relationships. Nature.
Musings on this tender and curious life.
These are the categories Samantha Reynolds (of the beloved Bentlily.com) divides her daily poems into and they say so much about the kind of poet she is and the kind of human she is.
Observing. Breathing her truth into words. Channeling beauty and anguish and questions from an invisible well of wisdom.
It is not a perfectly lived perfect life that creates a Well-Fed Woman, in my eyes.
No, a Well-Fed Woman sinks deep and stretches her arms wide, unleashing her soul in honest ways. She honors herself and maintains, as much as possible, a fullness from which to live well. Samantha Reynolds is a Well-Fed Woman I’m proud to share with you today.
In her words: “The challenge in writing these daily poems isn’t the 15 minutes at the end of the day when I actually write them; it’s the practice of wrenching my senses wide open as often as possible to notice the details of my day. I like to think of this practice as “story poetry.” It’s not about sonnets or arcane symbolism; it’s simply about noticing your life. So make a nest where your fleeting moments can hatch. You will experience a sweetness you will wonder how you did without.”
The kind of writing Samantha practices and speaks of here is very similar to my weekly sacred dose of Wild Writing from Laurie Wagner and it makes this seeker hunger for more unbridled “story poetry.” Are you hungry for this too?
Sam, what are you TRULY hungry for?
A raucous courage to speak more fully from the deepest belly of my truth.
What’s a craving that you previously denied that you now happily satisfy? How has this impacted you?
My set point is quite reserved and I used to wish I could find that unselfconscious kid inside me and release her from time to time. I lucked out and married a guy who, if I am stiffening into a mood, regularly puts various substances like toothpaste and overripe banana on his head to crack open the moment. It turns out that absurd behaviour is contagious and I am now able to find that dippy side of myself and let her out to play. The effect is a general ungluing so that all parts of me loosen up – I get closer to my most creative and generous self.
What are you a conduit for? What comes through with ease, meaning, and spark?
My poems unspool at the end of each night with such effortlessness, I can barely lay claim to them. My husband says it’s almost spooky, which I’ve decided is a compliment. But it’s the mystery of creativity that deserves all the credit; I am just the bones she hangs it on.
Favorite bite in recent memory?
My friend Georgia’s sweet-salty cake. Why did we come around so late in life to salt on dessert? Good God, it’s like we forgot to invent kissing.
I was so honored a few weeks back to have my poem Preparing Your Lesson Plan featured on Bentlily. If you go check it out, be sure to traipse through Samantha’s archives, it’s a veritable treasure chest.
Oh, and happy National Poetry Month!