The Truth

Exploring my hidden beliefs
about love

Love must be earned
can be measured
and will be traded
Love is worthless if not
reciprocated
I am not lovable
Love has rules
Love is not safe
There is right kind of love
and wrong kind of love
I ask too much
There is not enough

My heart knew the truth
my head did not
but then came the biggie
My value as a human
depends on whether
someone loves me
and I couldn’t find the truth

I thought and pondered
I asked and answered myself
I went this way and that
Is this really how it is?

No

I got up and walked
and there it was
I AM
no matter what

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Unfulfilled Love and Longing as Paths to God

All my life I’ve felt a deep longing for something. Something. Something else than this, something that always seems to be missing. I have never quite been able to put it to words. Sometimes it has felt like homesickness, even though I’ve been at home. Often it has manifested as deep love and desire for someone. At other times I’ve just felt an emptiness somewhere inside, a hollow restlessness or bleakness that I’ve tried to soothe with activity, tv, food, cigarettes, or alcohol.

At the same time I’ve felt deep sadness. A deep, underlying grief has always been a part of me. Love has always been accompanied by sadness, caused by the awareness that no matter how deep the connection, it can never be perfect and separation will always follow.

When I was 14 years old, I had a sweetheart in Spain. His name was Francisco. Oh, how we loved each other. I spent hours and hours in my room, reading his letters and writing back, staring at his photos, dreaming about seeing him again. One day Francisco sent me a cassette (a baffling device for modern kids) full of music by a Spanish band called Bordon 4. Listen. Can you hear the longing?

I never met Francisco again until many years later, when both of us had already moved on. But ours was the perfect love, the one that fills the entire body, the love that is so overwhelming that our human hearts are way too small to contain it. It was love untainted by demands, disappointment, jealousy, possessiveness, or quarrels. We never saw each other’s irritating habits. For us, the other one always remained perfect.

I am a master of unrequited and unfulfilled love. Hundreds of times in my life I’ve fallen deeply in love with someone distant and unavailable, either a real person or a fictitious character. I have been in love with stories and countries. I have loved and longed with my entire being.

Modern Western psychology would easily see this as a problem. It might be defined as projections, insecure attachment, fear of fulfillment, commitment phobia, fear of intimacy, strong need of independence, and several other nasty issues that have not been healed. But despite of all the therapeutic work I’ve done on myself over the years, I still find myself falling in love with someone, from afar, longing, and remaining unfulfilled. So what on earth is going on here?

Furthermore, in a society obsessed with instant need fulfillment, where entire industries are based on satisfying (read: over-stuffing) even the slightest twinges of longing in people, and where the definition of a fully functional person is someone who is able to fulfill her needs, someone like me is doomed to feel like a weirdo. What the hell is wrong with me, why can’t I solve this problem and sort myself out? Why must I constantly seek unfulfilled love, suffer and long and grieve – or, putting it bluntly, inflict all this pain upon myself?

No. What if it had nothing to do with some nasty, unconscious, repressed need or fear? What if this was not a psychological problem? Or, not even a problem? What if it’s something else entirely?

One of the shortcomings of science and psychology is that they deny the presence of mystery in our lives. Even organised religion has moved away from mystery and become a moral guardian who tells people how to live their lives. Dogma, sin, punishment, and strict guidelines separate us from the mystery of our Being, of Life itself. The mystery that is larger than us, the unknown that is dark and deep and intimately present at all times. So deep it can be terrifying to look at.

Recently I came across the staggering notion that the Sufi mystics saw the heartfelt desire for something, such as unrequited love and longing, as a pathway to God (in other words, the mystery of life). For them, longing, not fulfillment, was The Thing. The great Sufi Ibn ‘Arabî prayed: “Oh Lord, nourish me not with love but with the desire for love”, while Rûmî expressed the same truth in simpler terms: “Do not seek for water, be thirsty.” And BOOM. All the pieces in my puzzle fell into place.

My entire relationship with Francisco was a spiritual experience.

The bliss, the pain, the ecstasy, the longing, our union, our perfect love – all of it was my soul longing for a union with God, a memory of something experienced long ago, something not of this world.

And every single unfulfilled love experience since then has been the same. I just haven’t known what it’s been about, so I’ve tried to stop it, make it go away, seek ways to fulfill it – but the truth is it can never be healed by worldly means, because it is not of worldly origin.

“The source of my grief and loneliness is deep in my breast.
This is a disease no doctor can cure.
Only union with the Friend can cure it.”
(Râb’ia, ninth-century mystic)

Of course, as a mystic and a lifelong spiritual seeker, I’ve tried to fulfill my longing with spirituality. At first this would seem like a good idea. But spirituality is one of the world’s marketplaces. Seeking union with God? Great! Come to our retreat, buy these crystals, follow this guru, and find what you’re looking for! Spirituality can so easily become another addiction, a substitute for the real thing, a shortcut. But for the mystic the longing itself is the way, not something that can be grasped and attained from “out there”. The mystery is in the longing, not in the fulfillment.

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Love and the Alchemy of Acceptance

Acceptance is a word that is very often misunderstood. Particularly in so-called spiritual circles you often hear people say: “I know I should just accept it” or worse, “you should just accept it” – whatever the person may be concerned, angry, frightened, or sad about. This is partly right. Of course we make our lives a whole lot easier if we are able to accept what is and stop fighting reality. But the part that so often gets overlooked is our own emotional reaction. We try so hard to accept other people or the circumstances we find ourselves in that we rarely stop to ask ourselves how we feel and if we could embrace and accept that, too.

Let’s say you’re in love with someone who is either unavailable or doesn’t love you back. You’re torn between love, despair, hope, desire, longing, and sadness. And a multitude of other, burning feelings. On one hand you desire and long to be with the other more than anything, and on the other hand you know you can’t be together, at least not now, and it hurts so much. You move between the ecstatic joy of connection and the excruciating pain of separation. Your entire body aches, your heart is so open and so vulnerable, you’re so tormented you swear you never want to fall in love again, and you feel a deep connection with all the great poets of the world who have written about the pain of love. Remember the scene from “Love Actually”, where little Sam asks his stepfather: “Worse than the total agony of being in love?”

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Of course you try to be a sensible adult and face the facts. You try to reason yourself out of your pain. Maybe it works, and you’re determined that from now on you’ll be able to meet your beloved and act normally. As if! You get a smile, a wave, a nice chat – and you’re toast. Your feelings of love come rushing back. So does your pain. And there’s nothing you can do.

After a couple of weeks on this rollercoaster you’re an emotional wreck. You’re so exhausted you’d do anything to escape. Maybe you try drinking and partying yourself to oblivion. Maybe you decide to avoid your beloved completely, and feel your heart breaking at the thought. After all, you love them, you don’t want to completely disappear without a word of explanation! Maybe you decide to confess your love to them in the hope of a romantic ending à la Jane Austen (with violins), but at the same time you fear you might lose what little happiness you have. There’s no way out. You’re stuck. And in pain.

There IS no way out. The only way is through.

The alchemy of acceptance works in a way that we, members of the Western culture, generally have very little knowledge about. We have been taught to be rational and logical, we believe in making decisions, striving and accomplishing. We believe that we must resist things we perceive as “wrong”. But none of this works when we are dealing with emotions. Nothing outside ourselves can bring peace to the tormented soul.

I have met people who resist everything with all their might. They are afraid to stop, because they think it will be humiliating, that the other person will “win”, that they will be forced to give in. Perhaps that’s how things were in their childhood, and that is what they project to their reality today. But as long as they hold on to their resistance, they will never experience freedom! Once you truly accept things as they are, you feel so damn fantastic that you don’t care any more if someone has won or lost. Such concepts simply vanish.

So what to do if you find yourself desperately in love? Seek acceptance. In other words: let things be as they are. Allow the facts. Allow the rollercoaster. Allow the joy, the ecstasy, the hope, the longing, the sadness, the disappointment, the pain. Allow them to break your heart wide open, even if you feel you’re going to die. Don’t “do” anything. Don’t take action to force matters one way or another. Know and trust that your feelings will carry you over to the other side.

Then, one day, the alchemy of acceptance will transform your chaotic feelings to peace and serenity. All that remains is love and gratitude for the fact that the other person walks the earth. Then, and only then, if anything needs to be done, you will be inspired to do it.

There are no shortcuts to acceptance or “letting go”, as another popular spiritual buzzword goes. Forcing them equals faking them. They happen naturally, as the result of a process. This process has to include the living through of your feelings and allowing them to do their job. It is often painful, but disturbing this natural alchemical process will only lead to more pain – and you will miss out on the blessing.

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Peaceful Eating – For Me Too? Part 3

I have now been practising this new way of eating for nearly 2 months. It has been a period of fear, success, failure, hope, despair, urges to control and letting go of them, oh-no-this-is-a-problem-need-to-fix-it thoughts – and a huge amount of new awareness.

During the first weeks I probably gained some weight. It doesn’t really matter. I’m surprised by how easy it was to gain this acceptance. My inner rebel was a great ally! I’ve enjoyed dressing the way I want to, choosing colours and styles that feel exactly right on any particular day.

I am gradually beginning to eat less and enjoy it more. I don’t want to eat too much or eat if I’m not hungry. I noticed quite soon how bad it makes me feel. The feeling is the same as if I’d allowed someone else violate my boundaries. There are still times when I think about eating, e.g. when I’m bored, tired, or feel like celebrating, but it is becoming easier to wait until I’m hungry. Some space is emerging between urges and actions.

Saying “no” is starting to feel different. Previously it required a lot of head action, i.e. willpower, but nowadays it comes from a deeper place, from my heart and my gut. It doesn’t even feel like saying no, it just happens naturally.

It was very important to discover the root function that my emotional eating was serving. It was safety, coming home, letting go, being free of expectations. I learned a way to let go in another way. It was by breathing. Breathing out, letting out a huge sigh of relief so that my chest, solar plexus and shoulders collapse. The beauty of this practice is that it can be done anywhere and any time, and no specific equipment is needed. Not even that ice cream 🙂

There seems to be an interesting physical connection here. In our bodies, the solar plexus and the stomach are situated next to each other. And solar plexus is the area which gets contracted whenever we feel unsafe, guarded, controlled, ashamed, or afraid. No wonder food seemed to ease all that. But breath, that blessed breath, can do the same without any side-effects.

I am also learning to honour and respect food, as I’m no longer abusing it. Food is nourishing, healing, and soothing, and for that I am very grateful.

It is sometimes challenging to walk the line, as we are constantly bombarded by articles in the media about healthy eating (whatever that is), healthy weight (whatever that is), the risks of overweight (whatever those are), and the way we should look (whatever that is). It is very easy to get sidetracked. But it helps to remember that “been there, done that” and that that kind of thinking is precisely the reason that got me into this mess in the first place.

So the road goes on, and I keep walking it. Some peace is finally starting to emerge from the chaos. It definitely looks like peaceful eating could happen to me, too.

Part 1 Part 2

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Relax, You’re Not In Control

Very few choices I’ve made in my life have led to what I expected. Some things have worked out the way I’d hoped or planned, but what has come afterwards has always been unexpected. Yes, I’ve managed to graduate from the schools I’ve entered, I have reached the travel destinations I’ve booked and made it back home again, I have chosen where to live, and so on. Perhaps I’ve sometimes managed to intuit the way the wind has been blowing and followed it successfully, with or without awareness. But in many cases I have made a decision, taken a step or two, and suddenly there’s been a new reality, a new landscape, and it has not been what I’d expected.

Scary things have happened but there has always been a way forward. And it is enough that one way is found. Thoughts like “but if that had not happened, I would not be here, I would not have survived” are painful and downright useless, because what happened, happened, and here I stand, a survivor. In fact, even if it hadn’t happened, something else would have, and I’d still be “here”. Know what I mean? 🙂

When I think about the time when my cat Aino died, suddenly and unexpectedly at the ripe age of three, I am amazed by all the little things that came together to create that particular result. It is easy to get ecstatic about how things come together at exactly the right time and place to create something pleasant – but the same incredible beauty and precision were present in Aino’s passing from this world. Her own physical condition that I was unaware of, the vet’s recommendations, my decisions, another vet’s actions and prescriptions, and ultimately my own hands. Almost as if the entire Universe was conspiring in order to make it so that Aino would leave this world at that time. I did not want it, but I couldn’t prevent it. In fact, the actions I took to prevent it actually contributed to it. Now that the grief has passed, I am filled with awe and gratitude for what happened and everything that has come afterwards.

It is comforting to think we are in control. But in reality we are not. I can make the decision to go out and catch that particular bus, and most often I succeed – but an incredible amount of things have to be exactly right in order for that to happen. The bus, the driver, traffic, weather, other passengers – all have to work favourably.

Likewise, everything I do  – and don’t do – affects everything else. But it happens in a way that is beyond my control. Earlier this week I took photos of a place that once was very dear to me and my family. The place was deserted, with overgrown grass, untended roses, derelict buildings, broken glass. I wasn’t able to predict the feelings that visiting this place would bring up in me. I didn’t know I’d be blogging about it afterwards, and how my post would be received by my readers. I didn’t know what other people would feel when they saw the photos and what they would do then.

In our Western culture we believe that everything is down to us. If things don’t work out the way we want, it’s because we haven’t tried “hard enough”, we don’t want it badly enough, we did something wrong, it is our fault. (Or somebody else’s.) This belief is misleading, damaging, and wrong. We are part of an enormous interdependent web, and our own actions play a very small part in it. This is not to say we are not responsible of our actions. We must do our part, no matter how small, and do it with awareness. We are, paradoxically, also incredibly influential, but not in a way that is based on willpower or control.

I wonder how much this Western belief has to do with stress and depression, the most prevalent diseases of our time. If we believe that everything is down to us, and that it’s our fault if we don’t succeed, we are highly susceptible to guilt and shame. But if I look at my life, it seems that the most important events have taken place because of coincidence. At first glance that can be a terrifying thought. But if I look at it closely, I can see that things have always worked out, even though – or maybe just because – I haven’t been in control. Coincidence could also be called synchronicity. Or luck. Or guidance. Or blessing. Or the incredible wisdom of Life.

Life carries you. People sometimes misunderstand this and dismiss it as a naive belief in divine superpowers, or an illusion that nothing bad will ever happen. That’s not what it’s about. It is a very realistic view. It means that both good things and bad things happen, but life will always find a way forward, if we let it. We have an incredible ability to move on from difficulties and learn from them.

It is mind-blowing to see how beautifully life organises itself so that everything that is, is. One little bleep in the organisation and none of this would exist. Might as well trust it.

Aino_2

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Excrement and Rot

Disease and death. Burning of witches. Rats. Bodysnatchers or “resurrection men”. Phantom pipers. Bubonic plague. Poltergeists. Conspiracy and murder. Decay. Ghosts and ghouls. Excrement and rot.

If life ever gets too sunny and cheerful, it is good to book a trip to Edinburgh. Its grim past, the narrow, dark closes of the Old Town, ancient graveyards, and thriving industry of horror/ghost/paranormal tours offer an undeniable reminder that there’s more to life than we like to think of. Disease, death and decay await all of us.

Just kidding. But not entirely. Edinburgh is quirky, proud, and by far the most exciting and most original city I have ever visited. It is a genuine real-life adventure park. Visiting Edinburgh for the first time in 2007 I felt as if I’d stepped right into the pages of a history book. Or a book of ghostly tales, for that matter.

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When I was a little girl I was horribly afraid of the dark. At the same time I was fascinated by ghost stories. I had a vivid imagination and easily saw frightening shadows and shapes where normally there’d be familiar furniture, trees, and buildings.

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I return to Edinburgh over and over again because I am still fascinated by ghost stories and darkness. Its old cobbled streets, dark alleys, hidden vaults, and beautiful old graveyards keep calling me to explore. It is a world that is at the same time peaceful and exciting, familiar and surprising – and always with a promise of Something Else.

During my years of frantic spiritual search I explored these sites hoping to find clues to the mystery of life and death. Nowadays I explore them for fun, the joy of discovery, and my interest in paranormal phenomena and the unknown. It is fascinating to see what happens in allegedly haunted sites, both out there and in me.

A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Edinburgh for the 6th time. In addition to exploring on my own, I participate in a couple of guided ghost tours during every visit. My favourite location is the South Bridge Vaults.

Edinburgh is built on bridges: North Bridge, South Bridge, and George IV Bridge. Buildings cover these bridges, so walking on the streets you won’t know you’re in fact walking on a bridge. And bridges have vaults.

This is the only South Bridge vault that is visible from the outside, at Cowgate. The rest are behind buildings.

South Bridge was completed in 1788. Its vaults were originally used as storage spaces for local businesses, but because of damp and poor air quality they were eventually abandoned and the poor, sick, and homeless of Edinburgh moved in. The vaults were emptied and closed during the 19th century and rediscovered in the 1980’s.

Several tour companies organise trips to different parts of the vaults. My favourites are Mercat Tours and City of the Dead Tours.

2014-05-14-1095During a trip to these vaults you usually get to hear stories of hauntings and paranormal experiences. Some tour companies use special effects and re-enactments to create an atmosphere (read: scare you out of your wits); I prefer the ones that allow the vaults work their magic mostly in silence. Upon entering the vaults the first thing you notice is the promising smell of damp, earth, and sewage. The floors are uneven, the stone walls are cold, and candles flicker in the darkness.

During the very first tour I took, we were standing in a circle in the so-called double height room in the vaults, when suddenly I felt something touching my right wrist. I looked down, there was nobody there, and the rest of the group was standing in front of me and on my left. There was no draft. I had not moved my hand, and the space around my hand was empty. A few moments later it happened again. Now, I’m not saying it was necessarily paranormal, it could just have been the sleeve of my denim jacket settling on its own. But later I heard stories about the ghost of a little boy, called Jack, who’d been seen and felt tugging people’s clothes, especially women’s.

2014-05-14-1048On another tour we were given EMF meters to track paranormal activity. My meter gave very loud signals when I entered one of the rooms alone. Don’t know what it was, but it certainly gave me the chills. Then again, I get the chills every time I enter a room down there alone. This year I participated on a self-guided tour, where we were given only a map and a torch, the guide opened the door, and we were on our own. I separated myself from the group and experimented by standing alone in the different rooms. Towards the end of the tour the rest of the group had already gone back up and the vaults were silent. That’s when I got the feeling of being watched and had a slight urge to turn and run. It was interesting to just feel the urge but not obey.

2014-05-14-1046I don’t know whether my feeling was related to actually being watched, or was it the darkness, the stories, the smell that told my nervous system to run.

Another supposedly haunted location I’ve visited several times is the Greyfriars Kirkyard. During the religious conflicts in the 1600’s, 1200 members of a group that called itself the Covenanters were arrested and locked in the south-west section of Greyfriars nowadays known as the Covenanters Prison. There was no shelter in this walled area, no cover from the rain, and yet they were kept there for five months. Anyone trying to get out or communicate with the outside world was shot. The person responsible for this cruelty was the King’s Advocate in Scotland, George Mackenzie. His tomb, a huge mausoleum, is only 10 metres from the gates of Covenanters Prison.

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City of the Dead Tours organise visits to Covenanters Prison. It is locked to the public and the only way to get in is with this particular tour company. Numerous people report having encountered poltergeist activity in this area, particularly in one of its mausoleums. People have passed out during tours, they have felt sick, cold, and dreadfully frightened, they have had unexplained bruises and cuts in their bodies after visiting this place. These unexplained phenomena, called the Mackenzie poltergeist, are said to be the reason why the area is locked.

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During a tour you get to enter the very same mausoleum where this phenomenon has been experienced. Tours take place in the evening, and standing inside a dark mausoleum on a shadowy graveyard is an act of incredible trust for a girl who once was so afraid of the dark. I do prefer having another human being between my back and the wall, though. I’ve noticed that the more my focus is “out there”, the more scared I am. But if I focus on myself, staying aware of my core, I find I am safe. My feet stay firmly on the ground and I realise I can look around. Just look. There’s a huge difference between looking with expectation, judgement or fear, and just looking. During my first visit to this graveyard in the dark I was really surprised to see how beautiful it was, and I remember thinking: “if there is something out there, it’s okay, it can be there and I can be here, there is space for both of us.”

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Though I am fascinated by mysteries, I remain a skeptic when it comes to unexplained phenomena. I am open to all explanations: scientific, physical, psychological, and paranormal. It could be that there really is something bad in these places, some remaining energies from the atrocities that took place hundreds of years ago. It could be that the past is somehow recorded in the stone walls and it keeps replaying, like a dvd. People’s energies may somehow concentrate in small spaces and create strange experiences. Poor air quality in the vaults can cause feelings of sickness, breathing difficulties, or heaviness in the chest. Or maybe there is a spiritual entity or a ghost looking for revenge, closure, or freedom.  Perhaps I am just as much affected by suggestion as the next guy, and my imagination and sensitive nervous system are influenced by the stories, the dark, the candles, the smells, other people’s feelings, and the way the tour group becomes silent and huddles together. Who knows? And that’s the fun of it.

Mercat Tours organise 5-hour nighttime vigils in the vaults. That’s definitely on my list…

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Peaceful Eating – For Me Too? Part 2

Something new is happening. 18 days ago I made a decision. I will never diet again. No matter what.

First came the fear. No no, I can’t do that, I will eat and eat and my weight will go up and I’ll hate myself every day for the rest of my life with no hope of ever being happy with myself! I’ll never enjoy anything if I weigh x and look like a pregnant whale! I’ll be a sad loser and feel ashamed forever! Error, error, abort mission!

Then came the sadness. For the first time in my life I was able to grieve my messed-up relationship with food. Until then I’d hated it, seen it as a problem to be solved, and tried to control it. But sadness? Never. The sadness I now felt was the first sign that something had shifted. Anger is often a sign that something has not yet been accepted and we’re still fighting. Acceptance of a situation opens our hearts to the healing powers of grief.

Quitting dieting forever included some specific supporting actions.

1. Legalizing all foods. Including the formerly forbidden ones. I made a list of all the foods I wanted to eat, then went to the supermarket and bought loads of them. The purpose of this was to learn to feel safe around food again, to feel that there is enough, I can eat it when I need to, it is I who decides when and how much. I ate what I wanted, and then went back to the supermarket and bought some more. Wild, eh? But it worked! After the first couple of days, during which I ate quite a lot, the ice cream boxes in the freezer stopped calling my name. Now, if I want to eat some, I eat some – but not all of it, not any more! There have actually been days when I haven’t thought about ice cream at all.

2. Learning to eat when I’m hungry. Fortunately I still know the difference between physiological hunger and emotional hunger. I wait until I feel hungry, then I eat. I eat a little less in the evening in order to feel hungry again in the morning. I had forgotten how satisfying it is to eat when I’m properly hungry, so this was a very rewarding step! If and when I feel emotional hunger, I eat what I want, and accept that I still need to do that occasionally.

3. Working towards acceptance of my body, no matter what size. This is a very important step. Without this work it would be all too easy to turn this not-dieting into another diet. I started by looking at myself in the mirror. Just looking, without judgement. When I hate the way I look, I avoid mirrors and feel shame. I decided to do the opposite. I also took dozens of selfies: dorky, funny, cute, good hair, bad hair, with my stomach pulled in and really pushed out, and looked at them. It was incredibly liberating.

Another valuable act was to buy some new clothes that I felt pretty in and that fitted me comfortably Right Now. No more I’ll-wear-these-once-I’ve-lost-five-kilos clothes for me!

I also thought about Mma Ramotswe and how beautiful she is.

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4. Consciously monitoring my thoughts and dealing with the reproachful ones immediately. It has helped me tremendously to remember that the part of me that wants to eat all the forbidden stuff is the part that wants to be accepted as she is, unconditionally. She is the rebel who fights against rules and regulations and is, in fact, very healthy. Nowadays, whenever I feel ashamed about my body, I say to myself: “Just exercising my right to be who I am”, and the shame disappears.

Like I said in the beginning, it’s only been 18 days but I feel a major change taking place. I feel peaceful and light. There’s no conflict, no fight, not even an effort. I have eaten what I’ve wanted but haven’t felt any major cravings. I haven’t felt guilty either. Actually I haven’t even eaten all that much.

I did not do this all alone, though. “Overcoming Overeating” by Carol Munter and Jane Hirschmann was my guidebook. Golda provided some much-needed love, acceptance and pride. And this blog post helped me to see the comedy of it all 😀

Part 3

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Peaceful Eating – For Me Too? Part 1

If you have been reading this blog, you know I am an emotional/compulsive eater. I find it difficult to be at peace around food.

People like me eat when we’re not hungry. We use food as a coping mechanism. It does not mean we are a bunch of lazy, self-destructive, or uninformed losers, it is the way we learned to comfort ourselves a long time ago. It is an attempt to take care of ourselves. We eat e.g. when we feel lonely, sad, confused, or disappointed, but also when we feel happy, enthusiastic, or sexual. This behaviour is closely related to our past and how our early caretakers allowed and accepted their own feelings and those of their children – us. If there was no space for us as kids to openly and safely express our feelings, we developed another way to deal with them. For some of us, eating is the way. I call that creative wisdom.

Another thing has contributed significantly to my complicated relationship with food: dieting. Ever since my teenage years I’ve been under the impression that I must control my eating. I wasn’t overweight, but I started to experiment with diets, innocently and out of curiosity, because everyone around me seemed to be either dieting or complaining about the weight they’d gained. It was so natural to be concerned about eating that nobody warned me about the dangers of dieting.

And do you know what those dangers are? First, you lose touch with your body’s normal hunger and satisfaction signals. Healthy babies cry when they’re hungry and turn their head away when they’re full. This natural mechanism gets easily disturbed when you start messing with it, or let others mess with it by allowing them to define when and how you should eat (which is the definition of a diet). You no longer feel hungry, or you ignore it, which means you don’t know when to eat; and you don’t recognise the feeling of satisfaction, which easily leads to overeating.

Another danger of diets is that when you deprive yourself, your wise body believes that starvation is imminent – alarm, alarm! – and switches to energy saving mode. The inevitable consequence of this is that sooner or later you will lose control and binge. The pendulum will swing to the other extreme. Your body may yell and scream for fuel, and you can ignore it for quite some time, but eventually – come holidays, parties, or trips abroad – you find yourself eating everything in sight as if there was no tomorrow. Afterwards you feel bloated, ashamed and disgusted, you reproach yourself and make a vow to never, ever make that same mistake again. And to soothe those angry, shaming voices in your head, you go on another diet.

This is the reason why diets don’t work. Statistics show that 95% of people gain their weight back in a couple of years. And then some more. It is absolutely crucial to realise that this is not our fault.

For decades it has been impossible for me to keep “forbidden” foods such as ice cream, cookies, or chocolate in my cupboards, because I haven’t been able to resist them. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them as long as I’ve had them in the house. They have kept calling my name until I’ve eaten all of them. This has led me to believe that my willpower is so weak that I must severely restrict my eating – a misunderstanding based on the observation that whenever “forbidden” food was around, I ate it. Conclusion: don’t buy it, control yourself even more, be strong and fight!

What makes me really sad today is that I’ve let my weight dictate whether I am a good and deserving person. Whenever I was on a diet, managed to avoid the “forbidden” foods, and lost weight, I felt good about myself. But when I’d been through yet another binge episode or gained weight, I hated myself.

This has been a problem I have tried to solve for almost as long as I can remember. I have worked with it in different therapies for years, and gained a lot of valuable knowledge about it, but no permanent healing has happened. It seems obvious to me now that a more direct approach concerning food was necessary.

Continues in Part 2

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Missing Piece = Missing Peace

My emotional eating disorder has reached epic levels lately. In February I booked myself a little holiday in Las Palmas, and thought it would be nice to lose a few kilos before that. Big mistake! As soon as that thought had entered my head, I started grabbing a chocolate bar here, some cake there, a little ice cream to reward myself after a long week at the office… To complicate matters further, it was the time of year when one seasonal delicacy after another hits the supermarkets: Runeberg’s Day tarts, Shrovetide buns, Easter eggs and mämmi, First of May tippaleipäs… I was ruined. I experienced such violent cravings that no matter how much I tried not to give in, I noticed, with feelings of utter helplessness, my legs hurrying to the supermarket and my hands reaching for yet another pack of yummy. And the more I binged, the more disgusted I felt.

Yesterday evening I was lying in bed, frantically trying to find an answer to why I hadn’t managed to heal this yet, despite of trying everything. That can be a downside of being a therapist, by the way: you simply get to know too many methods. I had tried inner child work, mindfulness, EFT, shamanism, Reiki, 12 steps approach, visualization, journaling, cutting carbs… all of which had provided some enlightenment, but never resulted in any permanent freedom, just added more thought to my already spinning head. I was angry, defeated, and exhausted.

In my dark despair, I suddenly paid attention to a thought in my head. “If only I managed to find the one thought, the one method that would crack this, I would be at peace.” I recognised it: it was the exact same thought that had been driving me during my years of frantic spiritual search. IF ONLY. Whoa! And it’s the same thought that drives me to eat: if only I allow myself this ice cream/pizza/chocolate bar/cake, I’ll be at peace. But I can never find lasting peace, as I am constantly moving from one extreme to another, from control to binging, back to control, and binge again. At both extremes I am restless, unhappy, seeking for a solution. And the thought that keeps this pendulum swinging is the IF ONLY. Stop, I said to myself. Just stop.

Words can’t describe the peace I felt.

I had been looking for peace, and peace was right here, only to be found when I stopped searching.

The same applies to any situation where we look for happiness and peace outside ourselves. If only I found the right partner/job/car/guru, I’d be happy. Or if only he changed, came back, stopped what he’s doing, or apologized to me, I could rest. It never works. Never. It is the search itself that keeps happiness at bay. The search keeps us trapped in the push-pull dynamics, and as long as we are ignorant of it, we suffer. But as soon as we allow ourselves to truly realize what we’re doing, peace comes. It is a wonderful thing to just stop.

stop-sign

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Hello, Awareness Speaking!

I sat down in my chair, with the intention to rest in Awareness for a moment. Where was it? Couldn’t connect. No peace, no rest was to be found. Just a busy mind and an uneasy body. Words came: “I am feeling very restless right now.” And a silent voice from somewhere nearby said: “That’s Awareness speaking, you know.” “Oh my God”, I said. “Yep, that’s another word for it”, replied the voice. And there were laughter and tears.

* * * *

Yesterday evening I was trying to locate Awareness. It wasn’t in my head. It wasn’t in my heart. Actually it felt as if it was all around me. That I somehow existed in it. But this is so mind-boggling it needs to be digested a bit…

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