Sometimes when I ask students what they are feeling in their bodies, they have no idea. It's been a couple of light-years since they felt anything in or about their bodies that wasn't judgment or loathing. So it's good to ask some questions that allow you to focus on the sensations themselves. You can ask yourself if the feeling has a shape, a temperature, a color. You can ask yourself how it affects you to feel this. And since no feeling is static, you keep noticing the changes that occur in your body as you ask yourself these questions. If you get stuck, it's usually because you're having a reaction to a particular feeling—you don't want to feel this way, you'd rather be happy right now, you don't like people who feel like this—or you're locked into comparing/judging mode.

So, be precise. "I feel a gray heap of ashes in my chest" rather than "I feel something odd and heavy." Don't try to direct the process by having preferences or agendas. Let the inquiry move in its own direction. Notice whatever arises, even if it surprises you. "Oh, I thought I was sad, but now I see that this is loneliness. It feels like a ball of rubber bands in my stomach." Welcome the rubber bands. Give them room. Watch what happens. Keep coming back to the direct sensations in your body. Pay attention to things you've never told anyone, secrets you've kept to yourself. Do not censor anything. Do not get discouraged. It takes a while to trust the immediacy of inquiry since we are so used to directing everything with our minds. It is helpful, though not necessary, to do inquiry with a guide or a partner so that you can have a witness and a living reminder to come back to the sensation and the location.

Most of all, remember that inquiry is not about discovering answers to puzzling problems but a direct and experiential revelation process. It's fueled by love. It's like taking a dive into the secret of existence itself; it is full of surprises, twists, side trips. You engage in it because you want to penetrate the unknown, comprehend the incomprehensible. Because when you evoke curiosity and openness with a lack of judgment, you align yourself with beauty and delight and love—for their own sake. You become the benevolence of God in action.

A few years ago, I received a letter from someone who'd included a Weight Watchers ribbon on which was embossed "I lost ten pounds." Underneath the gold writing, the letter writer added "And I still feel like crap."

We think we're miserable because of what we weigh. And to the extent that our joints hurt and our knees ache and we can't walk three blocks without losing our breath, we probably are physically miserable because of extra weight. But if we've spent the last five, 20, 50 years obsessing about the same ten or 20 pounds, something else is going on. Something that has nothing to do with weight.

Most people are so glad to read about, hear about, and then begin any approach that doesn't focus on weight loss as its main agenda that they take it to be license to eat without restraint. "Aha!" they say. "Someone finally understands that it's not about the weight." It's never been about the weight. It's not even about food.

"Great," they say, "let's eat. A lot. Let's not stop."

And the truth is that it's not about the weight. Either you want to wake up or you want to go to sleep. You either want to anesthetize yourself or you do not. You either want to live or you want to die.

But it's also not not about the weight.

No one can argue that being a hundred pounds overweight is not physically challenging; the reality of sheer poundage and its physical consequences cannot be denied.

Some people at my retreats can't sit in a chair comfortably. They can't walk up a slight incline without feeling pain. Their doctors tell them their lives are in danger unless they lose weight. They need knee replacements, hip replacements, LAP-BAND surgeries. The pressure on their hearts, their kidneys, their joints is too much for their body to tolerate and still function well. So it is about the weight to the extent that weight gets in the way of basic function: of feelings, of doing, of moving, of being fully alive.


The bottom line: Addiction isn't love, it's suffering


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