On Sunday morning 2nd September we were live for Episode 48 of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by thirdspace coaching in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living.
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Our conversation opens with an excerpt from Christine Caldwell’s book ‘Getting Our Bodies Back‘. We consider together how the culture most of us live in actually encourages us to take up addictive behaviour as a way of distancing ourselves from our experience (and we include in our definition of addiction here anything that we do compulsively, habitually, at odds with what is life-giving for us and which puts us to sleep), at the same time as evoking deep feelings of shame and hollowness.
As we go we discuss how the first step in our reclaiming our aliveness, and our capacity to nourish ourselves, is the art of paying attention to our lives, and the felt-sensation of our bodies. And, as often, we return to the power of relationship – places and people with whom we can be open about ourselves – as the path to recovering our capacity to properly nourish ourselves and one another.
Here’s our source for this week, from the introduction to Christine Caldwell’s book ‘Getting Our Bodies Back‘
Learning to Nourish Ourselves
Some years ago […] on a trip to the local mall, I bought a large cookie to share with my four-year-old son. As we settled down to eat, my attention was drawn to him as he murmured contentedly, munched noisily, and consumed his half with delighted joy. I inhaled my half with obsessive greed, worrying about how fattening it was and wondering if anyone I knew was watching. The contrast in our experiences, given that it was the same cookie, shook me. I felt a stab in my heart as I realized that somewhere along the line I had lost the happy relationship with cookies that he still had. The difference between us in that moment seemed to be that he was awake and alive, while I was shut down and withdrawn.
I vowed to myself that from that moment on I would let myself eat as much sugar as I wanted, but only when I could stay “awake” and truly celebrate the experience as much as my son had. […] What I subsequently discovered was that it was almost impossible for me to do this. At the ﬁrst sweet bite I would enter a state of oblivion, eat quickly and furtively, and then feel miserable. In short, I was not awake and alive, and this was not a pleasurable experience. It felt more like a driven experience, with the same familiar outcome of self-absorption and self-hatred. As I stuck with my commitment to eat sugar only when I could remain present, I occasionally stayed conscious for a few seconds at a time as I nibbled, and I began to explore this awakeness. In those brief moments, I could see the cookie; I could luxuriate in its smell and texture; I could savor the taste and truly treasure it. I was actually having a rich sensory experience, albeit a fleeting one. I was amazed to realize that I derived immense pleasure more from the act of staying awake than from the actual eating of the cookie. Sensation was wonderful! And as I continued to stay awake, I found that I didn’t really want much sugar. The experience of eating it while awake was so rich and full that a very small amount was all it took to satisfy me. […]
I found myself eating much less and enjoying it much more. A little bit of something sweet once in a while was enough to occasion great happiness. And my body told me when to stop. This in itself, this feeling that my body was choosing, making a clear yes or no statement, was quite amazing. […]
I hadn’t expected my body to wake up as a part of this process, and stumbling onto this result was astonishing. What I was discovering was the incredible power of self-regulation that is our birthright. This choosing power had been lost in the throes of the addiction. […]
The beneﬁts of my awakeness practice have been far-reaching. When I inhabit my body, I can self-regulate; […] I can also know when things like behaviors, relationships, and thought patterns are toxic, neutral, or nourishing. I have only to tune in to myself to know, and from there I must go on to the next, even more challenging step: that of tolerating and even welcoming the joy and health that result from actually being in my body and consistently choosing nourishment.
Christine Caldwell – from Getting Our Bodies Back