Calming & Centering Practice

What an exquisite November day — hard frost, pure blue sky, the last gold-yellow leaves hanging on in crisp wind. Long angled sun, glinting; long dark shadows….   Pause, look, appreciate, breathe.  Ahhh….

Rosa says: I think maybe the mindfulness practices are making a difference. Yesterday I did not rise up and yell at Parker, the mean and demanding son-in-law.  I just calmly answered his question and got off the phone. And with Jerry (the demanding absent-minded husband), I found myself taking a long slow breath before responding. It was the fifth time he asked me the same question!

Rosa leans back, then admits: But I really am impatient with the practices. My mind wanders. It takes too much time. I’d rather be ____________ (doing almost anything else).

Rosa signed up for the mindfulness class to help her with her night bingeing and lifetime of depression and low self-esteem. The practices are hard for her to do. Why should she? What really is the connection between 1/2 hour of some calming and centering practice, and being less reactive in relationships, including the relationship with food and feelings?

Hang out with a baby or a little kid, and watch how their attention bounces from red toy to your silver eyeglasses to light playing on the floor. Bouncebouncebounce. Bouncebounce. Sense impressions — sights, noises, sensations, tastes, smells — OOeeee! The world is Juicy!

We grownups have at least learned to sit down and read a page of something, to keep our eyes somewhat focused on someone who is speaking to us. Or have we? Out attention bounces too — try to sit still without moving anything other than your breathing for 5 minutes. And if the idea frightens you, wonder why.

What’s going on for most of us most of the time is Bouncing. Flitting. Bounding. Our animal bodymind is hardwired to use our senses to detect what we want to grasp (safety, food, shelter) and what we need to reject (danger). Our senses are busy!

Human beings have evolved: we are learning, miraculously, to be able to witness the reactions of our senses to things, and restrain (sometimes!) from just acting out our impulses.

It is definitely a higher state of evolution than the baby or the cat. And the baby and the cat inside us want to do anything but sit still, breathe and listen.

Back to Rosa. What courage it takes to just stick it out, keep her commitment to daily practice, and allow the questions to bubble up for examination. Is this really helping me? How?

Those of us who do have a daily practice (meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, etc) are not exactly saints you know. Nor are we wizards who have figured out how to manifest more time in the 24-hour day.

My experience is that we keep coming back to the practice out of a clear seeing that it truly does make a Big Difference, in this one day, and over the months and years. Less Reactivity, More Kindness to Self and Others. Clearer Sense of Real Priorities — in life, and in this one day. Welcome Insights.

And for people who are hooked into repetitive self-destructive behaviors, the ability to Pause, to ride out the Urge, to hold one’s seat and breathe.

And for me, today, more space to appreciate right now the violet sky of the beginning of sunset on a beautiful day.

Take good care, Anya

      getting ready to lose the weight
      one-day-at-a-time doable weight loss
      maintaining your healthy self-care, one-day-at-a-time




Food and Feelings

In the Basic Eating with Grace group last night, we did a journaling exercise in which you write out the Chain of Events that led to an unhappy eating episode — ate too much Halloween candy; binged on the stale donuts left out at work; work up at 1 am upset about something someone said and found myself chowing down on cold leftover lasagna.

Definition of unhappy: body feels bad after. Inner Critic is merciless: You blew it! How could you? AGAIN??????? (I am leaving the cusswords out here)

What really touched me: two people had nothing in the FEELINGS column. They knew what the behaviors were, what the Critical Mind was saying, even what the body felt, but EMOTIONS? Missing — no words for them.

Many of us grow up in families where emotional feelings are repressed, forbidden, denied, made to feel dangerous. What might happen if we had any idea what we were feeling? Well, remember what actually DID happen and you’ll find some clues about what you are afraid of.

In Cheryl’s family (NOT her real name — I never use names, and always make up stories from fragments of stories I’ve heard over the years, but keep people’s confidentiality sacred) feelings were a threat to her father, who was overworked and suffered himself from some trauma from the war. He had to keep his feelings under wraps. Noisy needy kids who cried or shouted set his jaw and shoulders tight; and sooner or later, he exploded. What does a child learn growing up in that kind of environment? FEELINGS ARE NOT SAFE AND ARE NOT TO BE EXPRESSED (among other things).

So, what we practice in Eating with Grace is beginning to bring a kind, compassionate awareness to the Feeling. Maybe we sit down with a cup of tea. Or lay down on the couch with a warm hand on our heart, or belly (cats and pillows are helpful!) Hello Feeling. I hear you. I hear what you are going through right now. It is ok. I’m listening. We can just rest here and make some space for you.

And resting for a while, we learn that feelings are not really dangerous.  They just need to be acknowledged, felt, accepted, heard.

Take very good care, Anya