Women, Food, and God Excerpt: Beginning Inquiry
When you practice inquiry, you see what and who you have been taking yourself to be that you have never questioned. Inquiry allows you to be in direct contact with that which is bigger than what you are writing about: the infinite unexplored worlds beyond your everyday discursive mind.
Here are the instructions I give to my students:
- Give yourself twenty minutes in which you won't be disturbed.
- Sense your body. Feel the surface you are sitting on. Notice the point of contact your skin is making with your clothes. Be aware of your feet as they touch the floor. Feel yourself inhabiting your arms, your legs, your chest, your hands.
- Ask yourself what you are sensing right now—and where you are sensing it. Be precise. Do you feel tingling? Pulsing? Tightening? Do you feel warmth or coolness? Are the sensations in your chest? Your back? Your throat? Your arms?
- Start with the most compelling sensations and ask these questions: Does the sensation have shape, volume, texture, color? How does it affect me to feel this? Is there anything difficult about feeling this? Is it familiar? How old do I feel when I feel this? What happens as I feel it directly?
- At this point, you might begin associating a sensation with a memory or a particular feeling like sadness or loneliness. And you might have a reaction, might want to close down, go away, stop writing. Remember that a sensation is an immediate, primary experience located in the body, whereas a reaction is a secondary experience located in the mind. Some examples of reactions are: the desire to eat compulsively, telling yourself that your pain will never end, comparing how or what you feel to how you want to feel, comparing the present experience to your past experience, comparing yourself to someone else, making up a story about what is going on.
When you notice that you are reacting to what you are experiencing, come back to your body. Sense what is going on in your chest, your legs, your back, your belly. Inquiry is about allowing your direct and immediate experience to unfold; it is not about a story you are constructing in your mind.
- Recognize, name and disengage from The Voice. If you feel small, collapsed or powerless, it is usually a sign that The Voice is present. The Voice says things like "You will never be good enough"; "You will never change": "You deserve to suffer"; "You are a failure/a bad person/unlovable/stupid/worthless/fat/ugly." Any feelings of shame are a response to The Voice.
To continue with the inquiry, you must disengage from The Voice, since its intent is to keep you circumscribed by its definition of safe and to maintain the status quo.
If recognizing its presence does not dispel it, you can say, "Back off!" or "Go away!" or "Go pick on someone your own size." Keep it short. Keep it simple. A successful disengagement defuses The Voice and releases the sensations.
- Whenever you notice that you are engaged in a reaction or are distracted, confused, numb or out of touch, go back to sensing your body.
- Pay attention to secrets, thoughts or feelings you've censored. When those arise, be curious about them. Be curious about what's hidden in them.
- Don't try to direct the inquiry with your mind. If you have an agenda or preferences (i.e., you don't want to feel needy or angry or hateful), the inquiry won't unfold. As the Tibetan Buddhists say, "Be like a child, astonished at everything."
Have a question for Geneen about your dieting and food obsession? Ask her now!
Geneen Roth's books were among the first to link compulsive eating and perpetual dieting with deeply personal and spiritual issues that go far beyond food, weight and body image. She believes that we eat the way we live and that our relationship to food, money and love is an exact reflection of our deeply held beliefs about ourselves and the amount of joy, abundance, pain and scarcity we believe we have (or are allowed) to have in our lives.
Roth has appeared on many national television shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20, The NBC Nightly News, The View and Good Morning America. Articles about Roth and her work have appeared in numerous publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Time, Elle, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has written a monthly column in Good Housekeeping magazine since 2007. Roth is the author of eight books, including the New York Times best-seller When Food Is Love and a memoir about love and loss, The Craggy Hole in My Heart. Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything is her newest book.
For more information about the book, visit www.GeneenRoth.com.
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Read another excerpt from the book