Saturday, June 26, 2010

Practice Curiosity, Mindful Presence, and Love to End Compulsive Behavior

As I read Geneen Roth's book, "Women, Food and God," I had major epiphanies about my relationship with food. See, me and food have duked it out over the years, and although I know we may still have our battles, I have definitely been winning the majority of our matches recently. Roth talks about how food, just like any other compulsion, whether it be alcohol, drugs, overworking, etc., becomes the quick fix to comfort us, fill our empty spaces, and make us "happy." But the fact is that we just use food to masque, run away from, and "bolt" as she puts it, from our mind-made story lines, ideas of ourselves, and connections to our struggling past.

A few weeks ago, I started out on a walk in my neighborhood. When I was about ten minutes in, I felt the ground shake beneath my feet. Then the sky lit up with a brilliant flash. My first instinct was to run home and find an alternate workout to do inside. But then I remembered what Geneen Roth had told me. I decided I wasn't going to bolt this time. Instead, I walked with courage, confidence, a smile, a playful heart, and with a little trepidation about the unknown journey to come. But I faced that thunderstorm head on. I not only continued my walk in the rain, but as it poured harder and harder, my clothes heavy and soaked, I walked in the opposite direction of my house. I totally embraced my direct, real experience and looked at my mind-made story of why I was afraid in the first place.

I thought about my inherent reactions to storms. Well, thunderstorms are scary; they sound scary and they look scary! And getting wet is not a good thing! We are supposed to avoid getting wet because it is uncomfortable! And then there is the lightening that is very dangerous! Not to mention my phone and I-Pod can't get wet!

Then I looked at the facts and embraced every part of the moment I was in and put aside what my culture, past people, and ego had to say about my situation. I felt the warm rain and thick air, put my phone and my I-Pod in my pocket, and joked with myself that the probability of getting struck by lightening was probably like one in infinity.

This concept of not "bolting" was a huge light bulb for me. Over the last few weeks I have been examining my compulsions and bad habits. I put my use of food and my feelings of anxiety in the spot light, poking and prodding them for answers. I was curious what purpose both of these compulsions had been serving me. What did I think they were going to solve? Why was I allowing them to hang around and harass me on a daily basis? They were no friends of mine! But rather than bolting and turning my compulsions away, I graciously invited them in. I even have been offering them some tea and cookies. I ask them questions, study them very carefully, and give them my complete and utter love and attention.

I look to see what feelings, emotions, and sensations in my body are really there. What am I trying to cover up, heal, save, or fix with food and anxious feelings? I sit with these feelings, invite them in, let them stay awhile, and let them know that they are safe. The feelings begin to feel comfortable, take off their shoes, and soften and open up to me. They know they are welcome. They are met with love, patience, and complete attention. And they don't need food or anxiety. Because the feelings know that a little love, attention, and kindness is all they really want. So from now on, instead of bolting to food and anxiety, I will delve into what I am really feeling, and walk graciously into the storm...


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