"We can only be said to be alive in those moments
when our hearts are conscious of our treasures."
~ Thornton Wilder
Take a moment to recall a time you felt expansive, joyful and loved. For instance, I"m recalling the last time I went boating. It was getting close to dusk, the sun was reflecting on the water and beautiful colors were forming in the sky. As I sat on the bow, feeling the wind in my face, I felt an expansive warmth around my heart and shoulders, I sat taller and felt completely grounded. And, even though this was a simple pleasure, I felt like I was the luckiest person in the world.
These are feelings I would like to have more often! And it turns out I don't necessarily have to go boating at dusk (or lose weight) to experience them, because they arise not from the boating (or weight loss), but from the sense of connection I had with myself and the deep gratitude for what I was experiencing.
This combination of connection and gratitude is a key to feeling good. According to Larissa Noonan, author of Sacred Self Care:
“When I am deeply connected to my body, to myself, to the present moment, all I feel is gratitude. Gratitude so intense and so filled with joy that it verges on pain, that it overwhelms me and I have no option but to surrender to it. When I’m not connected to my body, myself, the present moment, no amount of trying to feel grateful is going to get me to that place of deep joy and thankfulness.”
So true! And especially relevant to those struggling with eating issues. When you struggle with food and eating, you are trying to control your body, you are against your body, making it impossible to feel a sense of connection or gratitude. The result? You don't feel good about yourself, and you're not really enjoying life.
Waiting to fully live your life until you've reached that special number---you are not fostering connection, or gratitude. You are at war with yourself. Sure, you may feel good for a bit when you lose weight, but discontent seeps right back in. Then you may decide you didn't lose enough weight. "I'll feel better if I just lost 5 more pounds." Or you look for other problems to discover what can make you happy. You're not toned enough. Your thighs are too big. You have "turkey waddle" arms. Or whatever.
Unfortunately, this “change your body” approach to joy and happiness fosters the very disconnection that is causing the distress.
No matter what meal plan you are on, or what weight you reach, you will still be in search of those feelings of expansiveness and joyl, of feeling loved, where all you can say is, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Larissa Noonan suggests we practice connection. And I do mean practice! This is because our mind's natural default is to look for ‘da fault’ in everything. It wants to keep us safe, so it stays vigilant about any possible problem. Great if you are a cave-woman, not so great if you are applying makeup.
Knowing that the mind likes looking for problems, we can understand why we need to practice the opposite. According to Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up. Author, "The opposing muscle, which needs strengthening, is to look for what [we are] receiving at any given moment, and … to express thanks.”
How to do that? Baby steps. Start by allowing yourself to become aware of the gifts in your life, especially the seemingly minor gifts, such as the softness of a cat’s fur, your pet's unconditional love; the still, crisp beauty of the full moon; the blaze of colors on the trees; an expression of empathy from a friend.
Take in, not just what is sweet and soft, but also what bolsters you, lifts you up, provides relief, and offers support. Acknowledge your comfortable bed and the working washer that cleans your sheets; the breeze on your face, your cozy couch in your climate controlled living room, the cornbread stuffing that tastes exactly like mom used to make.
Allow yourself to notice what happens inside when you focus on these gifts. Possibly a sense of expansiveness, an up-welling of warm feelings around your heart and shoulders, or lower in your abdomen. Make sure to allow yourself at least 10 or 15 seconds to sense into your body as you appreciate the gifts around you. Believe it or not, the brain can begin to rewire in just 10 seconds when you focus inward on sensations! And as the brain rewires, it becomes easier to feel these more positive feelings.
This tiny practice will help you feel more connected to yourself, and make it easier to do so in the future. And that can help bring you the gratitude, happiness and joy you are seeking.