Posted October 21, 2013
Imagine there’s a knock at your door right now.
You go and answer it.
It’s your mother.
How do you react? Not how should you react, but how would you really react?
Now imagine that happening all over except instead of your mother it’s your ex-lover.
How do you react? Feel it. What is your knee-jerk reaction?
Now imagine it again, instead of your ex-lover, it’s a policewoman.
How do you react? Really. What would your first reaction be?
Now do it again.
You walk over and it’s a singing telegram with balloons, flowers, and a box of chocolates.
How do you react?
I’m utterly fascinated with the moments of contact with our hungers.
There is so much to learn about what happens when one of our hungers knocks on the door and we answer it. Or maybe we don’t. Maybe we peer through the keyhole and decide to remain silent and still. Hoping it thinks we’re not home and goes away.
Maybe we answer and with tears of joy pick up the hunger and spin it around in our arms as though Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes has just bestowed a windfall upon us.
Or we might open the door but as soon as our hunger speaks we plug our ears and say “Lalalalalalalala” in attempt not hear what it has to say.
It could be as simple as opening and shutting the door, with a quick ‘no thank you’ in between.
I offer you this meditative inquiry:
Posted October 7, 2013
This is a pali word that means empathetic joy. It is the happiness that comes from another’s happiness.
I think of mudita as the opposite of jealousy.
My meditation teacher, James Baraz, introduced the concept to me many years ago and it’s stayed with me as a powerful spiritual beacon.
In 2009 my sister got married and I spoke of mudita in my toast to the couple.
When it came to my sister’s marriage, mudita was an easy quality to cultivate. I was so genuinely joyful in response to her joy that it felt like breathing.
In Buddhism there are four “sublime attitudes” that, through spiritual practice, we cultivate: loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy (or mudita), and equanimity. It’s said that mudita is the most challenging of these “attitudes” to call forth.
I can attest to this. When it comes to situations outside of my sister’s marriage, this is where the rubber of the spiritual practice hits the road. Perhaps you can relate?
The other night I was scrolling through my Instagram feed. I like to do this before bed – catching up on the joys of people I care about and enjoying the day’s beauty from my favorite iphoneographers.
I ended up stumbling into a place I call ‘triggeredville.” Have you been?
There I was. Scrolling through the photos from a colleague of mine and her life seemed so perfect.
She sported gorgeous designer clothing. Her business appeared abundantly successful. Her marriage loving and harmonious. Her being: radiant and glowing.
I felt jealous. Not happy for her. Jealous and with a pit in my stomach. Taking a quick measurement–my life came up short.
The pit in my stomach was still there when I woke up the next day.
I named it. It was clear. I was triggered and jealous.
And it was an opportunity to practice cultivating mudita.
I chose to practice not because it’s easy. It’s not.
I chose to practice because my jealousy was based in illusions. The illusion that she has something I don’t or can’t. The illusion that there isn’t enough to go around. The illusion that she and I are separate…other from each other. The illusion that I am not enough. The illusion that my own hungers can’t be satiated. The illusion that her life was charmed and pain-free.
I chose to practice because I seek to live a life as awake from these illusion as possible.
I know these illusions create a separateness between myself and life and that separateness is a source of great suffering.
So I practiced.
I sat in witness of my thoughts. Noticing the spinning and the burning fire of comparison.
I sat in witness of my body’s reactivity.
I sat in witness of the stories that “she has it all (and therefore I don’t)” and “I’m not enough, because I don’t have…”
I invited in empathy, the ability to feel the experience of another. In this case: joy.
and even pain, as she, like of all of us, is not immune.
I empathized with her. Knowing her joy is my joy. Her pain is my pain. She is part of me. I am part of her.
I found pockets of life to practice. I stayed attuned to the physical sensations of jealousy.
I practiced not judging the jealousy, as it’s as human as a skin rash, but instead I chose to call forth a different state of being.
Mudita. Empathetic joy. Seeing clearly that your joy is my joy, your pain is my pain, and Instagram has a less than natural rosy hue.
Posted September 24, 2013
I keep a P.O. box for my business. It’s for my basic safety and peace of mind, as I’m required to include an address in the footer of all my newsletters which go out to thousands of people. Not all of whom I’d want an unexpected visit from.
Of course, I’m not talking about you.
You should come over for tea.
Where was I. Right. I swung by the post office earlier this week and discovered a letter that I have to share with you.
Dear Sweet Rachel,
It was exactly one year ago that you and I had a one-on-one. You may or may not remember that you presented me with a challenge. The challenge was to not weigh myself for one year. I remember at the time being overwhelmed with the challenge, especially given that I had purchased a scale several weeks before our chat. But after our call I made the decision to trust the process and stay away from weighing myself. So here we are, a year later, and to date I haven’t stepped on the scale. I just wanted to thank you – this past year has been quite the journey and I’ve just barely begun. I am grateful for you, your dedication to the work that God has designed you for!
Teary, standing by P.O. box 3433. Wow.
I was and am moved and honored and awed.
It’s events like this that reinvigorate me and rekindle my fire for calling women forth into Well-Fed living.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: what we weigh is useless information. It tells us nothing of value. Just about everything worth knowing comes from inside of us. Knowing our weight is rarely ever about well-being. We step on the scale to measure our worth, to gauge how out of control we are (or feel) in our lives, and to help us make decisions we’re afraid to let our bodies make.
If you didn’t know what you weighed, what would happen? How would you know when to eat and when to stop eating? How would you know when to move your body and when to rest? How would you know if you were enough or too much?
You would listen. Ear to yourself and you’d hear “Feast. Rest. Trust.”
You would listen. Ear to your heart and you’d hear “You are enough, never more, never less.”
The scale takes you away from yourself. Giving it up brings you home.
If you’re ready to come home, but crave some support and someone to walk a while with you on the path, get in touch. I have a few spaces open in my coaching practice and always offer one-off sessions, like I did with this letter writer, to get you started.
I’d love to see just how free, embodied, and well-fed you could be.
Posted September 11, 2013
I remember studying for the SAT and getting particularly hung up on verbal analogy questions. For those of you who live outside of the States, the SAT is a test many high school students take before applying to colleges. The better your score, generally speaking, the better the school you can gain admission to.
Verbal analogy questions look something like this:
CRUMB : BREAD ::
(A) ounce : unit
(B) splinter : wood
(C) water : bucket
(D) twine : rope
(E) cream : butter
The goal is to determine which of the multiple choice answers is analogous to the relationship between the two items that are in all capital letters (CRUMB & BREAD).
You have to ask yourself, what is the relationship between CRUMB and BREAD?
The answer of course is that a CRUMB is a small piece of BREAD. You then remove CRUMB and BREAD from that sentence and see which of the answers fit.
______is a small piece of _______.
The answer, as you may have guessed is B: splinter: wood.
What does this have to do with being a Well-Fed Woman?
Literally everything I teach is about relationships. How we relate to ourselves. How we relate to food. How we relate to our bodies. How we relate to pleasure. How we relate to hunger and desire. How we relate to discomfort.
It’s all relationships. Relationships precede action. Relationships determine actions.
The moment of contact between two things determines everything that happens next. Do they bounce off each other? Do they embrace? Do they nuzzle up side to side? Do they say yes to each other? or no?
If you desire a better relationship with anything, make sure you’re viewing it as a relationship.
If you desire a better relationship with anything, slow it all down and see what’s happening at the point of contact.
Try it for yourself. Pick one of the following options to create your own mock SAT question:
I: MY HUNGERS
Now pick the option below that’s most analogous:
(A) Harry Potter:Voldemort
(B) Bert: Ernie
(C) Cold War Russia: Cold War USA
(D) Bunny’s Mother:Runaway Bunny
(B) The English Language:Gibberish
(C) Fred Astair:Ginger Rogers
(D) White Spy:Black Spy (from Spy v. Spy)
(G) Switzerland: Non-Swiss Conflicts
(H) Treasure Hunter: Treasure Map
(I) Two Peas: Pod
This might seem like a silly exercise. It kind of is.
Though in all seriousness, the relationship we have to ourselves (and to our hungers, our pleasure, our bodies, etc.) is such a powerful determinant of how fulfilling our lives will be.
Relationships are dynamic, they don’t remain in one stagnant form. If you’re wanting a better relationship with yourself, or any of these things I’ve mentioned, you can live your way into that better relationship.
Start with how you greet yourself in the morning. Is it kind?
Start with the tone in your voice when you talk to yourself. Is it warm?
Start with saying “yes, my love” when your body requests rest. It generally knows what’s best for us.
Start with prolonging any activity that gives you deep pleasure. Pleasure is a sign we’re on the right track.
Start with speaking up for yourself…yourself who is your friend.
If you want a better relationship, start by viewing it as a relationship to begin with, then be inside of that relationship in a harmonious and kind way.
And here’s the kicker: our relationship with ourselves, determines our relationship with others.
Yes, we tend to be kinder to others when we are kind to ourselves, but perhaps more importantly, abuse from others becomes intollerable when we are not in an abusive relationship with ourselves.
If you see the picture above, the one with the plug and socket, you’ll see a perfect analogy for what I’m getting at.
Our relationship with ourselves molds our “socket” and only plugs that fit can plug in. (Ever tried to plug an American plug into a German socket? Take my word for it, doesn’t work)
Because I’m in a loving relationship with myself, anyone who might seek to relate to me as anything less simply doesn’t fit. It doesn’t compute. I’ve created the mold.
I talk to a lot of women who doubt their lovability. I used to be one of those women. In fact, I didn’t just doubt my lovability, I outright believed that I wasn’t lovable. Overtime, though, I decided to love myself and my own “socket” changed shape. Overtime, I came into relationship with myself the way I wanted others to relate to me.
What kind of relationships are you in?
Posted August 13, 2013
In a few weeks I’ll be embarking on my second Ease Hunting journey.
I love Ease Hunting because the experience guides me, and those along for the ride, to ways of being more at home in my life, just as it is right now.
The experience – the lessons, the practices, shared conversations, and new ways of seeing – leaves me feeling and living better, without asking me to do a life makeover.
It’s quite beautiful and I for one am so very ready.
As the leader of Ease Hunting you might think that I live in a constant zen state. (Chuckles to self). Not so. I’m like everyone. Practicing the best to ride life’s waves.
Lately, say for the past week or so, I have been depressed.
This is something I experience maybe twice a year and yet when it comes around I’m always taken by surprise.
The symptoms are fairly classic and can be summed up as a “fog of meh.” Can you relate?
Initially I fought it, like we tend to do. Anxious about the book proposal I’ve committed to writing. Worried that my lack of spark would hurt my business. Wondering how with a life as rich as mine I could feel anything but elation.
No surprise, just like a Chinese finger trap, fighting it did not work.
So for the past few days I’ve been taking a page from my own Ease Hunting playbook and surrendering. It’s not effortless, but I know it’s the direction of ease.
This kind of surrender doesn’t have me throwing in the towel and watching Project Runway all day. Though that has it’s place in my funk for sure.
This kind of surrender, aimed at bringing me real ease, is about gentleness, self-compassion, and moving slowly but with curiosity. This kind of surrender is about hot baths (San Francisco is chilly this time of year), allowing my body to melt on my yoga mat, and telling the truth. I learned long ago that wearing masks always rob of us ease.
Sure, I’d prefer to be feeling a bit more zestful, but I have found a certain kind flow even here, just by allowing myself to be and paying attention. In fact, I can have all the preferences I want about my life, but they are just that, preferences.
The “fog of meh” is loosening its grip slowly. I’m able to be with my clients in a soft, present, and even, powerful way because of how I’m being with myself. I’m finding pleasure in the kitchen. I’m savoring the August Break.
Wherever you are today, perhaps on your beach vacation, or scrambling to get your kids ready to head back to school, I want you to know, even if you don’t have the summer blues, that you’re not alone and that life doesn’t have to change for you to feel more at home in it.
If you’d like to go deeper into discovering ease in your life. I hope you’ll join me. I have so much to share and would love to walk the path with you.
Shall we exhale together right now?
1 – 2 – 3.
Posted July 31, 2013
Last week I went for a walk in Golden Gate Park, something I’ve really been enjoying lately.
It was around 4 o’clock when I was winding down and noticed that I was hungry.
I had big dinner plans at 6 the kind you want to show up to ready to eat heartily, but I was hungry at 4.
This was not convenient and it got me thinking about the inconvenience of hunger.
Whether for food, play, freedom, rest, or relationship – our hungers don’t care about what we’re doing or what our grand plan is for life. Our hungers almost always have a new plan for us.
Here were my options: deny my pre-dinner grumblings and be gnawed at and cranky – or – eat something, potentially taking away some of my precious appetite for dinner.
I could resist or I could surrender. In fact, I could choose either option with the energy of resistance or the energy of surrender. The color of my experience depended on my attitude.
So I ate. It wasn’t part of the perfect master plan, but it was my body’s plan. My body and I have a pretty good thing going, so I do my best to heed it’s call.
In my work I often see my clients resisting their true hungers because they aren’t convenient. To feed them would disrupt the status quo. To feast would mean taking off the mask, or being more vulnerable in relationship, or leaving the secure job, or not meeting the deadline. It would mean change and change brings the unknown.
Here’s the thing though: our hungers aren’t here for our convenience. They are here to tell us what is most needed now for our body, heart, and spirit’s well-being.
This is also the difference between easy and ease. It’s easy to keep doing what we’re doing. It’s easy not to ruffle feathers.
But it’s ease that we’re given when we’re deeply fed. It’s ease that we feel when we stop resisting what’s calling us – be that an afternoon snack or to pick up a paintbrush.
Do you have an inconvenient hunger?
Where are you choosing easy over ease?
Has there been a time when your hunger’s plan was better than your own?
Posted May 8, 2013
These days pinterest abounds with images of softly lit, sunrise horizons with “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” emblazoned across a mountainside. Or perhaps it’s a glistening ocean behind text that says “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
I believe life begins INSIDE of our comfort zones and only when we feel safe enough to stretch out does life (and our comfort zone) expand.
I am simply a huge fan of everyone feeling safe and I think safety has become linked up with weakness.
However, I have seen how safety allows us to blossom.
I believe that feeling safe is a prerequisite for connection, learning, relationship, growth, and for feeding our hungers.
The only time I have ever been able to heal or grow is when I first felt safe.
The only times I’ve been able to hear my own hungers calling for me is when I created a safe space for them.
The only times when I’ve been able to ask another to feed me is when I feel safe with them.
It’s true that we often want or need to do things that aren’t safe or don’t feel safe.
Taking the stage. Quitting the job. Asking someone out on a date. Trying something new and unknown.
It’s my experience though, that we have to feel a level of safety first.
It’s also my experience that women tolerate lives, situations, and relationships in which they are not safe to be who they are, want what they want, and say what they think and feel. This needs to change.
Needing safety does not a weak woman make.
It’s okay to value safety. In fact, it’s imperative.
It’s okay to ask someone to create a safer space for you. It’s okay to remove yourself when you don’t feel safe.
When we feel safe enough, we can sail away from the harbor.
I’ll leave you with a few questions for us to ponder:
Where in my life don’t I feel safe?
What factors create a sense of safety for me?
What would change if I felt a greater level of safety to be who I am, want what I want, and say what I think and feel?
Who don’t I feel safe around?
Who could I offer more safety to?
How could I offer myself more safety from which I could try new things?
Where am I pushing myself too far outside of my safety zone?
May we all be safe so we can soar.
Posted May 4, 2013
I took April off of work.
I went to meet my nephew in Germany and on April 17th, 36 hours after my pain landed back on U.S. soil, I had my tonsils removed. No surprise, it’s been painful to talk.
During the recovery I learned to communicate with made up hand signs, scribbles on paper, and flash cards I’d prepared that said things like “Pain!” and “Thank you!”
Now May has rolled around, the pain has faded and speaking has becoming more effortless.
Eating with abandon has come back too. Hallelujah!
But my life isn’t just about speaking to my loved ones or being able to talk to the check out clerk at the grocery store.
I teach. I write. I communicate as part of my sacred vocation.
Being away last month and getting out of practice ‘speaking’ to you has left me feeling rusty. I could hear that all too common voice that says “What do you have to say that’s original? Look, there are all these other people saying the same thing as you. What makes you think anyone wants to hear your version? No one even noticed you were gone.”
In my experience, most of us know what this is like, even if we don’t have a blog and or teach in a classroom.
It’s simply not always easy to feel into the importance or worthiness of our voice.
Here is the perspective I use respond to these questioning voices:
I’ve read just about every book there is on the topic of eating disorders and making peace with our body and food. Seriously. I have.
Many of them say the same things and yet, for no logical or specific reason, only a few have really spoken to me. It’s not that they were better written, it’s simply that I needed to hear the information from one author and could not from another.
Have you had this experience? Two books that say the same thing and only one speaks to you?
Or a friend raves about a book that changed her life but it falls flat for you.
Perhaps there is a blogger out there that ‘everyone’ raves about but who’s voice does not connect with you.
Maybe you’ve had a group of people in your life each give you the same advice, but it was one single person who was able to get through to you.
It’s not logical and I don’t need to understand why this is the way things are.
I simply know that each voice matters and that my voice is the voice that will connect with someone out there when others do not.
This is true for your voice too. Whether it’s a book you want to write, a speech you want to give, or a truth you want to share with your best friend – it matters that YOU share it.
Your voice is like your thumbprint. It has a uniqueness that no one can match and it has the power to carry healing, change, and beauty into a world that needs these them.
Our voice won’t be heard by all. It won’t even be received positively all the time. It will rarely, if ever, be perfect.
I simply ask myself, what if Geneen Roth had never written Women, Food, & God because she thought that most of the content had already been written about by others? What if Brene Brown didn’t give her initial TedX talk because she thought to herself “Would anyone care if I didn’t show up?”
This perspective is what allows me to, often without finesse, begin to speak, teach, and write again. This is what allows me to hush those fearful voices. I have a deep faith that some people need to hear the wisdom I share from my voice in order for it to have an impact.
I have faith the same is true for you.
Posted May 3, 2013
Our hungers are an eternal spring of wisdom and answers.
I wish I’d known this when I was younger, it would have saved me so much strife and anguish.
If I had known, I wouldn’t have have pursued answers, fruitlessly I might add, in so many places outside of myself.
If I had known that the well of wisdom was ceaseless and within myself I would not have sought to silence it.
It, this eternal spring, asked for simple things from me. It asked for human embrace. It asked for carbs – bread, pasta, and the like. It asked for permission to simply be. to be heard. to be listened to.
My spring of hungers asked for rest. and play. My spring of hungers said “Let our body be! Let it be soft. Let our body be whatever it wants to be.”
My spring of hunger said “Let others love us” and “Let’s love us.”
And it was the courageous act of yielding, of listening, of honoring that I allowed me to live my way into a very well-fed woman.
The path has not been linear. Going from relating to my hungers as enemies to being in deep communion with them has been a practice. It has, at times, been moment to moment and day by day. But over time it has become second nature.
This Way of The Well-Fed Woman, as I call it, has liberated me and over the past several years I’ve been lucky enough to witness it do the same for so many others.
I want this for every hungry woman out there. I want so much to live in a world where women trust their hungers, no matter how big they are or and live lives created from this guidance within.
In the spring 2004 I attended a large women’s reproductive rights march in Washington, DC. As we gathered, plackets in hand, Hillary Clinton on the microphone, I overheard a conversation between a few women who were standing next to me.
One woman said “What do you want to do for lunch?” The other replied “Oh, I’m skipping lunch this week. I’ve been so bad and need to slim down.” To which her replied with a chipper “Oh, okay!”
The only part of this story that has to do with food is that our relationship with food mirrors our relationship with all of our hungers.
Instead of her hunger for lunch, this woman could have just as easily been ignoring her hunger for creativity, or touch, or adventure. This is what so many of us do and I’m not here to claim that feeding ourselves is easy. Well, it’s not easy at first.
Aftercall, how do hear what we’re hungry for?
How do we know if what we’re hearing is our “true” hunger?
And once we hear it, what we do? How do we actually take a hunger, especially the big ones, and feed it?
I teach the answers to these questions. I equip hungry women with the tools, frameworks, practices, and love that it takes to live the Way of The Well-Fed Woman.
Someone asked me recently, “What does ‘being well-fed’ mean?” Kind of like when you say a word ten times fast it starts to sound funny. I say “well-fed” a whole lot and I totally get if it starts to sound like mumbo jumbo.
If this metaphor has felt elusive for you, perhaps my words here today have shed some clarity.
Being well-fed means believing 1) that your hungers are wise and serve as a compass pointing to what is needed now for you to be most fulfilled, 2) you are worthy of having your hungers fed, 3)that when you are well-fed you can be engaged in and most of service to the world, and 4) that a world full of well-fed people, especially women, would be a radically better place than the one we live in today.
If you believe these tenets, then your eternal spring is ready and waiting to guide you. You are ready to feast. If you believe these tenets and are hungry for support and guidance, I’m here.
Happy (eternal) springtime to all.
Posted March 28, 2013