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
All month long I’m featuring other wise women sharing about their well-fed lives.
Today’s post comes from the wild and brilliant Julie Daley.
My well-fed life moves and flows with the erotic: the impulse, the beat, and the breath of life. The erotic is what spring does to cherry trees, as Pablo Neruda wrote of, or ‘the force that through the green fuse drives the flower’ that Dylan Thomas wrote about so beautifully. It’s what is at the heart of creation, the urge to bring forth something new into being.
For me, being well fed is the lived experience where the numinous meets matter; spirit becomes human, and life dances in this woman’s body. Well fed happens when I am in a healthy, open, trusting relationship with life. It’s not always that way, but it’s more often that way now in my life that it ever has been in the past. It’s taken me years to come to trust life; years of a lot of deep healing work, personal growth courses, and traveling to different parts of the world where things are completely different than what I had experienced; years of guiding others to do the same; and, years of raising children, and now being a grandchildren to four beautiful souls. It doesn’t have to take these things. These are simply what have brought me to this profoundly humbling relationship with life. Life brings you exactly what it takes to wake you up to trusting life, to giving yourself to life, to living life as this vital creative force.
Consider this beautiful banana flower, above. It is completely erotic… to look at, to touch, and to smell. The cells of this blossom are full of life force. I took this picture while at a ten-day camp on Molokai. Each day a group of us worked around the grounds of this retreat site, doing jobs such as planting native plants, painting and staining, working in the organic garden, tending the orchard, and taking care of the cottages.
Each morning, I walked the orchard picking up fruit the trees had released. As I walked past each one, I would check for any fruit that looked ripe, and then give each one a little pull to see if the tree would let go. While each fruit appeared to be completely ripe, pulled down toward the earth by the weight of its flesh, the tree didn’t necessarily let go. The tree knew when the time was right and ripe. And, even when the tree hadn’t let go, sometimes the fruit would drop overnight due to heavy winds blowing through the orchard. Sometimes it would be the tree itself, and sometimes it would be life outside of the tree causing the fruit to drop.
As I noticed this, I could see the correlation in my life. I, too, am this fruit tree. I, too, am in a continual cycle of creation and creativity. All of nature is conspiring to aid me in coming to fruition. Sometimes I feel like I am ready, and I might even push to try to make things happen. Yet, just like the tree, when the fruit is not ready, it doesn’t fall. And sometimes, other forces in my life, like the overnight winds, come to bear on my creations, causing them to come forth when I don’t expect it.
What I’ve come to see is that I am fed and nourished by deep gravity; by how it feels to be here fully, leaning in to life. When I soften and exhale, and really allow the earth to hold me, I can feel the green fuse moving through me, I can feel spring doing to me what it does to cherry trees.
For me, this is what feeds me. Everything flows from this relationship to life and the earth. And, from this relationship with life, all other relationships flow. When I am not relating to life, I am not relating to myself, nor can I relate to others.
Hungering and thirsting are visceral feelings for the body. And in a similar way, they are for the soul. In the past, one of the ways I avoided being here, was to nourish myself with transcendence, with a kind of fullness that is also empty. It worked for a while, but then I could feel a kind of sadness and grief in my soul. Something was calling me to come more deeply into life, into the here and now. This takes vulnerability. This has been the hardest part of my journey, trusting that as I age, deep gravity is pulling me closer and closer to the earth, to a sensual relationship with life that exposes the sweetest nectar and most succulent flesh.
Life is erotic by nature. So are we. I know I am Eros embodied. The very same force that pulses through everything, including this beautiful banana blossom, pulses through me. That pulse is impulse. It is hunger for touch and a thirst for beauty. Sometimes, it is a raging river, and other times it slows to a trickle.
It can sound esoteric, and on one level it is, yet it is also very practical. In real life, it is Being in motion, where what I am continually creates itself over and over to feed the hunger of the soul to know itself anew.
This is creativity.
This is wholeness.
This is feeding Self with our own sustenance.
Nothing will ever be as nourishing, or as satisfying, as this.
A dancer at heart, Julie Daley would love nothing more than to live her life and do her work from the dance floor. Ten years in the practice of 5Rhythms has opened her to the joy and wildness that is at the heart of women’s creativity. A writer, teacher, coach, and yes, dancer, Julie savors life playing with her wee grandchildren & serving the women and men who are called to work with her. Julie is happiest when she is breathing through her feet.
Rachel’s Note: Julie takes the MOST amazing photographs of flowers. Follower her on Instagram @juliedaley
All month long I’m featuring other wise women sharing about their well-fed lives.
Today’s post comes from the solid and savvy Mara Glatzel.
There was never anything overtly wrong with my life.
I had a pretty face. I got a couple of fancy degrees. I drove a new car. I had a dream-like wedding to someone wonderful.
I could have been happy in that life – with my credit cards paid off in full every month, and commute to work with to-go cups of coffee and light road rage. I was the kind of little kid who dreamed about the “real jobs” that “real people” had.
I came from a family of artists and writers, and all I wanted was a 401K.
During this time my body was my ultimate project, and eating to shove down any acceptable feeling was my ultimate self-love tool.
As much as I loathed the skin I was in, working on it made me feel like I was doing something. I lost and gained weight, with purpose.
All the while, when I said I hated my body, it was because I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe the incredible boredom I experienced living my life as though it was a series of events happening to me. I didn’t have the words to describe my deep hunger for being lit up from the inside out.
I knew how to say, “I feel fat.”
I did not know how to say, “I want a huge, exciting, and adventurous life, filled with friends, hot romance, and big words.” Whenever I thought about that yearning, it was as if it was blacked out like the sensitive information in a classified document. As if, preoccupied by my fear about whether or not I was deserving of that kind of a life, I didn’t have the security clearance to access my hungers.
Until, bubbling up out of my deep craving: I want to feel really good.
I was lying in bed in a hotel room in Vermont at 6 am looking at the ceiling. I had been crying for four days straight. I was supposed to be relaxing, but, instead, I had been fighting with myself about getting a job.
I asked myself: If this is the last year of your life – do you really want to look for a social work job?
Ok. Then what?
In that moment, I realized that I had never truly asked myself what I wanted to do next.
Up until that point, I had allowed my life to pick me, wandering around from opportunity to opportunity fairly happy, but without any intention about the life I was creating for myself. My life was good, but it wasn’t mine, persay. It was the kind of life that you get when you have pretty good luck, but never actively engage.
I want to make my own schedule.
I want to work for myself. I want to build beautiful things. I want to feel inspired. I want to make a habit out of expanding my threshold for experiencing joy. I want to help people. I want to help myself. I want to feel like my life is mine.
You just paid $120,000 for your education. You have to become a social worker.
In that moment, I realized that there are very few things in your life that you actually have to do. I started crying, but this time with tears of relief.
My well-fed life is built upon a foundation of radical self-responsibility.
For a long time, I thought that my important work was improving my body image. I spent my time writing about it, thinking about it constantly. But, that was one half of the story.
The other half was quietly repairing the undercurrent of boredom – the deep yearning that I hadn’t really had the words to describe. It was the work of cultivating a relationship with myself.
It took one choice: if this is the last year of my life, I want to feel good.
Then, the floodgates opened. I wanted to choose everything.
Short socks instead of tall socks. Hot coffee, even in the summer. Horizontal stripes, always. Time to pray. Time to read. Sweating over stretching. Sleeping late without guilt. Time alone.
My well-fed life is a series of well intentioned choices, and a relaxed relationship with outcome. Experimental.
My well-fed life is fueled by doing what I say that I’m going to do. Showing up. Dressing up. Talking fast and embracing my love of idioms.
My well-fed life is filled with active decisions, carefully curated experiences, and replacing that undercurrent of boredom with one of languid joy seeking. It is brimming with intuitive hits, and no thank you, I’ve got a really important date to keep – with myself conversations.
Now, when I imagine how I truly want to live my life, I imagine a dinner party at dusk on a warm day. Underneath the sparkling lights in a lush garden, there is a long table with many seats, each seat occupied by someone that I love with my whole heart. In the dream, I’m having a fantastic time at the party – laughing deeply in my belly and feeling lit up from somewhere deep in my core.
Everywhere I look things are growing and sparkling and cozy in their place.
Each seat is occupied by one of my many parts. Each part feels welcome and loved.
Mara Glatzel is a life-coach and the creator of the Body Loving Homework E-Course. She works with brave women looking to chase what lights them up, and cultivate deeply satisfying lives. In creating this sacred space for women to thrive, she’s bringing a masters in clinical social work, her spot-on intuition, and the lessons picked up along the way as she built a relationship with herself grounded in self-trust. Catch up with her on facebook, twitter, or join her body-loving mailing list for secret swapping and insider news.
All month long I’m featuring other wise women sharing about their well-fed lives.
Today’s post comes from my fabulous writing teacher Laurie Wagner.
A couple of weeks ago, David Bowie put out a new record, which is a big deal in the music industry. The man is 66-years-old, a legend, a huge rock star. I’d heard an interview with a member of his band a few days before the record launched, and the interviewer asked, “What earlier record is this new one like?” I found myself hoping he’d say The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust or Hunky Dory – two of my favorite Bowie records from the 70’s. But this band member only said that it was the best record Bowie had ever made.
So when the album came out on iTunes this week, I checked it out, hoping to hear songs that would take me back to 1976 and tanning by the pool in Palm Springs with my friend Marcie. Those were some days. I was 16 years old, had long brown hair, and wore bikinis. Boys liked me and I loved music; a doorway into a rich place full of feelings that I couldn’t yet articulate, but which I knew promised me access to a deeper part of myself.
But when I listened to this new album, I didn’t hear anything resembling the Bowie I had loved. Instead I heard the crooning stuff he’s been putting out in the last few years – not my cup of tea.
Here’s the thing: I don’t know what Bowie was thinking when he put out the record, but his band mate told the interviewer that Bowie makes the kind of music that’s coming through him.
I didn’t get the Bowie album I wanted – but if what his band mate said is true, and Bowie responded to the music coming through him, then Bowie made the best album ever, because as a creative person, hearing and responding to your own music is everything to your deeper success and ultimate joy, and the only way to do anything authentic and sustaining.
Hungry For the Sound of My Own Music
Of course, I’m not just talking about music – I’m talking about all the juicy juju that comes through us when we follow our instinct and imagination: ideas for projects, colors we’re drawn to, clothes we want to wear, friends we suddenly want to be in touch with. It has a lot to do with saying yes to ourselves, yes to what’s moving through us.
We train for this at the Wild Writing table, where our job is simply to be a channel for the words that are coming through us: bad words, silly words, potty-mouth words, words that don’t make sense, words that we’ve never spoken before. I invite the women I work with not to reject a word or thought that is presented to them, not to try and find a “better” thought or a “better” word. If they do, I tell them, their writing will go south. When we write or make art, we’re in partnership with the creative unconscious, and if we ask for its help but reject what is offered, it stops working for us.
If we follow our desire, our instincts, what we hear, what we’re hungry for, our whole earthly vibration rises. We might actually hear ourselves humming. That’s the music inside of us getting louder. That’s us tuning into our own unique and glorious frequency. The only thing we have to do is start listening and be brave enough to act on what we hear.
And here’s the icing on the cake – when we’re walking around the planet vibrating as the creative animals that we are, more people, more ideas, projects and opportunities will come to us because we’re easier to spot. The best way for people and ideas to find us is when we’re lit up. And we light ourselves up by following what moves us, what brings us joy.
Creativity chooses us, but we have to be listening for it. When I look at anything I’ve created, it’s all rooted in what I love – not what I think other people will love.
And so I have to think that’s what Bowie did when he was making his latest album – and why he’s still making music – 83 albums and 44 years later. I don’t have to love it. What matters is that Bowie can still hear the sound of his own music. Lucky, lucky Bowie.
Laurie Wagner is a writer, creative writing coach, author of 7 published books and numerous magazine articles, creator of the 27 powers Traveling Writers series, Wild Writing classes, Telling True Stories ecourse and the new digital daily drip 27 Days: Writing Prompts to Grow Your Powers. She lives in the Bay Area and can be found at www.27powers.org