“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”-Gandhi
We all have stuff: the lessons and stumbling blocks that reoccur throughout our lives. If you’re like me, you may have spent considerable energy burying your stuff, in the hopes that a lack of attention would cause it to dissipate. But burying my issues didn’t release me from their power; they just festered and grew underground, only to be brought to the surface by an offhand comment or a bad day.
I think of my own battle with feeling “fat” and “ugly” and all my struggles with food. I’ve felt badly about my body since I was ten or eleven. I began dieting in high school, then spent my college years alternatively starving myself or binging and throwing up. In my 20s, I got married, had several children, and tried to accept the changes brought on by age and motherhood. But, I was still obsessed with losing those proverbial 10 pounds. My weight vacillated with my moods, as I used food for solace.
Food became my comfort even as it was also my enemy.
During this time, I really, really tried to heal myself of my obsession with thinness. I tried to stop overeating. I read countless books, got a therapist, journaled, ran, and removed reminders of body obsession from my life: fashion magazines, certain women’s clothing catalogs, and unnecessary shopping. I also tried limiting “body bashing” talk with my girlfriends.
I added new foods to my life, removed the worst offenders. I learned about nutrition and worked on eating differently.
The irony is that as I tried to escape from my body hatred and my food stuff, the universe provided a constant stream of reminders of how much healing I still needed. Women were always telling me about their latest diet, how “fat” they were, how disgusted they felt for eating too much; how determined they were to lose 15 pounds “or else.” It’s as if I were a magnet to other women’s body bashing and food pain; they saw in me a comrade in arms, a kindred spirit. And they couldn’t help but share.
One day I had an epiphany: to turn my garbage – all my body and food pain – into compost. Instead of running away from pain, I would embrace it as a gift, as a way of teaching me lessons that I needed to learn about myself. My compost has proven to be rich soil, a fertile ground whereby I have been able to rediscover myself. I don’t believe this would’ve happened if I hadn’t faced this huge issue that haunted me for so many years.
This kind of change is what we’re about here at First Ourselves. I know some people don’t want to go that deep with their food or body image pain. They would rather read Self magazine and find the latest diet tips or join a weight loss program. That’s fine and perfectly legitimate. There isn’t one “right” path to healing.
But if a different path calls to you as mine did, if you feel inspired to heal your stuff, to embrace it, to go deep and wide, I think you’ll like what we have going on here.
You may feel as if you’re a garbage dump: disgust over your “fat” body; out of control eating, feelings of ugliness as you age; perfectionism; depression; anxiety; loneliness. Embrace wherever you are. Start there.
Recognize your struggles as a gift, as an opportunity. It’s the universe speaking your name, giving you the lessons you need, so you can grow, change, and find peace. It’s how you come home and remember who you are. It’s how you remember your innate goodness and wholeness and kindness – what has been obscured by your shadow of food and body stuff.
It’s still there, even if you can’t see it. It’s merely eclipsed. So it’s not about erasing your shadow or dumping out your garbage but shining the inner light so that it isn’t obscured. It’s looking at all that food and body pain and asking, “What’s really going on?” What do I need? How do I feel? and recognizing that your hooking onto food or the perfect body as the solution to all your problems was just that: your attempt to hurt life’s pain. At its heart, your intentions were kind.
And all your food pain – even though it may feel like torture, like suffering – is also, at its root, kind. It’s kind because it’s trying to lead you back home. It’s trying to wake you up – to help you see that you are “walking around shining like the sun,” as mystic Thomas Merton wrote. It’s trying to help you see – you don’t have to hold onto this anymore. You can let it go. You can surrender. It’s okay. I’m here for you. You’re going to be okay.
You “remove the barriers to love” as Rumi said. You remove the barriers to love and you rediscover that you are love. And you rediscover that all that love – all the innate wisdom, goodness, kindness and trust that is already inside – is what enables you to shift those painful food and body habits.
Inner peace leads to outer peace.
This is my journey. This is our journey, here at First Ourselves. Is it also yours?