If Only I Had …

by Geneen Roth

Back in the last century, I weighed almost twice as much as I do now — and I desperately wanted to be thin. So desperately that if a genie had appeared (and I’m not exactly proud of this fact) and offered me one wish, it would have been to wake up thin the next day. World peace could wait. Since I was convinced that being fat was the cause of my suffering, I was also convinced that if I was thin, my problems would disappear, and happiness would be mine.

When I lost weight, my focus changed and I became a serial monogamist in the “If only I had” department. The belief that my suffering would end when I got thin was transferred to “when my book got published” which (after publication) was then transferred to “when I fell in love” which (after marriage) was transferred to “when I live in the right house.” (There were, of course, a few articles of clothing thrown in the mix of I-will-be-happy-when: I get the perfect black boots, the sassy-but-not-too revealing dress, the earrings that were big but not gaudy).

What I didn’t realize was that I had become so entranced with the belief that happiness was in the future that I walked through my life as if I was jet-lagged and living in an airport shopping mall with the same stores, smells, sights as all the other airports I’d visited. Within a few days of arriving at the place or situation I thought was going to fix everything, the landscape of my mind felt exactly the same as it did before. Same thoughts. Same discontent. Even though I’d waited so long to get from “here” to “there,” I always ended up in the same place – “here.”

The possibility of stopping the search, or that there was nothing to fix and nowhere to go didn’t occur to me. (Okay, maybe it did occur to me once or twice during my thirty years of meditation practice, but the truth was that sweetness and quiet and stillness weren’t as compelling as angst, drama and the chatter of discontent). I mean, seriously: “now” just wasn’t sexy or appealing. It didn’t hold promises of splashy parades with cymbals and drums and opera singers thrashing about. The naked now, the one without frills, the one that was always here, just wasn’t as interesting as what could be. What should be. What I wanted to be. I was enthralled, as the Buddhist teacher Choygam Trungpa described it, with the process of “putting make-up on space.”

Finally, and this is going to sound a bit more linear than it actually was or is, love pierced the trance. I realized I wanted something more than I wanted to keep walking through the airports of my mind. I wanted to be here. For the purpling of sunsets and the clanking of dishes. For the soft way my husband’s hand feels in mine. I wanted to breathe when I breathed and eat when I ate. I wanted to live in and through my body, not my mind. And, not only did I realize I wanted that, I knew without a doubt that I already was that. Am that.

It’s not a done deal over here, however. The pull of my thoughts is still strong, but the love for this moment is stronger. The pull of drama still compels me, but the love for showing up where I am is bigger. Nothing can compete with the love of this life blazing in and through me, which, along with the depth of night-sky stillness, also includes outrageous laughter, salted chocolate and occasional swoops of sadness.

Every time I find myself wandering away, I bring myself back to what I love: to this very moment, these exact sensations, this coolness on the surface of my right arm, the sound of a single bird cheeping, the low thrum of the heater. I take one conscious breath and return to where the feast is: here. And when I do — when thoughts drop away and the one I refer to as “I” disappears — what remains is contentment itself. And it is enough.


You can learn a whole new way to relate to food – and explore the foundation upon which you build your life and your relationships – at my next retreat, this coming May 23-28, 2017.  Six days of immersion in constant support, endless kindness and ever present awareness. Such a blessing. Once you know those things are possible for you, you can never go back to believing that they're not. If this resonates with you, you can find out more here: http://retreats.geneenroth.com/

12 responses to “If Only I Had …

  1. Beautiful! I can certainly relate to this post! I spent most of my life thinking if only I were thin …my career would be better. Unfortunately I work in show-biz which is a very superficial business which totally and whole heartedly embraces and reinforces this idea. Thank Mother Earth I found your books earlier in my life . They set me on a course for health and body acceptance that totally rocked my world!

  2. This is exactly what I was trying to explain at Thanksgiving during a conversation that turned to a riff on ‘aren’t we supposed to …’. And I was talking, which is removed from experience, a giant step, and thinking of what I was wanting to convey, another giant step away from the experience. Thank you Geneen – I’m sending this article to my beloveds.

  3. Thank you for sharing your heart. It’s these types of reflective blogs that help me to reconsider my path and keeping focused on what is most important.

  4. Great! Reading this takes me back into the Now.
    When will you be coming to Europe (Belgium)? I’m a man, not having food issues specifically, however the themes you talk about (love, relation with food, …) are very interesting.

    Kind regards,

  5. For those of us who are cereal drama junkies, this is easier said than done. Some of the same reasons why I ate are directly attached to the addiction,to the drama. When all you’ve ever experienced is the extreme highs and lows, “normal” never feels normal. Learning to appreciate consistency and balance just may be a life long lesson for those of us accustomed to the chaos, in fact we will create it, if and when we deem necessary. #Oy

  6. Dear Geneen: Hi – this is Sheryll Levine formerly of Great Neck. I’ve lived in Israel for the last 22 years. Remember me – I did a training with you in your mom’s house, was on the Good Morning T.V. show with you, met you in Omega. You may recall that I lost my son to cancer – was devastating and still there is an emptiness in my heart. I grieved for many many years. I’m better now, but still live with a sadness and missing him. Many, good things have happened since his death and I believe he sent them.
    I’ve written to you a few times over the years, but never got an answer. Your writing and expressing is still fabulous. I loved this article. I don’t do this anymore, but I did and it was an excellent article for those who are still into “If only I had.” Love to you, Sheryll (my name is now Shirel which means Song of G-d.

    1. Geneen’s only workshop on the east coast in 2017 will be held at Kripalu, Stockbridge, MA – Oct. 13-15. Watch our website for announcements when it opens for registration.

  7. Do you think some of these realizations come with age ? I’m 77 years old and am just now realizing that how much I weigh is not nearly as important as I used to think it was. I am now more into people I love and experiences I have yet to have. And then there is overwhelmingly grandchildren !

    Just a thought….or two ….

  8. Today I can only regret the time I’ve wasted in the airport of my mind. I’ve learned that it’s the here and now that matters. Superb msg. since my friend suddenly died in his sleep @55.

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