For over a year I’ve been leading small groups of women through the process of becoming Intuitive Eaters. Without question, it’s the very best work I’ve ever done. Four groups went through the first six weeks, then women who were hungry for more, continued on in ten week master groups. One of the ten week master groups wanted even more and are about to wrap up their twentieth week together.
What I have loved most about leading these women is the honest to goodness, grounded transformation that occurred when we added all this up: time+space+community+compassion+knowledge. This is simply the best formula I know for lasting change, paradigm shifts, and cellular reorganization.
Carolyn is one of the brave, brilliant women in my groups. Upon completing our journey together she shared this manifesto of sorts she wrote for herself based on all I taught. She calls it her “Lovely, Freeing Eating Guide” and after hearing her read it, I knew it had to be shared.
I honor my Holy Hunger as often as possible, letting my body Desire so that the food I eat tastes delicious and nourishes me body, mind and soul.
Before I eat, I ask my body (not my head), what she desires.
When I do eat, whether or not I am hungry, I don’t judge it. I enjoy it. Slowly, one bite at a time, not future or past but just this moment. The texture, the taste, the aroma. Sloooow Pleasure. I also notice how full my stomach is getting.
Throughout the day, I ask my body how She feels and what She needs. What would increase HER pleasure?
I satiate myself with life.
My body can be trusted. I eat, I fill up, I get hungry again.
When eating, I want to be effective. To scratch the itch. If I binge, not only am I NOT scratching the itch, but I’m blocking the resources that will.
When I overeat, I can always ask myself “How can I become more present and alive in this moment?” Or “What is the kindest thing I can do for myself?”
I hit the pause button more before, during and after eating. I notice my thoughts, my emotions, how my body feels. I slow everything down to super slow motion. I breathe, remembering I have lots of options. They are all okay. What does my sweet self want? What’s the most supportive, loving thing I can do for myself in this moment?
That’s the practice.
Simple, yet brilliant, right?
That’s the practice.
Add a splash of gumption. Rinse, lather, repeat.
I moved to California almost 10 years ago.
I didn’t know anyone here when I made the trek.
All of the sudden I was living 3,000 miles from my family. I had to find housing, employment, and survive in graduate school on my own.
I felt invisible in a town where I had no connections and, at the start, it was a pretty lonely time.
On the one hand I felt separate from those around me and yet I knew deep down that we were all connected. I felt that I was amongst fellow humans and I just needed a way to bridge the gap.
So I told a little itty bitty white lie.
To get a daily boost of connection I began to tell random strangers–at the grocery store, in the steam sauna at the gym, at the bus stop, in waiting rooms–that I was working on a creative writing project (which wasn’t true). I told them I just needed to ask them one question.
The questions i asked would shift. Sometimes I asked “What’s something you’re grateful for?” Sometimes I asked “What’s been your greatest life lesson?” While the questions changed, the way these small moments fed me did not.
Almost every exchange was heart-warming and effortless. On occasion someone would decline my curiosity, but that was the exception in my experience.
This one tiny white lie made a world of difference on days when I’d otherwise have little to no connection with other people.
In the time since then I’ve built a robust community of local friends but when I’m in the cereal aisle or at the dentist, I still feel the urge to reach out and ask the nearest stranger a question that will create a moment of connection. Reflecting back on that time I’m struck by what a sweet and simple little practice.
Perhaps those early California days are what make me sensitive to one of the challenges I see my clients face frequently: making adult friendships. (That and the fact that I went to five schools before college so making new friends and starting over are familiar territory for this sensitive woman).
I’m sharing this piece today to offer you a little exercise if you’re feeling alone or disconnected. If you’re not, I’m sharing it to start a wee conversation (over on my facebook page) about what small ways you find connection, build community, and make new friends.
It’s simply true that we’re all in this together and we’re all the same.
–– Oh, and it’s not lost on me that writing this blog post almost makes that old white lie, a truth.
You can’t know what will feed you unless you taste it — and taste a lot of other things that don’t feed you.
And sometimes you need to taste something many times before you know if you like it, if you need it, and how much of it is supportive for you.
This will mean tasting things that don’t taste good.
This will mean tasting things that might make you ill.
This will mean tasting things that are almost right, but not quite (Hello, Goldilocks).
If you’re not sure what you are hungry for, start by tasting anything and allowing your wise body and heart to tell you what is satisfying.
This might mean trying out dating a wide range of people.
This might mean a career path that is anything but a straight line.
This might mean asking to sample all 31 flavors when you go for ice cream.
It’s not only okay to take the time to taste all that life has to offer, but it’s essential if you are to be a Well-Fed Woman
Wouldn’t it be a magical world if we already knew what was right for us before trying anything out, before making a mistake, before embarrassing ourselves, or ruffling any feathers, or hurting feelings, or ‘wasting’ time.
Nah. That world sounds bor-ing.
Tasting the full menu is one of the best parts of life. It allows us to feel grounded in knowing that what we’ve chosen is more right for us, in comparison to what we’ve let go.
When I look back on my life I see a woman who needed to taste some very icky, very off, and very painful things in order to learn what worked.
When you ask yourself “What was I doing back then (in my 20’s or 30’s…)? What was I doing with in that relationship? What was I doing in that dead end job?”
The answer to all of these questions is: “I was tasting.”
Seize your freedom to try new things that might feed you so you can discover what actually does.
Want to be a Well-Fed Woman?
Better get to tasting.
I have never had a drinking problem. In fact, I’m a one drink woman because two puts me to sleep, but I had a therapist once plead with me to go an AA meeting.
She had spent months, maybe years, watching me spin inside my own illusion that my pain was somehow different, that my angst was somehow greater, and that no one could understand my personal hell, at least not without feeling a great deal of judgement towards me.
I was pretty far down the rabbit hole of separation. There was me and there was everyone else. Everyone else had it easier. Everyone else felt more at peace. Everyone else was lovable. Everyone else….everyone else…everyone else….but not me. not poor me.
There was you and there was me.
And none of you, could understand or relate to me or my pain.
So my therapist told me to go an AA meeting. She wanted me to sit in a room with other people, who just like me, suffered. People, who if I passed them in the grocery store aisle, I’d assume had it all together. People who both look like and not like me, but nevertheless feel the same feelings and worry the same worries.
I didn’t end up at an AA meeting, but I did end up in group therapy and the desired effect was just the same. And it was there that something fundamental shifted in me. For ten months, every week, I sat in a room with about ten other women all awash in their shame, their obsessions, their stuff. And it looked an awful lot like my own stuff.
Put simply: I woke up to our sameness. I woke up from the illusion that no one would-could understand the agony I experienced. I woke up from the idea that everyone else, but me, had it together.
Let’s go even further back in time…
At the height of my anorexia, more than a decade ago, I was leaving a dental appointment and stepped into the elevator to leave the building. I rode down with a woman whom I had never met—a stranger. She blatantly eyed my lithe frame up and down. Then said to me “Oooh girl, I only wish I had whatever willpower you’ve got.” Not even a week later I went to get a bikini wax, and laying there on the table, vulnerable, naked, and insecure the waxer said to me “You must work out, you have a perfect body.”
In both of these cases gave a pacifying half smile and I said nothing aloud. Yet inside I was screaming: “I don’t eat! You want the perfect body?! Stop eating! You think it’s willpower? No it’s soul-level terror!”
These women had made assumptions about me. They had placed themselves on one side of line and me on the other. In their mind, they were fat. I was not. They had no willpower, I had it spades. They were lazy, I was on top of my game. They were wild pigs and I was smoothly in control.
Yes, there assumptions were wrong, but the point is that I was doing the same thing.
Me and my pain over here, everyone else over there.
And I needed to wake up. The separation was killing me. Literally.
Recently a client confessed that she had taken money from her office’s petty cash box. She’s paid it all back by now, but the shame of her actions still plagued her. While she seethed with self-judgement, I felt nothing but empathy and our shared humanity.
There isn’t any part of her that’s different than me. I’ve been lost. I’ve made choices that hurt other people. I’ve acted from insecurity. And while I consider myself a person with boatloads of integrity, if you went through my (or your) whole life with a fine tooth comb you could easily find where I’ve faltered.
Over the past six months I’ve noticed myself slip a bit into otherizing. It’s been a natural period of creative fallowness and incubation where it’s all too easy to look at other people who are in creative flow and think, once again, that they are somehow better than me. Them over there, me over here.
This matters to me because when I’m lost in this place I feel half alive, half connected, half of service, and half myself. I know that each of us is here to serve by being full and whole, not dimmed to a mere fifty percent.
I’m naming my own otherizing here for myself and for you, should you find yourself drawing this unhelpful line in the sand.
There is no human experience that we have alone. It’s up to each of us to tear town the chambers of isolation that comparison and fear build.
It’s just you and me, them and us—all together.
That person you idolize. That internet guru. That person you loathe. The bully from high-school. The person on the front of this week’s tabloids. The one who beat you out for that job. The suitor who liked you, that you didn’t like back. The noisy neighbor and the perfect-from-the-outside acquaintance. The criminal and do-gooder. Yep, all of us. Our pains and sorrows. Anxieties and dilemmas. Joys and callings. Sacred reverberating essences.
Say it with me: WE.
Here’s a wonderful and related TED talk from Elizabeth Lesser:
“I am never full.”
“The pain will never stop.”
“There isn’t ever enough love.”
“I will never not want to eat the entire grocery store.”
Many of us walk around with the sensation of deep emptiness.
With that sensation is often a fierce belief that there will never be enough.
Be it food or love—too often we walk the earth feeling as though we are a bottomless pit.
One strategy we use is to try to fill it. With entire bags of chips. With another pair of shoes. With 5 o’clock bottles of wine.
On the flip side, we attempt to cover the bottomless pit with a band aid tale of having minimal needs. This where we tell ourselves we’re fine to subsist on crumbs—literal or metaphoric. We keep it together. We stick to the diet. We keep our muscles toned. We don’t need a partner, or attention, or chocolate cake, we’re fine—or so we tell ourselves.
The sad part is the bottomless pit is an illusion. One that has us running in all directions for temporary salves that aren’t sustainable and never leave us feeling very satisfied.
Your local child protective services agency has shown up at your doorstep with two foster children you are charged with taking care of for a year. They tell you that the children came from a home where there was barely anything to eat.
Over the first few days you notice that one of the children eats until they are sick. They eat quickly and with an anxiety that clearly belays their fear of there not being having enough.
The other child eats very little. Nibbling on this or that but not taking enough sustenance or enjoying the delicious food you have offered. This child is attempting to exert some control where they can. When they wasn’t enough in the past, they told themselves that they didn’t need it as a way to feel a level of control where none was.
And all of this makes sense.
Neither of them can be sure that there will be enough. They can’t yet trust that there will be more food anytime they want, and that they don’t have to eat until they’re sick or continue to deny themselves nourishment.
What you find over the weeks to come though, as they learn that there is enough food and they have as much as they want, when they want, in any quantity they want, is that they normalize. They are each able to eat with enjoyment, relaxation, and able to stop when they are physically sated.
Are you getting the metaphor?
Our lives are the home where there will always be enough food.
The question is whether we are willing to heal the trauma of our deprivation by ceasing to deny ourselves. It is we who too often deny ourselves the love we long for. It is we who too often deny ourselves the food or pleasure we hunger for.
The result is that we feel like a bottomless pit.
And all along we had our hand on our own spigot able to turn it on and let it flow.
The trick is to turn the spigot on and don’t turn it off until we’ve had enough – and we find the point of ‘enough’ after a period of reconditioning ourselves to know that there will always be more.
We must let it flow long enough to teach the part of us that is traumatized from deprivation that there will always be enough. What we find when we do this is that that part of us relaxes.
What we find is that the bottomless pit, the one that never existed in the first place, disappears.
“Poison and medicine are often the same thing, given in different proportions”
One of the most common traits (and pitfalls) I see is dichotomous thinking – or seeing everything as either black or white.
There is a frenzy to our lives. A striving, masculine energy to achieve, improve, and purify.
Many of the women I work with come to me when they can no longer bare the tightrope walk their life has become. Slaving in pursuit of being ‘good’, being ‘liked’, and being ‘beautiful’.
But life isn’t a tightrope walk, unless we make it that.
Nothing is good or bad, unless we name it that.
Green vegetables and white sugar are not opposites, nor are they enemies.
Everything is everything, depending on the circumstances. Depending on where we are standing and what is needed now.
I’m calling out for less purity and more messy holding of both. Less pigeon holing. Less throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
This requires paying attention.
When we think in binaries, we get to sleepwalk through life. We decide ahead of time which category something fits into and we live accordingly. No need to reevaluate, it’s all already been decided.
Real Housewives of Anywhere? Pathetic waste of time.
Homemade food? Holy.
And on and on.
If we could use our Martha Stewart label makers on life, I’m sure we would.
But life isn’t black or white. It’s every shade of gray, and pink, and green, and yellow that can be found. And those colors change moment by moment.
This requires we pay attention. This requires we get comfortable with an unlabeled life.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
and I’ll add…
There is a time for Facebook and a time for being miles away from a screen.
There is a time for zafu cushions and a time to find stillness in the least likely place.
No one thing is arbitrarily better than another.
If you want to know if something is medicine or poison you must listen.
Your heart will tell you. Is it soft?
Your lungs will tell you. Are they tight?
Your flesh will you you. Is it supple?
If you listen.
Sensations of ease, joy, enoughness, and vitality are signs of a medicine.
Sensations of deadness, contraction, and insecurity are signs of poison.
Right now, not yesterday or last year, what’s your medicine?
Today, mine is shaved legs and a new sundress. Offering myself sustainably. Crisp and cold caesar salad. Haim’s The Wire. Writing only when I have something to say.
And you? What’s your medicine? What’s your poison?
“…and your very flesh shall be a great poem…”
— Walt Whitman
Growing up just outside Washington, DC resulted in my childhood having it’s fair share of visits to historical sites, such as Civil War battlefields, like Gettysburg.
If you’ve ever been to a memorial site, especially one where great loss actually took place, you know that you can feel it. What you’re standing on at these places is sacred ground and each has a powerful energetic fingerprint. Perhaps you’ve felt it while visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, Auschwitz in Poland, or The Killing Fields Museum in Cambodia.
Sadly the world is full of sites where atrocities took place and left an imprint, physical or energetic.
In my early twenties as I was emerging victorious from my own battle with anorexia the only way I could relate to my body was as this sacred ground. While not visible to the eye, my body felt like modern day Gettysburg battlefield.
This flesh—my flesh—was where a war had been fought and won.
And what this meant to me was that anything less than sacred awe was not good enough.
In the years since then I have encountered in my life and in the lives of those I work with serious trauma. Childhood abuse. Sexual assault. Mental illness. Loss of parents and children. Battles with cancer. Amputation.
And it doesn’t take catastrophic incidents like these to leave trauma. Life is traumatic.
Life is traumatic and our bodies bare the brunt of it. They are our sensory input tool and they are where we experience (or repress) emotion. Our bodies are the tools or fight or flight…or freeze. Our bodies are the recipient of heinous cultural norms. Our bodies, depending on where we live in the world, aren’t even always considered our own.
Life is also miraculous. The ways in which our body heals, allows for connection, creates new life, and enables our lives is marvelous.
All this is to say: feel the sacred ground you are living in.
Feel that you are sacred in every cell of your body.
Stand in awe of not just what has happened on your ‘land’ but on what you have survived and created.
Consider reverence as a new template for how you inhabit this flesh of yours.
Like Whitman says, your “flesh shall be a great poem”.
It’s not uncommon to have a house or pet sitter for when we’re on vacation. In such cases we often leave a list of to-do’s (“water the plants”), rules (“Don’t go in the basement”), and emergency contact information (“Call the neighbors, if…”)
Perhaps the metaphor is stretched a bit here, but I’m headed to Taos tomorrow morning to teach and I thought your spirit could use a little reminder information while I’m gone.
Make the bed. Fluff the pillows.
Experience pleasure. As much as possible.
Talk kindly to your houseplants. If you don’t have a houseplant, get one.
Eat what your body and heart wants. Enjoy it.
Tell the truth.
Savor all the evidence that suggests you too are a perfectly, imperfect human. Take amusement in how much you resist this fact.
Marvel at your functioning anatomy.
Ask yourself “What am I truly hungry for?”
Make art. Big or small. Make something.
Smile at an animal or child.
Change your linens. Ask yourself: “Do I love my sheets/towels?” Listen to the answer.
Do something that reminds you just how connected and alike we all are.
Wear something from your closet you haven’t worn in the last 30 days. Rock it.
Call the oldest person you know and set aside at least thirty minutes to talk to them.
In case of emergency…
Call the person you trust the most and that has the biggest heart. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Allow yourself to be supported.
Go outside. Look at the sky. Breathe deeply. As if it were a new shade of paint, give the sky’s color a name.
Send flowers or an actual letter to another human being.
Go on a photowalk. Capture things that start with all the letters in the alphabet, or all the colors in the rainbow, or just what looks interesting.
Write it all down. All of it. Don’t edit.
Consider your attitude.
Back Monday night.
Last year my boyfriend declared February to be Pleasuary.
Lucky me, he has declared this to be an annual tradition.
Pleasuary, if it’s not clear from it’s name, is an entire month dedicated to pleasure.
There’s no real reason this needs to take place during February, although Pluly or Pleptember just doesn’t sound nearly as fun.
If you’re inspired to join me in celebrating Pleasuary here are a few pointers:
Giving vs Receiving
Pleasuary is perfect for those in a relationship where one person tends to be the giver and the other tends to be the receiver. For heterosexual couples, it is often the woman who tends to give and the man who tends to receive. If you relate to this dynamic, allow yourself to shift the natural order things for the month. Wear a new groove.
Try this: Make a pact. For the month of Pleasuary your job is to receive. Their job is to give. Rest into it. It might feel awkward. It will most certainly feel good.
If you’re single, decide that you’re going up the pleasure you give yourself and instead of feeling guilty about this, set the intention to truly receive what is given.
Feeling Safe vs Feeling Alive
Feeling good comes from so many different sources and there are infinite shades of good feelings. It’s important to differentiate between the good feelings that come from being comforted and the good feelings that can come from being outside our comfort zone. Of course, we need a base line of feeling safe if we’re to dip our toe in more enlivening waters, but there is much pleasure to be experienced outside of our bubble of safety.
Try this: In your journal, brainstorm two lists: things that make you feel comforted and safe AND things that make you feel ecstatic, alive, and deeply pleasured. Then circle a few from each side that you want to make happen this month.
Quality and Quantity
This month is about both, quantity and quality. It’s about making pleasure part of the everyday. Upping the pleasure at breakfast. Upping the pleasure in our work. Upping the pleasure in the mundane and the extraordinary.
Try this: Make a list of 30 (or more) ways you want to receive pleasure and be about checking them off the list. Of course, spontaneity is also part of this so don’t let a checklist keep you from new and sudden bursts of pleasure receiving.
In terms of quality of pleasure, this is the result of deep and open presence. Even thirty seconds of pleasure can be knee shaking if we are truly present. High quality pleasure is like fine cheese or good chocolate, the experience is so much more satisfying. A little goes a long way when we allow ourselves to drop into receiving and the sensations of feeling good.
Try this: Set aside time to turn off all electronics. Tune into your body. Pleasuary is an adventure of discovering what exactly gives you pleasure. And, it’s important to know that you don’t have to know right now. In fact, you most certainly don’t know all the ways that you can experience pleasure. Play a sort of ‘Marco Polo’ pleasure game where simply allowing yourself (and your partner) to go towards what’s ‘warm’ and away from what’s ‘cold’.
Sense-uality & Indulgence
Pleasuary is not wholly about knocking boots. Pleasuary is about attunement of the senses to good feelings and expanding our capacity for pleasure.
Try this: List all the ways you might experience pleasure through your different five senses then attempt to saturate yourself with pleasure from all of these entry points.
The definition of indulge is to “allow oneself the experience of pleasure.” On that note, if you’re game for the Pleasuary, go indulge! Soak it in. Green light your enjoyment. Hand out the permission slips. Decide to taste, smell, touch, listen, and see it fully.
If you’re wanting more pleasure and enjoyed this post you can read more of my thoughts on feeling good in P is for Pleasure.