Make Closet Organization Easy: Declutter Your Closet First

Remember how I was going to organize my closet because we have a painter coming? [And also a baby is coming in 6 weeks, and it's about darn time I started nesting!] Well, we got bumped ahead on the painter’s schedule, and so this week I had to jump to it and get on the job in earnest.

I had been on the fence about organizing my closet little by little, or by yanking everything out at once. In my delicate condition, it was easier for me to do it both ways:

  • The first step for me is to shop the rack and cull items I want to get rid of, without yanking everything out. That’s what this post is about.
  • The next step (for the next post) is to pull out what’s left so I can organize it by season and by item.

Use a Time Limit on the Declutter Job
I took a timer and set it for 15 minutes so that I could complete the declutter part of the job in increments. It only took me two 15-minute sessions on different days to edit my closet, which was totally doable, even though I’m tired, slow and easily distracted these days.

Using a timer will help you move a little faster, and it will prevent the job from becoming huge and highly unpleasant. You will be surprised at how many items you’ll be able to survey and dump or keep in 15 minutes. And if you’re having fun after the 15 minutes is up, then keep going.

Getting Started: Closet Editing Basics
If you weed everything out of the closet that no longer belongs there, then there are simply fewer items to contend with when we hit the organizing phase.

Have a box, bag or laundry basket on hand you can toss items into. When your vessel is full, put the clothes in your car so that you get them out of the house and one step closer to the donation box.

Your first step to organizing your closet is to declutter.
The more rigorous you are with your closet editing, the easier it will be to get dressed in the mornings. Having fewer choices in our closet is an underrated blessing. Owning just a few outfits that are flattering and comfortable will beat a whole closet full of grimace-inducing options every day of the week.

Pull out the items that:
a) don’t fit or are uncomfortable.

b) are out of style, stained, worn out, ratty, or need repairs.

c) you fondle yet cringe instead of wearing, no matter what the reason. If that’s the dress you wore when Jimmy dumped you, I don’t care how fabulous it makes you look. If seeing it makes you feel bad, then get it out of the house.

d) don’t represent the person you want to showcase to the world.

Don’t Keep Stuff That Makes You Feel Bad
A note about letter ‘c’ – if a piece of stuff makes you feel bad in any way, then it doesn’t deserve room in your home.

Sometimes we have negative associations with an item. Maybe we wore it to a funeral, it’s what we had on when we got mugged or received a piece of very bad news, or we were wearing it when we got into a nasty fight with a loved one. If you see that item and it triggers a bad memory, then please get it out of your house.

Or maybe it’s not that obvious. A piece or pieces could represent a not-so-great time in your life for any reason. You may not have a particular memory associated with a garment, but you might look at it and feel a wave of guilt, loneliness or sadness.

Perhaps an item was a gift, and you feel guilty that you don’t appreciate and wear it. Remember that it’s only stuff, and that you appreciate the sentiment that the gift represents. I’m sure the giver didn’t mean to torture you with it, so stop torturing yourself, and let it go!

Life is too short to keep material belongings that don’t make us feel good. What will make you feel good is freeing up those items to go to a good home where they will be loved, used and appreciated.

Only Keep Things That Make You Feel Good
On that note, let’s talk about letter ‘d’. If you feel less-than-great and you don’t feel as if you’re putting your best foot forward in that garment, then ditch it. It doesn’t matter what the occasion – there are t-shirts you might wear to the grocery store or the gym; some t-shirts make you feel cute and fabulous, and some make you run down the soup aisle in hopes you don’t see anyone you know. If you don’t want to be seen it, then why the heck do you wear it?

The funny thing is that sometimes the outfits that make us look the best are the ones that we wear the least. Maybe we’re saving them for a special occasion or we think wearing a certain flashy piece calls attention to ourselves. Give yourself that gift. If you look great in it, wear it!

Hiding or saving a special outfit robs you of enjoyment. Are you afraid people will notice you wear it too much? They won’t. It’s okay to have a small, but fabulous wardrobe. Why bother keeping acres of clothes when just a handful of well-made pieces that make you feel beautiful will do.  So wear those fabulous pieces out now and get a lot of use out of them.

Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of keeping a museum-like “sitting room” so that only company can use it. Take the proverbial plastic off your sofa, and use the nice items while you’re alive to enjoy them.

This isn’t your last chance to look good – there will be other outfits that make you feel great after you wear this one to death. So stop saving it, and wear it. And get rid of all those second-rate items that you’re wearing instead of the ones you should be wearing.

Ditch the Mediocre
This is probably the hardest category to weed out, because it could go either way. There’s no breeze blowing your meter towards keep or dump. So how do you know when a mediocre item needs to go? When you know you need to make room, you know you have too many clothes, and you look at a piece that makes you shrug when you see it and go, “Eh.”

When you’ve got too much stuff, then your reaction to an item doesn’t need to be a dramatic “love” or “hate” when choosing to keep it or dump it. Something is mediocre if you feel vaguely shlubby or just okay when you wear that item, but you keep it around because you can’t find anything particularly wrong with it.

Get rid of anything that makes your boobs look saggy or your butt look big or that doesn’t flatter your thighs or your middle. Maybe the color is better suited for The Grinch or the bedazzling makes you feel like a Florida grandma at the dog races. (Apologies to dog-race attending Florida grandmas.) If you don’t feel good in it, for the love, toss it or give it away.

Don’t be mean to yourself, and don’t over think it. If you don’t feel great in it, or you do feel at all unappetizing when you wear it, then kiss it good bye. If you’re not sure, get rid of it. Someone else will appreciate having it once you donate it.

Onwards and Upwards
Once you get rid of the mediocre stuff, the stuff that makes you feel bad, and the stuff that doesn’t make you feel great, then you give yourself the time, space and the room to wear and appreciate those items that you really do love. Stop saving the good stuff for a rainy day and start wearing it!

Next we’ll talk about organizing what’s left in our closets, and I will have some groovy “after” photos to show off: Four Steps to an Organized Closet: Before and After Photos

Finding Your Enough: Review of Women Food and God Online Retreat Week Four

WEEK FOUR – FINDING YOUR ENOUGH: This is a review of Geneen Roth’s Women, Food and God Online Retreat, which takes place over a 6-week period.

Read the following for more information:
•    Introducing the Women, Food and God Online Retreat
•    WEEK ONE: Ending the War
•    WEEK TWO: Beyond What’s Broken
•    WEEK THREE: What Are You Really Hungry For?

Week Four Course Overview
•    It’s the fourth week and I haven’t lost weight. What if this doesn’t work, just like everything else I’ve tried?
•    Who and what are you being loyal to when you overeat? Think of your conditioning, your history, and the voices you’ve internalized.
•    What about exercise?
•    What you’re hungry for and finding your enough.
•    Inquiry and coming home to ourselves.
•    How do we begin inquiry and get in touch with ourselves?
•    This week’s practices / action steps.

Geneen helps us become present by having us practice orienting: looking around the room and staring up and down and side to side like a baby. We can focus on and study an object that maybe we’ve seen a million times before but never really took the time to notice. We can feel the contact our body makes with the chair, with whatever is supporting us. By doing this, you ground yourself, ground your body in the here and now, in the moment.

As hard as it may be, Geneen encourages you to be interested in your body, how it feels. She tells you to hang out with yourself, but don’t judge. Be open. She stresses that we transform through inquiry, not through judgment. We make it hard through judgment and shame, but things get easier when we stop trying to fix and start being curious.

This week, Geneen introduces the concept that when you lose that connection with your body and you spend time instead in your head with that flood of thoughts, judgments and beliefs, you are left feeling homeless and wanting.

Questions: Geneen takes some time to address questions and apprehensions that have arisen amongst the participants in the past week.

I don’t want to give up, but it’s not working and I’m not following practices. It’s the fourth week and I haven’t lost weight. What if this doesn’t work, just like everything else I’ve tried?
Geneen puts everything into perspective. So it’s been four weeks. How does that stack up against the years upon years that you’ve been dieting and shaming yourself and building well-grooved patterns and habits around eating mindlessly followed by depriving yourself?

Insight and “aha” moments aren’t enough. We need to take action with intention and mindfulness, as opposed to habitual unconsciousness. When you commit to an action, you go against your unconscious tendencies.

This question reminds me of a chapter in the book This Year I Will… when Author M.J. Ryan points out that learning happens in three stages. The first stage, POST HOC, is when you realize after the fact that you screwed up. “Oh wait, I just ate that bag of Cheez-its when I wasn’t hungry. What’s going on with me?” We finally realize that we didn’t follow the practice Eat When You’re Hungry once we’re licking salt out of the bottom of the bag.

Before we started this retreat, we wouldn’t have even realized what exactly we did wrong. We would have gone into shame mode, which doesn’t fit into the practices. And even if we do go into shame mode, we are now aware that it’s not productive. So if you’re in the POST HOC phase, don’t beat yourself up! You’re learning!

The second stage of learning, AD HOC, is when you are aware that you shouldn’t do something and you do it anyway. Maybe the eating of the Cheez-its happens when you’re fully aware that you aren’t hungry and you choose to eat them anyway, full-well-knowing before you even dip your hand into the bag that you aren’t following the practice.

The third stage of learning, PRE HOC, is when you’re doing it – it’s like riding a bike, and you have more successes than failures. This is the stage that Geneen is stressing to us we need to move towards; we need to take action in order to progress to this stage. If you don’t get on the bike, you’re never going to learn how to ride it. So get on the bike. You’re gonna fall off. No big whoop.

Ryan says, “Recognizing you’ve blown it is progress! … There’s always a phase in creating forward motion when all you notice is how hard it is and how little you’ve moved forward. … The trick is to learn from the experience without judging yourself…”

Ryan recommends learning what would help you out next time, like maybe placing a visible reminder so we won’t be mindless about our mistakes.

Geneen says that when your actions are aligned with your heart’s desire, then there’s a daily remembrance that you’re acting on your own behalf, out of love for yourself. When you love a child, you tell them they’re going to be sick if they eat candy all day. Treat yourself with that same loving care.

For dinner tonight, I ate whole wheat spaghetti and turkey meatballs. One bowl, because I knew I would feel ill otherwise. One small cereal bowl, even though there was just a little bit of pasta left over begging to be finished off.

So I wrapped up the rest and took it to work for lunch today. In the past, I would have known I was going to feel ill afterwards, yet I would have eaten too much anyway. I might not be wholly devoted to my practices at this stage, but I am absolutely making progress.

Geneen reiterates that there will be times that we do eat when we’re not hungry. Use that experience to notice what’s coming up when you’re doing that – is it boredom, sadness, anger, fear?

When you’re conscious about eating sitting down when you’re hungry and stopping when you’ve had enough, your whole relationship with food will change. Geneen says that act of eating mindfully will open up a whole can of worms. What happens when we stop using food to drug ourselves is that the whole NON-food-related side of your life comes forward – and we’re practicing being with that.

So take heart, little campers! We’re learning!

I’m faithful to being messed up and not feeling my fear. I don’t take responsibility for myself.
Geneen says that when we’re kids, we learn ways of being that are usually kind of messed up. We’re raised by humans who have their own skews and perceptions, and so from our human parents, we learn distortions – the messed-up-ed-ness – that we’re faithful to in order to survive and be loved.

There is a “mother” that got installed inside you. This “mother” came from bits and pieces of your actual mom outside, combined with a lot of your own versions of how you perceive her and your own interpretations added and subtracted.

Through doing this work and becoming conscious about food, our messed-up-ed-ness comes up when we realize that we are the child who is less powerful, or a failure, or who won’t get it together. We’re loyal to that learned messed-up-ed-ness because of the love and belonging it earned us. Most of us would rather not be disloyal to our “mothers” because we need that love to survive.

THAT is worthy of questioning. Who are you being loyal to when you are being loyal to the “mother” and loyal to the messed-up-ed-ness?

In my family when I was growing up, I had two grandparents who were very slim. They were capable of being a bit Judgey McJudge Pants with their children and grandchildren who were not on the fit side of the fence. My mom and her mother, both beautiful and curvaceous women, could be victims of the slim camp at times.

I happened to be an athletic kid. I loved swimming competitively from a young age through high school, and I tried other sports over the years like soccer, softball and tennis. I was no bean pole, but I suppose I was fit. It’s hard for me to admit that even now, because it feels disloyal to my mother. My real mother didn’t tell me to “choose sides” or anything like that, so this would be my inner “mother” talking.

When my mom would entertain and cook lavish meals for guests, I would feel as if I were being disloyal to her unless I ate with abandon to show how much I love her, all of her, just the way she is, and her efforts to feed us with her love. To reject her advances with food, in my mind, would be putting myself at risk of being unloved, at siding with the critical and thin family members. I wonder if I still keep myself a bit fleshy to prove that I’m not one of “them.”

Geneen says that when we change, we feel disloyal to that version of ourselves – to the “mother” and to the messed-up-ed-ness that we think we need in order to be loved.

Who and what are you being loyal to when you overeat? Think of your conditioning, your history, and the voices you’ve internalized.

Realize that when you’re loyal to the messed-up-ed-ness, that’s the kid talking. Have compassion for her, but realize that buying into coddling your “mother” is not far from feeling like a victim. Nobody else can do it or fix it for you now.

From the adult place, realize that only you can do the hard work for you. Here’s a map of the territory, but you need to walk the territory. Your body, your heart, and your intention needs to do the work.

So again — Who and what are you being loyal to when you overeat? Think of your conditioning, your history, and the voices you’ve internalized. Do it, do it! Get on the bike!

Where does exercise, physical movement, come into play?
Just like with food, it’s time to drop the guilt and shame shtick when it comes to exercise. Just because you read that you’re supposed to do cardio for this many minutes per week, and strength training this many times, blah blah blah. If you didn’t know all that, then how do you think your body wants to move, and what would feel good to your body?

If you think you hate exercise, then you need to try a few things and take your mind out of the equation. You’re going to make time for some movement for your sweet body, for yourself. Give yourself some options and see what your body likes to do.

Bodies like to move, they need to. Geneen encourages us to pay attention to the kind of movement that would feel best to your body. Walking? Swimming? Jumping rope? Hiking? What is it that would feel good? Almost every kid, even the bookworm, likes to move and to be outside. Movement is something for us to discover again.

Listen to the natural impulses of your body. The body knows what it needs and wants. It wants:

  • Rest
  • Contact
  • Food
  • Movement

When you sense your body wanting one of those things, then give it to your body!

Geneen knows when she’s been working all day or she’s stressed, she needs to get outside and move to give her body relief. Her mind would say, “Take a bath, read a book, get on the internet.” But her body loves to move, so she doesn’t get engaged with her mind, and then it becomes effortless. She says it takes effort to be effortless. Listen to the body over and over, and you will build movement into your day.

What You’re Hungry for and Finding Your Enough
We each possess a soul, a spirit; we possess a true nature or an essence.

However, instead we believe we are made up of our thoughts and feelings, our past and conditioning, our history and our bodies. We don’t realize that we’ve lost track of who we are, of that true nature. And so we feel homelessness. We feel separated from ourselves.

When you feel separated from yourself, you feel empty and wounded. You have that feeling like you can’t get enough when you aren’t connected to who you really are.

We incorrectly identify with our personality, our ego, whether we are smart, pretty, thin, kind, lovable, and what we do for other people. We identify with who we take ourselves to be. When things aren’t unfolding in our lives or we feel stuck, it’s because our beliefs, attitudes and patterns of reaction are in our way.

We don’t question what’s presenting itself to us in that moment: the barriers, the attitudes, the patterns. Instead of focusing on the space between the thoughts, we take ourselves to be the thoughts, and because we don’t question them, we just think it’s the truth.

What we’re longing for is to have ourselves. What we’re hungry for is our own essence and true nature.

Inquiry and Coming Home to Ourselves
Inquiry allows us to question our deeply held beliefs. Inquiry allows us to question what we think is unquestionable. Inquiry allows us to question what we have decided is the truth, the way things are, who we are, and the way life is.

We need a way to question all those things and come home to ourselves. When we do that, we’re able to notice what’s standing in the way between us and who we take ourselves to be. We uncover the wisdom and vastness of who we are, that space of just being.

Until we reconnect with ourselves, we will never get enough from the outside. No matter what external riches we have, who loves us or what we accomplish, we will always feel lonely as long as we remain disconnected from ourselves.

Food is the doorway to inquiry and discovering our true nature. When we give ourselves time to hang out with ourselves, to simply be in our bodies, we get to know ourselves.

This sounds great and all, but how do we actually connect with that part?
The short answer: Inquiry.

And now for the long answer.

When you’re wrapped up in a thought, blaming yourself or someone else, feeling puffed up and huffy over something or collapsed inward and down, then you’re believing something that’s not true. You’re turning to old thoughts and patterns. It’s time to reconnect with yourself via inquiry, and here’s how.

Inquiry steps and basics:

  1. Come back into your body. Ask, “What am I feeling right now?” Remember – the answer is found in YOUR BODY, not your head. If you’re feeling sad, bored or lonely, what does that feel like in your body?
  2. Ask yourself a litany of sensation questions. Where is the feeling in my body? How does it affect me? Is it familiar? How old do I feel right now? Does the feeling have a shape, sensation, temperature, color? What happens as I feel the sensations directly in my body?
  3. Be in touch with what effect your asking all these questions has on your experience. As you ask the questions, it will impact you in the moment. The fact that you’re asking means that you already separated from the total merge with the feeling itself. You are allowing yourself to begin coming home to yourself.

Things That Aren’t Going to Help Inquiry; Things That Interfere With the Direct Experience of Being in the Body
Inquiry involves openness without a purpose. It’s the inquiry itself you pursue in order to come home to yourself and be yourself. The below will interfere with that connection.

1. The Voice. Until you disengage, you believe you are what The Voice says. The Voice says you are your personality, your conditioning, your ego, attitudes and memories. When you believe that, you don’t believe you have true nature or essence.

2. Having an Agenda. When we do inquiry, we can’t be trying to get something, fix something, go somewhere or accomplish a goal. The purpose of inquiry is to answer the longing in your heart and to know yourself before you die. It won’t give you the thing you thought you wanted in the external world. It’s to answer something inside you.

3. Comparative Judgment. In inquiry, you can’t compare how you’re feeling with what you want to be feeling or with how someone else feels. You can’t compare how you’re feeling now to past experience. This is figuring out feeling in the mind, not the body, which means we lose the connection to our experience.

4. Pain Avoidance. If you think discomfort is to be avoided, then that prevents inquiry. We can’t have a fear of pain when we practice inquiry. We need to drop the painful mental stories, which certainly helps. But we need to feel what the body is feeling.

How Do You Get in Touch With Yourself? How Do You begin Inquiry?
You start wherever you are. Food is a great doorway. If you eat when you’re not hungry, if you eat while you’re standing, if you did tonight’s meditation while typing or eating, then be curious. Ask what’s going on.

Start where you are and become curious about that. If you’re all huffy about something, you’re believing something that’s not true. So start there.

Your direct experience right now is the closest thing to true nature that you have. Your life is the one you need to be having. It’s the link to you. Be curious and question your experience right now. It’s how you start.

This Week’s Practices / Action Steps
Although she likes the term “practices” because we need to practice them to become good at them, this week Geneen is calling them “action steps” because we need to take action. Nothing is going to happen if we keep having aha’s and not translating them into what we need to do.

Without further ado:
1. Eat what your body wants.
What your body wants is different from what you think you want. What your body wants has nothing to do with guilt, what somebody else is eating, or what you didn’t let yourself eat two weeks ago.

Eating what your body wants means be in the present moment and ask what your body wants now. Does your body want something hot, cold, smooth, crunchy, salty, something with protein or fat, or something lighter?

If you’re thinking in quantities, like, “I want two pizzas – or a whole carton of ice cream,” that’s not in the present moment. You body can answer with a description, but not with a quantity or an amount because your body only feels in the present moment.

That said, once you’ve had three bites, then you need to keep asking your body, “And what do you want now?” While you’re eating, keep checking in with your present-focused body. You will get satisfied mid-bite. Moment to moment, check in so you know when you’ve had enough.

2. Notice what you are loyal to.
Who are you loyal to? When you engage in those repetitive patterns, or when you find yourself retelling old stories, ask, “How old am I right now? Who am I being loyal to right now?”

Let’s go kiddos! Get on your bikes and start riding!

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Read the following for more information:
Introducing the Women, Food and God Online Retreat
WEEK ONE: Ending the War
WEEK TWO: Beyond What’s Broken
WEEK THREE: What Are You Really Hungry For?

What Are You Really Hungry For: Review of Women Food and God Online Retreat Week Three

WEEK THREE: WHAT ARE YOU REALLY HUNGRY FOR? This is a review of Geneen Roth’s Women, Food and God Online Retreat, which takes place over a 6-week period.

Read the following for more information:
•    Introducing the Women, Food and God Online Retreat
•    WEEK ONE: Ending the War
•    WEEK TWO: Beyond What’s Broken

Week Three Course Overview
•    You have to work the practices to “get” the lessons. A whole world of insight opens when you practice Eat When You’re Hungry.
•    How do I know what to eat when I’m hungry?
•    How do I eat when I’m hungry within the constraints of my schedule?
•    How do I eat when I’m hungry when I have food restrictions?
•    The definition of inquiry and what inquiry is not. How to begin inquiry.
•    Drop Your Agenda; Question Your Assumptions
•    More Ways to Deal With The Voice

When Geneen begins the meditation this week, I again find myself looking for something else to do. This week, I really fool myself because I’m convinced it’s highly necessary work that needs to be done immediately. Yeah, at 9PM.

When Geneen says, “Notice how much pull there is to not be right here. How aggravated you get to be asked to be present, to be with yourself.” Those words bring me back into the moment.

Within the meditation as Geneen asks us to notice the sensations in our bodies, she mentions two body parts that people are usually unhappy with – thighs and belly.

She asks us to place one palm on the navel, the other palm on top. “Feel movement, your breath, just notice the preciousness of this breath, this life. Allowing yourself to arrive right here right now.”

It’s a gentle reminder that we can notice and feel our body parts for what they are — living, feeling parts of ourselves — without judging them.

Participant Questions About the Guideline “Eat When You’re Hungry”
Geneen kicks things off by telling us that we have to do the practices to learn this work. She says that if you did last week’s practice of actually eating when you’re hungry, you would have gotten a glimpse of what you’re actually hungry for that isn’t food.

Jump right in at any time to begin only eating when you’re hungry, and a world opens up. When you only eat when you’re hungry, you stop dampening your heart’s desires and drowning them with food; you discover what you want besides food.

I got a glimpse that I’m hungry for neatness, organization, a sense of well-being in my home. It’s easy to procrastinate by eating when I’m tired and bored and don’t want to clean up. But when I resisted that urge to eat, I saw that what I really wanted was the mess to go away. My home is neater today for it, and I finally began cleaning out my closet yesterday. I’ve been putting off that project for months.

I wonder what else I can accomplish when I don’t use food as a procrastination tool.

Geneen is firm that each action step, every practice she gives us, relates to all that we’re doing, so you can find out your hidden needs in just one of the practices.

I’m Confused About What to Eat When I’m Hungry
Geneen says it’s natural that a lot of us are confused about what’s right and wrong in the realm of food considering our lifetimes of dieting.

The first step in learning what to eat is tuning into the body. Remember that if you think you want junk food, then that’s what your mind wants, not your body. Your body doesn’t want to be fed loads of grease and sugar, because too much junk food makes your body feel bad.

Tuning into your body means using the direct experience, feeling the sensations and the feedback that your body gives you. See what happens when you eat certain things. Do you feel fueled and energetic? Do you feel sick or tired? See how your body feels when you eat certain foods and you’ll discover what it is that your body wants.

If you think you want something sweet to cap off a meal, and you are truly and honestly unsure whether it’s your mind or body talking, then try a small eating experiment. See what happens. Maybe you try eating a little something sweet and see how it makes your body feel. Conversely, you can try not eating something sweet and then see how that makes your body feel.

Experiment and stay tuned into your body to learn what your body wants and how it reacts to different foods. For most of us, this is going to be a learning process after spending so much time ignoring what our bodies need to feel nourished. Take the time and attention to tune into your body to learn about its needs.

Geneen refers to the way a kid eats, before he discovers sugar. He gravitates towards foods like broccoli, fruit and sweet potatoes. Before we were inundated by commercialized food and our taste buds were polluted by advertisements, what did your body want?

How to Eat When You’re Hungry Within the Confines of Your Schedule
In today’s world, not many of us are able to have access to the food we want, whenever we want it. We might start working at certain times and only get breaks at specific times. Since we all need to respect the reality our routines bring us, we need to make the guidelines our own. Figure out, realistically, how the guidelines can work within the constraints of your day-to-day existence.

If you aren’t hungry now but you won’t have the chance to eat later, then you have to use honesty combined with problem solving and figure that out, whether it means eating something small now, or bringing something portable with you that you know will nourish you later.

For example, if you aren’t hungry at 8am but you know you won’t be able to eat for hours on end, and within that timeframe you are going to become ravenous and light-headed, then you have to acknowledge that reality and take care of yourself. The guidelines are not iron clad rules meant to constrain your behavior. They are meant to help you evaluate situations honestly and do the right thing for yourself.

If you’re only given a meal break when you aren’t hungry, then just eat a little bit at break time to sustain you, and then have a snack when you’re actually hungry. Use the guidelines to help you best take care of yourself while listening to your body.

Learn Your Signs of Hunger
Working with the eating guidelines means understanding your body and giving your body what it needs as fuel when it needs it. To do this, you need to know the signs of being hungry for you. Not everyone gets a rumbley tummy as their first sign of hunger. Some of us get spacey, cranky or headaches.

Track your own hunger and know your beginning hunger signs, and then decide when to eat. If you think of the 10-point hunger scale, 10 being stuffed and 0 being starving, then maybe you want to eat something when you’re a 2 or 4 on the hunger scale. If you wait until 0, you are in famine-I’m-going-to-die mode and it’s extremely difficult to make wise decisions about food in that state. Geneen doesn’t recommend getting that hungry.

Food Restrictions
Many of us are diabetics, have celiac disease, are lactose intolerant, have food allergies or other restrictions surrounding what they may eat. (Or if you’re like me, then just looking at sugar puts you into sleepy time mode.) It’s easy to fall into a mindset of deprivation when you think “I can’t have…”

But there are different ways you can look at it. You can think how the deprivation comes when you eat the foods that make your body sick. When you eat these restricted foods, then you deprive yourself of feeling well.

You can flip the scenario to think “Either way, there is a chance for me to have what I want: I can feel well. Or if there’s an instance where I really want to eat the food, then once in a blue moon, I can go for it.” Then you have the best of both worlds. You can feel well in your day-to-day life without telling yourself you can’t have the food as long as you live.

Geneen, who is gluten intolerant, had baklava when she was in Greece. She made a conscious choice; she knew wouldn’t feel good, but she went with her eyes open rather than feeling like a victim.

Lots of people, either verbally or mentally, do a lot of whining around food, “I don’t get to eat what I really want!” However, the big question is, what do you want more than you want that food?? What do you want most of all?

The Voice Can Crush Your Dreams
The Voice makes it extremely tough to discern what you are really hungry for. The Voice can influence our beliefs, and it’s our beliefs that often prevent us from putting into practice what we cherish. It’s your beliefs, often driven by The Voice, that keep you from asking for and receiving what you’re really hungry for.

For more information about The Voice, read: WEEK TWO: Beyond What’s Broken

Most of us are blended with The Voice, meaning we haven’t yet picked it out as a separate entity; you might experience it as you talking to yourself. When we feel confused about what’s good for us and we feel afraid we’ll fail, we’re often being influenced by The Voice.

The thought of learning to play piano, traveling to China or going on a bike ride can cause nervous anticipation or excitement. The Voice can jump in and tell us we can’t do it, which quells our excitement. When we feel deadened to these new possibilities, it makes it hard to figure out what we’re really hungry for.

More Ways to Deal With The Voice
When you notice The Voice talking you out of your efforts, here are some tactics for handling it.

  • See The Voice small and powerless like a mouse and put it in a jar with a lid on it.
  • Picture a volume knob and turn down the volume on The Voice so you can’t hear it.
  • You can change the channel so you tune out to whatever The Voice was saying.

Do whatever you need to do to make sure you separate yourself from it.

What if I Think I Need to Lose Weight Before I Practice the Guidelines?
Geneen addresses the instance of what happens when someone feels anxiety or desperation about her health and feels she needs to lose weight first before trying to practice the eating guidelines.

Unfortunately, Geneen has seen many come back to her later heavier than they were when she first saw them. She says it takes discernment and honesty to see where you’re coming from when you ask a question like that. It’s new and unfamiliar and scary to trust yourself to ask what you’re hungry for and what you want.

The Voice berates you and says you don’t know when you’re hungry. There’s often a thrill or a fear when we start this process. We often think we should go on a diet and then come back and do this later. Geneen says it’s a common theme.

However, Geneen says if you truly feel that your weight is imminently life threatening, then you need to go inside and be very honest about what’s going on when you’re in a place that’s so precarious physically. What goes on when you overeat? What are your thoughts, beliefs and feelings? What is food giving you and doing for you?

Geneen would never say don’t see a doctor – it’s crucial we work with health practioners in regards to our health. Of course if your doctor feels and you feel that your life is in danger, then that needs to be addressed.

Geneen says the caveat is if you don’t stick to the doctor’s program, you could feel like a failure and rebel. And even if you do stick to the program and lose the weight, but you don’t reach the issues that are putting the weight on, then you will turn to food once again. So the best way is to be with what’s going on at the same time that you protect your health and your life so you can be here on earth to look at your beliefs. Looking at your beliefs is important regardless of what you decide.

What is Inquiry?
Inquiry is the practice where the rubber meets the road in terms of discovering our beliefs. Inquiry allows you to be curious about what you really believe, and what you feel as a result of what you believe.

We think we’re not supposed to let ourselves feel; we’re afraid of pain. That’s why inquiry is a practice like learning the violin. We won’t be good at it at first. Inquiry allows you to question the beliefs on which you’re building your life, your sense of self and the feelings that come from that.

Geneen says that most beliefs are unconscious, and she gives us a list of examples:

  • Other people are special.
  • Life is hard.
  • I always get the short end of the stick.
  • I’m smarter than everyone else, and why can’t they see that?
  • If they really saw me, they would love me.
  • I’ll always be separated from what I need and want in life.
  • Life sucks.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’ll never get it right.

Remember from last week: beliefs lead to feelings, which lead to actions.

We can feel these beliefs weaving through our days from when we wake up in the morning until we go to bed at night. We’re loyal to these beliefs unconsciously. We act out a combination of beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and how we see ourselves. We don’t question what we believe about ourselves and our lives, because we take it to be true.

Inquiry is the process of questioning what we believe is truth. Inquiry has us explore the fundamentals of who we think we are, what we have, what we’re supposed to be, how we define success and failure, how we react, and the feelings we have.

To inquire, you have to want to know what you don’t know – you have to be curious.

We need to question our resistance to the way things are and to what we’re feeling. Often when we’re sad, we want to push it away. In inquiry, what do you do when you feel sad? Be curious about it!

We’ve long since buried our curiosity. Think how your curiosity was treated when you were a child. Maybe people got annoyed with all the questions you asked. Maybe you were ignored. So as you get older, you stop caring why. You just want it to be different, and you’re no longer curious. It’s time to revive that curiosity and start wondering and feeling again.

The Opposite of Inquiry
Feeling like a victim is the opposite of inquiry: “Someone wronged me and someone else has to make it better.” This stance takes yourself out of the equation of your own life. It makes you powerless to facilitate your own circumstances.

Conversely, inquiry puts you at the center of your own life. No matter what’s going on, you can be curious about it and understand what’s happening.

We often internalize and repeat what’s said to us: “So and so was mean to me.” That’s the victim mentality, and whatever was said to us is in the past. Now in the present, no one else has the means to shrivel us or make us small, to make you feel that bad, unless you believe it yourself. Your feelings are your own. Inquiry is ability to question those beliefs and feelings.

How Do You Practice Inquiry?
When you ignore your body and eat what your mind wants instead, or you eat and make yourself feel bad – that’s a doorway, an opening, a chance to know yourself better. It opens the door to the inquiry process. If you feel sad, then inquiry is being willing to be curious about your sadness as if it’s the very first time you’re feeling it.

Inquiry means you will go ahead and feel the sadness and explore it rather than struggling to suppress it. To practice inquiry, you aren’t repressing emotions (judging, being cranky) nor are you acting them out (stomping, sulking, shouting, etc.) To do inquiry, you will be with the direct feelings of the sadness. Be in your body physically in order to explore it.

To really explore an emotion:

  1. You can’t have an agenda or preferences as to the end result. Don’t analyze the emotion. Don’t try to figure it out. You can’t think, “Okay, I’ll feel the sadness now so I can feel happy afterwards.”
  2. Drop any and all judgments about what you’re feeling. Judgments are The Voice chiming in. Disengage from The Voice, because it will tell you you’re going to mess up.
  3. Ask yourself where you feel the emotion in your body. What is the sensation like? Describe it in physical terms.

Be curious and open. You can do this alone, you can do it as a written exercise or with a buddy. Any way you do it, be kind to yourself.

Geneen gives the example of being out with friends and becoming a bit sullen and cranky. She realized she was pushing herself down in the group. She was having responses to people, but she didn’t want to say them. The crankiness was a result of judging and pushing herself away.

When you sense an emotion, ask yourself kindly, what’s going on? Where do you feel the emotion? Your chest, your stomach, your head? This is the sensation location. Ask what is the sensation? Is it burning, pulsing, tingling, aching?

If you notice that you’re angry, become curious about it. Where do I feel it? Name the body part. What does it feel like? Wind? A Hammer? What color is it? It is red, blue or grey? Is it like a pounding or a floating sensation?

The feelings that come when you don’t use food — if you don’t push the feelings away — the feelings have something to tell you. If you notice, “I don’t like what’s going on.” Then ask, “What does it feel like?

Start by wanting to know. Begin within your body and the sensation. Don’t involve your mind. Your mind has a story about the emotion, and a story can be clouded by beliefs and The Voice. Shake the story, and just focus on the body.

What Does Inquiry Do?
Geneen tells the story of a woman who eats at loneliness. The woman would often eat and read by herself. She had the belief or the story that people who live alone at her age are losers, and eating kept her from feeling like a loser. Geneen posed the question, who told her she was a loser?

Sometimes we tell ourselves stories about the pain, which can intensify our ideas of what emotions are like. We say things to ourselves like, “This means I’m unlovable, I’m a loser.” Ask yourself, “Is that true?” Question your assumptions. Be curious about who told you that. Question the beliefs that keep you from being yourself and having your life.

Inquiry deconstructs the self by questioning the assumptions that come up and the reasons we use food. We think if we feel our sadness, it will rip us apart. Sadness doesn’t actually feel like that, and inquiry helps us figure that out. When we discover that sadness isn’t what we think it is, but sadness might be calmness or clear space, when you feel into it, you feel more alive. What if, to you, sadness feels like openness? It might, or might not, but we wouldn’t know unless we allow ourselves to feel it.

Drop Your Agenda; Question Your Assumptions
When we practice inquiry, we must learn to be in the process in the moment, and stop trying to fix things. In inquiry, you are in touch with essence itself and with what’s true, just the physical sensations in our bodies, without stories or agendas. There’s nothing to do afterwards. What happens next happens naturally and spontaneously, and you become open to the truth.

Inquiry starts by wanting to know the truth. If you have an agenda instead, then you want to know what to do, as if there’s some place better to get to. What we really want to do with inquiry is to simply be with what your deepest truth is in that moment.

Compulsive eating attempts to avoid what’s there because we make the assumption that the truth, our emotions, will destroy us. And sometimes our emotions do hurt. Sometimes there is huge grief to be felt. So then the answer is to get support and allow yourself to feel it. But if you eat to avoid the grief, then you actually wind up with a double portion of grief. The grief is still there, and you heap the problem of eating on top of it.

Geneen has worked with parents who have lost their children, people who have experienced loss beyond all loss. These people can be with their pain and feel it. Yes, it’s staggering grief, but they live through it. Through inquiry, you learn that allowing yourself to feel your emotions won’t destroy you. Emotions ebb and flow. They come and go, moment to moment. No situations are unbearable or unworkable.

This Week’s Practices
1) Third Eating Guideline: Eat without distractions.
Distractions include radio, TV, reading material, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.

2) Inquiry: start developing your curiosity.
Start being curious when you’ve done something you told yourself you’re not going to do. Ask, “What was that about?” Be curious and be kind to yourself. Don’t think you know the answers.

Intend to follow through on these two practices and see what happens. If you don’t follow them, then be curious why.

Past Week’s Practices
Intend to do these on a daily basis for the rest of your life.

Eat When You’re Hungry
Don’t eat when you aren’t hungry, eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you’ve had enough. Be willing to be uncomfortable and know there are times you won’t feel like refraining from eating. If there are times that you decide to eat even though you’re not hungry, be curious and notice what happens.

Be Astonished
Each day, notice what you already have — not what’s wrong or what needs to be changed. Think about the abundance that’s in your world already.

Living “as if”
Live as if you’re worth your own time, love and attention. Live like you like yourself. Live like you like your body.

Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
Eat as if you’re worth your time and attention. You wouldn’t eat standing up, in the car, or tasting the food on your way from the stove to the table. You wouldn’t eat a meal in hiding before everyone else sits down so that you’re full when they get there.

One More Practice From Me
Be aware of and disengage from The Voice to help all of your practices become easier.

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Read the following for more information:
•    Introducing the Women, Food and God Online Retreat
•    WEEK ONE: Ending the War
•    WEEK TWO: Beyond What’s Broken

Beyond What’s Broken: Review of Women Food and God Online Retreat Week Two

WEEK TWO, BEYOND WHAT’S BROKEN: This is a review of Geneen Roth’s Women, Food and God Online Retreat, which takes place over a 6-week period.

Read the following for more information:

Week Two Course Overview
We covered a lot this week! Here are some bulleted main points from the lecture:

  • Geneen elaborates on how you can trust yourself and your hunger to eat the right foods in the right amounts and at the right times.
  • When we follow the guideline “Eat when you’re hungry,” we can start turning towards living the life that we want instead of dulling our emotions with food.
  • Learn about what makes you tick when you examine your actions and trace them back to your beliefs.
  • You are innately whole and good, but your critical inner voice makes you doubt your inner compass, your capabilities and your greatness. This critical inner voice, a.k.a. The Voice, shames you and keeps you small.
  • First, you must distinguish when you hear that voice. Second, you must interrupt The Voice with even greater wrath and force than it uses towards you. When you extricate yourself from its nearly ongoing communiqués, you allow for your transformation to living the life you want.

The Meditation
Geneen walked us through another meditation where we were to inhabit our bodies and be aware of our surroundings. She explained that this is a tough practice to conquer, and we’ll do it each week.

Even though we might feel bored, frustrated or impatient while she takes us through the slow-paced, non-critical tour of our bodies, our appendages and torsos, there’s a good reason for doing it.

Geneen says that most of us don’t spend our time where we are. We dwell on the past or worry about the future, always letting our minds wander and rarely focusing on what it’s like to be in our bodies. The problem is, we’re missing out on the here and now and we’re out of touch with our physical selves. We can engage in the present moment by spending time in our bodies.

Geneen says that taking this time for ourselves might seem like a luxury, but she considers it a necessity to be able to be where we are now. And this is important: Hunger and fullness signals come from the body, so we need to learn how to be there to listen to it.

She said that if we are checking out during our guided body tour, to notice that. I felt like,

“Well, I have an excuse because I’m seven months pregnant and inherently uncomfortable. If I let myself feel my body, the way my back aches, I’ll want to get out of this chair and not sit through the whole session.”

I was guilty of having my Facebook page open, and felt caught red-handed when Geneen asked, “Is your Facebook page open?” She didn’t yell at me though. She simply said, “Notice that.”

Then it occurred to me that just about everybody on the call probably had an excuse or thought process as to why they didn’t need to fully listen. And the weird thing was that when I did tune into my body, shift my position and rub my back, the pain went away and I became very relaxed.

The big lesson Geneen points out is that we need to notice just how darn difficult it is to pay attention to ourselves. She says there’s a guideline called, “Eat without distractions,” and if it’s hard to pay attention to yourself now, then it will be hard to eat without distractions. So that’s why we’re practicing paying attention to ourselves now, and each week of the retreat.

Reinforcement of the Guideline: Eat When You’re Hungry
Geneen went over some common themes that have arisen among participants as they engaged in last week’s practice, “Eat when you’re hungry.” She says it’s likely that, previously, a lot of us had been eating according to a plan or a schedule or what we think we should eat, ignoring hunger cues.

If we’re not hungry when we wake up in the morning, then it doesn’t matter what the experts say about eating breakfast. Maybe you’re not hungry for an hour or two after you wake up. So then wait until you become hungry to eat! The same idea holds about lunchtime. If you aren’t hungry, then who is to say you need to eat at that moment? Wait until your body is asking for food.

I remember when I was young and thin and naturally ate intuitively. I had a coffee with cream for breakfast at around 10AM, and then lunch was a hot entrée from the work cafeteria, usually a balanced meal of meat, vegetables and starch. It was very rare that I ate a huge dinner and felt uncomfortably full at bedtime. I only ate what I needed, and I stopped eating when I was satisfied. I simply didn’t think that much about food.

I remember in those days hearing all those studies about how only fat people don’t eat breakfast. But I was completely disinterested in food in the morning and I certainly wasn’t fat. I shrugged my shoulders and ate what I wanted, when I wanted. It worked for me.

At some point over the years, after reading this study or that study, I started eating five times a day, including a big breakfast. Now I eat breakfast out of habit and it’s not based on hunger. I eat too much at dinner, mindlessly and in front of the TV. I no longer eat intuitively, and it seems like a huge struggle to stay in shape.

Geneen says that if this week you ditched that plan or schedule and ate when you were hungry, then it’s likely that you were faced with the realization that you need much less food than you thought you do. Perhaps you didn’t get as hungry as often as you thought you would.

I certainly had some breakthroughs in my eating habits by paying attention to hunger cues, and also asking myself “What do I want to eat?” instead of relying on the old stand-bys. If I want a veggie stirfry with shrimp and mango for lunch, then that’s what I’ll have. I no longer think, “Oh that’s too much trouble,” or “No, that’s not what I planned to eat.”

I’m eating healthier foods, more fruits and vegetables and a greater variety of food. I’ve been eating a smaller breakfast and feeling more energetic without having a big feast sitting in my belly. And I only woke up in the night with heartburn once this week, which as the pregnant ladies know, is a big victory.

Why Eat When You’re Hungry? Why Not Follow a Plan or Schedule?
If you aren’t even hungry to begin with when you start eating, then you won’t know when to stop eating. Geneen says that if we eat when we aren’t hungry, then we’re totally out of synch with what our body wants; we won’t know what to eat or when to stop. On the other hand, if we eat when we’re hungry, then we know to stop eating when we’re no longer hungry.

Geneen explains that there’s a big difference between mouth hunger and body hunger. Mouth hunger is in your head. You might see a certain food and decide you want it, whether you need it or not. She says if you’ve been on a diet, then you might be convinced that your body wants food you’re not “supposed” to have while dieting, or food you don’t eat without guilt. Geneen says that’s deciding with your mind, and has nothing to do with your body.

Instead, body hunger is connected with what will nourish the body. Geneen says your body wants to feel good, energetic and vital; your body wants to move with ease. It takes discernment to figure out what your body really wants. [Hint: probably not sugar.]

What Should You Turn to When You Aren’t Hungry?
Geneen says, “Once you begin following that guideline [Eat when you’re hungry] a lot comes up.” When you trust your hunger and listen to your body, then you stop using food to push away emotions, feelings and issues.

Geneen says you might be bored, lonely, sad or afraid you won’t like your own company. There might be that feeling of, “Okay, I don’t need food, SO NOW WHAT?!” You might have doubts that not eating is the right thing to do according to the diet experts.

The good news is that these uncomfortable feelings are the doorway to your new life! When you’re feeling uncomfortable, ask yourself how you want to live. What do you want your life to be like? See what’s most important to you.

Once you decide what you want out of your life, you need to keep re-deciding on a daily basis. We need to re-decide every day that we’re only going to eat when we’re hungry. At least in the beginning while we’re getting used to it, it’s going to be scary. We’re going to have not-so-nice emotions and we’re going to want to go back to old patterns. However, we need to re-decide every day how we want to live our lives.

This brings to my mind that famous Zig Ziglar quote: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Every day, we need to decide that we’re going to get out there and live the life we want. Over time, it will get easier as we gain new habits and ways of being.

Learn About Yourself
Geneen offers us another opportunity to learn about ourselves. She says that being in tune with our hunger and eating will show us the beliefs that we have, both in our approach to food and other areas of our lives.

She says a belief is a thought you take to be true, and a thought you’ve had repeatedly is a belief. Thoughts lead to feelings, and then feelings lead to behaviors. Thus, thoughts and beliefs drive actions.

When we want to change our actions, we should discover the thoughts and beliefs that are driving them. We often don’t question our beliefs because we think they’re facts, but it’s time now to dig them up and face them and be curious and open about your beliefs.

What Are Your Beliefs?
Explore why you can’t eat a meal by yourself while you take the time to pay attention to your body and the sensations you’re feeling. Maybe you believe you can’t take the time to eat a meal by yourself because it’s self indulgent and you need to give to others, and not yourself, to be loved.

We all have our reasons. Maybe you have a fear that it’s not okay for you to take time for yourself. If you rush with food — whether it’s at the fridge, at your desk, standing up, or in the car — that’s a signal that you won’t take time for yourself.

Maybe when you’re eating alone, you’re bored, lonely, irritated, frustrated or angry, and you don’t want to pay attention to your body.

Maybe you think you always need to be learning, taking in, understanding, achieving, fixing, accomplishing and you think it’s not okay to slow down.

This is definitely my problem! I eat the majority of my meals at my desk at work in front of my computer. Come to think of it, this morning I ate my breakfast in front of my computer, and I do that just about every day. The only meal I don’t eat in front a computer is dinner, and I do that in front of the TV. DOH!

Part of the problem might be my eating “schedule.” I plan to eat 3 meals, plus 2 snacks each day. I feel like if I took the time out to eat each of those meals carefully, I wouldn’t get anything done. And so I plan them ahead of time, and then eat them while multitasking. But if I eat only when I’m hungry, then I probably won’t eat as many meals in a day. This will free up the time for me to enjoy each of my meals like they’re special occasions on which I can concentrate.

Geneen says we all have a web of beliefs, feelings and actions. Our outward behavior is an expression of those beliefs. How we handle food can help trace the path back to what we believe.

So if I think about WHY I eat while multitasking, it might be because my belief that drives my actions is that if I’m seen as an underachiever or a slacker, then I’m a disgrace. I need to perform and succeed to be a worthy, loveable person. If I’m not superlative, then I should be punished and rejected.

Think about how you eat and why you don’t concentrate fully on mealtime. Explore what beliefs you might have about yourself that fuels those behaviors.

Geneen says we were born whole. She says children come into the world with a sense of fineness with the way they are. “They’re not self reflective. They don’t know that they know they’re fine.” As children, we all had a sense that we’re fine. There was an “unbrokeness” about ourselves. This is the biggest part of ourselves, and it’s been with us since birth.

She says that by the time we’re four or five years old, we’ve learned that some ways of being are acceptable and some are not. Some ways we express ourselves are loved, while others get rejected. Some behaviors are greeted with huge approval, some statements and expressions are met with anger, judgment, shaming or disapproval.

So we construct our identities and our self images based on what we discover is loveable and what’s not loveable. By the time we’re four or five, we have an ego, a sense of ourselves that’s aware of what it takes to be loved and what will lead to rejection and disapproval.

The Voice
We all have The Voice: this is the internalized parent, the inner critic, the super ego, the piece of your personality that is watching, assessing, judging, and deeming what’s right and wrong.

We learn The Voice from a collection of authority voices and cultural mores, including our parents, that tell us what to do. In the early years, The Voice is a protective measure and it helps us to learn to fit into our culture and society.

The Voice was a necessary part of learning how to grow up and how to embrace socially accepted behavior. It kept us from putting our hands on a hot stove. It probably helps us to look our best when going for a job interview and to avoid slurping our soup on a hot date. Sounds like a good thing to have around, right? RIGHT?!

Well, not always.

Why The Voice Isn’t Cool
The problem now as an adult with The Voice is that it won’t let you be in touch with the part of you that’s not broken. You have a hard time finding those moments of ease, joy and happiness with that Voice nattering on, wearing its Judgey McJudge Pants.

For example, you might be on the beach, smelling the salt air, hearing the waves and feeling the sand beneath your feet. You’re hanging out with yourself, feeling happy and free, just being you and feeling like all is right in your world. That’s a moment of unbrokeness. But then The Voice tells you that your giant ass is casting a shadow on the sun bathers sitting behind you. Not cool, Voice. Not cool!

The point is that The Voice can be overly harsh, nasty and judging. It can make you feel small and weak and unable to accomplish your goals.

As we grow up and experience life and become adults, we have something that’s better than The Voice. We have ourselves, our own clarity and what’s never been broken. We have our own inner compasses.

The Voice likes to convince us that our inner compass is broken, that we don’t know what’s best for ourselves and doles out a hearty portion of self-doubt.

We Must Deal With The Voice
That’s why it’s important to address The Voice — so we can be in touch with what isn’t broken and what’s utterly fine and loveable about ourselves. In order to really know ourselves, to be open, curious, and allowing ourselves to explore our feelings about food, in order to feel it’s ok to be ourselves and to live the life we know we’re meant to live, we must deal with The Voice.

The Voice tends to keep us from changing, from being, doing or saying anything that will upset the status quo. Right now, let’s call the status quo our conflicted relationship with food. Changing that relationship upsets The Voice.

When you try to change, The Voice comes in and stuns you. When you challenge yourself, The Voice can tell you that you aren’t capable. It cautions that you’re going to fail and it shakes your confidence. It cuts you off at the knees so you don’t have far to fall. It cuts you off before someone else can so you’ll be “safe” and powerless to undertake new changes and adventures.

When you’re listening to The Voice, you often feel small, weak, shamed, paralyzed, needy or desperate. You think you’re never going to get it right. You think you need an answer immediately and you rely on The Voice, which might tell you to go back on a diet, because you’re never going to get it right by yourself.

If we let it, The Voice will stop all transformation. It will tell you that you’re wrong and you don’t know what you’re doing. It clouds the objective truth with moral judgment that can be oppressive and discouraging.

First Step: Name The Voice
Unless we begin naming The Voice for what it is, we’ll never change. Changes become impossible and transformation is doomed until we recognize and disengage that part of ourselves that says, “Don’t try, what’s the matter with you? Who do you think you are?”

Geneen asks us to consider five recent judgments The Voice might have thrown our way. Think about the judgments you had when you looked in the mirror and ate your meals. The Voice can strike at any time, and is usually more frequent that you can imagine. Think about the last 15 minutes or the last hour.

Here are some judgments I noticed:

1) Why am I eating noodles and ice cream for dinner? Is that really what I should be eating?

2) I won’t be able to put the words together to write a good summary of tonight’s retreat. Last week was a fluke, and I won’t possibly write as well this week.

3) I can’t type fast enough to take good notes of what Geneen is saying and I’ll miss the point.

4) My belly is going to be so out of shape once I have this baby. (Ouch, really, THE VOICE? Lay off, man!)

I stopped looking for judgments after that last doozy. Geneen warns that the voice is vicious. Yowza!

So to elaborate on the first step, we need to separate out The Voice from who we really are. We’re so identified with it, that we don’t realize there’s a “me” and an “it.” When we’re blended with it, we don’t get that it’s possible to separate from The Voice. We feel ashamed and like we can’t change and we can’t do it right, but that’s just The Voice talking.

Name it. Recognize it. Be aware of its existence. Whenever there is a good / bad / right / wrong, The Voice is present and directing your experience.

When you become aware of The Voice, you’ll see how compelling it is. If we tell it to shut up, then how will we know what to eat and what to do? We might think, “I need that voice! It knows what’s right and wrong.” We’ve been identified with The Voice for so long we can’t imagine the freedom and clarity and unbrokeness we would have without it, because we keep being commandeered by The Voice.

The Voice is tricky. Sometimes it seems like we’re simply asking, “What if I never get there?” But that’s just another way The Voice has of saying we can’t get there. The Voice is speaking to you and you’re asking the question from the small place of, “I can’t do it.”

If we believe The Voice, then there’s no chance at change.

Second Step: Disengage From The Voice
We wouldn’t let anyone in the world talk to us like The Voice does. We’re carrying on that ongoing conversation with such meanness, such vitriol. It’s crucial that we learn to stop it, and disengaging comes when you stop it from speaking to you.

Separate from it and tell The Voice to get lost. Tell it to stop. Here a few tactics.

Remember that The Voice is powerful and nasty, so you don’t need to be polite or gentle with it. You can shout at it, seethe at it, and tell it where to go. Address your voice the way it needs to be addressed; come at it with more force than it comes at you.

You can say something as simple as, “Go away! You are not my friend!” Or you can hurl obscenities at it at top volume. Roll your eyes at it and say, “There you go again,” or you can just ignore it. But whatever you do, you need to disarm it and shove it out of the way.

Disengaging from The Voice is a practice, and it’s not something you get immediately and completely. The Voice will continue to sneak up on you in your lifetime, but you’ll catch it sooner and disengage successfully if you keep working at it.

Carve a New Path
Our brains are plastic and it’s possible to change and create new pathways, habits and ways of being. However, changing requires discomfort. It’s easy to fall back into old patterns and habits, because we’ve already carved those paths and our brains automatically follow those grooves without thinking. Building new pathways requires commitment and effort.

This is why we need to decide anew each day that we’re going to carve a new path and ask our brains to help us do the work. If it sounds exhausting to take this on every day, remember that harboring old habits is exhausting in its own way. So either way you’re exhausted, and you might as well put your energy towards adapting to your positive new life.

So we need to create a new path and the beginning of creating a new path requires a willingness to tolerate discomfort. That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves why we keep doing our practices and asking what you want your life to be about. You’ve got to want your life back more than you want to be comfortable in any given moment.

Soon, this new way of living becomes habitual and effortless so that when you find yourself wanting to eat and you’re not hungry, you’ll ask yourself, “What’s going on? What am I feeling? Why am I thinking about turning to food for a reason other than hunger?”

Stay with yourself and notice how it feels to want to eat when you’re not hungry. This is how food allows us to get to know ourselves and what we really want.

This Week’s Practices
1)      Living “as if”
Live as if you’re worth your own time, love and attention. Live like you like yourself. Live like you like your body.

This is a direct, day-to-day experience. Ask yourself, “How would I get up in the morning? How would I walk? How would I eat if I were living as if I liked myself and knew I was worth my own attention? What would I do?”

2)         Follow the Second Eating guideline:
Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
Eat as if you’re worth your time and attention. You wouldn’t eat standing up, in the car, or tasting the food on your way from the stove to the table. You wouldn’t eat a meal in hiding before everyone else sits down so that you’re full when they get there.

Both of this week’s practices are related to The Voice. When we live like we like ourselves, The Voice will squawk and make itself known. To follow this week’s practices will require you to be aware of naming and disengaging from The Voice throughout the week.

Geneen says to remember that living close to yourself and the center of your own life is your birthright.

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