One of the most persnickity challenges to healing with food are the internal obstacles that keep us from following through on our intentions – the doubt, resistance, the “I don’t want to” and “I don’t feel like it” feelings that get in the way of change.
Today I’d like to share the practice of safekeeping.
Here in my family, it’s been a challenging week. My husband’s out of town on a business trip, I’m heading out of town for my grandfather’s funeral, my daughter is headed to a state soccer tournament several hours away, and we’re moving out of our temporary rental in a few days. I am feeling overwhelmed as I pack up our house, care for my grief and get ready to send my family in three different directions with several children under foot.
This morning, I was trying to get my boys to help me with the packing and was feeling frustrated by their whining and resistance. I coerced, bribed, threatened, cajoled, and talked in that tight, tense, “Do you not hear my frustration rising” voice. None of it worked or felt good.
The catalyst was my son breaking down in tears of overwhelm. Finally – his tears softened my frustration and made me pause. I held him in the rocking chair and listened to him as he talked about how bad it felt in the house, and how much he didn’t like my tension.
Afterwards, instead of ordering my boys around, we worked together on packing up the house. Several hours later, my son said to me, “Packing is actually fun.”
What turned the day around was our togetherness – our connection and our love. It’s also what made him open to the idea of packing instead of fighting me on it.
It’s the same process with ourselves. You may feel a lot of resistance about changing your eating habits – understandably so. Change is uncomfortable and tender. We often feel like fumbling beginners, back at kindergarten. It often means being vulnerable and asking for support.
When your resistance arises, do you do what I did with my boys – do you overpower it, coerce it, bribe it, yell at it, even? I’m guessing it works as well with your own heart as it worked with my boys’.
I wonder – what would be the equivalent of holding our resistance in your lap, listening to its cries? I’m guessing that underneath all our “No’s” and “I don’t want to’s” there is something very tender, very human, and vulnerable that is longing for connection and to be heard.
Dr. Gordon Neufeld says getting children to behave isn’t about powering over them. Children want to obey when they trust that “we have their hearts in safekeeping.” What a beautiful phrase. When I first heard it, it brought tears to my eyes.
And I immediately thought about my relationship with myself – is my heart in safekeeping?
In my life, I often find a correlation between connection and resistance. When my heart doesn’t feel safe, I don’t want to follow my inner guidance. I don’t want to look inside and see what may need my attention. I feel too afraid or too avoidant or too stuck.
If my heart doesn’t feel held in safety, I feel ashamed – too ashamed to look at honestly at what needs shifting in my life. I run and hide. I soothe myself from the shame with food, internet surfing, gossip, overdoing, or perfectionism.
If my heart isn’t safe, I feel anxious. Every step feels very life or death – tight, tense, stressful – and the messy path of growth is hiccuped by my need to, above all else, not mess up.
But most of all, when my heart isn’t safe, I feel disconnected from my very self. I feel small, separate, helpless, hopeless. I miss myself.
Rumi says it this way – “Do you visit with yourself?” Tara Brach says that when we give someone our presence – a kind, nonjudgmental, totally accepting attention – we’re offering love. I think that’s what Gordon Neufeld is saying, too. And I think that’s what I offered my son, and what changed our relationship, and what shifted his willingness to help pack.
I think it’s particularly important to rest in our presence when we’re asking something challenging of ourselves. In Neufeld circles, this is called “collect before you direct.” So you would collect your child – connect with your child with touch, your eyes, your voice, your love – before you direct them – ask them to do something and bend them to your will.
This is because a child will automatically, forcefully say, “No,” to a parent that they don’t feel attached to. We automatically say “no” to our request to eat healthier, eat structured meals, or slow down our eating when we’re feeling disconnected from our own hearts.
So when you feel resistant to change, healing and growth, perhaps what you’re really feeling is loneliness, a thirst of the heart.
I feel how my heart cries out to be collected. To be loved. To be appreciated. To be known. To be seen. To rest, unconditionally, in my own loving presence. There’s a direct correlation between time listening to myself myself and my willingness to do what my highest self asks of me.
Before you embark on your to-do list or before you ask something of yourself just…be. Take 10 minutes and visit with yourself in the morning. Take 5 minutes and visit with yourself before a meal. Take 10 minutes and visit with yourself before the end of the day.
Check in. Offer yourself tenderness. Let yourself be seen. Appreciate your tender, precious humanity – your suchness. Breathe. Offer yourself gratitude. Check in and ask yourself – how are you feeling, dear one? Put your hand on your heart. Feel your tender pulse, the life thread that connects you to the earth. Feel the tender thread that connects you to others. Look inside. Bask in your goodness.
And if you check in and you feel chaos or discomfort – an overwhelm, a sadness, anger, envy – offer it kindness. Imagine a troubled 5 year old needing a mother’s soothing, and give yourself this same soothing – “There, there, now. I’m right here. You’re okay. I’ve got you.”