The following Summary of Geneen's fifth live call was written by Robyn Bloom, a student in the Online Course who created exceptional Summaries of Geneen’s work regularly. 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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Summary Notes by Robyn Bloom
Opening Meditation: Arrive Where You Are. Come Back Home to Yourself.
Find a quiet place for the next 90 minutes, just for you. It is best to sit up in a comfortable place where you feel alert and not so relaxed that you fall asleep and miss half the retreat.
The progression is the same each time: Orienting, grounding and centering.
Rather than taking the objects around you for granted, look at them with astonishment, as a child would.
Start to notice where you are located right now. Even if you have been in this space hundreds of thousands of times, you are still missing things because we often see without really looking. Really look. Take in one object and really look at it. Let yourself have the object. Eat it up by taking it in through your senses.
Next, ground yourself by becoming aware of the ground itself beneath you, the earth itself that is supporting you at this moment. Without needing to do anything, the earth is supporting you every moment of every day. Notice where your body is touching the ground and making contact. Be aware of the point of contact that your legs or feet are making with the ground.
This time is for you to become aware of your body.
Whatever else you have done today, this is time for you. If you are on your computer, looking at Facebook or checking e-mails, then you are still putting out into the world and not taking in. If you find this hard, just notice that. I’m not asking you to deprive yourself of what you love but I’m actually asking to expand your idea of love. Multitasking is a myth. Notice that. Notice if you are bored with your own company.
Notice your body’s boundaries, the edges of your body that are making contact with the chair or the bed. Notice, are you sitting straight with alertness? If you are slumped, notice if you can gently straighten yourself and awaken your being.
Bringing your attention further in, notice the sensations in your body. Notice your feet and wiggle your toes. Like a flashlight beam, move your attention up through your body. Notice any coolness, warmth, tingling, or pulsing sensations.
Move your attention up to the space between your knees. Notice the fronts and backs of your knees making the beam of light travel along in your body. Notice if just mentioning a body part makes you react. Oh, thighs - yuck!
Continue to bring your attention up through your hips.
Notice your fingers, wiggle them, allow the awareness of your fingers enliven you. Traveling up through your hands to your wrists.
Notice the impact this exercise is having on you. Do you feel calm, relaxed, agitated, anxious, tense, bored, or distracted? No judgment necessary, just notice it, allowing yourself the reactions you are having.
Now drop your attention into your belly. Notice your belly. Put your palm on your belly. Cup one palm over your navel, the other palm right under it. Notice your breath, the breath that connects you to your belly and gives you life.
Now, do you feel yourself more here? Notice the impact this meditation has had on you.
If your eyes have been closed, slowly open them, little by little. As you do, stay with your self, using the 80/20 equation. 80% of your focus stays within you and 20% of your focus looks outward, in the world.
There is nothing more important than staying with your self.
Questions and Answers from Retreat Students
Let’s start with some questions:
Cheryl: Here’s a question submitted by a Retreat participant:
“When you first started this journey of coming back to yourself and deciding not to diet again you went two weeks only eating chocolate chip cookies. If I don’t allow myself to eat everything I want, my forbidden foods, am I missing an important step? I would appreciate some hope and guidance from your process, Geneen.”
Geneen: Anyone that has read my books knows that I gave up dieting. I started by eating raw and cooked chocolate chip cookies for two weeks. When I decided not to diet anymore the first thing that occurred to me was to allow myself to eat everything that I had not allowed myself to eat.
I want to share with you a passage from my book:
“When I told myself that this time I could eat what I wanted with no strings attached - no threat of a diet on any Monday morning for the rest of my life - I headed straight for the foods of my childhood I was never allowed to eat. It was as if in letting myself eat what I couldn’t eat as a kid, I thought I could get what I never got. As if in redoing the food part of the story, I could redo the plot in which it developed; by eating ice cream instead of ice milk, cookies instead of graham crackers, I was secretly planning to have a second childhood, with June and Ward Cleaver as parents.
And as I’ve written before, I was so elated with my resolve to never diet again that I didn’t notice that I was bumping around in a sugar haze from eating only raw and cooked chocolate-chip cookies. I needed to prove to myself that what I wanted most was not forbidden, but what I didn’t understand was that I didn’t want the cookies; I wanted the way being allowed to have then made me feel: welcomed, deserving, adored.”
Excerpted from Women, Food and God, Page 174
I think this is a big question we are talking about, because when you tell yourself you can eat what your body wants the mind quickly jumps in and takes over.
I did not make this distinction until recently. I keep learning, so the way I see this is now through the lens of the last 30 years. There was what I thought, knew, and felt when I first stopped dieting. Now there is the refinement of the guidelines that is about “eating what the body wants’.
Do I think you will be missing something if you don’t get to go wild with the forbidden foods? The question itself implies a feeling of deprivation. “Maybe if I don’t go through my forbidden foods I won’t be truly free.” Or “Maybe there is a crazed food monster in side myself.”
It’s important to know and feel in your heart, mind and bones that no food is forbidden. You are not pretending to be happy while eating healthy foods when inside there is an eating monster waiting to unleash itself.
It’s Actually About Finding Real Freedom
You do what you need to do to actually be free.
So if you think eating all the previously forbidden foods is a step you need to do then maybe do it. But, people are usually feeling sick from the foods they binge on. They don’t need usually need to click through their list of forbidden foods to break free.
What you choose, I believe, is up to you as long as you understand what we really want is to free ourselves from the obsession. Real freedom takes the form of “If I want a piece of chocolate and it’s ten in the morning, and I have checked in with my body and asked it what it wants and the answer is chocolate, then I eat the chocolate.”
You stop thinking about what other people would think. That’s real freedom.
Cheryl: You had said you gained fifteen pounds before you actually started losing weight. People are scared of gaining weight if they start to eat what they want.
Geneen: If you find yourself eating with that kind of wild abandon for longer than a week or two than you are using the guidelines as a lens to further your food obsession and the compulsion to eat.
It is possible to gain weight in the beginning. I do not know how many people gain weight. If you are eating with your mind - not what the body needs - if you are eating for sweetness or for making up for what you did not get, you may gain weight.
Bringing Mindfulness Into Your Life
I don’t know what would happen if I started this now. My body is different than in my 20’s. Today, I will eat sugar for taste, but not to try and get what I didn’t get. But it’s very important to ask: If you are the kind of person who wants to eat forbidden foods and you gain weight, what are you going to do then?
The Voice might kick in and exacerbate the situation. Then we get scared, run back to a diet and the cycle begins again.
Begin to notice what is going on. Be mindful, and curious, and use Inquiry to try and see what is happening.
Throw Out (Or Give Away) Your Scale. A Scale Will Never Be A Measure Of How You Are Doing.
Many people have asked me questions about scales.
Firstly, I don’t believe in scales, I see that question often. Scales are a way to let some lifeless piece of junk, outside of yourself, decide whether you are allowed to have a good day today or not.
You do not need a scale to know what is going on. You notice how your clothes fit. You notice how you feel. You use Inquiry.
So my advice is throw it out or give it away.
Cheryl: Question from Arlene:
“I can get myself quiet for a few moments before I bolt to the kitchen. I only hold out briefly. I need to feel hope in this area.”
Geneen: The question is: “How do I move in the direction of wanting to be with myself?”
At the depth pf that question, she’s really asking: “How do I go from not wanting to be with myself to being with myself when all the neurons are firing along one particular pathway that says “bolt,” even when I tell myself I’m not going to bolt?”
It’s a one-word answer: SLOWLY.
Change Happens Slowly And Begins With Small Successes That Give You New Hope And Begin To Lay Down New Pathways
So start by trying not to bolt, once, maybe twice a day. Try to just stay with yourself. Because, after you are done eating, whatever made you bolt is still there. But now, additionally, you feel bad about eating. You may have a feeling of failure or judgment. This can become an endless cycle of creating more suffering. Bolting becomes a habitual behavior.
But you have the desire to change. Remember: What do you want your life to be? How do you want to live your days?
“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard, poet.
The feelings that make us want to bolt are very compelling. What I am talking about is not easy. Going against a lifetime of avoiding discomfort is very hard to do.
Evolutionarily, bolting was an adaptive behavior. Bolting kept us safe from predators and kept us from being eaten. But we have interpreted the behavior maladaptively in our modern world.
When We Feel Threatened By Our Feelings We Might Bolt. But If We Can Remember, In That Instance, What We Really Want We Can Begin To Stay With Ourselves.
What is threatening to us now is feeling our feelings.
So we need to turn it around and in a big way, keep close to you what you really want.
Practice knowing this day to day. We seek to change the negative grooves by keeping in touch with what you want for your life.
Bolting tonight into the kitchen to eat is another moment you have left your life and lost the opportunity not only to be with yourself, but also to be with your feelings.
For example, when you feel a sadness or impatience, rather than bolt, stay with the feeling and it may transform. Sadness could relax and shift into a feeling of softness, and impatience might take on a feeling of bigness.
You can learn to know yourself and stay close to yourself. There is a realignment that happens slowly.
Once, or twice this week, take yourself to the edge of your comfort zone. Not so far out that it is unbearable, because you will snap back like a rubber band, but just far enough that you can see what happens.
Cheryl: Question: “What do you do when you are really afraid to confront the anxiety or depression without the crutch of food?”
Geneen: We slip into the stories very quickly when we start to feel a feeling.
Boredom, rejection, abandonment, anger, discomfort. I call these garden-variety, everyday feelings that come up with regularity. It’s important to see what your mind is telling you about the feelings, the stories you are telling yourself about the feeling.
Ask yourself: “If I allow myself to feel this, what would happen?”
We have catastrophic stories attached to our feelings and we fall into our story so quickly and easily that we do not even realize we are telling them to ourselves. We believe the stories are true.
Start To Catch Yourself In The “Story”
But when you are tired, you can simply be tired and not riddled with cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, or an autoimmune system failure. A single sensation can become a whole story.
The Awareness Comes Slowly
I’m saying this as if it is matter-of-fact. But, I understand how long it has taken me come to this awareness, this place of sometimes delighted or sometimes difficult, awareness. I try and pay attention to myself so now I can tell the difference sooner and sooner and sooner.
When you start hearing yourself telling the story, you learn to catch yourself. Sometimes you won’t catch yourself until you are under the effect of the story. There you are, caught up in the story, just like that.
The more you can feel the feelings, the sensations and the discomfort as they arise, the shorter the interval will be between the feeling, the sensation, the discomfort and the desire to bolt. Slowly it can start to change.
When Should You Consider Getting Outside Help Via A Licensed Therapist?
When feelings start to emerge and what comes up is an early trauma or abuse that was very young or even preverbal, I always recommend seeing a licensed therapist. It is good to have someone that can be with you as you go through the feelings, memories, and beliefs that are arising as you allow the feelings to come up.
I believe it is good to go to therapy and I believe it’s good to know when you have had enough. You can get addicted to therapy, convinced you are broken and that is not how you want to live.
Being with trauma might require somatic therapy or talk therapy. Somatic therapy is focused on the body. The somatic therapists talk minimally and work with preverbal patterns in your body that were established before you started talking.
Cheryl: Question: “I listened to the replay from Session Four - about what we are being loyal to. I’d like a little more understanding about this.
Geneen: Most of us, without realizing it, are loyal to particular ways of being in the world that evolved in order to get and feel love.
Children are loyal to those who love them. As children, we become loyal to a particular way of being. We create deep grooves in our soul. We develop beliefs. We have stories about matching other people’s expectations of us in order to be loved. It happens in automatic ways.
Notice When You Are Being Loyal To An Old Story
When asked how I was, I would find anything that was not going well to talk about. This was a deep groove, a deep loyalty to taking myself down so that I didn’t threaten anyone around me.
I was being loyal to my mother’s loneliness and depression. I thought it was not OK for me to be happy as a kid. I had a deep, abiding, and unconditional love to her. I didn’t want her to be unhappy. So I found the best way to adapt to the situation that I knew. I internalized her.
My mother never would agree that she did not want me to be happy. But in the process, I became loyal to my version of events, my version of my mother.
When I start to see that I am being loyal to something not in the current moment, something that happened 50 years ago, as if it was true in this moment I had a choice to change my loyalty. I realized my husband would not leave me; my friends would still like me if I was happy.
I coupled being happy with possibility of abandonment.
The loyalty is to the old version of who you think you need to be to be loved.
Questioning Your Beliefs And Making Sure They Are Current
We are talking about questioning who you need to be loyal to, who you need to be to be happy or successful.
Maybe you believe when you are happy or successful you are threatening to people and you will lose the love in your life. You think that the only way to be loved, have comfort and safety is to be the same as those around you that you love.
Whatever your beliefs, if you don’t know what they are and you don’t question them you act in automatic ways that shut you down.
Cheryl: I see how the process of inquiry allows us to find the beliefs. I thought I was a bad person if I left food on my plate. It was my duty to clean my plate because there are starving people in the world. I’ve known a long time that is not true, but it’s taken the questioning to understand it. That belief has had a huge impact on my life.
Geneen: Yes, that was probably an instruction you got. “There are starving children in the world, don’t leave food on your plate.”
Cheryl: And, the belief about the kind of person that would do something like that (leaving food on your plate). So: Replacing our beliefs with loveliness, can you talk about that?
Geneen: This is about the topic of change.
How do we change? Chapter Six in Women, Food and God is titled “Reteaching Loveliness.” In a poem, The Sow, by Galway Kinnel, he talks about “reteaching loveliness”. The lines are:
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness
How Do You Re-Learn Your Loveliness?
It is good to pay attention to your loveliness. I was thinking about that beautiful poem and I was thinking of my own experience and of two different and related practices.
First, we become aware of the obstacles keeping us from our true nature.
Then, we immerse ourselves in the goodness that is already here.
First, Question The Beliefs That You Are Not Lovely
The beliefs that are installed in your psyche that you are not lovable, that you are damaged, you are not enough, that you will always be a failure - where are they coming from?
One part of re-teaching loveliness is to be curious, examine, question and explore the ways you tell yourself you are not lovely. It’s a matter of seeing your beliefs.
Why Inquiry works, for many of the reasons we talked about in Session Four is because we are born as loveliness itself. But we learn to put our attention on other things. We learn to shape ourselves into the environment we need to fit into. We distort ourselves to survive.
Who You Are Is Loveliness, Once You Remove The Obstacles
But we never can lose what we are born with.
Three thousand years of spiritual traditions say - over and over again - the same thing. When you leave yourself alone, who you are in your essence, your true nature is loveliness.
Our beliefs obstruct our view of ourselves. When we remove the obstacles to seeing our connection, our realization, our understanding of who we actually truly, are we can see the loveliness. When you see and question the obstacles that are keeping you from knowing and being yourself then who you are is revealed. What is revealed is loveliness.
Many of you have asked: How does knowing your beliefs lead you back to who you are? How does that happen?
If you have not had the direct experience that you are anything but damaged, then all the thinking will not pop anything. But when you start noticing the belief that you are damaged, that thought can open the door.
This is not an intellectual process that can be figured out with your mind. The mind can put up obstacles, but the mind does not know how to be. Your mind is working frantically to figure it out, but it cannot do it. It is beyond the mind.
It Is The Realm Of Being, Of Essence, And Of True Nature. This Is The Realm We Are Talking About.
Once you notice that the mind believes you are damaged and you can open the door to stop defending and compensating for the belief, you can become interested in the belief.
It might sound like “Oh my, I believe I am damaged at the core. I believed I was born a bad seed and the best I could do was to make up for it by being really, really good to make up for that when really I thought, that I am a bitch.”
Accept it and be curious. Name the belief. Be more curious. What are the memories, associations, messages that formed that belief? What other stuff is stuck on that belief? The Inquiry is a process, a process that takes great commitment.
But really, what I say is: “What else is there to do?”
Pay Attention And Focus On All The Good
The second part of Relearning Loveliness takes us back to our Astonishment, Amazement, and “Living As If” Practices. They are meant to begin to bring awareness to the goodness and loveliness of what is already here.
You all have at least ten wonderful ways, qualities, attributes, or things about you that are lovely right at this moment and we do not even take the time to focus on them.
What you pay attention to grows. If you only pay attention to the negative then you will only see he negative.
Geneen: Does this make sense?
Cheryl: Yes. We are habitually indoctrinated to focusing on what we don’t have.
Geneen: Remember the space we talked about last week?
There is the space in the room. But we tend to focus on the objects not the space that actually allows us to see the objects.
We rarely are aware of the miraculous nature of awareness itself. Awareness, clarity, stillness is the background of all the things we focus. We don’t even recognize it or name it. Yet it is the inherent goodness that is always here.
Cheryl: A last question, from Diane. “What I want most now is to LIVE this wonderful life. I’m looking for permission to feel good. As I think about the teaching about The Voice and ask who I am being loyal to, as I do this what I feel is that the part of me that I am paying attention to and growing is the heavy part of myself.”
Geneen: The balance between needing to pay attention to the snags - the drains on your energy, the ways you make yourself small - take away the goodness.
You have to do that to see the ways that your thinking is mistaken. That needs to be noticed. Maybe it is a couple of times a day or maybe all day. You have got to pay attention when you find yourself feeling small, bad or caught in an old pattern. It’s not enough to pay attention to the loveliness.
But if you have already worked through a particular pattern and really, really know it’s not true, then it’s simply enough to notice the pattern and consciously decide to focus on something equally true or truer to the pattern.
Maybe it looks like this: Success is equated with abandonment.
When I started writing, there would be a little fear connected with that. Having explored that fear, my relationship, my mother’s relationship, and my father’s relationship to success.
So now, when it comes up for me it’s enough for me to notice the pattern and there is nothing new for me to learn there. I can put my mind somewhere else when that starts to play on my channel or I can change the channel to something truer than success and abandonment go together. I could focus on something else at that moment. I could play with my dog, which gets my energy up in a different way. I could say a positive sentence. But you have to believe what you are telling yourself.
You Can’t Fill Yourself With Positive Thoughts That You Don’t Really Believe
Focusing on loveliness is important, but I was talking about the balance between focusing on the obstacles and focusing on the loveliness. When you can disengage from the old beliefs that are your obstacles then you can re-teach yourself loveliness.
This Week’s Practices / “Action Steps”
YOUR PRACTICE FOR YOURSELF:
Our practice this week is to immerse yourself in what you already have.
Clearly see the goodness that surrounds you and is you true abundance.
When you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night become aware of three lovelinesses that are right there, right then.
It could be as simple as: “I am lying in my bed on sheets that feel good on my body.”
We are focusing on laying down new wiring in your brain because what you pay attention to grows. We want to grow our loveliness.
YOUR PRACTICE RELATED TO FOOD AND EATING:
Stop When You Have Had Enough
Notice the correlation between noticing the loveliness in your life and noticing having enough food.
When you feel like you don’t have enough of the good stuff - the loveliness - there’s a turning to food to get that. When you become aware not just of the “enoughness,” but also the loveliness.
A friend of mine called me from her vacation at the beach. There was a sign in the house she was staying at that read: “If you are lucky enough to be at the beach right now, you are lucky enough.”
The Practice is to find the loveliness that is already in your life and notice it.
In order to stop when you have had enough, you need to pay attention to the food as you eat. It is really important to be able to really absorb what you are eating by being present and really taking it in, mindfully.
“Enough” is a function of being physically, emotionally and spiritually present. It is a quality within that gets touched when you notice the loveliness.
I wish you a sweet ending of the session and love, blessings until next time.
From Saint Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnel
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
or everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
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