The following Summary of Geneen's second live call was written by Katie Morton, an Online Course student, who graciously granted us the rights to reprint it here for the rest of you. It is Copyright Katie Morton 2010, and appears originally at Katies's "Swell Easy Living" blog. Please note that while you may read it here on your private Student blog, you may not copy it or share it with others.
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• It’s the fourth week and I haven’t lost weight. What if this doesn’t work, just like everything else I’ve tried?
• Who and what are you being loyal to when you overeat? Think of your conditioning, your history, and the voices you’ve internalized.
• What about exercise?
• What you’re hungry for and finding your enough.
• Inquiry and coming home to ourselves.
• How do we begin inquiry and get in touch with ourselves?
• This week’s practices / action steps.
Geneen helps us become present by having us practice orienting: looking around the room and staring up and down and side to side like a baby. We can focus on and study an object that maybe we’ve seen a million times before but never really took the time to notice. We can feel the contact our body makes with the chair, with whatever is supporting us. By doing this, you ground yourself, ground your body in the here and now, in the moment.
As hard as it may be, Geneen encourages you to be interested in your body, how it feels. She tells you to hang out with yourself, but don’t judge. Be open. She stresses that we transform through inquiry, not through judgment. We make it hard through judgment and shame, but things get easier when we stop trying to fix and start being curious.
This week, Geneen introduces the concept that when you lose that connection with your body and you spend time instead in your head with that flood of thoughts, judgments and beliefs, you are left feeling homeless and wanting.
Questions: Geneen takes some time to address questions and apprehensions that have arisen amongst the participants in the past week.
I don’t want to give up, but it’s not working and I’m not following practices. It’s the fourth week and I haven’t lost weight. What if this doesn’t work, just like everything else I’ve tried?
Geneen puts everything into perspective. So it’s been four weeks. How does that stack up against the years upon years that you’ve been dieting and shaming yourself and building well-grooved patterns and habits around eating mindlessly followed by depriving yourself?
Insight and “aha” moments aren’t enough. We need to take action with intention and mindfulness, as opposed to habitual unconsciousness. When you commit to an action, you go against your unconscious tendencies.
This question reminds me of a chapter in the book This Year I Will… when Author M.J. Ryan points out that learning happens in three stages. The first stage, POST HOC, is when you realize after the fact that you screwed up. “Oh wait, I just ate that bag of Cheez-its when I wasn’t hungry. What’s going on with me?” We finally realize that we didn’t follow the practice Eat When You’re Hungry once we’re licking salt out of the bottom of the bag.
Before we started this retreat, we wouldn’t have even realized what exactly we did wrong. We would have gone into shame mode, which doesn’t fit into the practices. And even if we do go into shame mode, we are now aware that it’s not productive. So if you’re in the POST HOC phase, don’t beat yourself up! You’re learning!
The second stage of learning, AD HOC, is when you are aware that you shouldn’t do something and you do it anyway. Maybe the eating of the Cheez-its happens when you’re fully aware that you aren’t hungry and you choose to eat them anyway, full-well-knowing before you even dip your hand into the bag that you aren’t following the practice.
The third stage of learning, PRE HOC, is when you’re doing it – it’s like riding a bike, and you have more successes than failures. This is the stage that Geneen is stressing to us we need to move towards; we need to take action in order to progress to this stage. If you don’t get on the bike, you’re never going to learn how to ride it. So get on the bike. You’re gonna fall off. No big whoop.
Ryan says, “Recognizing you’ve blown it is progress! … There’s always a phase in creating forward motion when all you notice is how hard it is and how little you’ve moved forward. … The trick is to learn from the experience without judging yourself…”
Ryan recommends learning what would help you out next time, like maybe placing a visible reminder so we won’t be mindless about our mistakes.
Geneen says that when your actions are aligned with your heart’s desire, then there’s a daily remembrance that you’re acting on your own behalf, out of love for yourself. When you love a child, you tell them they’re going to be sick if they eat candy all day. Treat yourself with that same loving care.
For dinner tonight, I ate whole wheat spaghetti and turkey meatballs. One bowl, because I knew I would feel ill otherwise. One small cereal bowl, even though there was just a little bit of pasta left over begging to be finished off.
So I wrapped up the rest and took it to work for lunch today. In the past, I would have known I was going to feel ill afterwards, yet I would have eaten too much anyway. I might not be wholly devoted to my practices at this stage, but I am absolutely making progress.
Geneen reiterates that there will be times that we do eat when we’re not hungry. Use that experience to notice what’s coming up when you’re doing that – is it boredom, sadness, anger, fear?
When you're conscious about eating sitting down when you’re hungry and stopping when you’ve had enough, your whole relationship with food will change. Geneen says that act of eating mindfully will open up a whole can of worms. What happens when we stop using food to drug ourselves is that the whole NON-food-related side of your life comes forward – and we’re practicing being with that.
So take heart, little campers! We’re learning!
I’m faithful to being messed up and not feeling my fear. I don’t take responsibility for myself.
Geneen says that when we’re kids, we learn ways of being that are usually kind of messed up. We’re raised by humans who have their own skews and perceptions, and so from our human parents, we learn distortions – the messed-up-ed-ness – that we’re faithful to in order to survive and be loved.
There is a “mother” that got installed inside you. This “mother” came from bits and pieces of your actual mom outside, combined with a lot of your own versions of how you perceive her and your own interpretations added and subtracted.
Through doing this work and becoming conscious about food, our messed-up-ed-ness comes up when we realize that we are the child who is less powerful, or a failure, or who won’t get it together. We’re loyal to that learned messed-up-ed-ness because of the love and belonging it earned us. Most of us would rather not be disloyal to our “mothers” because we need that love to survive.
THAT is worthy of questioning. Who are you being loyal to when you are being loyal to the “mother” and loyal to the messed-up-ed-ness?
In my family when I was growing up, I had two grandparents who were very slim. They were capable of being a bit Judgey McJudge Pants with their children and grandchildren who were not on the fit side of the fence. My mom and her mother, both beautiful and curvaceous women, could be victims of the slim camp at times.
I happened to be an athletic kid. I loved swimming competitively from a young age through high school, and I tried other sports over the years like soccer, softball and tennis. I was no bean pole, but I suppose I was fit. It’s hard for me to admit that even now, because it feels disloyal to my mother. My real mother didn’t tell me to “choose sides” or anything like that, so this would be my inner “mother” talking.
When my mom would entertain and cook lavish meals for guests, I would feel as if I were being disloyal to her unless I ate with abandon to show how much I love her, all of her, just the way she is, and her efforts to feed us with her love. To reject her advances with food, in my mind, would be putting myself at risk of being unloved, at siding with the critical and thin family members. I wonder if I still keep myself a bit fleshy to prove that I’m not one of “them.”
Geneen says that when we change, we feel disloyal to that version of ourselves – to the “mother” and to the messed-up-ed-ness that we think we need in order to be loved.
Who and what are you being loyal to when you overeat? Think of your conditioning, your history, and the voices you’ve internalized.
Realize that when you’re loyal to the messed-up-ed-ness, that’s the kid talking. Have compassion for her, but realize that buying into coddling your “mother” is not far from feeling like a victim. Nobody else can do it or fix it for you now.
From the adult place, realize that only you can do the hard work for you. Here’s a map of the territory, but you need to walk the territory. Your body, your heart, and your intention needs to do the work.
So again — Who and what are you being loyal to when you overeat? Think of your conditioning, your history, and the voices you’ve internalized. Do it, do it! Get on the bike!
Where does exercise, physical movement, come into play?
Just like with food, it’s time to drop the guilt and shame shtick when it comes to exercise. Just because you read that you’re supposed to do cardio for this many minutes per week, and strength training this many times, blah blah blah. If you didn’t know all that, then how do you think your body wants to move, and what would feel good to your body?
If you think you hate exercise, then you need to try a few things and take your mind out of the equation. You’re going to make time for some movement for your sweet body, for yourself. Give yourself some options and see what your body likes to do.
Bodies like to move, they need to. Geneen encourages us to pay attention to the kind of movement that would feel best to your body. Walking? Swimming? Jumping rope? Hiking? What is it that would feel good? Almost every kid, even the bookworm, likes to move and to be outside. Movement is something for us to discover again.
Listen to the natural impulses of your body. The body knows what it needs and wants. It wants:
When you sense your body wanting one of those things, then give it to your body!
Geneen knows when she’s been working all day or she’s stressed, she needs to get outside and move to give her body relief. Her mind would say, “Take a bath, read a book, get on the internet.” But her body loves to move, so she doesn’t get engaged with her mind, and then it becomes effortless. She says it takes effort to be effortless. Listen to the body over and over, and you will build movement into your day.
What You’re Hungry for and Finding Your Enough
We each possess a soul, a spirit; we possess a true nature or an essence.
However, instead we believe we are made up of our thoughts and feelings, our past and conditioning, our history and our bodies. We don’t realize that we’ve lost track of who we are, of that true nature. And so we feel homelessness. We feel separated from ourselves.
When you feel separated from yourself, you feel empty and wounded. You have that feeling like you can’t get enough when you aren’t connected to who you really are.
We incorrectly identify with our personality, our ego, whether we are smart, pretty, thin, kind, lovable, and what we do for other people. We identify with who we take ourselves to be. When things aren’t unfolding in our lives or we feel stuck, it’s because our beliefs, attitudes and patterns of reaction are in our way.
We don’t question what’s presenting itself to us in that moment: the barriers, the attitudes, the patterns. Instead of focusing on the space between the thoughts, we take ourselves to be the thoughts, and because we don’t question them, we just think it’s the truth.
What we’re longing for is to have ourselves. What we’re hungry for is our own essence and true nature.
Inquiry and Coming Home to Ourselves
Inquiry allows us to question our deeply held beliefs. Inquiry allows us to question what we think is unquestionable. Inquiry allows us to question what we have decided is the truth, the way things are, who we are, and the way life is.
We need a way to question all those things and come home to ourselves. When we do that, we’re able to notice what’s standing in the way between us and who we take ourselves to be. We uncover the wisdom and vastness of who we are, that space of just being.
Until we reconnect with ourselves, we will never get enough from the outside. No matter what external riches we have, who loves us or what we accomplish, we will always feel lonely as long as we remain disconnected from ourselves.
Food is the doorway to inquiry and discovering our true nature. When we give ourselves time to hang out with ourselves, to simply be in our bodies, we get to know ourselves.
This sounds great and all, but how do we actually connect with that part?
The short answer: Inquiry.
And now for the long answer.
When you’re wrapped up in a thought, blaming yourself or someone else, feeling puffed up and huffy over something or collapsed inward and down, then you’re believing something that’s not true. You’re turning to old thoughts and patterns. It’s time to reconnect with yourself via inquiry, and here’s how.
Inquiry steps and basics:
- Come back into your body. Ask, “What am I feeling right now?” Remember – the answer is found in YOUR BODY, not your head. If you’re feeling sad, bored or lonely, what does that feel like in your body?
- Ask yourself a litany of sensation questions. Where is the feeling in my body? How does it affect me? Is it familiar? How old do I feel right now? Does the feeling have a shape, sensation, temperature, color? What happens as I feel the sensations directly in my body?
- Be in touch with what effect your asking all these questions has on your experience. As you ask the questions, it will impact you in the moment. The fact that you’re asking means that you already separated from the total merge with the feeling itself. You are allowing yourself to begin coming home to yourself.
Things That Aren’t Going to Help Inquiry; Things That Interfere With the Direct Experience of Being in the Body
Inquiry involves openness without a purpose. It’s the inquiry itself you pursue in order to come home to yourself and be yourself. The below will interfere with that connection.
1. The Voice. Until you disengage, you believe you are what The Voice says. The Voice says you are your personality, your conditioning, your ego, attitudes and memories. When you believe that, you don’t believe you have true nature or essence.
2. Having an Agenda. When we do inquiry, we can’t be trying to get something, fix something, go somewhere or accomplish a goal. The purpose of inquiry is to answer the longing in your heart and to know yourself before you die. It won’t give you the thing you thought you wanted in the external world. It’s to answer something inside you.
3. Comparative Judgment. In inquiry, you can’t compare how you’re feeling with what you want to be feeling or with how someone else feels. You can’t compare how you’re feeling now to past experience. This is figuring out feeling in the mind, not the body, which means we lose the connection to our experience.
4. Pain Avoidance. If you think discomfort is to be avoided, then that prevents inquiry. We can’t have a fear of pain when we practice inquiry. We need to drop the painful mental stories, which certainly helps. But we need to feel what the body is feeling.
How Do You Get in Touch With Yourself? How Do You begin Inquiry?
You start wherever you are. Food is a great doorway. If you eat when you’re not hungry, if you eat while you’re standing, if you did tonight’s meditation while typing or eating, then be curious. Ask what’s going on.
Start where you are and become curious about that. If you’re all huffy about something, you’re believing something that’s not true. So start there.
Your direct experience right now is the closest thing to true nature that you have. Your life is the one you need to be having. It’s the link to you. Be curious and question your experience right now. It’s how you start.
This Week’s Practices / Action Steps
Although she likes the term “practices” because we need to practice them to become good at them, this week Geneen is calling them “action steps” because we need to take action. Nothing is going to happen if we keep having aha’s and not translating them into what we need to do.
Without further ado:
1. Eat what your body wants.
What your body wants is different from what you think you want. What your body wants has nothing to do with guilt, what somebody else is eating, or what you didn’t let yourself eat two weeks ago.
Eating what your body wants means be in the present moment and ask what your body wants now. Does your body want something hot, cold, smooth, crunchy, salty, something with protein or fat, or something lighter?
If you’re thinking in quantities, like, “I want two pizzas – or a whole carton of ice cream,” that’s not in the present moment. You body can answer with a description, but not with a quantity or an amount because your body only feels in the present moment.
That said, once you’ve had three bites, then you need to keep asking your body, “And what do you want now?” While you’re eating, keep checking in with your present-focused body. You will get satisfied mid-bite. Moment to moment, check in so you know when you've had enough.
2. Notice what you are loyal to.
Who are you loyal to? When you engage in those repetitive patterns, or when you find yourself retelling old stories, ask, “How old am I right now? Who am I being loyal to right now?”
Let's go kiddos! Get on your bikes and start riding!
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Except as noted, all contents of this Geneen Roth Online Course is Copyright Geneen Roth 2013 and is for the sole use of Online Course students. All content on this blog requires express permission from Geneen Roth & Associates Inc. for reuse, display, republication or resale.