Feelings: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

In and of themselves, feelings aren’t good or bad, or helpful or unhelpful—it’s what we do with them that counts. If anger arises and does its dance, you might experience an urge to eat, if that is your habit. Yet, if you let yourself feel the anger and use it as an opportunity to inquire, either into how you are living and communicating, or into the beliefs that created the anger, then it can be helpful, then it can serve your growth.

A feeling is red flag, an indication that you believed a stressful thought. But the opportunity inherent in a feeling is less about the feeling itself and more about what you do with it. For example, if boredom arises you could inquire into how you are spending your time and get motivated to find something else to do that’s not boring. If fear arises, you may want to ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen if what I fear could happen, actually happens?” Making the fear more concrete usually has the effect of showing that its worst manifestation is not so terrible and cutting the power of the belief that gave rise to it.

If sadness is present, there is the possibility that it can motivate you to do things that moves you out of the sadness. But unless you ask yourself, “What do I need to do to get out of this sadness?” or “What is this sadness about?” the sadness doesn’t get you anywhere.
Sadness can also point you to a belief you have that is stopping you from doing something you would love to do, something that would make your heart sing. Maybe there is something missing in your life that you need to explore. If this is the case and you use the sadness as an impetus to inquire, the sadness is helpful.

For most people, when a feeling arises, it triggers an impulse to distract themselves—through eating, watching television, getting busy, or shopping. In the moment of following those impulses, the feeling has no value. Not only that, the impulse to distract can lead to a pattern of habitual avoidance through unhelpful behaviors.

Instead, if you can break out of this cycle and use the discomfort of the feeling to prompt you to inquire then you have given it a purpose. Asking yourself the following kinds of questions, allows you to make the best use of feelings: “What am I believing that is causing me to feel this way?” “Is there a misunderstanding or a mistaken belief that I need to question?” “Is there something I need to address in this moment or in my life?” Even if you follow the impulse to distract yourself from the feeling, all is not lost. It is never to late to inquire.

The Truth About Loving Food

The truth about loving food is that at a certain point it stops loving you back. Actually even that isn’t true. Food can’t love you back. Food is just food. It’s fuel that gives the body energy to go about its business. All of the functions, working, playing, thinking, and talking as well those functions that you don’t perform consciously, like breathing and causing your heart to beat, the jobs run by the autonomic nervous system, all of these require food. [Read more...]

Disappointment and Food

Disappointment is a natural part of life. Yet in the ego’s version of life, in its movie script, the scenes involving disappointment all get cut. The ego assures us that if we follow its plan life will deliver the unbroken happiness we expect. The ego’s life plan contains only sunny, cloudless days and we as dutiful complicitors bask in the unending caress of its gentle rays.

That’s the fairy tale and life is something else altogether. When the inevitable and happens and life deviates from the ego’s plan, even in small ways, like we ordered our eggs overeasy and our wheat toast dry and instead the server delivers scrambled eggs and white toast dripping with butter, the belief arises in us that such a thing shouldn’t be happening. Afterall we made our preferences clear and life in the form of a communication malfunction between us, the server, and the cook had the audacity not to conform to our expectation.

Or when we’re talking on the phone and the person on the other end is having difficulty reaching a point or repeats the same complaint seven times despite the fact that you shared how you plan to remedy the situation after the first recitation.

But those examples are small potatoes right? They’re nothing compared to not getting the promotion we’ve been working toward for years or the one we love not loving us back or our dearest, closest friend getting sick or god forbid, dying.

We all know that despite the most painstaking efforts and the most scrupulous planning, life does always not cooperate, does not conform to our desires. We work hard in school, get good grades, go to college and after graduation we can’t find a job. Or we take great care of our health, eating healthy and exercising our whole live and we still contract a terminal illness.

Then, there is the other kind of disappointment. We follow our desires and lo and behold, they’re realized in ways that are even beyond our wildest expectations. The problem is that in spite of getting everything we wanted and then some, we’re still not fulfilled or happy. Then what? Life definitely shouldn’t feel like this!

When disappointment rolls in like a thick dark cumulous cloud covering over our natural happiness, what are we to do other than follow the course of least resistance, reaching for the food. In a way, this is a loving impulse on our part. We are trying to sooth ourselves by distracting ourselves from our uninvestigated thinking—the true cause of our discomfort.

What could be more natural? We grew up in a culture that used food to distract us from life’s discomforts and unpleasantness. When we needed a shot at the doctor’s office, the nurse gave us a lollipop. It’s how we’ve been conditioned. Rather than learning to stay with and experience painful sensations, we’re taught to rid ourselves with it as quickly as possible by taking a pill or jumping into another relationship to replace our lost lover. It’s the old bate and switch.

If we’ve come to view food as one of life’s main pleasures, we use pleasure food this way too. After all, it never disappoints. When you bite into a chocolate chip cookie, you get exactly what you expected: a pleasurable taste sensation in your mouth—for a few short seconds anyway. Then the sensation disappears until you refill your mouth with another bite and another bite and so on and so on. Before you know it, you’ve shoveling and stuffing, two fisted if necessary, just to keep reality out of your awareness. But if you tell yourself the truth about it, the cookies can’t do this for you. They can’t help you escape.

You keep eating the cookies because they taste so delicious it’s hard to stop. But you’re so distracted by the “should” and “shouldn’t” thoughts that gave rise to your disappointment that after the first few bites, the taste hardly matters. You’re to busy shoveling in cookies and thinking and feeling to notice the taste sensation that you hoped would distract you from the discomfort of feeling your disappointment.

Yet, what we find is that the disappointment our cookie party was meant to solve has now grown into something that dwarfs the original feeling. Not only do we have the disappointment that gave rise to the cookie party to contend with, we now have bloat, low energy, possible weight gain, shame, blame, and self-castigation and low self esteem piled on top of it.

The truth is that not only doesn’t food ever solve the problem, it adds to it significantly. Yes, in the moment, it distracts us with a nice taste in the mouth, but then what? It’s hard to stop eating pleasure food once we’ve started and after our party ends we feel worse about ourselves than we did when we were just dealing with our original disappointment.

This is the truth about food and disappointment. In fact this is the truth about using food to quell or distract ourselves from any emotion. It just wanted designed to do this for us. Whenever we look to food to give us things that it was never designed to provide, we add to our burden and cause ourselves more suffering. If we can really get this, we can break the cycle of emotional eating.

How do we get this? Practice. In the realm of healing emotional eating and the romanticization of food, practice may not make perfect but heck if it doesn’t help! When we set the intention to just keep seeing the whole truth of food, the whole picture, rather than only appreciating it for its taste appeal, we can break the cycle. In the past we’ve been in denial allowing the ego to lure us with the promise of a few seconds of delicious taste in our mouths. But once we’ve consistently remembered the to see the whole picture, we can’t be fooled by the sliver of truth that the ego shows us. Eventually, we interrupt the automatic feeding impulse and break the emotional eating habit for good.

A Fresh Start

After college, I decided to move to Boston, 3000 miles from my home in San Diego. Exhilarated by the idea of transplanting myself to a new locale where no one knew me, I packed up my little Toyota and journeyed east.

The idea of meeting new people who wouldn’t see me through the lenses of my past and my family was so freeing! As an added bonus, I began to see myself differently, too. As if by magic, prospect of this fresh start gave me permission to discard both the self-images that I had created for myself and the ones I had unwittingly borrowed from others. [Read more...]