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/