Magic & Phrase

Trust: The Journey

I.

American interstate.

Every metal beast believing its demon worthy

Of being last to leave and first to arrive.

Truncated forests reduced to boundary line.

People, once awoken, see themselves veering into the islanded field

Declaring the reed and grass as heartbeat and home.

Why do painted lines obey the cars?

II.

House of worship.

Calling on our dear providence, weary of weakness induced,

We supplicate that which we already possess.

Voices, only male, trilling dominance as salvation.

Female in form: Madonna or whore

Forced without choice, patterning our birthright.

The mantle we strive to shoulder pleasing and, in failing,

Burn it unmourning as defiled as we are.

III.

Social media.

She traces outlines in the fogged mirror.

Razor thin edges of who she, wisp, idolizes.

Body worthy only in breast and hip and ratio

Of pregnancy to submissive glance.

Her appeal loose flakes to her self-love.

Silver-hair and wrinkle holy gifts

She banishes same as bare flesh to contour.

IV.

Public gathering.

You count first the outcasts, then the leaders, then lastly, the judgmental ones.

Knowing full well to count thrice.

You widen your vision to encompass the uneven horizon

Declaring your name and all the sharpened shards who, molten, forged you.

Uttering actualities until nearby the birds pause and squirrels cease chatter

Nature curling up breathing the air of sovereignty embodied.

You believe your feet to tremble but roots encircle, collecting, as they descend.

V.

Inner sphere.

Transforming midst gates of Inanna and Persephone

Underwater, under world that demands my sacrifice.

All the while eyes forward, lean into the weight

Of boulders cast of shame.

I thought the scenery was superfluous.

Now, branch and pebble and bird feather are

Substance and bone of my offering.

Naturally Mindful

Feast and Famine: Personal Reflections on Spirituality and Eating Habits

On this #NaturallyMindful Monday, I want to share a bit about my journey with physical nourishment, both as it relates to my health and my social consciousness towards the environment. This post feels raw to me in terms of spirituality, as I don’t think I’m at a place where my spirituality is fully integrated into my eating behaviors and vice versa. Rather than pretend that I’ve arrived at some place of awareness and higher knowledge, I intend to create a dialogue about the struggle many of us have with eating and food and narrate where I’ve tread thus far.

Starving Puberty

I was a relatively normal weight as a child and don’t remember any particular issues with food. Everything changed when I hit puberty. I was an early bloomer and started to gain a bit of weight. Given my need for control, I decided to put an end to that right there. I started eating 500 calories a day and dropped below 100 pounds. I gave up most meats during this time as a way to avoid having to eat food others were cooking. Then I began a kind of binge-purge cycle as starvation set in. I was eventually shamed into eating more after my family discovered my purging, but my relationship with food and my body was still completely distorted.

The Junk Food Vegetarian

Once I went to college, I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian. There were very few vegetables involved in this affair. Mostly I ate pizza, cereal with chocolate milk, and bagels with cream cheese. You know, all the food groups! I gained weight and spent a lot of time thinking about my next meal. A positive development here is that I started cooking for others and discovered they liked my way of preparing food.

More Beer, Please!

I started drinking during college and this tipped me into obesity. I would eat three meals a day, go out and get wasted, and come home to cook an entire meal at 2 am. My weight went up to over 200 pounds. I’ve always thought of this as my “happy time,” because I was so out of touch with myself that I didn’t have as much anxiety and depression as I normally do.

I also reintroduced meat into my diet, brilliantly eating a multi-course meal at Chili’s including ribs after fasting for three days. There was much pain from that stunt, but I was living it up. I would consider myself to have been addicted to food (and abusing alcohol) during this time. It “worked” to make me feel better temporarily, but would have caused serious health problems if I’d stayed at that point. I think some of the chronic conditions I have now were likely started by or at least exacerbated by my behaviors.

Balance, Balance, Balance

For at least a decade, I began a hilly ride up and down the weight charts and through diet after diet. I lost 80 pounds at one point, then gained 30 back, and kept going up and down. The positive side of this ride was that I was eating an amount that was closer to what my body needed, and my weight swings became somewhat less dramatic over time. I started to eat less sugar as well which helped to reduce some of my cravings. When I religiously counted my calories, I lost pounds and maintained my weight. As soon as that stopped, the pounds came back.

The other change during this time is that I established a regular exercise routine that I have now followed for four years or so and think has become integrated into who I am. I use workout videos five times a week and walk my dog at least three times a day. As a result, I’ve gained muscle tone and improved my physical stamina.

Body Attunement

This is where I’ve been at for about a year now. I became so tired of counting calories I decided to see if I could maintain my weight by “listening to my body.” It hasn’t worked that well as I’ve gained around 15 pounds total, but I have learned some things. One is that my health conditions like GERD, IBS and possible gallbladder issues actually cause me to overeat. I will start to feel sick and have unconsciously learned that eating a little bit more, especially if it’s carbs, will temporarily stop the pain. I’ve also learned that there are certain foods that lead directly to digestive problems, including alcohol, animal fat and fried foods. I get so sick from these foods that I’ve dramatically reduced my intake of them. Lastly, I’ve started cooking breakfast and eating it more mindfully and slowly than at any point in the past. I would love to be able to extend this to my other two meals as I think then I’d be set!

Eating the Earth’s Way

The latest part of my journey has been to begin to consider consciously both myself and others in regards to my diet. I feel torn about eating meat as I know I could not kill certain animals like cows on my own even if it was the only way to get a burger. I am at the point of giving up red meat because of this. I plan to spend a few months observing my relationship with fish and poultry to see if those are items I can live without or if I need them to maintain some semblance of a reasonable diet (aka to avoid Junk Food Vegetarian Part 2).

I also plan to take an account of what foods are “safe” for me to eat with my medical conditions and engage in more creative meal planning to try to incorporate more of a variety into my diet. Having a large portion of healthy foods trigger severe GERD makes something like a salad more challenging than it otherwise would be. I suspect there are additional ways of preparing foods that would work for me if I was willing to put in the time to try them.

The last goal I have for myself is to continue to listen to my body instead of trying to force myself to lose weight. I’m still in a range that wouldn’t cause serious health issues, especially with my level of exercise, and I think coming into a right relationship with food while eating mindfully would be life-changing. As I develop my spiritual life, I hope there is a mind-body-spirit synergy that centers and settles me into an evolved way of making food- and eating-related decisions.

I feel somewhat silly taking anyone who’s read this far through all this. At the same time, I remember at many points feeling like I was the only one who had these issues because most of my friends seemed to struggle less than I did. I do know that a history of trauma predisposes people to an increased risk of difficulties with food and weight. Many people who see food and weight as a battle to be won. I’m trying to view it instead as a relationship to develop, one in which listening, kindness, grace and perseverance will hopefully result in a sense of goddessing my food choices and eating habits.

Goddessing Self Care

If Our Guts Could Speak

Our bodies are integral not only to our physical existence but also to our spiritual practice. I love the aspects of Goddess spirituality that are especially attuned to checking in with and respecting our bodily wisdom. We host an entire biome of bacteria in our guts that we’ve assembled from our various life experiences. Think about that, we are each playing concierge to a list of travelers from each of the places we’ve stopped along the way. There is recent research suggesting these entities can communicate through neurotransmitters with our brains, and let us know when they aren’t “happy!” To me, this gives a new dimension to the concept of gut feelings and intuition and highlights the importance of respecting our physical needs.

Caring for Medical Conditions

Medical checkups and treatment are not high on my list of things I enjoy doing, but these are basic needs we all have and may often put off out of anxiety or busyness. Situational factors like limited insurance and serious health conditions can add to the burden of these needs. It takes time and energy to evaluate every possible resource and option, but sometimes additional information helps us to find solutions we otherwise might have missed. I find myself returning to the concept that our bodies are sacred. From this framework, attending to them is a spiritual act, one that can propel us into caring for the people, animals and land around us as sacred beings and sacred ground.

Sleeping Peacefully

Recent studies have demonstrated a multitude of benefits, both physical and mental, that come from a healthy night’s sleep. It is one of the most important things those of us who have mental health concerns can do to lessen our risk factors for more serious episodes and breakdowns. In addition to the benefits to our body and mind, sleep is a gateway into the fascinating world of dreams! What better way to allow Goddess to speak to us through symbolism than through our dream-world. Consider ways to make your sleeping area a sacred place of rest and divine communication.

Sensualizing Pleasure

Sex and sensual needs may be mired in guilt and shame for those of us raised in religions and cultures that deny that they are a natural part of being a human. They can be especially fraught for those of us who are sexual abuse survivors. For some, those around us can pressure us into engaging in behaviors that are outside of what we desire for ourselves. You have the exclusive right to determine how and when you express your sexual identity and desires, as long as you are not infringing on anyone else’s rights. Sex does not need to be a spiritual act, but, for many, it can be a conduit to deeper spiritual understanding and fulfillment when the sacred is intertwined. If you aren’t sure where to start, get to know yourself first. For women, Lisa Lister’s The Sassy She is one resource for experiencing our sexuality as sacred.

Eating With Purpose

Access to time and place to engage in healthy eating helps our bodies in innumerable ways. I love the fact that we can practice mindful eating or share in a ritual meal as a way to draw the sacred into our physical needs. Something related that I just started doing to encourage myself to eat more mindfully was inspired by Starhawk’s book Earth Path, in which she describes thanking the sources of our meals. I try to imagine the origins of each piece of food and express my gratitude to that from which it came. So, for example, if I’m eating eggs and toast, I would thank the chickens that produced the eggs as well as the wheat field that led to my slice of bread. I also take time to express appreciation for the workers who transformed the food source. This practice is deeply challenging me on how I feel about eating certain kinds of meats like beef and pork. They don’t seem as appealing to me if I cause myself to think about a cow or pig dying to create them. I’m also a bit concerned as well as how “natural” my food is if it takes me more than a few seconds to identify the original plant or animal that it came from!

Moving Our Bodies

Exercise and physical activity are other needs that we can interweave into the spiritual. Movement exercises such as yoga certainly can have a spiritual dimension. Moments of indulgence like lounging around feel more peaceful to me if they are counterbalanced with activity. A free resource I like for physical activity is Fitness Blender, which I’ve used as my workout inspiration for years. There isn’t anything particularly spiritual about Dan and Kelly’s approach, but they promote a healthy body image and listening to one’s body, which I take as a respect for our inner intuition.

Your body is ready to let you know what it needs, should you be willing to listen to it. It will let you know one way or another what is going on for it, and I think it’s much nicer to receive its feedback as a little nudge than a full-blown illness or exhaustion. Incorporating the spiritual into how we respond to the messages our body sends us can allow us to more fully access our intuition. I also believe tasks we may find unpleasant, such as going to the doctor or working out, carry a heightened sense of importance and demand more diligence when we envision our spirituality in an embodied form.