If you could wave a magic wand and have one wish, what would it be? For me, it’s always been peace. Yes, sure a little extra cash would be fabulous. But much more valuable is the fact that I am at peace with my current financial status. Longing for a thinner body still comes up for me – there was a time when that would have been my genie-in-bottle wish. But I am working toward something far more precious – peace with, acceptance of, the body I have. Maybe it’s the perfect relationship? How would it feel to have peace with the connections that you currently have? To know they were enough? To stop striving for something more?
I want to make one thing crystal clear. Peace is NOT the same as resignation. It is not giving up. It is not letting go of our drive to be better, feel better. It IS letting go of unnecessary and unhelpful suffering. It is creating the space that ALLOWS us to strive, and the clarity to strive for what really, really matters to us. What we want people to say about us at our funeral.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I have had chronic back, neck and shoulder pain for about 30 years. It started when I was 23. In ways good and bad, it has defined my life. And for most of those 30 years, my only wish was that it would go away. I cannot even begin to compute the amount of time, energy, money, and tears I have expended in pursuit of pain relief. According to an old Indian proverb “a healthy person has a thousand wishes, but a sick person has only one.” Relief never came. As I sit here writing I have a timer set to 30 minutes, which is how long I can sit without pain. Some days it’s 60 minutes, but you get the point.
Medicine teaches us to approach pain and disease as war. Fight the illness. Battle cancer. War on chronic pain. War on addiction. Defeat MS. Listen to those words. What happens in your body when you wage war? Tightness, constriction, stress hormones, fear, bracing. Guess what? Bodies don’t heal in that state. They just don’t. The immune system shuts down, digestion and nutrient absorption slow down. Tissue constricts causing pain. Inflammation rises. Hormones dysregulate.
For me, the pain persists – it comes and goes - but no longer controls me. And I am no longer fighting to control it. It’s annoying, sometimes really frustrating. Occasionally it still stops me in my tracks. But I live in peace with it. It’s there and I am here and we have an understanding. I listen to, respect, and take care of the pain -- of my entire body – and it let’s me pursue my passions, care for those I love, live in loving community with others, and do work that serves. I no longer ask WHY my body hurts. I ask it what it needs. I let it know I will provide what it needs, when it needs it. It relaxes, knowing it is safe. We have made peace.
As for food, I sometimes call myself a “recovering orthorexic” and I am definitely a recovering lifetime dieter. My relationship with food was about control and fear. Can you relate? Fear of temptation? Loss of control with sugar or chips or whatever your no-no foods are? Fear of getting bigger? Fear of never getting smaller? Fear that food will ruin your health. Again, here we are at war. Tightness, constriction, stress hormones, fear, bracing. The immune system shuts down, digestion and nutrient absorption slow down. Tissue constricts causing pain. Inflammation rises. Hormones dysregulate. We feel like crap. We cannot heal.
These biological states are INFINITELY more damaging to our health and well-being than any food we are eating, any sedentary lifestyle.
Right? I mean don’t you get that on a gut level?
So, peace. How do we get there? We acknowledge where we are at war, we tally up its costs, and we embrace the possibility of another way. Then we create a step-by-step path to peace. One stepping-stone at a time.
What does this look like? It has three main components: mental, emotional, and behavioral.
1. Mental: what are the thoughts, stories and beliefs that are keeping you at war with your body, your weight, your appearance, your aging self, an illness or pain?
2. Emotional: what feelings are dominant in your life, and how are they tied to the thoughts, stories and beliefs? Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
3. Behavioral: How is your behavior driven by the mental wars and emotional suffering?
We tackle each area – they are all tangled together in the Gordian knot that is keeping you from living in peace. And we replace them with stories, feelings, and behaviors that represent the life you want.
This is how I have found peace. This is how I can support you on your path to peace. I use some powerful tools: intuitive eating, health at every size, mindfulness, self-compassion, self-advocacy, biochemistry, brain science, Buddhist psychology, community, support, support, support and more support. I have studied, mastered, and lived all of these tools. They work. Each person’s path is different, but we can all get there. You can get there. I promise. You just have to take the first step, which is to believe it is possible.