Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sitting in Awareness

So, who am I underneath all of the control? (This post is related the the previous one.)

When a student comes to see me for the first time, I always explain that there are two paths to take. The path to self improvement, or the path to awakening from the little self. Nobody wants to wake up. And that takes courage to admit. Nobody really knows what's going to happen to them, and everyone is afraid of words like God and spirit and awakening. 

We're happy to meditate and practice yoga and we're happy to chant a mantra, but when it gets down to it, we feel very uncomfortable about talking about God and our life's purpose. And we should be. It's a huge question and it has the possibility to change your life for ever. 

I was looking at my need to exercise, and my need to control my food intake and I was looking at my lifestyle, and I realised that many of my choices are based in a fear of becoming something I didn't want to be. So I have chosen a lifestyle that I hoped would stop me being close minded, fat, unhealthy, bored by life, ungrateful, dishonest and a slave to the dollar.

Being in Catalonia, I noticed that many Catalans describe themselves in terms of 'nots'. That is they are not like the people of the south and they are not like the French and they are not like the Spanish of the centre. I always thought that was peculiar because I'm from Australia and I didn't grow up comparing myself to another country (at least in the 70's and 80's). 

However I see clearly that I have set up a lifestyle dedicated to nots. And food and fatness is one of them. I'm a vegetarian, not necessarily because I am a healthy person or I love vegetables, but because I don't like people killing animals for food in a factory line up. I hate it. So even my number one restriction about food is about being NOT a meat eater. And it continues through so many of my choices.

What am I going to do?

Well, I've banned the scales for one. I will not step foot on a scale for the rest of the year. I'm going to do a little experiment on myself and discover what I really like. Not what I don't like. 

This is not for ever. Just for the rest of the year. I want to know what I like. When I was much younger I read a book by Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen. There's a passage in it that I have often thought about. The protagonist was used to eating eggs the way her partner ate eggs, and he called her out on it. She discovered that she didn't know what she liked and didn't like. She was easy going and didn't mind. But that was just the surface. The book is about her journey into discovering how she liked her eggs and so much more. 

Good luck to me!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fatty, Fat Fat

During the past few days I've had to look closely at some of my belief patterns pertaining to food and body image. I've had to look at my feelings towards being female, fatness and food.  

Mindful Eating Update
My family, my son and partner, have flat out refused to do the mindful eating meditation with me, even once. That's their choice. So, when I put the meditation on, I am alone with my little girl. 

The meditation goes for about 9 minutes. The first two minutes are about relaxing and settling into the senses. I have not been able to get past 30 seconds before I am already putting food into my mouth. I am watching myself, and I feel anxious and tense. Even as the audio says to go slowly, I am speeding up. I have always finished my food within 5 minutes. I can stop before I am stuffed, but I am always full. 

I have been trying to do this meditation without criticism and name calling. But with observation, acceptance, and calm. 


You're not going to like what I have to say. 

I have never liked fat. Fat on me, or fat on anyone else. I'm a fattist. I have associated lack of fat with worthiness. Fat always indicated negative characteristics like greed, laziness, selfishness. I have never been fat, until now. I didn't mind being a bit fat because I had my baby girl as an excuse. I told my family I would be back in shape within 6 months. It's now 18 months, and I am not back in shape. 

I started to get fatter when I was about 14 and I got my period and I started to fill out in the hips. I hated my body changing. I hated the fat on my thighs. I thought my thighs were huge monstrous things. I used to be a runner, and my grandmother told me that if I didn't stop running my legs would get so big that no man would ever be interested in me. 

Fat reminded me of my step mother. I disliked my step mother, a lot. She was tall, blonde and big busted. I saw her as fat. I didn't want to be a woman. Women were weak. Men were strong. It really is that simple. 

I thought I had removed or dealt with these problems from my mind, but the further I go into the mindless eating, the more they rise up in front of me. 

I am not just dealing with eating too much, I am dealing with my relationship to fat and females and issues of power and control. 

Who Had the Power in Your Childhood?

I was talking to Kate this morning, and as I was talking about discipline, she said something that made a lot of sense.  She reminded me that if my father was so controlling, the only way I could maintain some freedom, something a bit wild, was by having a secret relationship to food. 

My father was a a master manipulator. He was the one with the power in our house and he controlled everyone, one way or another. Control is a big issue for all of us, and as I have stopped judging myself as I eat and I have stopped trying to control my weight or worry about my body, I do really feel as if I am losing control over many aspects of my life. I'm even starting to waddle when I walk. 

Since not seeing my father in the last 20 years, in some ways I have become a father to myself. I control myself, I am disciplined and rigid in some issues. My relationship with myself is in many ways a mirrored relationship of my father and myself as a child. And seeing this is huge. It's painful, sad and a huge relief. I thought I had let him go, with forgiveness, but I had carried him with me inside of my head. Not necessarily his belief systems, but many of his values. 

Kate also noticed I was calling the mindless eater names. It seems to be its own entity. But what was nice having Kate to talk about it with me, is she was gentle and curious about this darkness, not judgemental or willing it gone. So even on top of the observation, I could add a little compassion and curiosity to this aspect of myself, it could help it to surface more clearly. 

Discipline or is it Control? 
I'm a disciplined person when it comes to certain things in my life, like exercise. When I have decided to do a thing, like train for a half marathon, or learn pilates, I do it. No excuses. But when does discipline become a need to control? When does it start to impose itself on yourself and others? I have a strong judge archetype. It's often rigid and critical when it's in its shadow side. And again, let's just sit back and watch it. Let it out. Observation and acceptance. 

Who Am I?
When did you first ask yourself this question? Have you ever asked yourself? The first time I seriously asked myself this question I was 21. I still don't know. It really does feel like there are layers upon layers and even though I think I see glimpses of light, there seems to be always another layer to peel off. 

This post is a bit all over the place. I have a lot going on. Bear with me. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

From Compulsion to Compassion

I'm listening frequently to the audio Mindful and Mindless Eating by Robin Maynard-Dobbs and finding it helpful. You can find it on spotify too. 

She says that listening to her CD offers the possibility to move from 'judgement to just noticing, from automatic to aware, from compulsion to compassion.' 

And that's where I'm at. This movement from the mindless to the mindful.

I have to admit that I have always thought of myself as quite mindful and responsible. I'm surprised to discover this space in my day where I'm just not present. 

Day to day. Let's go. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Previous Attempts to Deal with Food Issues

Q: Since you've become an adult, how have has your relationship to food evolved? 

As a teenager I was well known to be a chocoholic. I used to be able to eat a block of chocolate every day. I could also eat more ice cream than anyone in my class. 
I became a vegetarian when I was 21 and I was a vegan for several years in my twenties. 
In the past few years I've given up a few food like substances, including coke and chewing gum. A few years ago I also gave up coffee because I could see I was addicted to it, even though it was upsetting my stomach after meals and giving me heart palpitations. I gave myself leave to start again on my 45th birthday. I love coffee.

Q: What makes you think you have a problem with food? 

After I had my baby I couldn't lose some of the extra weight I'd gained during the pregnancy. I realised that usually when I started to put on weight, I would just do a few more hours in the gym, and it wasn't really a problem. I correlated low fat as no food problem. As I couldn't shift the weight and I couldn't exercise, I had to look at my food intake. And I realised I was eating a lot more than I thought I was.

I don't know how it happens, but I seem to go blank when I eat sometimes. It really is mindless. In some situations more than others.  

Q: Could you describe your current relationship with food as you see it?

I generally eat rapidly. I eat big mouthfuls and swallow lumps. Most of my meals on my own are finished before 5 minutes. In Spain you can sit around the table for 2 or 3 hours easily and its agony for me. 

I have been practising breathing before meals, and smelling food, and trying to physically relax before consuming food. I have tried to have smaller bites and chew with more awareness. Its difficult and I feel pain when I slow down and bring consciousness to my eating. This is a stressful time for me.

As soon as I have eaten, and I'm full, I usually have a cup of tea. And I'm even fuller afterwards. To the point of bloat. And I stay bloated most of the day. I don't seem to be able to let my stomach empty.  

Out of Control
This is difficult to say, because I obviously pride myself on my control and awareness in many aspects of my life, but yes, I feel that I find myself overeating regularly. I eat past 'full', and I don't seem to be able to stop. I see it clearly. Just writing about this has my heart beating fast. 

I don't usually diet because I don't want to restrict my food intake. I have always exercised more instead of cutting back on food. However every year I do a 40 day detox where I follow the Fit for Life program. It has helped me in the past establish healthy eating patterns. I am a disciplined person in some matters, and it can create chaos when this disciplined health conscious side of me sees the unconscious binge eater. I'm working on keeping the name calling down to a minimum. 

I started eating more sweets when I was tired and my baby was young. I felt frequently sad and ate pastries to help compensate for my unhappiness. And then I ate more and more. It became a problem for me because I know its not healthy and it doesn't contribute to my long term happiness. 

I hardly ever wait until I'm hungry to eat. I eat when there is a space in my stomach.

Self Esteem 
I don't attach my self esteem to my food habits, but it is attached to my body image. I see clearly that the larger I become the more unhappy I am with how I look and the more I feel like its worthless to try to change. Its a vicious cycle. Every now and then I make an effort to change, and I feel trapped in the previous cycle of behaviour. It takes a lot of will power to make changes. Changes that will last. 

Public Confession 
And here I am, shining light on what I see about food in my life. I want it to be out in the open. I want it to be clear. I don't want to pretend. I want to be able to see myself clearly and drag all of that shadow side out into the light. Its helpful to publish this on the Internet. It makes me feel like there is no going back. That this ray of awareness is not just my ray of awareness, but yours too. Your observation adds to my observation so that the ray of light is stronger and I can see and decide clearly what to do for my future. 

At the moment I just want to bring awareness to my relationship with food. I just want to see it clearly. To experience everything with my eyes open. I feel like I am getting to know part of myself I never knew existed. Acceptance. Acceptance. Acceptance. Acceptance before anything else. Observation and acceptance. 

Releasing Pain From The Past

After Dreamland 
So this morning I woke in pain. Piercing pain over the right eye and up into the head, my right shoulder had an inflamed pressure point and my tonsils were sore.
Then I immediately remembered that I had a sore throat and tonsillitis frequently when I was a child and that reminded me about chakras and I put on a 5th throat chakra necklace to help balance out the energetics. 

Yoga Therapist 
A friend of mine wrote to me the other day about some personal issues she was dealing with, and in meditation she heard 'Physician Heal Thyself', and I hear her telling me the same thing. 

I'm sure some of you know, but for those who don't, I'm a yoga therapist. That means I use what I have learnt from yoga (and other disciplines) to help people heal in body and mind. If I had to treat myself, as I do right now, then the first and easiest point to start is with childhood memories, chakras, asana practice and affirmations. Then I usually see how we go from there. I've also started practising tapping, and have found it really helpful. Since Lydia's birth I've also dappled in Homeopathy with the help of Kate and Janet, and this is a totally new world to explore. 

A student/friend of mine suggested I start offering these types of consultations via skype, so perhaps in the next few months we'll get that up and started. 

Why Pain? 
In some painful moments like these, I wonder why on earth I'm digging through heaps of old rubbish just to feel rotten again. I mean, what's the point?

And the truth is, I feel it's my duty. As a person who has chosen to try to be as conscious about her life and life choices as possible, it's my responsibility to clear away as much debris from my life as I can. In clearing my debris, I help clear my personal patterns, my families patterns, and the patterns of the world. In my small way, I am changing the possibilities for our future. And because of that, I must go through these clearings. 

Acceptance is Key
The pain is a release. I have been sitting on fear and repression for many years. It has never been allowed to be expressed. And now, in the safety of my adult arms, it can release itself. All of the pent up emotion, all of the fear, all of the struggle jumping out of the recesses of my memory and my cell tissue like the horrors of Pandora's box. But you know what, once they are released, I've still got something left. Hope. This magical word, ready to to inflame creativity, passion and life itself. 

So yes, sometimes it really does get a bit worse before it gets better. But keep your eye on the goal. It is a process. And right now its painful. Sit with it. Honour it. Give it space to be allowed to exist with no judgement. Breathe deeply. Be gentle and kind to yourself. We can do this. 

Photo Credits Tiffany Jones

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Recreating a Childhood Atmosphere Using Music

I'm a throw yourself right into it kind of person, so I have started to think about ways to reconstruct some of the childhood paradigm to help facilitate remembrance. 
The most obvious way is to listen to the top hits of the era. I was born in 1971, so I've started listening to 70's hits. I think it could be beneficial to listen to music from my parent's childhood too. 

As I connect to food and eating on a more conscious level, I'm discovering that I'm afraid.  I feel afraid. My body starts to contract and my heart hurts. I feel myself shrivel up. I spoke to one of my sisters today via skype and I felt nervous and uncomfortable. I was surprised by my reaction. I had no idea that I had a blockage about food in any way. And now there is this huge tangled pit. I am still in a state of surprise about that. 
I've been going through several mild panic attacks daily for the past few days. I don't know where this is leading, but I do have the tail of a dragon in my grasp.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Earliest Food Memories

I'm going to ask some questions about food and eating, and I’d if you’d like, feel free to answer them along with me.

Q: What are your earliest memories of food and eating?

Our dinner table was a stressful place. Eating was always a problem. My father dominated the table with rules about how to eat. Elbows in (don’t cluck like a chicken).  Sit upright. Fork turned over. Eat with the mouth shut. Don’t speak while you were eating. No elbows on the table. Obviously don’t eat off your knife.  Eat everything on the plate or there was no dessert, and if you didn't finish your plate, then you had to eat it cold at the next meal, and sit there at the table until you ate it. Breaking a child’s spirit was seen as correct parenting. Obeying was seen as a prime rule in our house. I often ate until I couldn't eat any more. I have no idea when I am full, and have always been someone who has a huge appetite. 

My father was often angry. And unpredictable. He used to quickly jab a fork into my hand if I didn't follow one of his rules. I often didn't know what I had done. It seemed random.  I was often afraid. I used to eat the things I didn't like first, so when it started to get difficult to eat, I would have to eat the things I liked. That was easier.

Q: How do you feel talking about your childhood and eating? 

The other day, when I first started to think about food when I was a child, my heart started to pound in my chest. My stomach started to get tense. I started to breathe irregularly. I recognized I was having a mild panic attack. I went and laid down on the bed for a moment, and just sat with the emotion as much as I could.

I started working with my child archetypes with Sparrow about 6 years ago, and cleared quite a lot of blocks and I felt happier than I had in a long time. I think that work helped let me feel something echoing down the past.

The main technique I have for blocking pain is to switch off. Emotionally it feels empty, like there is nothing there. But I think it’s just a wall has been put between me and the ‘hurt’.
Recently, shining the light into the darkness of food and eating, I can see quite clearly that I am ready to allow emotion and release from those early memories. Memories that I didn't even realize were a problem.

I was talking to Kate about my early memories this morning, and I could feel, as I feel now, a tightening and constriction around my throat and a dull pressure on my chest, and tightness in my solar plexus. My shoulders are tight and there is a lot of body tension. Obviously there is clearing to be done. Clearing and healing.

Even though I have been working with childhood issues for a long time. Over twenty years. It’s still there, in different layers.

Yes, I've come a long way from the resentful, angry and isolated teenager I felt I was, but there is still so much to release and let go of. So I give myself leave to speak about it once more, and perhaps to write about early eating experiences once more, but then I will move into the healing and releasing. I don’t see any need to dwell in the past. Just enough to bring it up , so that I can catch the tail and finally let it go.

Mindful Eating on Spotify

I've just started listening to this album on mindful and mindlesss eating by Robin Maynard Dobbs. I like the author's voice, I like the things she has to say, and she says it with understanding and compassion.  It also throws some light on other types of eating patterns that I don't have, and that is interesting in itself.

There are some moments that I can't eat mindfully. Last night, for example, I was cooking dinner, and setting the table, and I was still serving as everyone was eating their first dish. Almost as soon as I sat down Lydia, my one year old, decided she didn't want to sit in her chair any more, and I was juggling a fork in my mouth and Lydia's tendency to throw rice around and carry on an adult conversation with my son and partner. I saw quite clearly that mindfulness was the last thing I was embodying.

But there are other times that I can spend sitting quietly. At the moment I am just bringing more awareness into the arena of food in my life.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What!? A Food Problem?! Me??

How did I get to be 43 and discover I had issues with eating? And how was it that someone like me, someone who had been keenly observing herself for over twenty years, who was a fitness professional, a yoga, qigong, meditation, pilates instructor, and a personal trainer suddenly discover she was a mindless eater? The mind boggles.

But here I am, 43, and I am here to say I am an addict. I'm addicted to sugar, chocolate, being full (I drink tea all day to maintain a full sensation in the stomach), wheat dressed up as white bread and pastries and I am also addicted to being right, judgements, certain stories in my head that help me to feel like my resentments and my poor behaviour of the past is justified, and myself. I am addicted to myself and my story.

So part of writing this, which I love because its about myself, let’s be honest, is about facing these things about myself. Honestly. As straight forward as I can manage, with as little deviation from the truth as I can muster. Honesty, where it hits the constructs of our defences against the ‘them’ that can hurt us, is tough to muster, but well. Let’s go.

Basically I'm  a mother of an 18 month old and I don’t have the time to exercise like I used to. So I didn't realize I had a problem with eating, because if I put on a bit of weight prior to baby,  I would just do some more exercise. I correlated gaining weight with an eating problem, even though I was never taught that as a fitness professional. I even remember a Fat Albert episode where Fat Albert was eating bowls and bowls of salad, and his skinny friend was eating lots of sugar, and it was the skinny friend who felt sick and couldn't play sport, while Fat Albert was healthy and mobile.

I have been a size 34 for most of my adult life. In the past five years, that has moved up to a 36 and I didn't mind. Now I'm a 38. I don’t think I'm overweight, I'm just bigger than I was before. And I don’t seem to be able to lose the rest of the weight by restricting my food intake. And that’s how I discovered I was addicted. I had a 40 day detox and I lost 4 kilos, but as I'm sure you’re guessing, as soon as I could, I ran straight to the bakery and shoved cake and donuts into my open and salivating mouth.  Mindlessly.

I watched myself, quite surprised. And I looked back and saw a history of binge eating that I had never considered before. It had never been a problem because it didn't show up in fat tissue. When I am in a chaotic moment, apart from breathing, meditation and lots of exercise, I would binge eat or shop. And I was not conscious about it, at all.

So I'm restarting my blog after quite a sabbatical to journal what happens from here. You are very welcome to join me as I move from mindless eating to well, to where ever it takes me. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


The morning air is fresh. Winter is coming.

But my spring is here. My rebirth. My rising to the challenge of putting on the plate what it is I have been born to do.

And that is to learn, with my mind, my body, my spirit everything I can in order to have a great body of accumulated knowledge and experience so that when one day, as often happens in my life, someone comes to me with a concern, I can reach back into the shelves of my life, grab a few bits and pieces and present them as an offering, as a maybe, as a gesture of ‘I hope this helps’. 

And that is what Patheya is about. That is what my life is about.