I’m so excited today to share a post I wrote for the blog of The Center for Authentic Intimacy. What an honor! Read on…
Have you ever looked in the mirror and had negative thoughts or emotions jump out at you about the image reflected back? What about standing in front of the mirror naked? Now try to imagine how it feels to let your partner see you naked. If you ask me, I’d say vulnerable!!! Yikes!
We all have a body, so we all have a body image. Our relationship with our bodies can have a significant impact on our physical and emotional intimacy with our loved ones and with ourselves. Body image is described as a culmination of a person’s internal and external experiences, personality, perception of the world and impact of cultural influences. I also think of it as a person’s perception of their body’s attractiveness and acceptability by others, and it is often influenced by expectations set in the media, in our culture, and by those close to us. Sometimes, our body image is passed down to us as a reflection of our parents’ own relationships with their bodies.
Our culture’s obsession with the “thin ideal” as the standard for beauty can have a detrimental effect on women (and men) whose bodies do not look the way that society says is “beautiful” – ie: thin, yet curvy in the right places, tall, toned, active, strong yet not too strong, etc etc etc. For men the standards are equally as confusing and contradictory.
And when we feel as if we are unattractive based on society’s standards, we can internalize that feeling and become at war with our own selves.
Chasing, yet not meeting this elusive thin-ideal standard can foster feelings of inadequacy in women and men and can support a belief that there is something undesirable about our bodies and thus ourselves. Intimacy, whether physical and/or emotional, is the deep connection and closeness felt between romantic partners that is intended to be a method of communicating love, affection, and acceptance. If we struggle with communicating love and acceptance to ourselves, with our negative body image creating a barrier between us and the world, we can cut ourselves off from this deep, nourishing intimacy with others and create a divide in our relationship.
When we don’t feel emotionally safe and accepting with our own bodies, we may create a self-protecting defensive shield around ourselves which can lead to a disconnection with ourselves and with our partners. As someone who works extensively with people who struggle with body image and disordered eating issues, I can attest to the deep disconnect and loneliness that these struggles can bring to physical and emotional intimacy. What I also know is that healing body image wounds is very possible and it is one of the leading factors to re-establishing a sensual, intimate relationship with your partner(s) and with yourself.
If you struggle with body image issues and you feel that they are affecting your intimacy in your relationship,
Be honest. Open up to your partner(s). Share as much about what you are feeling as you feel comfortable. Sure, this is vulnerable as heck. It also opens the dialogue for understanding and connection and can foster communication between you about how you can feel more comfortable in your body.
Be kind. First to yourself. I know this is hard. I believe that we cannot truly offer to others what we are not able to give to ourselves. Instead of judging yourself for having these struggles, try to be compassionate and gentle.
Be curious. What is really going on for you in your body image struggle? As author Geneen Roth (author of Women, Food and God and When Food is Love) states: “”Every time you sneak food, you give yourself the message that you cannot be seen … [and it] translates into sneaking your desires, sneaking your hungers, and sneaking your heart, because you feel you don’t deserve love.” Try to take a gentle look at what might be feeding your body image struggle including experiences from your past where you have felt judged about your body for some reason.
Try to reconnect to what intimacy feels like to you. When have you felt close with someone? What did that feel like in your body – sensations, emotions, physical touch? How did your body react to that feeling of closeness? What is one small step you could take today to re-initiate that feeling of closeness with your partner or yourself?
Have you had body image struggles which have impacted your intimacy and closeness with loved ones? Leave a comment below about your experience and how you healed that connection with your partner or yourself.
Read more about the amazing work happening at The Center For Authentic Intimacy at their site: www.authenticintimacycenter.com. Thanks for the opportunity to guest post, and it was an honor to feature owner Lily Zehner’s guest post on my blog last week!
Today I am honored to feature a guest post by friend and amazing colleague Lily Zehner of The Center for Authentic Intimacy. Lily is an inspiration to me in so many ways, and most recently I read this authentic, raw post she created for her blog. Her candor about her recovery from her eating disorder brought tears to my eyes as well as a wry smile as I could relate to so much of what she shared.
I asked if I could share her post on my site because I know my readers will connect to her inner beauty and resiliency. Lily wrote about her involvement in the #RecoveryIs campaign through Project Heal, which is an AMAZING organization that helps to provide funding for patients who cannot afford the cost of eating disorder treatment.
Her #RecoveryIs statement is: Recovery is authenticity in its rawest form!
What’s your statement?
Read on for Lily’s heartfelt words and I share how they impacted me at the end of her post.
Let’s unite together in authenticity to heal and eradicate eating disorders once and for all.
~ ~ ~
Last week I learned about a campaign by Project Heal bringing about awareness of the treatment of eating disorders through photos of recovery from those who have survived and the people who supported them using “#RecoveryIs”. It has been something I have continued to think about and question of myself in the days following.
I have struggled with an eating disorder since I was 14 and at nearly 30, this has made up more than half of my life. I have been in true recovery, as defined by me, nearly 4 years. And every day I am grateful for this while fighting with every ounce of my being to continue. I think I can speak for those who have been along for the journey, they are just as relieved and grateful.
My starvation nearly took my life several times. Let that marinate for a moment. I nearly starved myself to death more than once. My childhood of pure chaos and trauma was the perfect recipe for me to find a way to disappear, literally.
I wanted to share what recovery is for me. Below is a stream of consciousness. It’s not perfect and that’s entirely the point.
Recovery is both beautiful and brutal—like Glennon Doyle Melton says, “its brutiful”.
Recovery is shattering the rigidity and allowing for flexibility.
Recovery is being all heart, no longer struggling to beat as I once did at 23 beats per minute.
Recovery is feeling rather than numbing.
Recovery is owning my sexuality, unapologetically.
Recovery is allowing others in, finally.
Recovery is knowing that asking for help is nothing short of heroic.
Recovery is acceptance.
Recovery is asking for what I need while offering what I can give.
Recovery is clawing my way out of a very deep, dark hole with no energy hoping I’ll eventually make it to the top; to the light.
Recovery is no longer trying to shove and starve myself into my once ideal ‘size 2’ box.
Recovery is community rather than isolation.
Recovery is being human every second of every day.
Recovery is no longer obsessively working out for hours on end.
Recovery is working out for sanity, peace, and health.
Recovery is not only surviving or living, it is thriving.
Recovery is allowing the wounds to heal.
Recovery is finding the grey in my once black and white, all or nothing, world.
Recovery is fucking hard.
Recovery is owning my story.
Recovery is knowing where I end and where others begin.
Recovery is knowing that the only way to is through.
Recovery takes every ounce of me some days and comes easy others.
Recovery is consoling my younger self rather than leaving her alone at the bottom of the stairs.
Recovery is showing up every damn day.
Recovery is no longer memorizing the calories of every single thing to enter my mouth.
Recovery is the feeling of standing on my two feet, arms wide open, looking up into the sky saying, “ahhhh”.
Recovery is touch.
Recovery is the integration of my whole body.
Recovery is no longer being consumed with shame.
Recovery is always listening to my intuition.
Recovery is no longer requiring my legs to be removed from my body before my burial upon my death. [Yes, this was a true request during my sickest times in preparation for my passing. The justification? There was no way I was going to spend another moment with them that I didn’t have to; they had caused me enough torment].
Recovery is learning to sit still, really still; this once was impossible.
Recovery is giving myself permission.
Recovery is forgiveness.
Recovery is heartbreaking.
Recovery is knowing my body isn’t what needs to change, but rather, society and its expectations.
Recovery is no longer being limited by the identity of my eating disorder; it is redefining myself.
Recovery was creating the family I always needed and desired.
Recovery is being strict with my boundaries knowing this is the single most important part of my recovery.
Recovery is marrying a partner who validates daily that I am worthy of love.
Recovery is still choosing to be sensitive in this harsh world.
Recovery is being honest; real honest with myself and others.
Recovery is no longer silencing my voice; YOU will hear me LOUD & CLEAR.
Recovery is realizing I never had control in the first place.
Recovery is relief.
Recovery is knowing I still have a long way to go while recognizing I have come a long way.
When I made the intentional choice to recover, I made the choice to be me, ALL of me. I would no longer allow myself to hide in shame or pretend. I wouldn’t be anything other than Lily.
For me, recovery is authenticity in its rawest form!
Until next time,
Ps– the last line is what my sign says in the photo. If you feel compelled to add your “Recovery Is” photo please do. Write what your “recovery is” on a piece of white paper, take a photo with it, and share it on social media using #RecoveryIs and #ProjectHeal. Visit www.theprojectheal.org or their FB page for more information.
Lily A. Zehner is a couples therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy, and relationships. She promotes and helps cultivate healthy sexuality, whatever that may look like for you. She is currently finishing up her EdD program at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Her practice, The Center for Authentic Intimacy, is located in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
Here’s my (Kate’s) own #RecoveryIs statement:
Join us!!! Share your #RecoveryIs statement in the comments below!
I am very excited today to share a guest post by Stephanie Small, a Licensed Social Worker and holistic nutritionist who is one of my favorite and most inspiring local helpers in the field of healing from disordered eating! I met Stephanie several months ago for coffee and we had an invigorating chat about what causes binge eating, what does the process of recovery really look like, and so much more. Stephanie and I have both recovered from eating disorders and share a similar philosophy in helping our clients find their own path to healing and we decided to “guest write” on each other’s blogs (check out my post on her blog “The Surprising Reason You Don’t Feel Confident in Your Body“) Please read on to explore her musings on “The Self-Care Myth”:
~ ~ ~
Hands up if you’ve heard repeatedly about the importance of self-care for healing!
Hands up if the thought of fitting in “bubble bath”, “journaling” and “calling a friend” x number of times per week totally stresses you out, and feels like just one more thing to add into an already overwhelmingly busy life!
You’re not alone. And by the way, that’s not what self-care is about. Let me explain:
“What’s the deal?” I asked.
“I think we all know about self-care already,” offered one of the group members.
“….And it feels like just one more thing to do?” I asked.
“YES!” said several of the members. Others nodded vigorously.
“Let me bust a GIANT myth for you,” I said. “Self-care is NOT about taking a bubble bath, getting a massage, indulging in a pedicure, breathing deeply, practicing your piano, or anything else off some list. Well, let me re-phrase that. It CAN be any of those things. Here’s what self-care actually IS, though – It’s giving yourself whatever you need IN THAT MOMENT.”
Some women looked quizzical. Others looked relieved.
“So in other words, it’s not doing thirty minutes of some activity that sounds nice. It doesn’t really have anything to do with that. It has to do with tuning in, sensing what you need, and giving that to yourself. Do you see what I mean?”
Some women started to nod.
“Here’s the thing with this – and this is really important – self-care IS self-care BECAUSE it’s about giving yourself what you need,” I explained. “Say you’re upset. And what you really, really need to do is cry. Or scream! But you’re not used to tuning in to your body and sensing your needs that way. Or maybe you know that you need to cry or scream, but you don’t give yourself permission to do it. So instead, you take a bubble bath. Well, how effective do you think that bubble bath is going to be in helping you to feel better?”
“Not very,” said one woman.
“Right,” I said. “That is why it’s crucial to learn how to listen to your internal experience. If you’re journaling when you really need to be kickboxing and imagining your boss’s face, or if you’re getting a pedicure when your body is just crying out for the relaxation of a bath, it’s not really self-care.”
“That feels so much more manageable, rather than just ticking off items from a list,” another woman said.
“Yeah,” I said, “and the other piece about that is time. If you’re really tuning in and giving yourself what you need, yes, you may need to spend a half an hour or more, or you may find that a few moments of compassionate attention to your insides can be enough to feel relief.”
That particular Women’s Emotional Eating Group lasted for eight weeks. During the last session, each participant spent time talking about what they would take away from the group. And most mentioned this exchange.
Learning to identify your needs, by the way, is not an intellectual process. It comes from developing a relationship with your body’s signals and cues, and then honoring what it has to say.
Here’s a very simple way to start to explore this process:
The next time you’re feeling off – agitated, sad, worried, angry – find somewhere quiet to sit, close your eyes, and take a few slow, deep breaths. Then pose the question “what do I need right now?” Imagine saying it to yourself, rather than thinking about it. If you give it some time (or it may occur very quickly!) an image may arise, or you may feel suddenly drawn to a particular activity. In this case, you’ll know you’re on the right track as long as it’s not a compulsive activity that medicates feelings. If nothing in particular arises, try offering yourself some options, and sense into how your body feels when you imagine each one. If, upon imagining one or more, you get a sense of relaxation or “rightness” or satisfaction, you’ve got a good place to start.
~ ~ ~
Stephanie Small is a psychotherapist and holistic nutritionist (and recovering sugar addict) who helps her clients boost their mood and transform their relationship with food. She also offers online programs, writes, blogs and speaks at live events. She received her BA from Yale University, her MSW from Smith College for Social Work, and her Holistic Nutrition Educator Certificate from Bauman College. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Colorado, and has a private practice in Boulder, CO and via Skype. Her website is www.stephaniesmallhealth.com.
Here’s a fun guest post I wrote for nutritionist and counselor Stephanie Small‘s blog. She’s an awesome inspiration in helping women “boost your mood and transform your relationship with food’! Come back next week to read a guest post from Stephanie on my blog! Check it out:
If you have found this post, you probably are someone who has struggled with body image issues in your life. You may have had negative thoughts towards parts or all of your body, like: “Ugh, why do my thighs jiggle and touch each other like that?”, or, “My stomach is so flabby I feel like I’m going to burst out of my pants. How disgusting.” Sit for a moment and really let the effect of hearing those statements ooze into you. Do you feel even more yucky after reading them?
You may have also experienced behaviors that are violent towards your body as a result of some of the feelings and thoughts that have been directed its way. Perhaps you binge eat to a point of extreme discomfort; perhaps you binge and then purge to get the feelings and the food out of your system; maybe you restrict what you eat to try to sculpt the body you think you’d really love.
I’m here to give you some bad news: you’re never going to feel confident in your body.
What? How could those words come from a therapist who spends every day (in and out of the office) offering support to those struggling with eating disorders, body image struggles or who for various reasons feel disconnected from and not at-home in their bodies?
Bear with me. I’m going to suggest that we can never be confident in our bodies until we detach from our bodies. Just for a little while. And then we can come home to them.
As a society, we are afraid of fat. We value thin. We put thin and people who are thin up on a pedestal. You are bombarded with messages that tell you this directly and indirectly hundreds of time each day. It takes conscious, concerted effort each day to notice these messages before you internalize them. And even if you do, you still will internalize them. They will cause you and others lots of suffering because you can never be “enough” of what society tells you that you should be (thin, rich, popular, funny, smart, etc). The point is not to try to stop them, because we never can, but to change the way that you react to them.
I have had many, many clients come to me and tell me about their struggles with food – perhaps they binge eat, or feel out of control in some way. They just want to stop the behavior and they will feel so much better about themselves. This part I totally empathize with – I know how destructive and painful these eating disordered behaviors can be.
Then usually they slip in – ‘I just want to lose some weight and then I know I will feel more confident to [date] [go out for a new job] [stop isolating] [love my body].
They are fused with the thin-ideal as a surefire way to love themselves more. And they don’t realize it or are in denial. I get it – I have been swayed by that campaign as well.
Sometimes we are able to notice that this is happening and step away from being body-centric for a bit and examine what is truly going on for us – fear of not being accepted unless us look a certain way, deep-seated shame, fear of not knowing who we are without being body-obsessed, discomfort with confrontation, etc. – so that we can sort through it, find healing, and then move back to applying that acceptance to our entire being.
But sometimes we can get so stuck on the thin-ideal that we cannot see out of the ‘I must be thin [or lose some weight] to be self-confident’ blinders. We can get on a rollercoaster ride where self-worth is in the same car as ‘physical appearance’, and we are zooming at a frantic pace with seemingly no way to get off the ride.
That’s where I try to stop us (or slow down at least!) and divorce the body for a moment. What is truly going on inside? What are you truly hungry for that has nothing to do with your body? Without looking at that, you cannot be truly confident in yourself or your body (and you won’t be able to actually stop the eating disordered behaviors).
After some time focused away from the external parts of the body and delving deeper into the inner parts of the self, we may discover what that deeper hunger truly is. And we can feed it – without food being the answer.
Then we can re-enter the body work in a holistic, integrated, authentic way where the focus is not on weight but on being embodied – or “at home in your body and yourself”. As you stand on your own two feet, you will radiate confidence from within your body, a confidence that has nothing to do with what your body physically looks like.
When these pieces are integrated back together, you may have thoughts like “I love the way my knees curve that way as I bend down”, or even “My hips are strong and womanly”. Your body may not actually be at the top of your mind as often because it is now a fully connected part of you and the hunger that your body feels is purely physical, or, if you have emotional hunger, you will have the awareness to decipher the “food” that you’re really craving.
What do you think? Have you noticed yourself getting hijacked by the thin-ideal and getting taken away from what really matters to you? How can you find self-confidence without focusing on your body?
Seasons are changing here in Denver, Colorado — at 10am this morning the temperature was a balmy 32 degrees! Yesterday I frantically covered my garden and pots as best I could and am praying that they pulled through this cold snap. Oh, Colorado weather, you never fail to challenge me! I still have so many tomatoes that need to ripen and pumpkins to turn to orange
It is supposed to be back in the 80s next week, also a typical Colorado weather pattern this time of year. I love fall! The shift of the seasons also brings events like back-to-school time and many other forms of change. Going back to school can be an exciting and anticipatory time — what will I learn this year? Who will I meet? What will be my greatest challenge? Where will I grow the most?
It also can be a time where body image concerns can show up pretty intensely as each student is finding their group of friends, adjusting to the school atmosphere, and embracing the unknown. Thoughts like “How do I measure up? Will I fit in? Am I accepted?” can show up during the first few weeks of school. As we wear less tank tops and sundresses and begin pulling on long pants and coats, so, too, do some of us feel a little more self-conscious about our bodies and how we feel in them.
I thought it would be a helpful exercise today to offer some tips for boosting your body image and embracing the awesome person you are as school starts up and the seasons shift. Whether you sometimes struggle with body image concerns or not, I’m hopeful you can find something to relate to and take with you from the list below.
1.) Ask yourself: “How do I feel about my body?” . Remember that you are unique and have so many gifts to offer that only you can! Focus on three body parts that you don’t normally pay attention to (your glands, for example!) and offer them gratitude for the function they serve for you. For example: “I love my spine. Each vertebra is lovingly connected to its neighbors. There is smooth, perfect interaction between them. I am strong and flexible.”
2.) Find a body image boost buddy (BBB). Reach out to someone you trust and talk about body image. Talk about what you love about your body and what you struggle with. Ask them their body image story. Swap tips for embracing and loving the body you were gifted with.
3.) Speak up when you hear someone talking negative about their body or someone else’s. Negativity and judgement can spread like a wildfire and it’s hurtful. If you notice someone putting their body down or criticizing someone else’s, say something to them. They might not even notice what they are doing or the impact it can have. This also can help you feel more positive about yourself, your body, and the messages you are sending about body love.
4.) Create a vision. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel inside this body? If I felt this way, how would I move differently, how would I interact with others differently, what would this free me to do and experience?” Using guided visualization, to step into and experience this vision, allowing yourself to have a goal to work towards.
5.) Notice your body talk. How do you talk to your body? How do you talk about your body to others? Notice the negative or critical thoughts that you have towards your body and write them down. Then write a counter to each of those thoughts and formulate thoughts that are positive about your body.
6.) Be active. Being active in your body — running, dancing, stretching, playing soccer, or whatever makes you feel good — can help you connect to it in a healthy way and show you the amazing things your body helps you do each day.
7.) Wear clothes that make you feel confident. Wearing clothes that fit your body well can help you feel more comfortable and confident in your body. You may need to buy new clothes or find some oldies but goodies that you love. What’s important is that you enjoy wearing these clothes and therefore are choosing to treat your body with love and respect.
8.) Notice the messages that influence you. Where do you get messages that there is something wrong with the way your body looks? Are there magazines, commercials, television shows, advertisements that try to convince you that you need to change? Before buying into them, try to notice them and ask yourself if you truly believe their message or if they are trying to sell you an unhealthy thought.
9.) Listen to positive messages! The good news is there are so many uplifting and fun sites and other media that are trying to change the way we talk about ourselves and our bodies. Here are a few of my favorite: Operation Beautiful, Beauty Redefined, The Body Positive, and here’s a great list of more body image boost sites!
10.) Redefine what health, beauty, and happiness mean to you! Maybe your definition doesn’t entirely fit with society’s or your best friend’s. That’s okay! This is your body, your life, and you get to decide what makes you feel wonderful!
Here’s a fun video of a hip new song called “All About That Bass”, which promotes positive body image:
Lyrics for this song are here.
Come up with your own! Leave a comment below about your own ways to Boost Body Image!
Happy Fall and Back To School~
As a young girl, I loved to play in the fields of sunflowers by my home and watch as they reached higher, higher, and higher, always facing the sun. They thrived in the light.
As a teenager, I became disconnected from my love of the earth and as my eating disorder destroyed my life, I barely noticed the neglected tulips outside my window. I hid in the darkness and so did my garden.
As an eating disorder survivor and now a professional counselor, I play in my garden daily to nurture my recovery, to nourish my soul, and to reconnect with my authentic self. While I have been recovered for more than 10 years now and feel very solid in my recovery, gardening is an integral factor in sustaining my recovery.
I am blessed to be able to help others who struggle with eating disorders to find their own light in their recovery process and I often utilize metaphors from mindful gardening practices (and get our hands in the dirt and actuallypractice it!) to help them cultivate their own inner gardens.
Do you like to garden? If you were a plant, which type do you think you’d be? Why?
The earth is a natural source of healing energy for us and if we connect with it, we can soothe our inner hunger and feed our soul in a way that food cannot.
1. You are the artist of your own garden. There are hundreds of flowers, herbs, vegetables, shrubs, and other beauties that can make your garden lush and bountiful! Yes, this can be a bit overwhelming, but it can also be fun! It’s up to you to decide what you like, what you don’t, what you want to experiment with, and what is aesthetically pleasing to you. In recovery, it’s so important to learn that you are unique, you are wonderful any way you want to be, and your voice is the one that truly counts when it comes to taking care of yourself.
2. Can you try to embrace your inner weeds instead of pull them all out? Weeds can sometimes be unpleasant, unsightly, unwanted parts of our gardens. They show up when we didn’t plant them and crowd into our beautiful peony plant. You can spend hours upon hours weeding (trust me, I know!) and while it can be therapeutic to do so, you can never get all of the weeds to permanently scram. This is also true of things in our lives that we feel we want to go away — we can spend so much time and energy trying to get rid of them that we don’t have much space left to notice and appreciate what we already have. Also, some weeds are beautiful and can pop up unexpectedly in the most amazing places — kind of like in recovery when we focus on what we’re grateful for and notice that some of our challenges can sometimes be our greatest teachers.
3. Just as any garden does, your inner garden needs tender, loving care. Self care is so integral to eating disorder recovery. Listening to your inner needs, voice, and limits can foster a healthy bed for lasting recovery. Sprinkle in some self-compassion and you’ll have a beautiful recovery garden nurturing inside of you. Just as gardens need water, sun, shade, and fertilizer, for your recovery garden to thrive you will need to actively and regularly tend to it as well.
4. There is no such thing as a “perfect” garden. Sometimes the gardens that are the most quirky, fun, and unconventional are the ones that we gravitate toward. They embrace themselves even if they don’t follow all of the “rules” of gardening. Just as a garden’s uniqueness is refreshing and inspiring, on the road to recovery it’s essential to remember that there is no perfect body, shape, personality, life, family, recovery, etc. We each discover our recovery in its own imperfect and messy way and through acceptance of this, we learn to accept and cherish ourselves just as we are.
5. If it doesn’t work out the first time, try again. There is no such thing as failure, just learning and having fun. In May, I had just planted my little seedlings that I’d been carefully nurturing indoors for two months. They were finally strong enough to go out in the earth and grow! Of course, the next day we got a MASSIVE hail storm that just about drowned all of my little plants in golf-ball sized pieces. I was so upset, worried and frustrated. After some deep breaths I came to realize that I cannot control nature and that my little plants are going to show me how resilient they are. Once I embraced what I could not change or control, I turned my attention to what I was grateful for and my stress oozed out of me.In recovery, trying to embrace what you cannot control is one of the most difficult but also most freeing concepts — I cannot say that I’m always successful, but hey, I’m not perfect.
6. Patience is a virtue. What seeds do you want to nurture in your own inner garden? Take some time to think of several that you would love to grow in your life. Plant them by writing them down or planting your own garden and setting intentions for each seed that you sow. Of course, some seeds may not grow — this is the nature of nature and also the nature of life. Just plant more. Then, have patience. The most beautiful and magical gifts in our lives take time, gentle care, and acceptance for them to thrive.
Recovery is a garden worth waiting for!
Post originally written by Kate Daigle, MA, LPC and published on the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders site.
For the past several weeks, I have been practicing the 21-day meditation challenge Expanding Your Happiness, presented by the Chopra Center (a great *free* resource to help you get in a daily meditation routine!). This experience has been very beneficial for me in helping to set intentions and practice mindfulness every day with a topic that is relevant to expanding my own inner happiness.
As I listened to today’s meditation topic, “Being of Service”, I felt a deep resonance within me as Deepak Chopra described the immense personal and global benefits of being of service to others:
“When you are living the happiness that comes from your Being, serving others isn’t an obligation. It’s not about feeling like you’re a better person or raising your image in the eyes of others. Something deeper happens because in serving others, at the soul level, you are serving yourself.”
This Friday, August 29th, marks the four year anniversary of the day I founded my business, Kate Daigle Counseling, LLC. Happy birthday KDC!! Kate Daigle Counseling is flourishing and growing each year and I’m so very happy for this success!
I cannot believe it has been four years since the day I signed the Articles of Organization and while every day I am struck with gratitude for my work, this week I am especially mindful and appreciative of the gift I have received. Being able to be present for others, to support them in their pain, to offer hope that there is light in their tunnel, and to observe the immense courage and resiliency that it takes to find peace and inner serenity gives me a feeling of deep personal joy that I have never before experienced.
I truly relate to Deepak’s words — as I am able to serve others, I connect deeply with a value of my own, a value of Acts of Service. Through performing this act, I offer myself a gift that I could not find anywhere else. Giving back, giving to others through my time, my presence, my ability to offer empathy and hope, allows me to continue to feel full and hopeful even amidst a world of pain and suffering. I also wish this for you and for everyone I meet.
So, I am filled with gratitude, can you tell? Here is my gratitude list as I reflect on the past four years of owning and operating Kate Daigle Counseling:
Someone who had been struggling to overcome emotional and mindless eating for decades just recently described to me an epiphany she had, one that was also testament to how hard she has worked in her own recovery: “eat” is embedded in the word “create”! So, whenever we feel that inner restlessness and want to turn to food, we can ask ourselves: is this physical hunger or emotional hunger? And if it’s emotional hunger, instead of eating something that won’t truly nourish us, we can use that inner energy to create something that feels fun and personal and channel our emotions and needs in ways that actually work! A piece of art? A poem? A garden? A conversation? What else is possible? What can you create?
I thought this was SO COOL, and just continues to feed that vein of passion I have for exploring healing and recovery in ways that are fun, authentic, and truly nourishing.
So, as I embark on the next four years of Kate Daigle Counseling and helping people find their inner voice and path, I thank YOU, my readers, for supporting me and allowing me to have this outlet to share the things I’m excited about
To celebrate KDC’s birthday, I will be unveiling in the next couple of weeks a refreshed website layout with oodles of more resources and information for people, new services such as supervision, and announcing a new FREE body image group to begin in October! Please sign up for my mailing list and follow me on Facebook or Twitter if you have not already! I welcome collaborating and connection with other mental health professionals and would love to meet with you in person to learn about your work as well.
In the spirit of gratitude, what are five things that you are grateful for today? I invite you to share in the comments below!
At work and in my personal life, I make a conscious effort to “practice what I preach”. I love my job in that it allows me to offer support, encouragement, and tools to my clients to help them create a more fulfilling, balanced and enjoyable life. Much of what I talk about in sessions with clients is “self care”, which is a practice of taking care of yourself through activities and rituals that nourish and foster relaxation and healing.
This, admittedly, can be difficult at times if you’ve struggled to have an accepting relationship with yourself. “Oh, it’s so much easier to take care of others than to take care of myself”, is a common excuse to avoid practicing self care. Yes, I agree that focusing on ourselves can sometimes be uncomfortable and unsettling, however the mental, physical, and emotional rewards of such practice is undeniable and incomparable.
I believe strongly in congruency and authenticity, and feel that I cannot appropriately suggest to my clients to do things that I myself am not able or willing to do. So, I try to maintain a regular routine of self care in my own life. This typically involves exercise, mindfulness practice, gardening, spending time with loved ones, and volunteering.
Yesterday I gave myself a gift of something I’ve never done before, and I have to admit, something I was a bit unsure about: an hour in a floatation tank. A floatation tank is an enclosed, insulated, sound- and light- proofed tank filled with water and 1000lbs of Epsom Salt. I entered the room which held the tank and was told that I would be retrieved again in one hour. “Sometimes that time goes quickly, sometimes it feels like it goes very slowly”, I was informed by the woman working there.
Then she left me. A jolt of anxiety and nervousness rushed through me. I gingerly entered the tank and closed the lid. Pitch blackness. No sound. And I was floating as if my body was weightless. With sensory deprivation this intense, my mind started to freak out a bit. “What if I can’t get out?”, “What if they forget I’m in here and I get stuck?”, “How am I going to just float here for an hour? That seems like an ETERNITY!”, were all thoughts that raced through my head.
After about (I think) ten minutes, I noticed my mind begin to settle down. I tried to actively practice mindfulness of where I was and to notice any thoughts that came into my mind that took me away from the present moment and to put them in a balloon and let them float up to the top of the tank for the time being. I tried to do something that has been a difficult practice for me for my entire life: to let go.
When your mind can’t get data from what you see, and when it can’t register information from what you hear, it feels quite deprived. It’s lost two of its most reliable sources of data which can tell it if it needs to feel a certain feeling: fear, excitement, joy, surprise, or if there is some sort of threat. At some point, the struggle to try to control the experience lifted from me and I was able float, aimlessly. As my mind quieted, I was left with only the sensations that my body was feeling — body talk. I felt fully, truly present in my body.
This type of experience taught me so much and in reflecting back, I believe it could be very beneficial for anyone who feels stress. I think it could especially be powerful for people who struggle with issues related to body image and disordered eating because for this hour, your body is completely weightless. You must trust it, as it is your only source of information and awareness. It challenges you to re-evaluate how you perceive and feel in your body without using visual cues to determine this, and it gives you a sense of being in your body in a whole new way.
Here are the Top Ten Benefits of Floating
And more, depending on your personal goals!! Read more about floatation here.
From the perspective of a professional in the mental health field, I would add:
After my session, I felt rejuvenated, relaxed, and also slightly discombobulated. I felt like I had been on a different plane of existence for an hour — a refreshing to “get out of your head, into your body”, and embrace a new perspective.
I’d encourage anyone who would like to explore a new way of being in your body, a refreshing way of experiencing your mind, and to experiment with “letting go” and trusting your intuition to sign up for a session in a floatation tank. You’ll walk away feeling much different than you did before you went in, and this experience is unlike any other!
This is the first year of a big project I like to call “Garden Overhaul!”….I planted a massive vegetable garden in an old plot that had never been touched and was full of weeds and dirt that was basically hard clay. I now have plans to tear out much of my grass next year and cover my front yard with native water-saving plants, herbs, trees, and shrubs. Big project, but big reward! Talk about reaping what you sow I can have the most stressful day in weeks, but the second I set foot in my garden all is calm. It is truly my meditative oasis.
If you read my previous post about hail damage on my freshly planted garden, you know about the trials I’ve experienced (and any gardener does) in “letting go” of what I cannot control and embracing hope that my garden would be resilient…which it has been! I love the metaphors that can be found between gardening and self-care, mindfulness, and acceptance. I am putting together a Mindful Gardening Workshop this Saturday that will integrate so many of the concepts of weeding, planting seeds, nurturing, harvesting in gardening and also in our own lives. I can’t wait!
While preparing for this workshop, I have been utilizing two wonderful books: The Art of Mindful Gardening: Sowing the Seeds of Meditation by Ark Redwood, and The Meditative Gardener: Cultivating Mindfulness of Body, Feelings, and Mind by Cheryl Wilfong. Both are written by master gardeners and seasoned mindfulness practitioners and offer so much wisdom from buddhism, psychology and gardening about the natural healing tools available to us in our natural world.
I am now contemplating. . .
What Would It Be Like To Accept Our Inner Weeds Instead of Eradicate Them?
We all have those parts of ourselves that we would rather not spend too much time with — perhaps they are filled with pain, remorse, shame, guilt, or discomfort. Or perhaps we just don’t know them very well and they seem dark, looming and scary. These could be called our “Inner Weeds” and our first impulse could be to rip them out. When looking at our garden, planted with beautiful herbs, colorful flowers and budding vegetables, it can be an unsightly eyesore to see weeds popping up and trying to push out our lovingly cultivated bounty.
I have spent hours pulling weeds out of my garden, and let me tell you — it feels good to get those buggers out! It’s a therapeutic treat to yank out the “intruders” to my garden (though the are just as natural and organic as anything I have chosen to plant). . . .but they come back even if I pull them out. It reminds me of that saying “what we resist, persists” . . .or, on the other side, “what we water, grows”. When we water our garden, we inherently water the weeds in it as well. Why fight them?
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says:
“There are already trees and flowers in our garden. There may be some weeds too. The gardener does not hate the weeds. The good gardener knows how to use the weeds to fertilize the fruit and flowers. The practice of mindfulness does not mean hating the imperfections in ourselves. The practice is to attend to what causes us pain and suffering and use it as fertilizer to create the most beautiful garden possible. ”
This reminds me strongly of concepts of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which borrows a piece from Buddhism that acknowledges that there will always be some form of suffering in life — but asks us how we choose to approach it. Do we struggle against it and the emotions it brings and try to weed it out? That is A LOT of effort. Or do we work to accept it for what it is and let it help us fertilize the other parts of our garden — our life — as well?
Can you learn to love your inner weeds, the parts of yourself that you wish weren’t there, and which you are forever trying to pluck out?
Until we can accept their presence inside of ourselves and value them for what they are, they will continue to persist and cause us more pain and suffering.
We have a choice as to whether we water those seeds or not, the seeds that may grow into something we see as a weed. But, if we don’t water those seeds at all we cannot just turn our backs on them because they are part of what makes us human, what makes us whole, and what makes us beautifully imperfect. Just because we don’t want to water them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
So, speaking without metaphor, I ask you now:
What parts of yourself do you try to pluck out, or turn a blind eye to? The one who judges yourself and others? The part who feels ‘not good enough’? The part who feels jealousy of another?
For a moment, try to let yourself contact those parts of yourself that you have spent so many hours avoiding. Try to let yourself offer that part kindness, understanding, and acceptance instead of avoidance or judgment. Let it be. Notice that even though that part is there, flowers can grow all around it. Flowers that are joy, resiliency, creativity, intellect, and love may even thrive while co-existing with those “weeds” and it feels like so much less work to let them all live together.
Off I go into my garden. Sure, I’ll pluck a few weeds. But I’ll also notice them as a part of a bigger picture, that they are just as natural in my garden as the vegetables are, and that they do their part to make my garden a whole, messy, imperfect, and magical retreat for rejuvenation.