“Sensing your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing,” Maureen said. It was her turn to accompany me in a focusing session. “Bringing your inhale inward through your head, use your inhale to make deep inner contact with yourself and the exhale releases.”
Maureen’s gentle voice slowly guided me to feel my feet inside my feet . . . my back against the chair . . . the heart space within my chest . . . the whole pelvic floor. After eight or ten minutes had passed, she said, “Now sense that you are inside your whole body at once and that your whole body is breathing. Pause there to invite in whatever it is that wants your attention now, waiting until you’re ready to begin.”
Before we started, I’d told Maureen I wanted to keep losing weight, yet I seem to be fighting with a body that wants to be fat. Halfway through the opening meditation, I felt an uncomfortable pressure along the right side of my chest extending up into my throat. This is what wanted my attention.
With my eyes still closed, I described what I felt to Maureen. “It’s fear,” I said. “Fear that I will always be fat.”
“Something in you is afraid that you’ll always be fat,” Maureen said, following the focusing format. “You might notice what more comes.”
“The discomfort is extending now up to my right ear. At the same time, the left side of my body feels calm.”
After acknowledging that, Maureen invited me to sense what was happening now.
I began to notice that something in me felt strong and determined and wanted the fearful part of me to be patient. Something else in me felt helpless and unheard. That was the part that was loudest. The tension on the right side of my body hadn’t eased. It was still lit up like a string of light sensors from my belly to my ear.
As I stayed present to the opposing voices, the calmness I felt seemed to put one arm around the determined part in me and the other arm around the fearful part, lovingly embracing them both.
“As we end, is there anything your body would like you to know?” Maureen asked.
I sat for a moment. From the deep calm, I felt an invitation to listen to and keep company with both parts in me and let them be heard.
Before I could publish this post, I needed to contact Donna Varnau, who taught the class on focusing that Maureen and I took, because I wanted to use her material. I thought she would need to know what I planned to write, so I sent her a draft of this post.
From the email conversation that followed, I realized that my determination and my helplessness were driven by the same fear. Both were fuelled by my attachment to a specific outcome. Donna wrote this:
Great tracking! You are getting to know the parts in you that both desire and fear something related to your weight. And as you are able to listen to all aspects of these parts from a loving and embodied perspective, you realize: Something wants to party, something wants to eat organically, something wants to toss it all to the wind, something wants to chow down on French fries and ice cream, something wants to feel healthy and strong, etc. etc. Everything is welcome! “We welcome and entertain them all…”.
Your loving presence keeps the fear places company. From the space of your loving, fully embodied presence, you can create a life-giving intention for your body that incorporates the essence of all the parts, e.g. “I want to feel strong, attractive, healthy and in love with my body and enjoy my relationship to food.” (That’s just an example of an intention.) Then you invite your body to show you “what more comes about this”… an interesting journey. Yes!
Donna’s words made me laugh. I felt encouraged and grateful that the war in my body could ease. I wasn’t just keeping company with my fears and desires until they went away. There’s something invaluable that each one brings to my awareness. I feel relief when I name what that is. Donna’s example works perfectly for me.
I want to feel strong, attractive, healthy, in love with my body, and enjoy my relationship with food. And God, who dwells in the temple of my body, wants that too.
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Psalm 133:1 (NRSV)
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The second advent candle is lit for peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). You might want to ask yourself: Where is there tension in my life? What two opposing thoughts or desires need to be heard and acknowledged? How might God be inviting me to make room for both and be at peace within myself?