Tag Archives: Feast with Rachel Cole

Day of Rest: Self-Compassion

snowwillows

A truce can be called in your inner war. Peace is possible. Your old habits of self-criticism don’t need to rule you forever. What you need to do is listen to the voice that’s already there, even if a bit hidden — your wise, compassionate self. ~Kristin Neff

The theme for the first week of Feast was self-compassion. If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know this is one of my favorite topics. It started when I went to a new doctor almost two years ago. I’d had crushing, constant fatigue for almost three years and my longtime doctor had tried every test and treatment she could think of, finally suggesting maybe it was time to try a holistic approach, and admitting that was outside her expertise. I found an integrative practitioner who was also certified in internal medicine and made an appointment. After an hour long conversation with this new doctor, one in which I revealed I had an eating disorder, she told me I was obese, tried to put me on a diet that would restrict my calories, not allowing any dairy or gluten or sugar, and recommended I do more cardio. She hadn’t run any sort of tests to rule out an underlying cause and it was clear to me that this was her prescription for every patient, no matter what their issue.

The visit broke my heart a little. I went in with so much hope, and was so honest with her about everything, only to have her offer me the same old story. I was looking for an expert, someone who could fix me, ease my suffering, make me feel better. What she offered was an option I could have found in just about any women’s magazine, in any gym or weight loss program. As a women in this culture, I am constantly bombarded by the message that if I just lost weight, I’d be happy. If I just ate less and moved more, I’d be healthy. If I just got myself into the “normal” range on the BMI chart, I’d be okay.

Even back then, something deep in me knew that was bullshit. The cake is a lie. The afternoon of that appointment, I left for a retreat at Shambhala Meditation Center with Susan Piver. I spent the weekend contemplating my situation, attempting to answer the central question: “how do I heal myself?” With Susan’s support, the magic of the space, the specific practices we did together that weekend, and the community of people in attendance, I came to an answer: self-compassion.

If we think our job here on earth is to fix ourselves, we will keep looking for the broken places. If we believe our job is to be kind, we will keep lavishing love on ourselves. ~Geneen Roth

pinksnowmoon02Self-compassion is the ground of everything. As Rachel says, “Before we can address whatever unrest, misalignment, or longing that has shown up in our life, we must first bring to life a compassionate and loving relationship with ourselves.” If we aren’t already practicing self-compassion, this is where we must start, and where we may find ourselves returning over and over again.

Building a foundation of self-compassion is hard work. I’ve been practicing and studying for almost two years, and I am still such a beginner. I retook Kristen Neff’s self-compassion test again this week, and even though my score had gone up almost a full point, I still fall into the low self-compassion range. One example of how much I’ve changed though is that when I started this process, a result like that would have triggered self-aggression, judgement and criticism. I would have smashed myself to bits for not being better at this, not scoring higher, not evolving faster. Now, I simply notice, work to maintain my curiosity and sense of humor. I might feel disappointed or sad, but I’m not going to make things worse by beating myself up for it.

I did make myself giggle because before I took the test I had to pee, but it was late and I felt like I needed to hurry up and finish, so my first and habitual instinct was to hold it, to wait until I was done with the self-test. Do you see, kind and gentle reader, just how ridiculous that is? I was going to make myself suffer in order to rush my way through a test that would measure my self-compassion. I still have so much to learn. But, as Kristin says,

It does take work to break the self-criticizing habits of a lifetime, but at the end of the day, you are only being asked to relax, allow life to be as it is, and open your heart to yourself.

pinksnowmoonThis same message is repeated over and over again in my Buddhist studies. Pema Chödrön often talks about how meditation practice is simply the act of befriending yourself. She also says,

The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.

In a talk given through the Daily Dharma Gathering about “How to Love Yourself,” Lodro Rinzler talked about the same, saying,

It’s okay to actually look at yourself. It’s okay to become familiar with who you are. And who you are is basically good — whole and kind and strong.

Spending the week contemplating self-compassion, the way I practice it, I noticed how much kinder I am to myself, how far I’ve come, the willingness I have to be gentle and kind and patient — to nourish myself. I also noticed the places where I still have work to do. One thing I realized this week that surprised me is how much I still use self-aggression as a way to motivate myself, a way to make sure “shit gets done.” What’s so silly about that is most of the stuff I’m trying to get done involves helping other people, attempting to ease suffering — but in my approach I’m generating suffering, and that math doesn’t work.

For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment, that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love. ~Geneen Roth

May we all be kind to ourselves today. May we rest if we are tired. May we eat if we are hungry, and savor what we eat. May we ask for help if we need it. May we tell someone we love them, even if the person we tell is ourselves. May we open ourselves to joy. May we allow ourselves to take up space. May we be nourished, both cherished and well-fed. May we notice where we are suffering and lavish that hurt with love.

Day of Rest

feastI start Feast with Rachel Cole on Monday. I spent some time putting together a journal I’m going to use to respond to prompts and make notes. I cut out pictures and quotes, gluing them into the first few pages. It wasn’t because we had to or that I felt like I should, it’s just what I do to every space I inhabit where I am going to practice. It’s a way of setting an intention, honoring the process. It’s also a weakness, born of fear — I want to feel like I have some control over what’s about to happen, to make sure I’ll be comfortable and safe even as I know that’s impossible.

The above image is from the latest Prana catalog. When I was looking for pictures, I kept coming back to it. The color palette matched what Rachel is using for Feast and I loved the light, the shadow, the form. The real reason though is the pose — how she holds herself, burying her face and hugging herself tight, but so strong, so graceful.

feast04Rachel’s description of the program says “Feast is designed to help you,”

Root into self-compassion
Turn down the volume on your inner critic
Cope with your emotions in ways that support you
Eat in a way that is attuned to your body
Reclaim and revel in pleasure
Joyfully move your body
Identify what you are truly hungry for in life

Every time I read it, I feel a “yes” form deep in my belly. Sometimes I cry. This is what I want for myself, have always wanted, even before I knew exactly what it was. Rachel is so keyed in to my particular struggle that everything she creates seems like she made it just for me. Feast is no exception, and comes at exactly the right time. Since completing her Intuitive Eating Reading Group, I’ve stopped weighing myself and stopped restricting, stopped overexercising, became a certified yoga instructor and broke up with my personal trainer, took Buddhist vows, raised a puppy, and continued work on two books, one about self-compassion and the other about practice. So even though maybe I should be, I’m not nervous to take this next step. I’m not afraid. I trust Rachel. I trust myself. I’m ready to do what comes next … so ready.

On the first blank page of this journal, I’m going to write this poem by John Welwood.

Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down wherever you are and listen to the wind that is singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, and the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are,
right now,
not who you would like to be.
Not the saint you’re striving to become.
But the being right here before you,
inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You’re already more and less than whatever you can know.
Breathe out, look in, let go.

Something Good

1. Feast, “an intensive 3-month program for women who want to come home to themselves, make peace with food, and feast on their lives.” I submitted my application about 20 minutes after Rachel opened, that’s how ready I am for this. She’s taking applications now, but just for this week and there are only 30 spots in this session. Other good stuff from Rachel: Go closer and Doing your best.

2. ZenPen ecourse, “Body-Based Writing for Healing, Transformation, and Personal Growth.” It starts today, so there’s still time to sign up for the latest session.

3. The lists I look at every week for inspiration:

4. Story Swap at the Lyric Cinema Cafe. Looks fun.

5. Wisdom from Clarissa Pinkola Estes,

[W}e all begin the process before we are ready, before we are strong enough, before we know enough; we begin a dialogue with thoughts and feelings that both tickle and thunder within us. We respond before we know how to speak the language, before we know all the answers, and before we know exactly to whom we are speaking.

6. Wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”

7. This is a little different, something I’m offering to you because I don’t agree with it, but I find it and my disagreement very interesting, worth contemplating: This is why you shouldn’t take people’s Facebook lives seriously.

8. One Model Tried On 10 Different Pairs Of Size 16 Jeans And This Is What They Looked Like on BuzzFeed.

9. Realistic New Year’s Resolutions on The Awl.

10. 10 Ways to Turn Off Your Worries on Psychology Today.

11. The Word from Susannah Conway. We both chose “nourish” as our word this year.

12. Future self, wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

13. Responding to Violence and Insanity (one Buddhist’s perspective) from Susan Piver.

14. Wisdom from Andre Gide, “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”

15. 27 Reasons Why I Can Never Be a Writer on McSweeney’s.

16. On Expectations (and the promise of 2015) from Sandi Amorim.

17. Why dreaming big almost cost me my self from Jennifer Louden, who has a gorgeous new website design.

18. My wish for your 2015, a poem from Cynthia Morris, who also has a gorgeous new website design.

19. A Note from the Universe, “I know this may come as somewhat of a shock, Jill, but of your innumerable and extraordinary gifts, one day you’ll consider your present day challenges as the greatest of them all. Trust me.”

20. Margaret Atwood’s charming Reddit AMA.

21. Wisdom from Mara Glatzel.

22. the thrive portraits from Chookooloonks.

23. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club, “life is much too short to ever stick around a person who makes you feel like you are difficult to love.” (Unless of course the person is you, and then you’ve got to figure that shit out).

24. Stop Waiting To Love Yourself Because Of Your Weight on Rebelle Society.

25. Watch Jimmy Fallon learn he totally missed Nicole Kidman’s decade-old come-on.

26. Five things the diet industry doesn’t want you to know in 2015.

27. Overcoming Objections to Body Acceptance from Isabel Foxen Duke.

28. My Indecorous Word of the Year from Laura Simms.

29. belonging to the body from lists & letters.

30. From Addicted Teen to Acclaimed Therapist: The Inside Story on the Good Life Project.

31. A Boy Said She Was Too Ugly To Touch. She Believed It For 10 Years. Here’s What She Has To Say Now. on Upworthy, from Soul Pancake.

32. Why “I am enough” isn’t enough on Life with Lucia.

33. Kill Inner Clutter Before it Kills You on Be More with Less.

34. Commuters push train off man whose leg became trapped between carriage and platform. This is who we are.

35. America, please stop raising assholes on Renegade Mothering.

36. To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This on The New York Times. And a related article that includes the 36 questions the author references, No. 37: Big Wedding or Small?

37. Self-Refinement Through the Wisdom of the Ages: 15 Resolutions for 2015 from Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds on Brain Pickings.

Day of Rest

Recently I mentioned something I call the “sweet spot.” It’s a concept that for me has its origins in hiking. I started noticing that when we go hiking there is a spot, a moment that comes after miles of hiking, some of which were maybe difficult and even made me want to give up, a moment where/when we reach a vista with a beautiful view, or a spacious clearing under a vast sky, or a particular cluster of rocks or a specific tree or meadow of wildflowers, and I experience this moment of awe, amazement, gratitude. All the hard work is worth it to be able to see this — the sweet spot.

I’m living in a particularly sweet spot in my life right now. To get here I’ve experienced many difficulties, some that I’ve shared here and some I haven’t because they weren’t my stories to tell. At times I wanted to give up. I’m so glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this, this sweet spot, this particular magic, this specific moment in time.

I was contemplating yesterday how I sometimes get stuck, when there’s too much to do, so much I want, and I’m frozen in place, can’t seem to do anything. I understand that it’s because the awareness of all the things at once is too much. To be able to get anything done, I need to focus on just one thing at a time, the thing I’m doing right now. To be aware of it all at once is overwhelming, feels impossible, makes me want to give up. I have to break it down into smaller bits — what do I need, want to do right now? That’s it. Just do that one thing.

I read somewhere about a book or a class related to focus or organization or something that recommends an exercise where you set a timer for 30 minutes and clean your toilet. You gather all your supplies ahead of time so during the half an hour, you are only cleaning. For that 30 minutes, the full 30 minutes, you do nothing but clean your toilet, every nook and cranny. The intention is that at the end of that half an hour you have a super clean toilet, as well as a new appreciation for what it means to truly commit to doing something, to being present with it completely, to giving that kind of attention to one thing at a time.

I’ve realized that in order to offer and accomplish everything I wish for, I have to take this sort of approach — one thing at a time. It’s too much to focus on all the changes, all the miles at once. I have to take one small piece and work there, give it all my attention. Then, I move to the next small piece, take the next tiny step. It’s the only way I know how to get anywhere.

All of that effort adds up, and I find myself in the sweet spot. Rachel Cole creates a three month intensive program, Feast, that seems as if it was created just for me. My friend Courtney Putnam offers me a spot in her amazing writing class, Zen Pen. I go on retreat with Susan Piver and I write the opening to the book that’s been worming around in my brain for the past year. In her annual report for the Open Heart Project, Susan announces that one of her goals for 2015 is to offer meditation instructor training and certification. We figure out what is wrong with Sam and are able to help him, which means he’s a much happier dog. Ringo grows up so much, is so much easier to care for, is such a joy. I’m a yoga teacher. I quit working with a trainer and a whole new world of movement opens up for me. I take refuge vows. I stop coloring my hair and clean out my closets. I start cooking more and eating better. I finish the Self-Compassion Saturday eBook and almost 400 copies are downloaded within the first few weeks.

So a reminder for me, and maybe for you as well, kind and gentle reader: Don’t give up. Don’t be overwhelmed by what seems like a vast distance between where you are now and where you’d like to be. Take one small step, and if that’s too much, take a half step. Focus on one thing at a time, one breath. Have faith that all the tiny things, the small parts, the bits and pieces will add up over time. Know that there is a sweet spot, and if you keep moving, no matter how slowly, you will find yourself there. Maybe you are there right now?