Tag Archive | mindful awareness

MINDFUL EATING

If you are a compulsive eater, as I am, you know about mindless eating. Maybe you can’t not watch TV or be online while eating. Your hand and fork may be feeding you the next bite before you’ve quite swallowed the first, and you had no idea your hand did that. You might have no idea when you are full, and feel hungry when your body and mind are actually feeling something else (tired, sad, bored, mad and so on). How many times have you just caught the sight of something good — a beautiful dessert, or just a bag of M&Ms at the gas station — and found yourself not choosing to eat but just eating?

I’m teaching a class at the University of Vermont this semester titled MINDFUL EATING. Wonderful that the UVM Health Sciences Department is expanding its offerings to include mindfulness for health and wellbeing. And wonderful that college kids want to learn mindful eating!

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is being Here, Aware — aware inside ourselves of our body, breath, feelings & thoughts, and aware of our moment-by-moment perception of the outside world.  Here is always moving, like a river, so letting the mind ride on the flow of the breath is a lovely, basic mindfulness practice. And of course, we are distracted over and over again; in fact, the practice of mindfulness is the practice of waking up from distraction, beginning the practice again, ad infinitum. The key here is radical acceptance: whatever is here, it is what is Here right now, and it’s ok, just as it is. The other key is self-kindness and kindness toward whatever arises.

Happily, rich sources of learning about mindfulness abound.
Here are two faves:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc; http://www.tarabrach.com/audioarchives-guided-meditations.html

And what is mindful eating? Mindful eating asks us to expand the focus of our awareness to all the ways our bodymind is involved in eating: sight, smell, taste, hands, mouth, tongue, throat, stomach. We see the food, smell it, take our time appreciating it before we put it in our mouth. We are aware of how hungry we are, and we can tell when we’ve had enough. We chew slowly, staying connected to body and breath while refraining from engaging in distractions, including the distraction of thinking. We swallow and notice the feeling of the food traveling down to the stomach. We rest and listen to the tummy and its response to being fed. We allow the space and rhythm of breathing to be a part of the practice.

PRACTICE is the key thing. We don’t “get it right” (say hello to the Inner Perfectionist); we don’t “do it wrong (say hello to the Inner Critic). We practice, we have an experience, breath by breath, we are aware and we learn.

Here are two of my favorite sources about mindful eating: http://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/;   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmtNPGZYWOI

Interested in learning Mindful Eating? Come in for a lesson anytime — or connect with me online on video!

May you learn to be peaceful about eating and enjoy your food.

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ANGRY? WHO ME, ANGRY??

 

Therapists teach clients how to deal with anger in healthy ways. Supposedly. This therapist has all kinds of questions about anger and how to work with it constructively. Big Question: How do we REALLY heal our negative emotions, and not be overrun by them?

Melissa’s mother was a mean and critical alcoholic; warzone describes family meals when she was growing up. This mom picked apart everything Melissa said, wore, did. Every boyfriend she brought home, every interest she had, every detail about her  appearance. This mom sabotaged. Not surprising that Melissa turned to drugs, alcohol, sugar, and sex in her late teens and early 20s and had a couple of pregnancies out-of-wedlock….

Clean and sober over 30 years, but tired of her battle with weight, her sugar addiction, and done with dieting (“I just CAN’T do another diet, I just can’t!”), Melissa tried Eating with GraceTM groups and individual counseling. She has done wonderful work owning her sugar addiction and shifting many unhealthy self-care and relationship patterns….

And here comes the ANGER. Her husband complains that since menopause she’s irritable, quick to bite his head off. She owns it – and secretly, she likes it. Isn’t she allowed to speak her mind? At her age, can’t she finally stop being nice and just tell it like it is? Plus, he does go on and on.…

The psychotherapist in me appreciates her anger. Under the lid of depression, under the rage of addictive behaviors: healthy anger. We need our anger to fight the lions of our lives: cruelty, mistreatment, abuse, mockery, bullying, injustice, discrimination. As kids, we needed anger to train our parents about our individual needs and feelings. (We do train people how to treat us, you know!) And as modern women we are coached and praised for our righteous anger: women down through the centuries, heck, our own mothers and grandmothers, have suffered oppression and humiliation, and we are finally owning our power, or at least, somewhere inside, we want to begin to own it.

And how do we “work through” healthy anger? (Google just gave me 183 million results in 0.36 seconds for that phrase.)

A close colleague taught a weekly bioenergetics class for many years in Burlington in the 90s. Picture 5 or 6 women, all ages, circled around, learning to stand firm in their bodies, hold their ground, and say “NO” and “OFF MY BACK” and “STOP IT.”  Outloud, LOUD.  I was in my early 40s and this was the first time I had EVER expressed anger or said a firm NO.

Since then I’ve given myself lots of permission to dance my anger, draw my fury, and stand my ground in lots of situations. I know these healthy, expressive, body-centered anger practices have been very healing for me; my Inner Child now believes I will hold my ground and speak out for her. And I see how they empower and relieve my clients. How can I not want Melissa to have this empowerment and release?

Still, when Melissa left, I felt unfinished and off-center. Yes, I want her to appreciate and express the depth of her healthy anger, appreciate and own the pain of her childhood and teen years. Still….

We erupt AT others, often our loved ones. We nurse resentments, the story of “what he did” replaying, replaying. I know in my own case, I hold some very deep core beliefs about having been wronged; there is a feeling tone held in my lower abdomen and a way my breathing closes in associated with these core beliefs.

Mindfulness practice asks that we sit still with it, with whatever it is. We stay balanced in our posture, and rest our minds on the breathing, like riding a raft lifting up and down on gentle waves. The awareness, the mindfulness, is full of space – it witnesses whatever arises, without judgment. It just STAYS.

And of course it doesn’t stay.  Legs fidget. Ears are pulled out by traffic. Nose itches. Mind takes off, chasing likes and rearing up against dislikes.

The grace though, of our gift of mindfulness, is that the awareness wakes up. Ping! And here we are, simply sitting, witnessing again.

Now this can be pretty boring or ordinary a lot of the time. But sit down for mindfulness practice when you’re irritated or downright angry, and wow – it can get pretty hot!!

Pema Chodron, a beloved teacher of Buddhist meditation and author of wonderful books and CDs  [ http://pemachodronfoundation.org/  ] , encourages us to STAY right here, restraining the reactivity, witnessing, watching it build and ease, over and over. Staying really involves letting go of the storyline and staying connecting with the body sensations, breathing in, breathing out, experiencing what arises and passes IN THE BODY.

I find this teaching so inspiring, in that it totally trusts the wisdom of the bodymind to move from distress to balance, from confusion to clarity. Anger is pretty muddy water, and it really doesn’t taste that good to us when we are carrying it. By using mindfulness practice with our anger (or any difficult emotion), we become more aware of where we are hooked, what our habitual negative thought and story patterns are, and we grow BEYOND our storyline, beyond our wounds and conditioning.

The gift of this practice for me, over the years (yes, years), has been that SOMETIMES, when I’m about to be reactive with someone, I can pause, breathe, and not go there. And later, in meditation or journaling, I can get in touch with how that person or situation connects down into a core belief, or deeply habitual body feeling, that I’m conscious of BECAUSE I’ve sat with it mindfully. This is a taste of freedom. Wow. To have even a moment of freedom from deep, old habits of reacting….

The Buddha taught that the mind is already enlightened. The clouds just have to drift away.

Blessings on your cloud practice.

Take good care, Anya

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And How SHOULD Things Be Going for You Right Now?

Allison’s 22 year-old daughter is standing her up for Thanksgiving. Or so she thinks.

The true facts: It is 2 days before Thanksgiving and Sally, the daughter, hasn’t returned Allison’s calls nor responded to messages on Facebook for the last 4 days. Allison has an agenda/expectation that Sally SHOULD respond, so Allison can ask a few important questions: What special dish can I make you? Are you bringing a friend? Is the friend vegetarian? Allison feels these are normal, sane questions and expectations. No, actually, Allison is absolutely CONVINCED these are normal, sane questions and expectations.

Allison worries. Thoughts like She’s in trouble. She’s mad at me. She is so disrespectful and I should have called her on it last time this happened. I can’t stand this. Now what am I supposed to do?

Allison loses some of last night’s sleep stewing about it. Decides to have some extra coffee and a muffin on top of her normal breakfast – after all, she’s tired and she deserves a little something to help her get through the busy day-before-Thanksgiving.

The extra coffee and sugar zing her tired adrenal glands and blood sugar. Up she goes into a whirl of energy. She forgets her list, remembers this when she pushes the cart through the Hannaford’s door, says OH SHIT too loud, stomps out, drives home, gets the list, drives too fast back to the store

How does the rest of the day go?

What do you think she bought to eat in the grocery store because she “deserved something” or “needed something?”

 How Should It Be?

When we have a picture of how it SHOULD be, we have forgotten several key truths. #1. We’re not in control of all the factors in the universe. #2. We never really know what it’s like to be another person. #3. No matter what we think and predict, it won’t be like that, because we can’t envision the future.

(this is a fun game to play with yourself: deliberately predict a future event, and compare how it actually turns out with your prediction)

There’s a key spiritual principle here:  How it IS is how it SHOULD be.

In Buddhist teachings, this is the teaching of karma: zillions of causes and conditions come together in THIS one moment creating THIS, however it is right now.

And what we are in charge of is NOT how it is right now, but how we RESPOND or REACT.

And in Christian teachings, there is the Serenity Prayer:

     Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference. 

(Interesting that in all the 12-step programs of recovery from addiction, the Serenity Prayer is said at each meeting)

Accessing Grace.

So if it is in-the-present-moment where we actually have the possibility of real choice, what can wake us up to that? Good ol’ suffering, of course.

Hearing all the SHOULDS. Feeling the controlling feeling in her bodymind: tight jaw, mind so sure of itself. Noticing her emotional state: worrying, blaming, resenting.

If Allison had been able to at any point in her moments of struggle realize that she really was suffering and she really did not want to be suffering, she could have

  • paused
  • taken a breath
  • made a phone call to a support person
  • said the most basic of prayers:  HELP!
  • broken the spell of the Reactivity
  • made some difference choices
Practice.
Often when we wake up to how its our own patterns that are the root of our struggles and problems, we go straight to self-blame.
Not helpful. Recovery is simply a one-day-at-a-time Practice. Awareness Practice. Self-Understanding Practice. Kindness Practice.
Meditation and journalling* really really help.
Take good care,
Anya
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*RECOMMENDED: 

Your Body Speaks Journal

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Here is a great way to track your food and your feelings. Our journal is the perfect way to give your body its voice and learn to listen to its wisdom.

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

NOW OFFERING HYPNOSIS & COACHING FOR:
      getting ready to lose the weight
      one-day-at-a-time doable weight loss
      maintaining your healthy self-care, one-day-at-a-time