Enlightenment, One Bite at a Time

Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, by Geneen Roth, was loaned to me by a friend.  Normally I’m terrible about books that anyone but Logan loans me, because mostly people don’t understand my tastes of what I actually read. (Or to say specifically, read quickly.  Okay, devour. Mostly people can’t tell the difference between a book I would intellectually enjoy reading at some point in my life and a book that I carry around with me to cram reading into every free moment.)  And shame on me for not setting clear boundaries.  A simple,’No, let me just take the name down, because I don’t know when I can get around to reading it right now,’ might actually work wonders in this area.  I’ll work on that.  In the meantime, I was actually loaned a book I wanted to read for the first time in ages.

::glances guiltily at the stack of unread, borrowed books that she really needs to get back to people::

Anyway.  It was an excellent book.  Allow me to tell you why that is.  This book came at the perfect time in my life.  It was a practical address to food and body image that could have been written by Eckhart Tolle, had he that particular experience.  It felt just as resonant as The Power of Now, and A New Earth.  It had the same sort of immediacy as Thich Nhat Hanh and Deepak Chopra.

In reading it, if compulsive eating or dieting isn’t your particular issue, then there may me moments that feel slightly voyeuristic to you (as it felt to me – yes, I’m overweight, no my issues have never been these two things), but this book really and truly is excellent for anyone with borgeoning self-awareness and any sort of weight problems or eating problems – this includes guys with a beer belly and women who don’t like the size of their thighs.  The problem, of course, is not our weight, or even our eating, but that’s what the book is about.  But this is the warning: it’s a book whose concepts are excellent for everyone (nearly everyone – what percentage of us are obese in this country? 75% I think?), but a book that has, in fact, been written for a specific audience: women who compulsively either eat or diet, or both.

If you’ve been doing some reading in the general genre of self-awareness and enlightenment, then go ahead and read from the beginning to the end.  If not, read the appendices first and the entire book will make more sense that way.  There were many things I enjoyed about this book, and many different moments of minor and major epiphany that I recorded in my journal and my mantra cards for later refreshers, but I was particularly fond of the method of Inquiry that Roth sets out, and having used it for the past few days, can I just have a moment to say ‘Holy Shit!’?  Thanks.

Holy Shit!

Inquiry, in this sense, essentially observes that feelings manifest in the body.  We may not even realize we’ve had a feeling, intellectually and with our mind, but our body knows, and reacts accordingly.  I won’t go into all the different steps, as she lays it out quite well in a handful of pages, but it’s essentially an intense body-awareness meditation in which we go to the bodily sensation (usually it’s painful, but not necessarily) and we acknowledge it.  We give it the space it needs to exist for however long it needs to exist, which once we do that, is inevitably not really all that long.  (In case you’re curious, all this body-emotion connection stuff is something that Louise L Hay goes into in wonderful depth, and this particular style of meditation works really well with her world-view.)  In this way I have, over the past few days, headed off four headaches, two allergy attacks, one upset stomach and various other aches and pains which I usually just try to ignore.  That is, I caught each one just as it was beginning, I did a little inquiry – gave it some space, mused on where it came from emotionally, tied the sensation of pain to a visceral metaphor, such as, ‘Gosh, it feels like there are two strong magnets in the front of my brain, dragging through my brain mass to get to one another and it hurts like a bitch.’   And even as I did this for every single ache and pain as it arrived on the scene, which at first was slightly tedious and made me wonder if I was just a walking time-bomb, the process took less and less time each time I did it.  I’m not yet to the point where it’s happening naturally, but where I am is pretty good.

Now, Inquiry was easy for me and I was able to skip several steps of it (the intense journaling, the silence for 20 minutes) possibly because I already have so many frigging rituals in my life that it was easy for me to take the essence of this one and incorporate it into the stuff I was already doing a bang-up job on.  Having said that, if you’re not a liturgy groupie or a ritualistic kinda gal, I’d encourage you at least the first few times to go through the entire process of Inquiry – journaling and silence included – if only to get the hang of this ‘listening to your body’ thing.

Final Review: It’s a keeper.

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