"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - Virginia Woolf
This year I am grateful for a loving, living relationship with food.
The holiday season has often filled me with dread. It has taken me years to recover from an eating disorder I started in college. Having spent my middle and high school years at a school in southern Africa, when I arrived in the bounty of American college life I didn't know how to handle the over- abundance of food. I would leave the cafeteria with my pockets bulging with donuts, rarely eating them, but unsure that they would be there again the next day. Never having had to learn how to withstand endless supplies of carbohydrates, I started to gain weight. Also my adolescence had been free of the sea of media images of models and women so prevalent in the western world. As a result, I was struggling with how I was now 'supposed' to look. I became bulimic. All I could think was to get the food out of me before it could become a part of me. It wasn't obvious externally - I wasn't very good at it - but it warped my sense of self and food and womanhood for decades.
If I could share anything, it would be to share the sense of enjoyment I can find now in relation to food as nourishment, as community, as our deep, umbilical cord that connects us to seasons and selves and stars.
Learn to listen. Learn to feel. To notice. This is the starting point. Over and over in class when we pause, I remind us to NOTICE. How are we different now from how we were moments ago? By listening we create an awareness and an intelligence to understand our deep feelings, yearnings, shifts, and hungers. A tuning-in to how something makes us feel, to choose if we want more or less in our lives.
If you tune in to how you want to feel (immediately, in the pleasure of taste and further in your future, in the pleasure of inhabiting your choices) you will know what you need. Maybe you need to eat. Maybe you need to rest. Maybe you are thirsty. Most often I am seeking connection, touch, a smile, acceptance, pleasure. What is your craving asking for? What if you thought of your craving as a yearning? What do you yearn for?
I've been vegan, macrobiotic, raw, paleo, carbivore, locavore... each choice taught me something. Like listening to the same genre of music for a year or two at a time. Sometimes it will feel like the right music, sometimes it won't make any sense at all. But in the process I have learned more about each one through my experience and research. Now I know what I need at different moments, seasons, ages, states of illness or training. I have my own nourishing, loving pharmacy.
And if you are hungry, how do you want to feel? Uplifted, light and focused? For me this tends to mean fresh fruits and veggies, seeds, light nuts. If I need balance and grounding I choose grains and cooked vegetables or soups. For longer stamina or strength I have small amounts of locally-sourced meats or eggs with green salads. This is what I know because of years of experimentation and self-reflection. You can only know for you.
What I know for sure is 'NO' doesn't work for me. No sugar. No wheat. No meat. The subconscious doesn't hear No. We hear '(no) Sugar,' and our attention now seeks out sugar, starting a craving right from the best of our intentions. This means I could choose a bucket of bacon for breakfast. That is 'allowed'. But I know I don't want to feel greasy and heavy and likely sick to my stomach. I choose how I want to feel. And that gets clearer and clearer and easier and powerful and delightful and nourishing.
In sum, Feel before you eat (and build your ability to understand and connect to your feelings), and Eat to feel.
Two other tips:
1. Add more breath to your eating. Slow down. Put your silverware down between bites and use the break to deepen your breathing. Imagine your digestion as a fire burning the fuel of the fire to power your body. Adding more oxygen is like providing proper draft to sustain the fire and digest more completely.
2. Chew until your food is all one consistency in your mouth. This will likely mean more chewing. Chewing longer means the food is in your mouth longer and you taste it more completely. This means less food going in in the meantime. You will taste more food and eat less.
My wish for you is a peaceful holiday, inside and out. Keep noticing. Keep remembering you are most hungry for love. Many of the foods at this time are deeply cultural and made by family members. This matters. Enjoy what you choose. Relish the memories they may carry, the growth you've found along the way. Hand out handfuls of love and smiles and conversation along with cookies and treats, as both are special.
Keep noticing. Keep practicing. One mouthful at a time.
Much love xx Martha
Thanksgiving day kundalini noon-1pm @FellsPt
Black Friday pop-up kundalini classes 10am @Columbia, 12:30 @FedHill
Saturday vinyasa class 9:30-11am @FedHill
Sunday kundalini 8-9am @FedHill, vinyasa 6:30-8pm @FedHill
"Your body wasn't made to be loved on occasion.
It was made to be loved every night with warm hands.
Every day with dedication,
In the same way that the sun goes to bed every night,
and rises in the love every morning."
- Key Ballah