Part 3: Eating Guideline #2 – Eat Sitting Down in a Calm Environment & Eating Guideline #3 – Eat Without Distractions

Summary by Bonnie Rosen, Edited/Design by Judy Ross


Geneen: I want to welcome everybody. I am glad to be here and feel privileged to be with all of those listening on the phone, over the internet, or downloading in the future and listening on your iPod or computer.

I’m very happy that you’ve decided to spend your time and your energy this way. I know it’s a longing, something you feel drawn to hear, and something you want to know.

As Sil said, I want to make sure that you are in a place where you won’t be disturbed. A relaxing and comfortable place, a place that is your place for the next 90 minutes.

If you are tweeting, on Facebook, emailing, or surfing the internet, I recommend that you give this your full attention as a way of being kind to yourself, as a way of treating yourself well. We’ve become used to splitting our attention between so many things and feeling that we need that ongoing stimulation otherwise we get anxious or nervous. Any moment of boredom or loneliness, and we start doing many other things. So if you’re in that space now, if you are half listening to me while half doing something else, notice that. And hear that my recommendation is not coming from a “should” or a “have to” but from a recommendation to give to yourself wholeheartedly.

A teacher once said that attention is the clearest form of love we can give. So to the extent that you are willing to give yourself your own attention, just that much is a way to love yourself. Even if you believe that you don’t know how to be kind to or love yourself any other way, paying attention to yourself right here and now, to my words and to your experiences as you hear them, that’s a way to love yourself, that is love in action. Give yourself that much, even if you don’t know how this is going to end up. Something called you here, pulled you here, and drew you here. Of all the ways that you can spend your time and money, and there are so many different ways, you have chosen this, chosen to be here. Honor that.


Geneen: As we move into orienting, grounding and centering, become aware at the very, very beginning of our time together, what your intention is. What do you want, what pulled you here?

You might say, “Well somebody else paid for me to come,” or “I signed up with someone else, and we felt it was a really great deal,” or “I figured this is my last ditch attempt to see if I could resolve this thing with food.” All of those might be true, but I want you to look deeper than that.

Reframe it in a positive statement. What brought you here? What was the love? What was the tenderness? What was the kindness? What was it in you that wanted something for yourself?

What do you want for yourself by being here? Name that. Because when you are clear about what your intention is - not just muddling through and landing here at the appropriate time to listen to this call - it becomes a guide, helping you to listen with the ears in the center of the chest, with your heart. You listen differently and pay attention differently, because you know why you’re here. You’ll be less likely to fight with yourself or internally argue with me as I speak. So allow yourself to pay attention fully - to how you feel when I speak and to your intention.

Another thing I would like you to become aware of as we begin orienting is that we’re all sitting together, even if you are in your house or car listening to this. This is a community of hundreds and hundreds of people who have gathered together for the purpose of learning about ourselves, by using our relationship with food and to some extent money, by using the ordinary things of our lives as doors to the extraordinary. Each of us wants that for ourselves. We want to touch something deep in ourselves.

I wrote in my book The Craggy Hole in My Heart about when my father was dying. All he could do and all he wanted to do was watch CNN and financial news. I kept wanting to talk about holiness and the meaning of life, about love and connection, and he just wanted to watch what the stock market was doing each day. He didn’t want to go there. He didn’t want to talk about his life, our life, our connection. Nothing. He just wanted to talk about the stock market.

I was talking about this to my friend Annie on the phone from my father’s apartment in New York. She said, “Everyone is given half an acre in their lives to tend. Some people want to grow roses and some people want to grow potatoes. Some people want their half acre on a mountain top and some people don’t care where it is. And it’s not right or wrong. It’s just different.” So it’s good to know what you want from your half acre. It’s good to know that.

All of us here, the community of people who have gathered to participate in this Online Retreat, have that longing. It might not be to grow roses, but we all have that longing to see beneath the world of appearances, beneath the obsession with food, the patterns that we act out in our daily lives, with food, shopping, and money. We want to use those as a path to something deeper.

If you didn’t want that, you wouldn’t be participating in this Online Retreat. You might have particular intentions, specific to your individual life, but we all share that big one. We all come together as a community because we want the ordinary, and we know that the ordinary can be a door to the extraordinary. Sometimes what we do with food, with money, doesn’t seem to make sense. And we trust that somewhere there is a portal to what we want most, to an exquisite kind of sense.

It’s good to have a community, to have support. Let’s just become aware that like-minded and like-hearted people share this. Imagine right now, hundreds of people, each listening. Imagine that because it’s true, and allow that to affect you. In a workshop or a retreat, so much of the support comes from being in a room with so many other people who are there for the same reason. Well, all of us are together in a virtual room, right here and right now. That’s the truth, and how does that affect you?


Geneen: As you orient yourself, land where you are in your physical body. You have a body listening to me, and your body is somewhere. So wherever you are, look around and let yourself land. Really land. Become aware of the room you’re in, of your surroundings, of the objects around you, of the temperature in the room, of the light in the room, of your self-sense of being in that room.

So much of working with the Eating Guidelines is about coming into your body. The first way of coming into your body is to pick up your head and notice where your body actually is. Although that seems simple, it’s something we rarely do. It’s as if our mind roams through space and our body sort of schleps along with our mind. We don’t really notice. We’re being lead and drawn by our minds, and we don’t allow ourselves to take in our environment, to actually be right here. So let yourself do just that.

If you are listening to this while driving, really pay attention to your environment, how your butt feels on the chair that you’re sitting on. I want to remind you that it’s best not to lie down as there is a tendency to fall asleep. Although there is nothing wrong with falling asleep, and you can listen to this again and again, you might as well be awake for it, right here, right now.

If you have a choice and if you are comfortable, sit up, feel your feet on the floor, your butt in a chair, and what your back touches. If you look around the room, notice something, anything that you’ve been looking at but not seeing. And really see it. It could be the cover of a book, a stove, a curtain, a desk, a plant, a flower, a teapot, a cup. Let yourself have it by taking it in with your eyes.

We often talk of buying and owning something, but really what you end up owning is only what you allow yourself to take in, to have. You can own something beautiful without ever letting yourself take it in, notice it, have it, be fed by it, be nourished by it. You can only own or have what you pay attention to.

Another word for owning is claiming. Of course, the same is true with food. Unless you let yourself have what’s in your mouth and what you’re eating, pay attention to it as a deep and clear form of love, then you feel as if you don’t have it, you’ve missed it, and you keep going for more. This, of course, has everything to do with the two Eating Guidelines we’re talking about in this session.

For now, we’re just talking about the simple act of paying attention to something in the room when there is no big charge as there sometimes is with food. Paying attention to something neutral like a photograph or a chandelier or a tea cup or even what an iPod actually looks like, and really paying attention to it. We don’t want to get to the end of our lives and feel like we’ve missed it because we weren’t paying attention.

When people are given a diagnosis that they are dying and know when their life will end, they suddenly appreciate what they have and will no longer have. They can’t believe how gorgeous even the simplest things are, like a tea cup, or a tea pot, or the smile of somebody they love, or the smell of air, or the feeling of wind on their face.

When given that diagnosis, it breaks the trance of not seeing, of moving through life like a hungry ghost. Suddenly we see what’s in front of us, taking it. Why can’t we do that right now, this very second, because all we are talking about is paying attention. And then pay attention to the ground beneath you, the ground beneath your feet, the Earth that is supporting you.

Notice where all the parts of your body are touching other parts; your hand is touching your leg, which is touching the ground. Just notice and pay attention. Then pay attention to your breathing. We go from the outer (from the environment that you’re in, orienting yourself) to the places where your body is touching the ground or Earth or other parts of itself, where your back is touching the chair. From the outer of the room (the externals) to now in your breath.

If it’s helpful, close your eyes and just pay attention to the breath that is moving your body. Sitting up with both feet on the floor, notice sensations in your ankles, in your calves, in your knees, as if there was a flashlight moving up both legs. Notice your thighs. Feeling internally, notice if there is any pulsing, throbbing, contraction, openness, if there is some warmth or some coolness, those kinds of sensations.

Then notice any sensations in your hands, both hands, and keep breathing. Then allow that flashlight to move up both arms, from your wrists all the way up to your elbows and shoulders. As I say each part of the body, just notice what is happening in each part. A BIG part of unfolding and healing the patterns with food is coming into your body. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re practicing.

Now put your right palm on top of your navel and your left palm on top of your right palm and take some breaths. Feel that precious breath as it moves through your body, connecting you to life itself. Let yourself feel yourself breathing, appreciate your breathing.

We’re paying attention to that place of appreciation and the way they are related. What you pay attention to can be easily appreciated. It’s hard not to appreciate the fact that you’re breathing and that you have got a body, and with the fact that more than 250,000 people died today and you are here, sitting in this body! That’s a WOW!

Okay, if your eyes have been closed while you’ve been doing this, open your eyes.


Question: I want to start with a question that just came in, about an hour ago. This is from Trisha. It’s a good place to start, because it addresses how we are moving through this Online Retreat.

Here I am in the third week of the seminar and I am feeling very sad and upset. I keep getting the message internally that I am not worth it. No way is this going to work and here I am again going to fail! I’m facing A LOT of internal resistance to the Guidelines and that I’m not worth anything. Is this normal in the beginning to have these feelings? What can I do to challenge these deep-seated beliefs so that I can move on and be open to more to learning?

Geneen: I want to address this because I think that probably some of you are feeling exactly the same way. Some of you are feeling, “Oh no, what if this doesn’t work? Oh no, what if this is yet another thing I’ve signed up for and paid money for that is going to fail?” Some of you may be feeling, “You’ve given me these practices that feel like rules or ‘have to’s’ or ‘should’s,’ and I don’t want to do it. Maybe this going to be like everything else and I’m going to fail.”

Trisha is saying, “I am feeling sad and upset, and I keep getting this internal message that I’m not worth it. No way is this going to work. It won’t work and I’m going to fail again.” And if that is going on for you, like it’s going on for her, it’s very, very good to name it. Just name it, because there is going to be a fight with that.

If you feel that you’re not worth it, that’s going to affect your entire relationship with the Eating Guidelines and to doing this Online Retreat. Maybe you are feeling that this isn’t going to work again, because “I’m not worth my own time. I’m not even worth the effort. I’m going to fail anyway. Why make the effort?” This is cutting yourself off at the knees before anyone else can do it.

Disengaging the Voice

This is the Voice speaking to you. For those who have read Women Food and God, you have read the chapter on the Voice. If you haven’t read Woman Food and God, I recommend reading the chapter titled, “The GPS from the Twilight Zone.” Read it and reread it. You can never read about it enough, practice it enough, because there is that part of ourselves - called the Voice, the Super Ego, The Internalized Critic, the Internalized Parents, or the Judge - that is shouting to you from the sidelines saying, “Are you nuts? What makes you think this is going to be any different? What makes you think that this is worth it? What makes you think you can do this? Give me a break! Who do you think you are? Just face it. Nothing is going to work and you are a failure.”

I said that in a much nicer voice than the way that this Voice usually talks to us. It talks to us with disgust, with repulsion. It talks as if it absolutely knows the truth. “You’re going to fail. You’re not worth it. Don’t even try. This is dumb! I can’t believe you’ve wasted even more of your time on this. Come on! “

I want to say to Trisha: Yes, this comes up at the beginning of anything that you feel strongly about, anything that can lead you to change, that can actually help transformation happen. That Voice developed within us in order to help keep us safe, when we were younger. We had to learn how to actually survive in this world physically. There were certain morals that we were raised with, like not throwing food on the wall when you went to a friend’s house or when your parents took you out to dinner. And there were also the very subtle things that we learned to do or not do in order to be loved. I talked a little about it in the last session, and I’ll talk about it in this context now.

The Voice is the way that we keep everything in lock down. We keep the status quo as status quo. We keep ourselves from changing. As a young kid, it functioned anytime we were about do something that could get us in trouble, or something that was not included in the list of ways to be loved. Anytime we were about to do that past a certain age, we internalized what our parents would have said to us if we did that. So instead of our parents yelling at us or reprimanding us, we reprimand ourselves, before anyone else can get there. And that Voice is a developmental necessity, a part of human personality development. Everybody has one. And everybody has to deal with this in order for real transformation to happen. Everyone has to acknowledge that this is a part of what we carry. Although it was once protective and self-protective, it is no longer our friend. It’s the biggest obstacle to any change

This is a process: naming the Voice, seeing that it’s been engaged, and seeing that you are identified with it.

In Trisha’s question, there is no difference here between her and the Voice, which is what most of us do. We think we are the Voice. We think that the Voice is telling the truth. “I’m not worth it, I’m going to fail.” In reaction to that, we feel small, diminished, paralyzed, collapsed, ashamed, bad, or like a failure. We don’t want to try anymore. Because if that Voice is going to be there every time we get up and just cut us off at the knees, why get up? Most of us just stay down so that we don’t have to be knocked down again.

I want to recommend that you read that chapter in Women Food and God. For those of you who took the first Online Retreat, we spent an entire session on the Voice and it was a big part of the retreat. So go back and listen to that part of the Women Food and God Online Retreat again. Those who didn’t do that Online Retreat, read the chapter and begin paying attention - when you go from feeling okay about yourself to suddenly feeling collapsed, small, paralyzed, bad, ashamed, diminished, and you start attacking yourself.

The only way to deal with that attack is to stop it. You can’t reason with this Voice. You have to stop it. You have to say, “STOP. You are not my friend! You are not allowed to talk to me like that.” It’s absolutely normal to have that Voice, and it’s absolutely imperative that you stop it. Because that Voice wants to keep the status quo. It doesn’t want you to change.

One of the five questions from last week was: What relationships will change if you followed these Eating Guidelines? What scares you about following these Eating Guidelines? The Eating Guidelines involve change, and any kind of change topples the apple cart in some way. Changes the status quo. That’s what change is and what change does. It changes what “is” to a new way. By definition, status quo is the way it is. Once you start following the Eating Guidelines, change is the result. You change and the people around you notice it. And there is some part of you that might get scared.

The Voice comes charging right in at the first sign of change and not in a very nice voice. “No, don’t do that. What makes you think you can do that? Give me a break. This is just like everything else. You're a failure. I can’t believe you spent time and money on this!” And says it with disgust and repulsion like you’re an insect. The intent of the Voice is to stop you, and it will use anything, anything it can, any kind of language it can.

All of us encounter that. The Voice’s language says, “Not worth it. You’re a failure.” The first step is seeing the Voice and disengaging, making a “You” and an “I.” “You (Geneen) are a failure.” And that means that there is an “I” here. I (Geneen) can say to the Voice, “You’re not allowed to talk to me like that.” If all is worded in “I’s” - I’m a failure, I can’t do this, etc. - there’s only shame, blame, regret, guilt. They are all providences of the Voice. Notice it, disengage and see that there it is an “it” here, and you can talk back to it and say, “STOP! You are not allowed to talk to me like this.” At that point, you have some distance.

This is the internal resistance Trisha is talking about. If the intent of the Voice is to keep you from changing, then it doesn’t want you to follow the Eating Guidelines. Why would it want you to do that? That could lead to change. Yes there will be resistance.

Paying Attention and the Ecstasy of Eating

Question: I want to answer a few questions about last week’s Eating Guideline before we move onto to cover this week’s Eating Guidelines. Nancy says,

I’m a foodie. My girlfriends and I are artists, chiefs and cooks. We don’t talk about diets we talk about art and all the beautiful things about food and the ecstatic component in eating. I realized that in following the guidelines, I am afraid I won’t be able to have this love of food. You started to touch on this. You mentioned that beauty and pleasure are necessities in life. I think if I could incorporate this into the practices, I would be able to succeed.

Yes, yes, a gazillion times yes. Beauty and pleasure are necessities. Our souls, our hearts, our eyes need beauty.

As mentioned at the beginning, attention and appreciation are forms of love. When you actually look and pay attention to the food you are eating, that absolutely involves the Eating Guidelines that we are talking about in this session - eat while sitting down and eat without distractions. When you start paying attention, you can’t help but see what the food is made of and the colors of it, or as Nancy says, “the ecstatic component of eating.” There is an ecstatic component in eating that we miss because most of us are not paying attention.

This dove tails into the Guidelines we are talking about in this session, because when you love something, you pay attention to it. When you love something, you take time with it. Think about someone you love. Think about what it’s like to be with someone you love. Can you imagine being with them and at the same time tweeting, emailing, or talking on the phone?

That’s what happens, that’s what we usually do with food. We don’t pay attention to it. We don’t love it. In fact, most compulsive eaters don’t love food - and I count myself in this bunch for that’s how it was for me with food for a very long time. If we loved food, it would be a whole different story.

We don’t eat food because we love it. We eat food to change the channel on the screens of our minds. We eat food for what it can do to for us - numb us, comfort us, protect us. We don’t eat food because we love the taste. If you eat when you’re not hungry, you do not love the food. You’re using food to fill another hunger. And really, it could be cardboard you’re stuffing into your mouth for all the beauty and ecstasy you feel with and about food at that moment. The point of these Guidelines is absolutely to love food. And to eat it when your body is hungry for it and paying attention to it.



I want to talk now about the second and third Guidelines:

Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.

Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety producing conversations and music.

These Guidelines are all about attention and appreciation as a form of love. We don’t have that much attention that we can split off into many different pieces. We cannot actually stand at the stove tasting the food, talking on the phone, and actually taste and appreciate what we’re eating. If we are doing anything else, anything but eating, we’re absolutely not paying attention to the food.

If you are driving and eating, you are absolutely not paying attention to the food, because your main concern while driving is to not get killed, to not kill anyone else, and to drive carefully. Of course texting and driving and emailing and driving go right along with that. If you are driving and doing anything while driving, you are not giving your life the attention it deserves. And if you’re eating while driving, you’re not giving the food the attention it deserves.

Why not have pleasure? Why not love the food you’re eating? Why not give yourself the luxury of loving what you eat, of tasting what you eat? The only way you can do that, really, is to pay attention to it. And the only way to pay attention to it is to eat when you eat and to do other things when you do other things.

Sharing Meals with Friends and Following the Guidelines

Question: Someone asked about eating with friends and what to do.

Sil: This question is about Eating Guideline Two and what to do when eating with friends. Jenny says,

This week I’ve had several opportunities to practice eating in a calm environment with no distractions after becoming increasingly aware of my body speaking to me quietly. I also had an opportunity to have dinner with a friend during a lovely hike at Keyho Beach in Marin County. My experience was two-fold.

I shared with my friend at the beginning of the meal that I would like to eat our meal with a pleasant, light conversation, no more discussing work issues or heavy subjects. We both work in mental health. So I checked in and my body really wanted a shrimp salad. And my friend ordered a hamburger which looked divine.

As we began our meal, my friend began sharing her childhood stories of abuse from her mother, step-dad and siblings. And while I tried to maintain a sense of focus on my food and body and being polite, I noticed that she had completely stopped eating and continued sharing her story while I finished my meal. And then she grabbed her hamburger and appeared to have no regard for her food. She finished it talking all the while with each bite. I believe I witnessed emotional eating in action.

My question, concern, is how does one handle this type of situation? I was very clear in the beginning, but once she started talking I didn’t feel I could redirect her away from her story. But I felt kind of cheated from really savoring my meal. It was just about what my body wanted and I did enjoy it, but I did it so alone and trying not to be distracted completely. Any suggestions?

Geneen: This is really a great question and something that many of us encounter when we first start practicing these two Eating Guidelines and are eating with friends, community, family or loved ones. The ritual and communion of breaking bread together is a really important part of being social, being with friends and being with family.

I wouldn’t recommend that you stop doing that. But as Jenny talks about, it’s very difficult to do that and follow the Guidelines. You don’t quite have a sense of what your body is taking in and savoring, and knowing when you’ve had enough. It’s not a well laid down neuro-pathway so to speak. It’s not one of those grease-lightening circuits in your brain. It’s not easy, until you’ve had practice. So when you’re eating with other people and it feels like it’s hard to pay attention, it’s because it is hard to pay attention. It’s true, it is.

I would recommend that you practice these Guidelines once or twice a day, or once every two days. Practice what feels comfortable to you but a little on your edge, because remember if you just stay within your comfort zone, you’re not going to change. That’s the status quo that we talked about. You need to go a little bit beyond what you’re completely comfortable with but not too uncomfortable. Because if you do, you get scared and go back to the middle of your comfort zone. So, eat with yourself once or twice a day. Some time alone is what you need to practice these Guidelines on your own.

Most of us get together with our friends, and we talk about what’s going on. But in this case, Jenny’s friend was talking about her old wounds. It’s hard to say, “You know what? I really want to pay attention to my shrimp. Could you stop talking about your abuse right now?” It’s a delicate thing to communicate and to say.

An alternate way of deeply immersing yourself in the joy and pleasure of eating is to make sure that you give that to yourself. If you have small kids, then go into the bathroom and give yourself two or three minutes. Give yourself whatever you can give yourself. Whatever alone time, in whatever small or big slivers you can give yourself. But the overarching intent of these Guidelines is to allow yourself to love what you’re eating, to pay attention to what you’re eating, because attention is a form of love.

Rationalizing When We Eat

Many of us who do this around food rationalize, “If I’m standing up it doesn’t count. If it’s free, it doesn’t count. If it’s a free sample in the supermarket, it doesn’t count. If it’s off someone else’s plate, it doesn’t count. If I’m on vacation, it doesn’t count. If I don’t like it, it doesn’t count. When the cookies break, the calories break and it doesn’t count.”

We do the same thing with money: “If it’s on sale, it doesn’t count. If I get it in Target, it doesn’t count. If someone gave me a gift, it doesn’t count. If I find money, it doesn’t count. If a friend found money, it doesn’t count.” I wrote in Lost and Found about a friend who found some money and how it was treated completely differently.

All of these “doesn’t counts” and all the ways you think it doesn’t count (you fill in blank) - eat it in the car, eat it off your kids plate, eating before or after exercise, eat standing up at the refrigerator in the middle of the night grazing - are all the ways we get to eat without really counting it as eating.

Another way of looking at that is to say, those are all the stolen moments, the moments we stole from ourselves. Those are all the moments of appreciation, of pleasure, of joy, or as Nancy says, of ecstasy that we have stolen from ourselves. And my question is why? Why steal pleasure from yourself? Why steal joy from yourself?

It’s as if we become thieves of our own desires. When I was anorexic, weighing in at 80 pounds, keeping myself on a raw food diet of 150 calories a day, I was starving and felt so deprived. Every day, when my next door neighbor went to work, I’d go into his house and steal granola from a big glass jar that he kept on his counter. I’d go in and steal a handful of granola. And then one day one of his kids saw me.

I was so deeply ashamed that he caught me. But I was caught in the pattern of deprivation and believing that if I wanted something, I had to steal it. Because I couldn’t give it to myself outright. I never questioned that. If it was true that I was stealing granola every day, then what was I doing on that raw food diet?

The question here is: Why do you feel that you need to steal your own pleasure? When you steal something, it’s not really yours. Make no mistake about it, these two Guidelines are about the ways you steal pleasure from yourself. They are about the ways that you don’t give your life in that moment your full attention. They are about the ways you miss your own life!

In workshops and retreats, we laugh a lot about these two Guidelines and what we tell ourselves about “it doesn’t count when….” Like eating anything with a diet coke because it’s half the calories. Although it’s funny on the one hand, on the other the deeper message we are giving ourselves is: “I don’t deserve to have this, to live my life out-loud. I don’t deserve to actually give this to myself without rationalizing.”

“I’m going to eat at the stove because I don’t really feel it’s okay to eat sitting down, because I believe that only people who are like X, or weigh this, or have this, or who are like this deserve to sit down at the table, eat off a plate and with silverware. Not me. I don’t deserve that. I can’t let myself have that.”

Really? Who said so? Who told you that? And how old are you when you say that to yourself, when you are listening to that, when you are obeying that particular, very old instruction. It might be the Voice speaking and it might be something else speaking.

I’m not sure I saw my mother sitting down and eating many times at all. I grew up eating like my Mom and thinking that it was fun to do that. But what I didn’t see was that I was taking pleasure from myself. Any time you don’t give your attention to what you’re doing, you are missing your life.

Eating and Loneliness, Aloneness and Boredom

Some people say, “But what if I live alone and I’m lonely. I like watching television. I like reading. It helps cut the loneliness.” Over the years, many people have asked me this.

My response is, “Maybe that’s true, but probably that’s not true. “ Because what you’re doing is taking the pleasure away from eating, and when you’re done, the loneliness is still there. If eating with the television on, or while surfing the internet, truly took away the loneliness, really, truly dissolved the loneliness, like a cure, like a loneliness pill, I’d say, “Yah, go right ahead.”

It doesn’t do that. A physical thing can’t take away a non-physical feeling. It might distract you for five or ten minutes, but that’s all. Eating sitting down might evoke stories for you - “Only losers eat sitting down, only X kinds are people who aren’t in relationship.” It might bring up the stories that you believe about eating or living alone. These stories need to be questioned, but they’ll never get questioned as long as you distract yourself while you are eating.

Is it really true that only people who are losers eat alone? Or if the loneliness is there and it’s pervasive, then look at that. Inquire into that. Let’s see what you’re calling loneliness. Let’s see if it’s really, truly so scary.

Question: I’m afraid if I actually feel my feelings, then I won’t actually be okay.

Geneen: That is also a belief. But you will never find out what is true unless you stop using food to make it go away. You will be haunted by what you are telling yourself, because you will believe it’s true.

As I said during the last session, the unfelt universe comes into view when you stop using food to push it down. If you want to really break free from the obsession, then you also need to break free from what is driving the obsession. And what is driving that obsession is your un-questioned beliefs about the kinds of people who eat alone. And what’s it like to not eat in the car. You won’t know what those beliefs are until you stop eating in your car.

That’s the Catch 22 here. There is resistance to following the Guidelines: “I don’t want to because what if what I feel and think is true?” The only way you can find out is by following the Guidelines. Maybe loneliness is aloneness. When you actually question what you’re calling loneliness, maybe you’ll discover it’s a feeling of aloneness or autonomy so to speak, overlaid with childhood impressions that aren’t relevant anymore. Maybe when you tune into it, loneliness feels like aloneness or feels like relief. When you actually question, maybe aloneness itself feels okay. Where do you feel this? Maybe it feels like the whole night sky is in your chest.

What I know for certain is that it isn’t what you’re telling yourself it is. Nothing ever is. We tell ourselves stories. We make things up all the time and then we believe what we have made up. And because we don’t question those stories (beliefs), we walk around frightened of our own feelings.

Notice that these two Eating Guidelines bring up a lot of beliefs that you have. They probably bring up beliefs about boredom, aloneness, and loneliness. “I’m bored with my own company and bored with my own mind so I have to distract myself.” That’s interesting. Boredom is a lack of attention. That’s all boredom is. Because when you are actually willing to pay attention to what’s here and what you’re eating - to the colors, tastes and textures - what’s boring about that? It gets boring when you’re gone away, but not boring when you’ve come back.

Five Questions to Ask About the Guidelines

As we discussed last week, ask yourself these five questions

  1. What scares you about following these Guidelines?
  2. What would your life be like if you followed these two Eating Guidelines? If you eat sitting down in a calm environment (which doesn’t include the car) and if you eat without distractions, what would your life be like?
  3. How would your life have to change to follow these Eating Guidelines? I know that everybody has particular situations, and I want to say again that these Eating Guidelines are like the North Star. I don’t expect you to follow these perfectly. Notice as I’m talking if you have already turned them into rules, and you are already rebelling against that fact that they are rules. Remember if love could speak to you, love would say: “Pay attention sweetheart. Love the food by paying attention to it. Notice the colors, the taste, and the textures. Let yourself have it by paying attention to it.” Wouldn’t love say that?
  4. What are the benefits and how does it help you to not follow these Guidelines. Are there things in your life that you believe that you would need to attend to, things that you don’t want to look at? By distracting yourself constantly, not only in eating but in other areas of your life, you avoid that underlying anxiety or not pay attention to a situation that could really use your attention.
  5. What relationships would change if you followed these Guidelines? What would need to change in your life to even follow them once a day? Or even for a few minutes? What kind of re-orientation would need to happen?

Question: Casey says:

What do I do if the benefit of not following this guideline (eat sitting down in a calm environment) seems better than following this guideline? I feel like I often eat to heal my emotional rather than my physical hunger. My emotional hunger often stems from mourning more close relationships to others and to have more friends. I want to be liked by myself as well as by others. I feel not being able to share meals with others would create more uncomfortability with others and would make me less of a part of what I emotionally hunger for.

Geneen: What Casey is talking about hungering for is true contact. True contact, self-value, and loving herself.

I want to say something really clearly: giving yourself up to get love is not a way to actually end up feeling loved. Casey wasn’t saying this, but it just brought that up for me. We often think, “If I do what somebody else wants to do, even though something in me doesn’t want to, then somehow I‘ll be loved.” But if you have to go against yourself to be loved, if you have to not pay attention to yourself in order to be loved, then you’ll not feel more loved. You’ll feel that love requires you to not be yourself.

Since the theme of this session is attention and appreciation as forms of love, these Eating Guidelines are all about attention and love. When you pay attention to when you’re hungry and figuring out if you’re at a 4, 5, or 6 on the hunger scale, again that takes paying attention. If you’re distracting yourself with other things, you can’t pay attention. This takes time, this takes practice and this takes the willingness to pay attention and love yourself. And to live as if.

Many of you asked: “What if I don’t love myself now and value myself now?” Then you live as if you do. Walk as if you really, really like yourself. See how that changes how you walk, how you talk.

Question: Joan wrote :

What are you really, really hungry for hit me like a bolt of lightning. I can at times be hungry for sleep, certain food, and time alone, time to read. But this really stopped me today. Because I think I’m not sure I want to know, so I immediately shut down, and I was immediately very, very tired. This will be an interesting path.

Geneen: Yes, this is an interesting path, because the first question is, “Am I interested in why I’m not interested?” It’s okay to not be interested. If you’re not interested, it’s probably because you believe certain things about yourself, instructions from a long time ago that are no longer true.

THIS WEEK’S PRACTICE: Paying Attention

I want to say a few things of what to do this week about the Eating Guidelines.

Pay attention. Really pay attention to paying attention. To really, truly paying attention. What’s it like to eat without distractions? Ask yourself the five questions. Notice the times when you move through your life and you’re not paying attention. See what you’re avoiding and telling yourself.

Decide how many times a day or week you can follow these two Eating Guidelines. When can you give your full attention to your food? Notice how that changes what you eat, what you take in.

With all the intention and longing that we bring to this, with all the work that we do and attention we pay to this, it is also about “working on and with on ourselves.” We’ve done so much of that in the past ninety minutes, and we’ll continue to do that this week as we work with these Eating Guidelines.


As a blessing, I’d like to offer all of this love and all of this attention to all the beings everywhere who could use it. And attention to the Earth, to the birds, to the fish, to the air, to the waters, and to all those who are suffering and could use some attention, some love. May all of us be happy and be at peace.

Also I want to thank also Jay and Sil for being here and Judy and Bonnie for the Online Retreat Summaries.

Good night and thank you for being with us!

- - -

Leave a Reply