“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
Growing Humankindness is a womb of healing.
We help people who self soothe with food and struggle with self criticism and who want to find more compassionate and nourishing ways of relating to themselves.
We weave together the worlds of soul, relational neuroscience and loving presence to soften self blame, self criticism, and shame so that you can soften overeating, deepen self trust, and love, connect and give freely.
There’s a deeper story that lives underneath the surface story of your struggles, and this story is both more true and more merciful. Together, we sing this story into being.
The suffering of separation
When we experience pain, trauma, and loss, and we don’t have the support and warmth to process our fear and pain, our nervous systems move in to protect us.
These protections, rooted in goodness, become the ‘not beautiful’ coping strategies – the overeating, addictions, defenses, compulsions, and obsessions – that fill us with shame and suffering.
These protectors safeguard our functioning. They’re based in wise instincts to preserve our functioning, guard our safety, and keep our connections with others. For this may they be praised.
Feeling stuck in protectors
But our protectors carry a high cost and bring their own suffering. We feel ashamed of the ways we eat to cope with our pain. And we often blame ourselves, telling ourselves “it’s all my fault.” The implicit, underlying belief – the story that lives in our bodies – whispers, “There’s something’s wrong with me.”
It can be complex and confusing – how food is a place of both comfort and pain, how we long for food and loathe it at the same time. Overeating becomes something we fear, and we fight to heal and overcome it.
This ‘overeating self’ can take over our whole identity, and rupture our sense of ourselves.
Listening for the deeper story
Trauma rearranges our sense of self – how we see ourselves, how we see life, and who we think we are. It’s incredibly painful, lonely and disorienting. But underneath the surface story of the trauma there’s a deeper story, and this story is both more true and more merciful.
Your deeper story – gently, and persistently – invites you to look again at what you may label as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ about yourself and offers a more radical perspective.
Your deeper story knows that this place where you’re struggling is holy – a womb, a place of birth. As Rumi says, ‘It’s where the light enters you.’
How Growing Humankindness began
I’m Karly Randolph Pitman, the founder and steward of this sacred space.
I struggled with eating disorders for decades, from my teens into my forties. Depression and anxiety have been even longer companions on my journey.
I’m also a seeker, and a typical highly sensitive person. The intertwining of these realities – my conscientiousness and yearning, and my trauma and struggles – never seemed to fit. I couldn’t understand why I struggled so much to feel safe and whole. And when I found myself caring for years of chronic mental and physical health challenges, I felt ashamed – and wanted to fix it.
I consumed spirituality, psychology, and self help, trying to find the ‘right’ teachings to help me ‘overcome my struggles.’ I tried so hard!
While many of these teachings carry tremendous gifts and grace within them, and while they gave me helpful practices, I was also subtly using these teachings to eradicate the shame I felt about my trauma.
Over the years, through many rounds of frustration, I began to feel the futility that my attempts to ‘fix’ myself – no matter how transcendent the means – didn’t work.
I remember the day when I felt a gentleness stir in my being: what if my neediness is something that will never be filled? And what if it doesn’t need to be?
What if I never receive the healing I think I need to be ‘whole?’
These questions can sound harsh or despairing. But that January day I felt them as pure, utter relief. The self image I was working so hard to create – a ‘healed self” – shattered, and my body softened with a giant exhale.
I didn’t have to keep working so hard. And my hardships and my mystical heart could coexist. What if, instead, I needed a different relationship with my pain?
Rather than getting rid of my pain, I slowly turned towards it. I grieved. Over time, as the shame softened, I began to see my trauma differently. I became more comfortable being ‘incomplete,’ in having both wounds and wonder, accepting both the shadow and the light within myself and others.
I found safety in the very place I didn’t think it existed: in holding the entirety of my life in my hands.
I came to see that my most vulnerable struggles were the very place where the ‘unloved life’ within me longed to be heard, held, and cared for. I didn’t have to get rid of it. And I didn’t have to be scared of it, either.
What is Growing Humankindness?
One day, when I was trying to find the words for this path of healing, my husband said, “What about Growing Humankindness?” And so this work, and this website, was born.
Since that time I’ve had the honor to sit at the hearth of other peoples’ stories, to receive their sacred stories with food. I’ve been awed by their caravan of loss, courage, healing, and renewal. It is to them that this space is dedicated and to whom it belongs.
Growing Humankindness is a change of heart – a new way of seeing and relating – to our struggles. It’s a fiercely loving space that is the womb of growth. The hand over heart is a symbol of this mercy, of bowing the thinking mind to the knowing heart.
If you’d like to read the Growing Humankindness mission statement, you can read it here.
How we help
If you feel frustrated and stuck in food, and you want a compassionate way of softening this protector, you’re in the right place.
We offer a gentle path to soften self blame, self criticism, shame and self soothing with food, with support at your side. We primarily offer a group community (as well as home study courses) because we value the power and beauty of joining with others: healing is not meant to nor should be done alone.
We offer help in three ways:
Overeating can soften, and here you’ll learn a relational, developmental approach to support this transformation.
Change how you relate, and how you see – rather than seeing your struggles as personal failures, we’ll help you embrace them as opportunities to deepen compassion: a call from the soul to grow into a full, rich human being.
Move from shame, isolation, and separation into relationship, community, and connection – The isolation of addiction can be so painful! As we heal, we reconnect with ourselves, life, and others. It’s a radical surprise how our vulnerability can be a place of connection with others rather than a place of separation.
Our approach is grounded in these key areas:
- Relational neuroscience, attachment theory and developmental psychology, especially the work of Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Bonnie Badenoch
- Self compassion
- Soul work – images, stories, collage, poetry, journaling, and creative expression as doorways to insight, intimacy, and integration
- and Loving Presence – contemplative/meditative practices from many traditions that help us deepen the connection within
We attract a rich variety of gentle, sensitive, passionate souls from across the globe – healers, doctors, nurses and doulas, therapists and coaches, mystics and ministers, parents and grandparents, meditators and spiritual seekers, teachers and artists, poets and writers who come offer their wisdom at our hearth.
People who align best with our approach are those who feel comfortable with meditation/contemplative practices and psychological tools and who want to embody compassion in their relationship with food.
Where to start
If you resonate with our approach, we’d love to get to know you! Here are some ways you can get to know us better.
- Explore our free resources in the Growing Humankindness welcome room in our Mighty Network. You can get a taste of our approach and see if we’re a good fit.
- Sign up for our mailing list. You’ll receive newsletters 2-4 times a month as well as notifications of upcoming classes, course offerings, and special events.
- Explore our offerings – we offer home study courses and a membership community to bring healing to your relationship with food
- Explore our poems and essays – receive soulful nourishment about healing, motherhood, gratitude, grief, community, and beauty in our reader supported newsletter, O Nobly Born: The Letters of Growing Humankindness. You can sign up for these letters here.
Softening the pressure to ‘fix ourselves’
The shame of overeating can create a lot of anxiety and internal drivenness that has us rushing to try and ‘fix’ the overeating. If you feel like you’ve just had it with the weight gain and the mental anguish, the underlying frustration can create a lot of urgency to be in a different place.
It helps to remember: our body and psyche have their own wisdom, timing and pacing. The more kindness and acceptance we bring to where we’re at, the more the healing process can ‘hold’ us.
Acceptance changes the way we relate to our overeating, our vulnerability, and our pain itself. We ‘come alongside ourselves,’ as Dr. Neufeld puts it, as ally and support, rather than coming ‘at ourselves’ as the judge, frightened young one, or frustrated seeker.
At the same time, those places in us that are frightened, that judge, that are frustrated and that want to ‘push the river’ are also welcome and held within. We can comfort and companion those places so they don’t feel so frantic and alone.
Surrendering to our journey is what softens our hearts so we become the midwifes to our healing rather than feeling caught in criticism, shame, contempt, or demands. Each moment of the journey, rather than something to be endured or gotten over with as quickly as possible, becomes a moment of reconnection, of holding those young ones inside.
We invite you to bow your head and heart to what is being asked of you in facing your relationship with food for it is for you – from a desire to help you – not something being done to you.
The gift of embracing your struggles
It is from the feet of my personal journey that I greet you, and yours.
I appreciate that our addictions and struggles can feel like proof that we’ve done something wrong. One wise man described it this way: “We often feel like we got on the wrong bus!”
But what if what we see as ‘failure’ is a profound compassion, a way to belong to our shared human experience?
Through embracing our vulnerability, we join both those who’ve walked before us and those who come after who’ve also wrestled with the task of being human, who’ve failed to live up to their expectations and who’ve become better for it.
Through “failure” we come to rest, abiding in a deeper belonging.
Here, we learn how to open to the gifts of our journey, trust the deeper mystery that is being writ through our struggles, and allow growth to unfold through us, at its own timing, its own pace, and guided by our heart’s wisdom.
Since 2006, thousands of students from around the world have journeyed through our doors. May your heart be nourished here.
With warmth, Karly Randolph Pitman and the Growing Humankindness team