We began with the following introduction:
A Conscious Exploration of Eating
For those who have never met me before, my name is Steven, and I welcome you to "food month." So what is "food month.?" Before giving you the practical details, let me first tell you how I came to be doing this in the first place.
On September 7th, a little less than two months ago, after having spent the whole morning writing, I realized I was hungry. I had, in fact, been having one of those mornings writers dream about; ideas seemed to just flow magically onto the screen. Thus, I did not really want to stop. But hungry is hungry and so, I got myself something to eat.
Moments later, though, when I sat down in front of the computer to resume my writing, as I put the first fork full in my mouth, I noticed something I had never noticed before, at least consciously: I noticed I was in a big hurry to swallow my food. In fact, I noticed I was actually trying to cram this food down my throat as quickly as possible.
No big deal, right? That's what I thought, too, and so I made a mental note to go back and to explore this experience later. I then resumed my writing.
Oddly enough, though, the topic I had been writing about was how the experience of hurry during ordinary life events is a sure sign we are re-experiencing an injury. Thus, I was, myself, at that very moment, right in the midst of recognizing the true meaning of the experience of hurry and so, when I took the next bite, I not only noticed my hurry to swallow, I also noticed I felt nervous and even a little anxious as I put the food in my mouth.
Here again, what's the big deal? The big deal is, I had spent my whole morning writing and in fact, was having one the best days of writing I had had in months. And I was safe and secure, happily doing one of my favorite things, in my own home, by myself, with no one to bother me. And to be honest, my life was and had been going better than it had ever gone before. So what did I have to be anxious about and what was causing my hurry?
The truth is, these questions so peaked my interest that morning that I somehow couldn't let them go, and for the next twenty minutes, I stopped writing and consciously explored my internal life while I ate.
Am I saying I consciously explored "what" I was eating? No. I mean I consciously explored my internal experiences, what I thought and felt as I ate. What did I discover? For one thing, I found that every time I put a mouthful of food into my mouth, that I was being "keyed."
Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with my work on shock and consciousness, please just set aside your questions as to what I mean when I say, I was being "keyed." For now, let me just say that for the first time in my life, I began to consciously recognize that the otherwise ordinary act of putting food into my mouth was, for me, literally functioning the same as a post hypnotic suggestion. In other words, this simple act was triggering a reaction in me; feelings of hurry and anxiety; for which I had no explanation for other than to say I am certain they were not being caused by anything I was experiencing in the present. After all, I have already said I had no reason to be in a hurry that day and had nothing to be anxious about. I was, in fact, having a great day.
Now, without going into all of the details of what happened in the eight weeks which followed, let me just say that this. This single moment, the one in which I became consciously aware that eating caused me to experience an internal sense of urgency, has led me to explore my internal reactions to eating in general, before, during, and after I eat. What have I found?
For one thing, I lost fourteen pounds and have not been on a diet. In fact, I have been eating basically what I want and as much as I want and still, I have somehow lost this weight and without trying. I also feel better and healthier than I have felt in years, especially considering what my previous internal experiences were; meaning, the way I used to be at war with food and eating.
What has caused these changes in me? To be honest, I am a little reluctant to tell you all of what I think as yet. Even I, the consummate dreamer and explorer of life, am overwhelmed by all of the implications. And this is where food month and you all come in.
I need your help. I need your help in gathering data about how eating consciously or unconsciously changes the way the body handles food. My hope, of course, is that together, we can each contribute to the world something to ease the hell most people live in with regard to eating and food.
I will share this much of what I think with you. My guess about what has been going on is that, when people arrive on the planet, they eat consciously; meaning, they eat only what and as much as they want, nothing more. In other words, we, as babies, ate consciously. Me included.
Am I saying we, as infants, were conscious as to what constituted healthy food and what we needed to do to maintain a healthy body weight? Of course not. We didn't even have the words to think this way let alone the ability to carry it out. But even without this knowledge, we managed to grow pretty well, especially for the first few years. Why? Because we were conscious while we ate. And what effect did this have on us?
As infants, our bodies knew exactly what to do with the food we ate. Thus, our bodies extracted the nutrients we needed, got rid of the toxins we needed to get rid of, and stored whatever nutrients we might need for later. And NO MORE. In other words, our bodies functioned fine back then despite the fact that we knew nothing about nutrition and physical fitness.
What happened to us, then, and how have most of us, me included, gotten so far off track with regard to eating?
What I believe is, we each have incurred injuries during times when we were either hungry, were eating, or were digesting food. No surprise really. We have all spent a good deal of time in and around the great American injury stage; the dinner table. The result?
Our bodies have been programmed in such a way as to cause us to relive these moments of injury each and every time we eat. Thus, the act of eating has, for many of us, become charged in such a way as to cause each of us to go into some degree of shock before, during, and or after eating. What this means is that we each have lost access to some of the essentially perfect programming we arrived with, programming which tells our bodies how to deal with food. How exactly does this work?
Depending on how conscious (or unconscious) we are when we eat, sometimes our bodies extract the nutrients we need, and sometimes they eliminate them. Sometimes, our bodies store just what we need, and sometimes they store too much. And sometimes our bodies eliminate the toxins we ingest, and at other times, our bodies mistake these toxins for nutrients. And there is so much more to tell you. For now, though, let me just say this: I am but one person and a rather unusual person at that. Thus, the effects I have begun to recognize in myself may not generalize to others. Perhaps these effects are happening to me more because of who I am rather than because of what I have discovered.
Perhaps not though. Which would mean that the diets which health experts have been encouraging us to follow may turn out to be based largely on false ideas and premises, despite the fact that they involve a good deal of accurate information and love. And the foods which many people designate as the "bad" ones may turn out to be fine to eat if only we eat them in a conscious state and in quantities which do not, in and of themselves, induce shock.
Is there any evidence to support my hypothesis? Absolutely. In fact, a recent study at Pennsylvania State University found that three year olds eat the same amount of food no matter how much you put on their plates, essentially just what they want to eat. But by the time they are five, the more you put on their plates, the more they eat. The implications? By five, the average American child has lost the ability to self regulate with regard to food and eating. And this description; losing the ability to self regulate, is their description, not mine.
So, where do we begin.
Over the course of the next 30 days, I will sending you each five sets of questions and instructions, one for each of the next four weeks, and one for the last two days of the month. None of these assignments will require you to do anything other than to be watchful, nothing more. Thus, I will not be asking any of you to alter, in any way, what you eat, how you eat, what you weight, how much you exercise; nothing. I will only be asking you to be a conscious observer of your own internal experiences, before, during, and after eating.
In addition, each of the five assignments will have a theme. This first weeks theme will be to be mindful of hurry in and around eating; the second will be to be mindful of the four flavors (taste); the third will be to be mindful of the temperature, texture, and color of what you eat; the fourth will be to be mindful of the texture and smell of what you eat; and the fifth will be to jot down a few sentences about what this experience has been like for you.
Afterwards, during the month of December, I will write up an overall summary of what we all, together, have helped each other to learn, and especially how much of our birthright, conscious eating, we have each recovered, if any. I, of course, hope to see some of you experience literal miracles with regard to your eating. Even more, though, I especially hope to hear that you each have learned to love this part of yourselves and your lives a little more.
As for the actual first week's instructions, I will be sending them to you all in a second, separate e-mail. Why separate? Because I need you each to either reply to this e-mail (as well as to each successive e-mail) by first inserting your personal observations into the e-mail and then by hitting the reply button, OR to simply e-mail me each day or few days letting me know how you are doing.
And as far as the writing part, please, do not worry about your writing skills nor about the accuracy of what you observe. We will all be doing this together, including me. No one will be judged or examined, nor will anyone's replies be revealed in such a way as to reveal their identity.
Finally, thank you very, very much for having the courage to examine yourselves in this way and for being willing to share these things with me.
The Actual Week's Assignments Came Next
This week's theme is, to the best of your ability, to become more conscious of "hurry" in and around eating
Day 1: November 1
Please do this exercise each and every time you eat today, as best you can.
You can begin today by consciously observing any internal sense of hurry as you eat. Notice how you feel (mentally and emotionally) as the food is in your mouth.
Be especially mindful as to whether you feel worried, anxious, in a hurry to swallow. Also be aware of any urgency with regard to putting the food on your plate or with finishing everything on you plate.
What did you experience today?
Day 2: November 2
Again, today focus gentle attention on your internal experiences as you eat, being mindful of any hurry or urgency. Do you hurry as you begin and then relax as you go on? Do you hurry all the way through? Do you only hurry to finish? To swallow? To put the next mouthful in your mouth?
What did you experience today?
Day 3:November 3
Today, again focus on any internal experiences of hurry during the time you eat. Please do not try to slow down if you do notice hurry. The whole point of this month is to reclaim your birthright with regard to eating consciously. Thus, all that is required is that you do your best to notice any experiences of hurry or urgency and do not judge yourself no matter what you find. You deserve nothing but love during these times. Comfort. Safely. Security. And love.
Also, notice today any hurry with regard to what and how you drink. Is there any difference between how you eat and how you drink? Take a few moments during each meal to deliberately slow down your experience so as to see the smaller details, such as hurriedly chewing or hurriedly swallowing.
And be kind to yourself, no matter what you find.
What did you notice today?
Day 4: November 4
By now, you will probably be beginning to be more conscious as to how you feel as you eat.
Today, then, I would ask you to add to this process of conscious observation the time just before you eat. By this, I mean, today I would like you to also notice how you feel in the time just preceding your meals, such as the time in which you are preparing the food, buying the food, driving to the restaurant where you will eat or buy the foods and so on. Notice any underlying sense of urgency or fear, such as thoughts which tell you to hurry or there will be no food left.
Please know, these thoughts, if there, will be entirely irrational and you need have no logical reason to be experiencing them. Many people experience these thoughts.
Again, just notice them and do not judge yourself in any way.
What did you experience today?
Day 5: November 5
Today is day five. Has this process been hard? Have you had any memories surface such as memories which include scenes from childhood? Dinner scenes? Other times? Please just note them and do not try to make sense of what you find. To be honest, we are all new to this, me included.
Today's focus, then, will be to now add to the observation time the period just after eating your meals, especially the five minutes which follow eating. Here again, notice, without judgment, any internal sense of hurry or urgency, and any feelings of fear, anxiety, frustration, etc.
And please hear me say in a gentle voice, thank for you courage. Thank you.
What did you discover today?
Day 6: November 6
Two days to go in this, the first week. Are you doing OK? Have you learned anything about yourself?
If nothing else, I hope you are learning to be easier on yourself with regard to eating in general. And if you are struggling to even find something, please, don't give up. We all have different rates at which we feel comfortable. Be patient with yourself.
Today's assignment is to continue what you have been doing; observe your internal reactions before, during, and after you eat each meal. Include today any food you eat in between meals as well.
Do you hurry more when you eat in between meals? Do you sense any guilt or shame? Do you feel like you must hurry to finish eating before anyone sees you eating? Are you worried someone will judge you for what you are eating?
Here, especially, please be gentle with yourself. We have all been indoctrinated with many message as to our goodness or badness with regard to what we eat and how we eat and when we eat and with whom we eat.
Today, if any of this happens to you, picture that person or group who is or has told you these shaming messages and see yourself telling them to get the hell out of here and to stay away while you eat. If necessary, have someone you love eat with you and as you begin, ask them to tell you they will protect you while you eat; that they will allow no one to criticize you for how or what you eat.
And remember, your goodness comes simply from the fact that you are a child of the Universe, each perfect in your own way even if you can not yet see this perfection.
Did you hurry before, during, or after meals today? What did you notice?
Day 7: November 7
The last day of the first week. How are you doing? Has this been a difficult week?
On this Tuesday, the last day of the first week, please continue to consciously observe yourself before during and after you eat, both for meals and in between meals. Yes, I know this is a lot to do but please, know that this investment will reward you with much you have yet to realize.
Has anyone remarked that they see a change in how you eat? Have you seen a change in how you eat? Are you eating slower? Are you eating less? Do you feel full before you finish what is on your plate?
No matter what you answers, please be gentle with yourself. No one here is getting judged or graded. Everyone is special and lovable. And courageous.
Now, here, at the end of the first week, please take a moment to give yourself credit for all of your efforts this week. And if your experiences are at all like those I have experienced myself, you may be a little overwhelmed. If so, rest tonight. And let no one criticize how you eat, least of all, your inner self.
So, what did you consciously witness this day?