When I originally started writing this post two days ago, I was so full of optimism and go-get-’em positivity. I was definitely in cheerleader mode. Then, yesterday morning, something happened that made me take a second look at my approach. I went to throw on some jeans and a particular sweater for a trip to New York City. First pair didn’t fit. Second pair barely fit. By the time I got to the third pair of jeans, I was both frustrated and sad, wondering if I should be the one leading this tribe of ours. How had I strayed so far from my own principles and practices? And so we are beginning today from a place of total honesty, which is the way it should be.
I am not “leading” us down this path toward transformation; I am walking right alongside you. I know from personal and powerful first-hand experience that the practices I’ve outlined in Cravings can make a difference, not only in your waistline and on your dinner plate but in your mindset and mood and perspective. Over the past 18 months, however, ever since I went to work in an outside office rather than writing from my home office, I’ve had trouble finding the new “normal” in my eating, exercising, praying, mindfulness routine. Where I used to spend time each morning over my bowl of Mindful Oatmeal, a practice that grounded my day and gave me balance, I now throw a yogurt in my bag and usually don’t remember to eat it until halfway through the morning — at my desk as I work. (And then I swing by a friend’s office to grab some always-at-the-ready candy.) Where I used to consciously strive to get away from the multi-tasking mindset that wreaks havoc with our serenity and, by extension, our eating habits, I now regularly do about 10 things at once and almost always end up eating my lunch at my desk as I answer emails and keep up with various projects. Sometimes I just plop my lunch container down on top of the pile of folders and newspapers. I’m here to tell you that eating that way, operating that way is a recipe for disaster in terms of both physical and mental health.
Which is what brings us to where we are today: Cravings, Chapter 1: A Deeper Hunger. What is your deeper hunger for 2017? Surely it’s more than taking off a few pounds. I’m guessing that if you’re anything like me, underneath the surface hunger for a slimmer waistline or stronger abs is a desire for inner peace, self-acceptance, and a transformation that will lead you to a place where you are not defined by the number on the scale or the size of your jeans.
As we begin our journey, some aspects may feel a little unusual since we’re talking about eating habits and diet but we’re not actually going on a diet. I’m not going to give you a list of foods you can’t eat or foods you must eat or an amount of exercise you should do. This is going to be a much deeper and interior journey than the typical kind of health plan. If you follow this path, your newly restored relationship with food will naturally bring things into balance because you won’t be stuffing or starving based on feelings of inadequacy or because of stress in your work or home life or because you’re trying to fill a void of some kind. You will be learning to move mindfully through your meals, through life, doing things with attention and INtention, which is what sets this apart from any old diet. In order to do that, we have to drop down into our heart center and make a spiritual connection.
From Chapter 1:
“When we begin to connect prayer lives to physical lives, when we look beneath the surface, we often discover just how deeply intertwined the two are and how our food issues are wound around our spiritual needs and longings. We’re not hungry for a carton of ice cream or a bag of chips. We’re hungry for acceptance — from ourselves even more than from others — for love, for fulfillment, for peace. We’re hungry for a life we think we don’t deserve or can’t have, for the person we know we can be if only we’d give ourselves the chance.
“Often it is not the fear of failure that holds us back but the fear of success. We cling to the comfortable rather than step out into the possible. So we sit at home with a container of Cookies and Cream rather than take a chance on getting our heart broken again, or we down an entire bag of chocolate-covered pretzels rather than work on that resume that might get us out of a dead-end job. Or we eat cold pasta right from the refrigerator rather than sit down in silence and listen for the whisper of the Spirit speaking to our hearts.”
Practice for the week: Rather than counting calories and fat grams, this week we’re going to try to add one spiritual practice to our daily routine. It can be five minutes of silence and deep breathing at the start of the day, or a meditative walk out in nature, or daily Mass, or a few minutes with Scripture — whatever suits your spiritual style. Do your practice daily for one week, and at week’s end, notice if there were any changes. How did it change your mood, attitude, habits, hungers, if it changed it at all? Was it hard to do? Can you keep it up, or even increase you amount of prayer time? (You’ll find some questions to prompt reflection at the end of Chapter 1, along with a meditation.)
Journaling: If you haven’t already started a journal, now is the time to begin that as well. A simple spiral notebook is fine. Again, no calorie counting. This is about noticing more than what’s on your plate. Yes, jot down what you eat, but, just as important, write down how you feel on any given day — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. What’s going on in your life that might be making you scrounge around in the pantry for cookies or stare into the fridge for a magical food that will make the pain going away?
Prayer: If you’re looking for something to serve as a spiritual touchstone, spend some time with Psalm 139, which you’ll find on pages 13-14 of Chapter 1 (or in your Bible). Focus on these words:
“I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!”
Can you see yourself as wonderfully made, loved unconditionally by God? This is our starting point. And our ending point. It can be hard work to get there, but we’ll tackle it together, and share our struggles here in the comment section. I can tell you with all honesty that yesterday morning, as I faced my own backsliding, I did not feel wonderfully made. Not even close. But because I’ve made this journey before, I know what that means: It’s time to slow down, to take time for some self-care, to spend time with God, to shut out the noise of our chaotic world and recapture my balance, to become more mindful. (If you’re struggling with mindfulness over multi-tasking, you can find a post on that topic HERE. We’ll talk more on that topic in the weeks ahead.)
Thank you for joining me on this journey. Feel free to ask questions, share stories, or start discussions in the comment section, and you can always find me on Facebook as well.
Upcoming radio interviews on the #CravingsTribe:
Monday, Jan. 2, 8:20 p.m.: Busted Halo, the Catholic Channel, SiriusXM 129
Tuesday, Jan. 3: Currents, NET-TV
Musical inspiration for the week ahead: Colours by Margo Rey