A guest post written by Teryll Sacks
When I received the invitation to write a guest post for Rachel’s blog, I was honored and excited! It was an opportunity to blog again and to write about something other than cooking and recipes.
And then, I read the first two guest blog posts on Rachel’s site and immediately I said out loud, “Who the fill-in-the-blank am I? What the fill-in-the-blank do I have to say?” I don’t teach soulful e-courses, or write inspiring books and I haven’t been featured on any well-known websites or media outlets. The “unworthy gremlins” emerged from their mousetraps and I started to panic. The “perfection gremlins” arrived uninvited and began gnawing at my anxious heart. I remembered two things that Rachel said about our inner critics at the last Retreatshop I attended: that when we listen to them (the inner critics), we play it safe and that the inner critics are often loudest around the things that matter most to us. And I don’t want to end 2013, playing it safe.
So here I am – several deep breaths later, having scratched my original idea and taking a chance on something a wee bit personal. When I attended the Wise Body, Wise Hungers retreat in September, I was really keen on connection. I deeply desired to connect with other women, but more importantly to connect with myself and my body.
During the retreat Rachel led us through a guided imagery session focused around one hunger that we were playing with for the weekend (initially I was tossing around the idea of playing with a hunger to be seen/heard). After that guided imagery, Rachel asked us some potent questions around the experience and we spent some time journaling. While journaling, I discovered that the hunger I was playing with was a secondary hunger and that the primary hunger was really about knowing that I am enough and that I am worthy. Tears were streaming down my face as I wrote the “story” behind the belief that I wasn’t good enough, worthy or that I was too much. I physically felt my chest tighten and my throat nearly close up as I was telling the truth (it still blows me away how the body knows, feels and reveals what is really going on inside of us, we just need to be still and listen). And the truth is for quite some time, I’ve “reined” it in, I’ve played it safe.
Later that day, the amazing Anna Guest-Jelley (our fearless curvy yoga leader) led us through our afternoon yoga session. While reclining in shivasana (one of my most favorite poses), Anna invited us to listen, not just to the physical signs and sounds around us, but to listen within. I felt the cool breeze across my face; I felt the soft rays of sunshine peering through the windows onto my body; and I heard the delicate song of a few birds fluttering nearby. It was ever so slight, but I heard and felt my body tell me, “you are enough, there’s nothing you need to say or do, nothing to prove, you are enough”. It was a powerful experience, it held so much joy and I remember sharing with Rachel and Anna that I finally “got it”. It was a sacred reunion of body, mind and spirit. Shortly after that experience, I wrote a poem and in the spirit of not playing it safe, I want to share it with you:
I am enough.
I am not too much or too little.
I am enough just as I am.
In this body.
In this vessel of love, kindness and grace.
There is nothing I can do or say that will change it – I am enough.
I was born enough.
I will die enough.
There’s enough space to hold me.
There’s enough space to hold you.
There’s enough space to hold each other in this beautiful mess called life.
My prayer and hope for us all is that we turn down the dial on those gremlins (aka the inner critics) and allow our hungers to step into the spotlight. Our hungers are wise and as Rachel always says they are a compass for what is needed right now. May the holidays bring you ease, rest, joy and love.
By day Teryll Sacks is a paralegal, by night a devoted foodie, curvy yogi and adventure seeker. Though she has taken a year-long sabbatical from her blog, Madame Munchies, you can still check it out for recipes and other antidotes about cooking and life.
A guest post by Jill Salahub
A Bodhisattva is an “enlightened being,” having an open, awake heart motivated by deep compassion.
One of the origin stories of Bodhisattva is that she was a woman of noble standing who at the moment of her death heard someone crying. She was supposed to be headed straight for Nirvana, a state of perfect peace and happiness, but because she was so touched by the pain of that one being, she instead vowed to be reborn into the human realm as many times as it would take until there was no one left suffering.
In some Buddhist practice lineages, one can take a Bodhisattva vow, committing to that same path. The version that the Dalai Lama often uses when facilitating a vow ceremony ends with:
As long as space remains,
As long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.
We understandably may be reluctant to offer that level of commitment. We might not all experience that same depth of conviction. However, the way of the Bodhisattva is something we can all aspire to – it is simply this: to ease suffering, in ourselves and in the world.
We all just want to be happy and safe, to be free from suffering. It is the one thing we have in common with every other being, the thing that motivates everything we do.
We all have the ability to ease suffering. In individual moments and in small ways, we can be of benefit. Sometimes easing suffering is a spontaneous kind act. It can be as simple as holding the door open for someone or saying hello while looking directly into their eyes. We run into these opportunities multiple times a day.
For example, the other day I was at the grocery store, and there was a woman with full cart wandering the parking lot. She had a worried look on her face and as she got closer to me, I heard a car horn beep behind me and saw that she was repeatedly clicking her keyless entry remote. I realized she couldn’t remember where her car was, and that she was clicking the remote so the car horn would go off, hoping that would help her locate it. As I passed her, I said, “I heard it go off just back there.” Her face immediately relaxed, she smiled and said, “Thank you.” It was the simplest of things, but that small kindness I offered gave her a moment of relief, calmed her anxiety, eased her suffering.
The magic of such a moment goes beyond offering respite to another, because after our interaction I felt better too. To help someone else reminds us that we are connected, that we are not alone, and that things are workable. As Ram Dass says, “we are all just walking each other home.”
When we are suffering — feeling left out, depressed or sad, lonely or lost — we can ease our situation by becoming the love that we are missing, by offering love to ourselves or others. Anytime we follow the call of love, we are walking the path of the Bodhisattva.
While there is much about practicing the way of the Bodhisattva that is easy, it also requires some measure of responsibility and wisdom. We need to be sure that we are fully prepared to help, and that we are truly helping.
It’s common to confuse the way of the Bodhisattva with being solely focused on the wellbeing of others, of serving their needs and easing their suffering, but as Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” When being kind, practicing compassion, we must remember to include ourselves in that equation. We need care, nurturing and soothing as much as anyone. And this self-care, self-love, self-compassion only serves to fuel the way of the Bodhisattva, by ensuring that we are well and strong so that we can be of benefit, putting on our own oxygen masks before we help someone else with theirs.
It’s also easy when walking the path of the Bodhisattva to fall prey to “idiot compassion.” Pema Chödrön defines it this way:
It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering. Basically, you’re not giving them what they need. You’re trying to get away from your feeling of I can’t bear to see them suffering.
Anyone who has experience with an addict or a toddler understands how this goes, how we sometimes give in to the demands of someone suffering in the moment in a way that doesn’t help at all in the long run. To give an addict drugs or money for drugs doesn’t actually ease the suffering generated by their addiction, but rather continues the cycle. In the same way, giving in to the demands of a small child who might be overwhelmed or tired or hungry, who is having a tantrum and demanding candy or a toy at the checkout line in the grocery store, doesn’t actually help them to learn to deal with their experience, and usually doesn’t address the real, underlying need. And yet, it can be so tempting in those situations to give in to the impulse of the moment and thus avoid any immediate discomfort.
Sometimes, we get confused and our actions actually end up generating suffering, and some beings can get caught up in this delusion their whole lives. When we are trying to help them, it can be hard to accept that our kindness and generosity, our genuine attempts to help may not be met with equal kindness or results. And yet, we must remember as Anaïs Nin said, “You cannot save people. You can only love them.”
I would like to invite you to join me in trying out this practice, the way of the Bodhisattva. It really is as simple as asking yourself, “Where do I see suffering?” and then, “Is there anything I can do to ease this suffering?” If you don’t think you can ease the suffering, at the very least do what you can to not generate more suffering, or as the Dalai Lama says, “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”
Place your attention on where there is suffering, and focus your effort on attempting to ease it. Try it and see if you don’t feel the tiniest bit better, if you don’t feel happier, safer. Go ahead. I dare you.
Jill Salahub is an Introvert, INFJ, Highly Sensitive Person, Scorpio, and Four on the Enneagram – in other words, a passionate mess. She’s a wholehearted practitioner of writing, yoga, meditation, and dog (she’s been rescued by three, so far). Her superpowers are generosity and gentleness, and she loves to laugh. Her mission is to ease suffering, in herself and the world. Jill writes about the tenderness and the terror, the beauty and the brutality of life, and of her efforts to keep her heart open through it all on her blog, A Thousand Shades of Gray.
A guest post by Jen Louden
When Rachel told me she was taking some time off, my first thought was a fervent “I want that, too!” I felt the strong tug of desire. I pouted a bit, and internally whined, “Why can she have a break but I can’t?”
I would love to report I immediately explored my desire with curious compassion but that would be a lie. I try not to lie, at least not in print.
Instead, I pulled a sullen caul of resignation over my soul’s eyes. Resignation is an exhausting mood based on the story the future can’t be any different than the past so why bother? It convinces us we can’t ever have what we are hungry for.
Such a dramatic mood because, of course, there are things we must do in life, things we must attend to in our businesses and families. From that reality, it’s so easy to build a prison of poor resigned me, thinking it’s the truth. When it isn’t.
It took a few days for my desire to get my attention. It was during morning meditation when I finally noticed it, said yes, made space for the longing. Cue sobbing, whole body tears. So many feelings – the yearning to play, to rest, to make art, to write a new book… Waves of anger for pushing myself so hard yet again, waves of self-judgment for not being smarter at business so I could take more time off, waves of regret for wasting time on things I didn’t really want to do… so many feelings, so many desires. Letting them all be, letting them move through me…
Ah, the beloved gift of space, of inner spaciousness.
After the feelings moved through me – as they always do when given space and attention, I dropped into the quiet spaciousness my favorite mindful question, “What do I want?” Breathed and listened, open and curious…
What bubbled to the surface is “I want to play and to create new stuff” and “I want lots of people to discover the Life Organizer book.” Ah! Here is exactly where I tend to choose resignation over following my desires – following desire means choosing. And choosing means trusting myself and saying no to certain options, both of what can be hard for me.
Resignation is how I hide from desire.
Back to meditation where I make space for not wanting to choose… for not trusting myself… for wanting trusting myself to mean everything work out perfectly (which it does not)… offering myself mercy and understanding… it’s hard to choose and that’s okay…
And then, after a bit more time being, and then a stretch and a cup of nettle tea, it’s time to actually choose. Making space for acceptance is crucial, can’t be skipped, but neither can choosing.
I pull out a tool I created – based on ideas I learned through my coaching training – I call it Conditions of Enoughness. Here are the basics:
1. Name what is enough in simple facts.
2. Include a time element or time “container.”
3. Ensure they’re dependent on ONLY YOU on an AVERAGE day.
4. Declare you are satisfied when your conditions are met – even if you don’t feel satisfied.
Here is an example from my process:
1. Name what is enough in simple facts.
I named when I would start my holiday break (December 20th- January 2nd). I named what days, and how many hours, I would work between now and then, keeping in mind my desire to play and my desire to promote the book. I got granular about what I could really do – and want to do- to promote the book. How many guest posts would I write? How many podcasts would I pitch? Simple facts.
2. Include a time element or time “container.”
December 20th-January 2nd is one time element or container, the other is the hours I will work each day. Yet another is how long I will spend writing a particular post or pitching shows. The answer varies but it is so powerful to declare it beforehand.
3. Ensure they’re dependent on ONLY YOU on an AVERAGE day.
This element is hard for me – I like to pretend I’m super human and then I get deflated because I feel like a failure for not being able to do everything on my daily list. My renewed practice is to list each day (I use ToDoist) what I can actually do on that day, not what I wish I could do, given the hours I will work and how long each item will take me.
4. Declare you are satisfied when your conditions are met – even if you don’t feel satisfied.
I say “I declare myself satisfied” out loud when I am done with an item on my list and at the end of the day before I leave my studio. I say it a lot.
Here’s what I did in a nutshell:
:: Feeling overwhelmed, resigned, or pouty? Make space for what you are feeling or desiring without identifying with it – feel your body, your feelings, hear your thoughts. Make room for it all to be there as is.
:: Ask yourself “What do I want?” or Rachel’s powerhouse of a question, “What am I hungry for?” There may be conflicting desires. That’s okay, write them all down, and let them all be guests at the feast of your life.
:: Use Conditions of Enoughness to bring your desires into reality. Yes, choosing can be hard and scary, and it is an important way to bring desires alive.
There you have it – a way out of the pout and into desire made real.
Please tell me how this land with you in the comments – eager to learn with you. And please join me and the wonderful Rachel for a freeeee class in January.
Jen Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 5 additional books on well-being and whole living, including The Life Organizer, that have inspired more than a million women in 9 languages. Jen has spoken around the world on self-care, written a national magazine column, and even sat on Oprah’s couch talking about the power of retreats. She believes self-love + world-love = wholeness for all. Visit http://JenniferLouden.comfor fab free goodies and upcoming retreat schedule.
A guest post by Marianne Elliott
When Rachel invited me to write a guest post here, I suspect she had in mind that I would be a bit like a substitute teacher – offering you my own teachings on true hungers, or something complimentary.
Instead, I’m here as a fellow student of the wise Ms. Cole.
Because here is the thing: I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation for a decade, which means I am pretty in touch with my own feelings, hungers and desires. I know what I need. But until I spent a day at a Retreatshop with Rachel this fall, I didn’t see clearly how (and why) I was sabotaging my own nourishment.
What Rachel said that day – and what I’ve been reflecting and acting on ever since – was:
The way we meet and treat our own hungers sets up the pattern and norm for how we allow ourselves to be treated by others.
My ability to make clear requests of the people in my life begins with, and depends on, how I am in relationship with myself.
Can I be in open communication with my own hungers? Can I say to myself ‘What I want and need right now is [rest or touch or space or play or whatever else I might need]’ and not judge my own hunger? Nor freak out about how that hunger will be fed? Can I simply and clearly acknowledge and take ownership of what it is I want and need?
Because – as Rachel made clear to me that day – my ability to be open, kind and easy with my own hungers is a pre-requisite for things being open, kind and easy in my relationships.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate.
In August this year I went on holiday in Italy with my sweetheart. We hadn’t seen each other for nearly three months. I’d been on book tour in the US and Canada, while he had been holding down the fort at home.
We had planned our holiday long before we knew that we would be apart so long, and had chosen a boutique walking (and eating) tour of Italy with a small group led by some friends of ours. There were 15 people in our group. Every night the hosts invited everyone to join them for dinner, and also made recommendations of other places to eat for anyone who wanted time apart from the group.
Every night of our tour, my extroverted and sociable lover wanted to eat with the group.
I, on the other hand, wanted very much to have at least some of our meals alone. We hadn’t had any time together for several months, and it was hard for me to feel deeply connected to him when we were always with the larger group. Plus, being with so many other people all the time exhausted me.
BUT I wasn’t okay with my own need. I assessed it, judged it to be selfish, and felt uncomfortable ‘imposing’ it on my love. So instead of making a clear and simple request to have my need met, I tried to make him want what I wanted.
‘But don’t you want to have some time just with me?’ I asked.
And when the answer was no, instead of being clear that this was my hunger and I could ask to have it met, I took it personally that he didn’t want the same thing as me.
It was, to say the least, not fun for either of us.
A month later, sitting at Rachel’s parents’ dining room table, I had an epiphany. In order to have my hungers met in my relationship, I need to first make peace with my hungers. And learn to feed my own hungers where I can.
Only then can I make clean, clear requests of the people I love. Even more importantly, when their answer is no, as it inevitably sometimes will be, I can be reassured by the knowledge I can take care of my hungers myself.
Marianne is a writer, human rights advocate and yoga teacher. She’s the author of Zen Under Fire, a memoir about her time working for the UN in Afghanistan. She created the 30 Days of Yoga online program to help people get started with a regular home yoga practice. Marianne lives and writes in a converted wooden church on a hill overlooking the ocean in New Zealand.
A guest post by Vivienne McMaster.
What am I truly hungry for?
Rachel’s question has deeply permeated my year. At first I really didn’t know.
But that question stuck with me. I’d notice in the places where I felt lonely or sad. I saw it in the
spaces where something amazing was happening but I still felt an emptiness inside. Or when I
knew I was feeding myself with aspects of life that weren’t nourishing me, and was hungry for
It was always at the back of my mind ever since I first came across her work.
So when I had the chance to sign up for two workshops led by Rachel this year, I knew I’d find
my way to that answer, to give voice to that hunger I couldn’t quite yet name.
I wondered, is it only me that is having trouble naming my hunger? Or is that something so
many of us experience as we are so not used to naming or claiming such truths?
I wanted to find out.
At the first workshop I attended, Rachel led us through writing activities and a hunger came
through loud and clear. Love & Connection.
I felt it in my gut and that knot in my throat that appeared when I said it. And the tears (the tears
tell so much).
I scribbled all these realizations and notes into my red notebook, cried when I realized all the
places I was not just hungry but truly starving for love and connection, yet not feeding myself. I
also noticed the places where I was deeply well fed, so nourished.
But as soon as the workshop was done, I tucked that book away. Literally & metaphorically.
I tucked those realizations away, knowing they were life-changers for me but the idea of stepping
into that change was a bit too much for the moment to hold.
In a way, I feel like Rachel’s work is like my favourite kind of book. The ones that are so potent,
so powerful and life-changing that sometimes you read one line or one paragraph or have one
realization that just gets you so deeply that you have to pause and put down the book for a while
and let that one paragraph that said it all settled in.
That is exactly the place I was in, between the first and second workshops.
I totally acknowledging what I had learned in the Retreatshop but the truth of my true hungers
were a bit tender to listen to so sometimes I confess, I quieted them. I have a feeling I’m not alone in that, in keeping our true hungers quiet.
Then I arrived at Green Gulch for the Wise Bodies, Wise Hungers Retreat that Rachel & Anna
Guest-Jelley led and it was time for me to open up that book of learning to open back up and for
me to dig into that next paragraph.
The one that digs deeper.
The one that says it in a different way.
The one underneath, that is even more vulnerable to say.
That is what happened there, as I sat in the circle at the beautiful community room at the Wise
Bodies, Wise Hungers Retreat.
I lifted up that hunger for Love that I proclaimed in the Retreatshop, I saw what I was now finally
ready to see.
What perhaps I needed those months in between to become ready for, to listen to it and not get
scared again of my hungers and what acknowledging them might change.
Underneath my initial hunger for love I found something else.
I was hungry for feeling worthy of love.
My true hunger being love still felt like something I could keep at arms length, that perhaps I still
needed to do a few things to ‘better myself’ to be ready of meeting that hunger.
But this hunger for worthiness was unavoidable.
It was clear.
It also is so reflected back in the work I do with my Be Your Own Beloved classes, helping
people see themselves with kindness through their cameras. Claiming worthiness is such a big
part of that process of stepping into the frame and taking a self-portrait.
I teach people to claim their worthiness, but could I claim my own?
The question still permeates my days lately. What am I truly hungry for?
Only now I’m ready to listen.
Vivienne McMaster is a Vancouver photographer and workshop leader who helps folks around
the world see themselves with compassion through their own camera lens. She discovered her love of photography in her late 20’s while in a rough patch in her life and is now on a mission share the possibility of self-portraiture as a tool for cultivating selflove. You can get to know Vivienne more over at her website: www.beyourownbeloved.com