How Food Can Be an Invitation to Live, Move and Love More

It started at the airport. I shoveled a sandwich, coffee, and bar of chocolate into my face without a second thought. When I arrived at the Newark airport (granted after 30 hours of travel), I immediately started scanning for more food, even though I wasn’t actually hungry. I just wanted to be nibbling on something. Something to manage the bubbles of discomfort that were rising as I felt the gusts of wind chill outside, and the work I promised myself I would do as soon as I returned home. I watched, almost in an out-of-body experience, how being back in my apartment and back in New York City triggered many old habits. I was nervous to be back, so despite wanting to maintain my Bali bliss and healthy state, for the first 48 hours I unconsciously started doing the following:

  • Snacking mindlessly and frequently (I hardly snacked at all in Bali)
  • Eating sugary foods for comfort
  • Eating past the point of being full, and eating quickly
  • Eating while reading or watching a show, or all three at once!
  • Binge watching Hulu shows (watched two one-hour shows while abroad)
  • *Almost* started checking my email while my head was still on the pillow upon waking up, then caught myself—I didn’t do this once while gone!

Upon reflection, I reverted to these habits for several reasons:

  • They felt automatic and unconscious
  • I was a little anxious about being back, getting into the swing of work again
  • It was cold outside and I wanted comfort
  • In a previous version of my life and level of spiritual awareness they felt harmless. Now they feel like emotional substitutes; cheap fixes for deeper needs
  • I didn’t know how good I could feel when I stopped doing these things and went for the real thing: real food, real joy, real love, real mindfulness, real trust in my body

At the same time that I was integrating back into city life, I was deeply engrossed in a book by one of my new favorite authors, Charles Eisenstein, called The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self.

A few of my favorite excerpts:

  • “Reliance on willpower reveals a profound distrust of one’s self. Maybe, just maybe, life without willpower would be more creative, more abundant, more productive, and more dynamic than the life of shoulds and shouldn’ts.”
  • "Eating is indeed a spiritual matter. Eating defines a primal relationship between self and world, the receiving of sustenance and nurture. It is the tangible embodiment of the elemental relations of giving and taking. Through these relations, we can answer the questions, ‘How do I choose to be in the world?’ and ‘How do I choose to be?’"
  • "This is to say that eating is a special time, even a sacred time, in which a person is in an especially absorptive state. While eating, the body is keyed to take in energy from the world. One is eating the entire experience of the meal, not just the physical food."
  • "If you only taste a tenth of your food’s flavor, then you need to eat ten times the quantity, or food with flavors ten times more powerful, to get the same aesthetic nourishment. Therefore we can infer a delicious irony: We overeat not because we enjoy the food too much, but because we do not enjoy it enough!"
  • "To be not-busy is to live according to the belief 'I have time to do what I want to do.' Life may still be full, but the attitude is different; there is no feeling of compulsion."
  • "The Yoga of Eating is to listen to your body-soul, trusting the tools of taste, smell, and intuition, not imposing any specific expectations, not expecting any specific results. The results will come of themselves. Meanwhile, enjoy the delights so freely available in the form of food, a gift that never ends."

Inspired by Eisenstein’s book, these are the adjustments I have been working on in the three weeks since I got home:

  • I now pause before I eat to give thanks—for where this food came from, who prepared it (if not me), what I am grateful for in my life, my healthy body, my loved ones. Most of my meals at home are soup—from my mom's  awesome soup-that-lasts-all-week recipe
  • I eat in silence for at least the first five minutes of my meal—no reading, no watching, and ideally, not even listening to music. At first this was so uncomfortable!! I wanted so badly to pick up a book or turn on a show. Sometimes it feels like forever! If it is a small meal and I am eating alone, sometimes I’m even finished by the time the five minutes are up. But there have been countless instances where I wanted to quit three or four minutes in and start reading, but I didn’t. Lo and behold, at minute five I had powerful insights come up.
  • Zero tolerance policy for checking email from my bed first thing upon waking up. I do not want to get back into this habit! This is not the first thing I want to dump into my brain while it is fresh and in such a receptive, vulnerable state.
  • Instead, I have been sitting for a 30-minute meditation before even making coffee. This is longer and much more of a priority than I had been making it before I left, or even while gone. I now feel that meditation is, by far, the most important thing on my to-do list, and I treat it as such. I am a more loving, calm, focused person because of it. 
  • I am practicing being kind to myself, and engaging in body practices that help quiet my mind and New York’s culture of doing: eating clean, healthy, whole foods, dancing, yoga, long meals with friends, and group meditation. I am also practicing love and compassion for all people. New York is the perfect place for that . . . it is stuffed to the gills with people from every possible walk of life!
  • I am tuning much more fully into my intuition, approaching my days with a sense of wonder and curiosity. I have the book The Intuitive Way to thank for providing many outstanding reflection exercises and activities for this. I am convinced that I was previously using only 5-10% of my intuition, body intelligence, gut instinct, and "superconsciousness" of higher wisdom. However, allowing myself to have more quiet days, and being open to and observant of little coincidences in all forms, has my intuition flowing fast and furious now!
  • I am prioritizing genuine connection with great friends. I am purposefully still not scheduling much, so that my days can be as free-form as they were when I was abroad. I am not getting work done as quickly as when I was in turbo-mode last year, but I feel much clearer and "on purpose" with what I choose to work on, when, and how I approach each task.
  • I have stopped snacking completely . . . sugar doesn't even taste good to me right now. TV is mostly unappealing at the moment. Overall I feel happier, more calm, and have more space to show up positively for others.

Just as soon as I typed that, fear rushed in: but can I maintain it? What if it all falls away? What if I find myself a hypocrite in a few weeks, having written all this publicly, then reverting back to all my old habits? Will this post just annoy people if it comes across as Pollyanna High Horse? (How's that for an inner critic name?!)

First, if I have annoyed you, that is not my intention. I'm sharing this with you so that maybe you can see a glimmer of what is possible for you too. It doesn't take much. It starts with awareness, and a deep inner knowing that at your core, you are peaceful, loved, and loving. That if you give yourself five minutes of quiet, then build from there, new information will enter your awareness about who you are, what you want, what you need, and how you can give.

As for my fear that this way of being for me will go away: sure, it could. But the deep body experience and inner knowing of how good it feels is what motivates me to keep going. Like a child learning to walk, I probably will fall many times. But right now, today, if I stay present, I can say that today willpower is not necessary. I look forward to these practices 80 percent of the time (10 percent I do them anyway, and 10 percent I skip).

Fear is not helpful either (though boy does it try to be!). Now that I've tasted even a glimpse of what it feels like to be in the world this way, and live with a sense of calm, quiet, love—I don't have the same urges I once did to numb out.

I also know that I am in a receiving mode right now. Soon it will be time to work and create again, to share the messages and gifts I have been receiving, and that my energy will shift once more. I can't possibly know what that will look like, but I am optimistic. As Nahko sings in Black as Night, "I believe in the good things coming."

Enjoy an encore, since I already linked to this video in my Life Origami post :) [youtube id="lkGBLLjAXEA"]