Relearning Loveliness: Review of Women Food and God Online Retreat Week Five

Catch Geneen Roth on Oprah today, July 12, 2010 as they talk about the Women, Food and God phenomenon. Geneen and Oprah explore 7 Ways to Keep the Weight off for Good! Oprah says, “This is the summer to end the battle forever.” Check back at Swell Easy Living later this week for my review of the show.

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[And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.]

WEEK FIVE – RELEARNING LOVELINESS: 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: Finding Your Enough

Week Five Course Overview
•    Meditation in detail: Why? How? The three steps: Orienting, Grounding and Centering.
•    If we eat “what the body wants” then aren’t we depriving ourselves of junk food?
•    What about weighing ourselves?
•    How do I change a habit that’s so ingrained like using food to numb myself?
•    When is inquiry what I actually need to face my feelings? What if I think I need therapy?
•    More clarity on who and what you are being loyal to.
•    How do we treat ourselves with loveliness?
•    How do I balance focusing on the good stuff while examining my limiting beliefs?
•    This week’s practices / action steps.

Meditation
Meditation can sometimes seem tedious or boring, but what it does is help you become aware of the sensations of your body. Meditation teaches you to live within your body rather than allowing your mind to constantly flit away and ignore how you feel physically. Becoming in tune with our physical selves is paramount to learning how to treat our bodies well. Being with your physical self takes practice, but you’re rewarded when you’re able to notice sensations of fullness and hunger when it’s time to eat (or not to eat.)

Geneen explains that the progression of our weekly meditation is orienting, followed by grounding, and then centering.

Orienting
Look around the room. Look with child’s eyes, astonished at everything. Up down side to side. See where you’re located. Geneen says, “There’s a lot you’re missing when you’re seeing without looking. Take in an object and really look at.” She tells us to let ourselves have it. Take it into your body, in through your senses.

Grounding
Geneen has us become aware of the earth, the ground. Become aware, “that the earth supports you without your having to ask, continually, every moment of every day.” Be aware of your feet and what they are touching. Feel the points of contact between your body and the surface that supports it.

Become aware of your body. You’ve been running around all day. This is time for you. Geneen says that if you’re looking at Facebook or email, you’re putting out, not taking in. There’s stillness in taking in, in just being. Notice if this is hard.

Geneen isn’t asking you to deprive yourself of something you love, instead, she’s asking you to widen your experience of love. Multitasking isn’t love and it doesn’t give you more time for yourself. Geneen points out that the more technology we have, the less time we have.

Bring your attention again to the point of contact your body makes with the surface you sit on. Are you sitting alertly or slumped? Gently straighten so you’re awake and alive.

Geneen then asks that we bring our attention to the direct sensations in our bodies, starting with our feet and toes. She then asks us to move our attention like a flashlight beam up through our bodies. With each part, ask yourself what you feel. Pulsing, tingling, vibrating, hot, cold? Do you have any emotional reactions to any body parts? Just notice that.

Notice the impact this exercise has on you. Are you bored with your own company? Are you anxious, angry, calm, relaxed? Impatient? Do you think being aware of your body is irrelevant? Are you biding your time? Allow the reactions without jumping on them or becoming merged with them.

Centering
Notice your breath. Place your hands over your abdomen and feel the movement in your belly with each breath.

Geneen invokes the 80/20 rule. 80% of your focus is on your body, on the inside. 20% of your focus is outside, your awareness of the retreat. Stay with yourself. Nothing else is worth it. It’s more important to stay with yourself.

Questions From Participants

A participant points out that back when Geneen first began the process of learning to eat again after years of dieting, that she ate whatever she wanted, junk food and all. But the guidelines say to “Eat what the body wants, not the mind.” Are we skipping the part where we get to eat cookies and go nutso before we buckle down and eat for our bodies?
Geneen tells us that when she stopped dieting, she started eating what she hadn’t allowed herself to eat. When she told herself there were no strings attached and she could literally eat anything she wanted, she went straight to the foods that had been restricted and forbidden in her childhood.

She noticed that she went to those foods as if it would fix her childhood. She ate like those foods would give her a second childhood with June & Ward Cleaver as her parents. She knew she would never diet again, but for that time when she was indulging the whims of a child, she was bumping around in a sugar haze. Then she realized that those foods were no longer forbidden. And she didn’t want cookies – what she wanted was to feel welcome, deserved and adored. And cookies couldn’t give her that.

Geneen changed the guideline to say, “Eat what your body wants,” because she learned from her experience. After years of working with compulsive overeaters, she took the benefit of her experiences and refined the guidelines.

Geneen asks, “Will you be missing something if you deny yourself what your mind wants, or the forbidden foods?” She points out that the question implies “deprivation.” It implies that if I don’t eat forbidden foods, I won’t feel truly free. We mistakenly think, “I can eat what my body wants, but I will still be a crazed food monster wanting to eat everything in sight.” Geneen says it’s important to understand that NO FOOD IS FORBIDDEN. Know that, feel that.

You can’t pretend to be good and healthy and happy eating healthy food if there’s a pulsing, throbbing desire to eat cookies and sundaes. This approach is about being free, and doing what you need to do in order to be free. If that means eating forbidden foods, then good to know. It’s probably not important or necessary for everybody to do. A lot of people are already sick of torturing themselves with junk food and know that they feel terrible when they eat crap, and they don’t need to plow through forbidden foods for the sake of allowing the experience.

My thoughts — we’ve had the experience of eating “forbidden” foods. Ad nauseum. To be frank, allowing junk food to have its way with our bodies — that’s why many of us are already here, seeking Geneen’s counsel. So ask yourself why you’re still worrying about not getting to eat junk food, as if you’ve never done it before.

At the end of the day, Geneen says it’s your life, and your guideline. You are freeing yourself from obsession and there are no conditions. She’s talking real freedom. If you want chocolate, and it’s 10AM, you eat the chocolate. If every part of you wants it, you don’t look at your watch. You eat the chocolate. It’s freedom.

Geneen notes that if you’re eating with abandon for longer than a week or three, then you’re binging and using the guidelines to further your compulsive eating! So be mindful of that. Feel your body and if your body feels bad and you eat until it doesn’t feel good, then it’s time to check into your body and see what you’re feeling.

Geneen says that when starting out with this process, you might gain weight at the beginning. Not everybody does. But you might. If you eat via the mind with no regard for the body, the quantity and type of food, if you’re eating for something else you want, then sure, you might gain weight.

Geneen warns that if you decide you want forbidden foods and you gain weight, The Voice could pop up and say, “This doesn’t work. You’re a failure. You’ll never stop gaining.” This could send you back to the binge-diet cycle. To halt that line of thinking, instead say, “I’m gaining weight. Am I eating what my body wants?”

Geneen says that as she gets older, her body isn’t as resilient as it once was. She’s very careful now about what she eats so that she has energy. She doesn’t eat for quantity. She eats for taste, but not to make up for something.

She asks us to be mindful and to use inquiry. If we’re gaining weight, then we’re not following the guidelines. Instead, we’re following something that’s in the past. Your body is in the present and wants to feel good and alive. Geneen says to stop and ask what’s going on so you don’t go back to dieting and binging.

What about scales? What does Geneen think about weighing ourselves?
Geneen doesn’t believe in scales. “You’re asking a piece of lifeless junk, ‘Am I allowed to have a good day?’ You know whether you’re losing or gaining weight by your clothes. You don’t need numbers to tell you that. Throw out or give away your scales.”

I’m a weigher. I weigh myself every day. When I think about the numbers, even though my daily weigh in doesn’t impact me much — I often forget what the number was within 2 seconds of stepping off the scale — I know that I have preconceived notions of “good” weights and “bad” weights. I might think that I automatically look good when my weight falls below a certain number and that I don’t look good when my weight is above a certain number.

What’s interesting to me about this is that as we age, our muscle definition changes, our bodies change. So we’re attempting to use numbers to put a qualifier on something that’s shifting and changing each day of our lives.

I wonder what the number on the scale means to you? It’s probably not clinical. There is probably a judgment there of good and bad. There’s a possibility we’re casting aspersions on ourselves, the first thing in the morning, more often than not when we weigh in. Just a thought, if you’re a scale junky like me.

I’m not saying I am going to immediately break myself of this compulsion, but I will be reflective of why I intend to maintain the habit and what exactly I’m getting out of it. I’m clearly clinging to something.

I bolt to the kitchen before I know how I’m feeling. How do I go from not wanting to be with myself to being with myself? How do I change when the habit of leaving is so well developed that I can’t help bolting?
How do we change? Slowly. Bit by bit. By not bolting once. By staying with yourself one time. Do inquiry or be curious about what makes you want to bolt. Is it bolt-worthy?

What you bolted about will still be there after eating, and now you feel bad about eating. So we eat more to avoid the sadness, failure or judgment that comes from overeating. It’s an endless cycle of suffering.

Geneen says we begin to change by having the desire to change. Ask yourself, what do you want your life to be? How do you want to live your days? How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. You have a choice moment to moment.

We’re all ingrained with the fight or flight instinct that shows itself when we’re under duress. The problem when it comes to emotions is that fleeing them is maladaptive. We act like we can’t feel feelings. Turn it around by seeing what you want in a big way from life and keep it close on a daily basis.

I know what I want is to live a life of joy, ease and comfort. That’s not to be confused with a life of laziness — quite the contrary. As Geneen says, it takes effort to be effortless, and that’s what Swell Easy Living is all about.

I want to wake up in the morning and look around my beautifully curated bedroom, step on a carpet free of dirty laundry, and make my family a wholesome, satisfying breakfast. I want to go to work at my job and feel focused and refreshed. I want to come home at night and spend loving, peaceful hours with my family over dinner in a warm and comforting environment.

In a big way, I already have these things. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of procrastination and neglect so that things don’t operate like they should. We often think we’re escaping our responsibilities when we check out, but what we’re really doing is making our lives harder and then we don’t want to check back in.

When we eat to escape, it’s a moment of life left behind. It’s a lost opportunity to be with yourself and to see what’s there when you’re with your feelings and to see what’s beyond the feelings. If you allow yourself to feel sadness, then the sadness may turn into a soft sweet feeling in your chest. When you feel your impatience, that feeling might become bigness or strength, but you won’t know if you keep running away.

Geneen says take baby steps with this at first. Don’t go way past your comfort zone. Go to the edge and be with your emotions once a week or once a day instead of bolting. See what happens when you don’t bolt and you stick around instead.

What about when you’re afraid of facing feelings without food? When do we need therapy?
Geneen gives examples of garden-variety, every day feelings like boredom, sadness, rejection, discomfort. These emotions come up regularly for everybody. Usually when you’re feeling these things, your mind is telling you things that are not true.

You’re working on a story you tell yourself when you invoke these emotions. And then you think, “If I let myself feel this, then this would happen.” We don’t realize we’re telling stories. Sometimes if we’re feeling tired, we’re just tired. Instead we’ll give it meaning, like how put upon we are, or that we might have a life threatening illness. We tell stories when we feel simple sensations.

It’s helpful to be able to tell the difference sooner and sooner when you tell yourself stories about feelings. Catch yourself, like when you catch The Voice – sometimes you’re already at the mercy of the story and the melodrama. Sometimes you’re knee-deep in the story and you don’t know it. But the more you question those stories and the more you’re willing to feel sensations and discomfort as it arises, then the more we can separate out the sensation and the story, which diminishes the need to bolt and eat about it.

On the other hand, with trauma, with abuse, with pre-verbal, early, big abuse, then Geneen recommends a therapist. If you’re dealing with trauma or abuse, see a licensed therapist who can be with you as you parse through the feelings, memories and beliefs that arise related to those situations.

While Geneen believes in therapy, she also believes in knowing when you’ve had enough therapy. You can get addicted to fixing yourself and seeing yourself as broken and it becomes a way of life.

Inquiry, the process of being with direct sensations, takes practice and support. Being with trauma and abuse takes a different kind of support with a good therapist.

Can you please clarify last week’s concept of what and who we’re being loyal to?
We’re loyal to ways of being in the world that we learned early in relation to the people we depended on for love. We needed love to survive. Children are loyal to those who love them, even a tiny bit.

These ideas of how we need to behave in order to be loved could be sparked from impressions we were given based on punishment or reward, whether intentional, implied or imagined.

Geneen provides some examples of ideas we get into our heads when we’re little, such as:

  • I need to take myself down so I don’t threaten anyone around me.
  • Being powerful equals being abandoned.
  • It’s better to be liked than to be envied.

So the upshot is that you want to be liked and loved, and in order to achieve this, you want to be the same as everybody around you, not different or separate. You get comfort and safety in being the same rather than standing out.

One perception I have that began to really trouble me from my mid-teens to mid-twenties was:

“If you’re too confident in yourself or sure of yourself, then people won’t like you. They will think you’re cocky and they will reject you and try to cut you down.”

It’s hard enough to remain confident during those turbulent years … what a bad time to be afraid to be confident, thinking people wouldn’t like me if I were! [And also, what a crock!]

Ask your parents, and they will disagree with your version and your assessment of these unspoken rules. They might have never even said or meant these things, but we create stories based on what we perceived regardless, and then we behave accordingly in ways we think will gain us love and acceptance.

The truth is, when you abide by these old ways, you’re being loyal to an idea that’s based on the past – not the current moment. Many times we act as if we’d be abandoned if we were happy!

You become afraid you’ll lose love if you’re different or you have more than anyone else. Many people have a fear of success because then they would feel like they are a threat to people if they were successful. Some unconsciously think, “If you keep yourself small, then you’re not a threat and therefore more likable.”

If you don’t question these beliefs, then you act automatically in ways that shut you down. The only way you know to be happy is to be miserable, and it only feels like happiness because you’re not threatening anybody.

How do we change and how do we treat ourselves with loveliness? How do you re-teach yourself if you’ve forgotten it or aren’t paying attention to it?
First, you must question the belief that you aren’t lovely. Question the belief that you’re damaged or that you’re a failure.

You are lovely, so question the beliefs you have that tell you otherwise. We’re all born lovely, but learn to distort ourselves to survive. You’re born as lovely, and in true nature, you are loveliness. Examine the beliefs that obstruct that view of yourself, and then you see you.

Our beliefs destroy our “in-touchness” with who we are, and inquiry works to help us regain touch with ourselves. With inquiry, you question your beliefs that keep you from yourself so you are revealed.

Realizing that you believe “I’m damaged” opens the door for you. This is not intellectual or something you figure out with your mind. When your mind stops, your being can be. Your mind doesn’t work in this domain of feeling the direct experience of our emotions. This is beyond the mind: the realm of being, essence, true nature. Our memories, beliefs, and identity, which are found in our mind, obstruct our view to ourselves.

When you see that you believe you’re damaged, you can stop protecting, pretending and defending yourself against that belief, stop making up for it and compensating for it without questioning the belief. When you stop trying to compensate, you can become interested and curious that you believe you’re damaged.

Question where you heard such a thing. Name the belief, and then become curious and see what sticks to the belief “like Velcro” … what are the feelings, associations, memories or things people said that made me think that? To be with it and process it takes commitment. What else is there to do, pretend you don’t have the belief, and then keep trying to compensate for it?

You can use a buddy, a coach, a shrink or a partner to help you look at what keeps you from knowing yourself.

The second step to treating ourselves with loveliness, the step beyond noticing the limiting beliefs and obstacles, is to focus on loveliness itself.
This is where astonishment, amazement, and living “as if” comes in. Be aware of the wonderful things you already have in life. Examine the goodness and loveliness that are here now. Right now in this moment, we each have at least 10 lovely things and lovely ways about us and around us in our world now that we don’t focus on.

What you pay attention to grows. If you focus on the negative, then guess what: you keep seeing more negative.

So re-teaching loveliness is a two part process: 1) discovering the beliefs that are the obstacles to our true nature, and 2) immersing ourselves in the goodness and the loveliness that’s here already.

Awareness itself is miraculous. That awareness, clarity and stillness is indestructible and makes all of this possible. But we rarely even notice our awareness, which is inherent goodness.

I want permission to feel this happy feeling as an underlying current in my life. The teachings you gave about “The Voice” and “To who and what am I being loyal to” helped with that. But I also noticed this universal law: What you pay attention to grows. How do I balance focusing on the good stuff while examining my limiting beliefs?
There’s a balance between: A) the need to focus on the good stuff, and B) the need to pay attention to the snags, beliefs, obstacles and energy drainers and ways you make yourself small and take away the goodness. Unless you’re already 100% enlightened, then some of your attention needs to go towards your mistaken thinking. Most of us spend a lot of time believing what’s not true about who we are and what we need and don’t need. So you have to pay attention to that when you feel small or bad or caught in an old pattern. We can’t only look at the loveliness all the time.

However, if it’s enough for you to notice the patterns and not get involved in the content because you’ve already worked through a particular pattern hundreds of times — you’ve explored it, felt through it, and you really know it’s not true — then when it comes up, it’s enough to simply notice the pattern and consciously focus on something else. So then go ahead and focus on the positive instead. Focus on something this is true and good, and ditch the old beliefs.

Geneen says she believed for many years that success equals abandonment. Every time she would write something she loved, she would feel fear. Since she has already explored that fear, and she has explored her and family’s relationship to success, now she knows the content of that pattern, where it comes from, and she knows it’s not true.

So if it comes up again, she already knows it and can shove it aside. It’s already been explored, and there’s no need to rehash it. There’s nothing new to learn. It’s just an LP that needs to play to the end and so Geneen can tune it out and tune her mind to something lovely. She can change the channel to something truer than success equals abandonment.

She could focus on her dog and playing with her dog to get her energy up. She could read an inspirational book or say something positive to herself.

The time positive thinking doesn’t work is when you fill yourself with positive sentences that you don’t believe. So you have to already not believe that bad pattern in order to just notice the pattern without getting sucked into the content.

It’s a wonderful and important thing to focus on loveliness every day. But there’s a balance between focusing on the obstacles and focusing on the loveliness. You need to focus on the obstacles when you get caught or when you hear The Voice; you need to notice that so you can disengage. And THEN you’re able to really focus on the loveliness.

This Week’s Practices:
Loveliness Practice

The Loveliness Practice, the Astonishment Practice and the Living “As If” Practice are all oriented towards same thing: — immersion in what you already have, in the goodness that surrounds you, is you and is abundant in your life.

When you wake up in morning and a few minutes before you go to sleep at night, become aware of the loveliness. Choose three “lovelinesses” you have in your life, right then, right there. Think about three each time you wake and go to sleep. It can be as simple as laying in bed and thinking about how the sheets feel good. You can reflect on the day and think of three good things.

It’s a way of focusing on and laying down new wiring in your brain, because what you pay attention to does grow.

Eating Guideline: Eat until you are satisfied. Stop when your body has had enough.
Notice the correlation between noticing the loveliness in your life and having enough food. Those two things are correlated. When you feel like you don’t have enough or can’t get enough of the good stuff or the loveliness, then there’s a turning to food to get that.

If you have a body and ears and a yearning to understand yourself, then you have loveliness in your life. Notice that and notice how that correlates with stopping when your body has had enough. In order to stop when you’ve had enough, then you need to actually pay attention to the food and to the eating. If you’re distracted, then it’s going to be hard to tell.

Being aware of your “enough” is a function of being both physically present and emotionally, psychologically and spiritually present. It’s not just a quantity, it’s a quality of presence. And that’s the same quality that you use when you get touched when you notice the loveliness.

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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?
•    WEEK FOUR: Finding Your Enough

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I apologize to all waiting for updates, both of the Women, Food & God nature and otherwise. I have got the nastiest cold, possibly of my life, and I feel like total and utter garbage.

I have my notes on the last two WFG lectures, so those posts will go up … when I feel human. Hopefully soon.

I also organized my closet and would like to share what fun that was.

There are other swell, easy, living posts coming. Just not this minute while I’m struggling to keep up the day job and getting home ready for baby at the same time that I would like to stab myself in the eye so that I feel pain that’s unrelated to my sinuses and this cough.

Carry on, and come back soon. I have to get better soon, right? RIGHT?!!