When someone first asked me to offer a retreat in The Work specifically for people to work on eating issues, food judgments, or upsetting thoughts about their bodies….
….I’ll be honest. I thought almost immediately “No Thanks.”
The world of compulsion, addiction, zombie trance eating that I had experienced for many years was so brutal. Especially the tricky, vicious voices related to emotional eating and hatred of fatness and a glorifying of thinness.
These were tough topics. They had been so filled with suffering for me. I wanted to leave them behind, and never look back.
I was also nervous that people might not find answers, or “get” how to apply self-inquiry to their eating or weight or compulsions.
I noticed out in the world, people got angry, perfectionistic, discouraged and very opinionated about food and ways of eating (raw, protein-heavy, meat-eaters, vegan, pure, anti-this, pro-that, anti-rules, pro-rules).
Or was it me who had experienced all that conflict in my own mind?
Hmmm. The world of eating, and my body image, was a battle field for sure–whether I was succeeding or failing.
As time passed and I worked with more and more people one-to-one, exploring the world of upside-down or troubled eating, I knew it would be of service to share in lightening the agony. I knew people could come together and investigate how to reach the natural state of peace we all were born with.
My first workshop was what some might call a….big flop.
In creating the curriculum, I thought I needed at least a weekend, including Friday night. I drew from retreats that had helped me. I felt confident in imagining the exercises and ways of bringing The Work and self-inquiry into all facets of the retreat. I had done many of these exercises with people in solo sessions. I felt excited.
Then, when it got time to put it on the calendar and announce it, only a few people expressed interest. And the person who had originally asked me to create a retreat was no longer living in the area, and not wanting to travel back to Seattle only for a weekend.
This was back when I was so new at offering facilitation and guidance, my confidence was the size of a peanut.
Three people signed up for the retreat.
One of them attended by skype from Colorado. We had a spot set up for her on a little table in my living room. Another drove a distance from Oregon, and a third kind gentleman came from fairly close by in Seattle.
As I mention in today’s video, the way I structured the schedule, everyone went off at meal breaks and got their choice of foods, with instructions to eat mindfully, notice their thoughts, write them down, and then return in 90 minutes.
Although everyone felt calmer around food and eating, no one reported feeling very different with food. One person even said they ate something they usually don’t eat, and they weren’t too sure this had been a good idea.
The exercises were powerful and interesting, the inquiry was thought-provoking and offered insights….but how could the people coming to a retreat on eating peace actually experience something different in their eating?
As I pondered this over time, I read about a man who had a vibrant zen meditation practice, who also had had many overeating or compulsive eating issues in his life, who loved bringing peace into his relationship with food.
It was like a little bell went off.
I myself hadn’t been willing to sit with people and share what it was like to mindfully and peacefully eat–to guide people in the experience itself.
If I wasn’t willing to expose myself in a meal for all the world to see, certainly they wouldn’t be willing either.
I knew what to do. I needed to have everyone who came to retreat eat together, in a different way. It needed to be a part of the practice, the process, the experience.
So that’s how a full immersion retreat was born. Instead of me going away to be all by myself eating whatever I wanted, dang-it, I’d eat whatever I wanted in plain sight.
No need to rebel, defend, or fight for whatever it was I was eating. No need to hold judgments about whether I did it right, or wrong.
I knew this, I had felt the peace of caring kindly for my own body, and now if I wanted to share it honestly with others, it was time to actually do that, for reals.
So the next retreat was different.
The planning was different, the feeling inside myself was different, the peanut-sized confidence didn’t really matter….I felt love and willingness to flop again, if that’s what happened….but also, I trusted the inspiration.
I wanted to join with others on the same journey, who had been suffering when it came to food.
I actually felt this weird sensation of knowing I was going to offer what I always wished was available for me, so long ago, when I felt crushing desperation about how to eat normally, and like I couldn’t find out how.
Now, this Eating Peace Retreat has become four days long. And honestly, it could become longer at some point.
But for now, we gather on a Thursday night (January 11th) for this upcoming annual retreat, we meet Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, and Monday morning (January 15th) we meet two more hours as a final session together.
I’m with you every step of the way. We eat, think, inquire, feel, explore, walk, and move together.
We identify our most painful thoughts about being in this world with food–what we’ve learned to fear or hate. You get to pick your own food, on purpose, and give yourself what you want and need.
We identify our most painful thoughts about moving, about energy and physicality or whatever’s called “exercise”–every difficult, furious or tormented thought about any of it, and take it through the inquiry process. We’ll do some moving together, without the mind running the show.
We identify our most painful thoughts about what other people think of us, what they see, what they’ve said, what we think it means about us. We identify our beliefs about hunger, fullness, and the foods we have the greatest trouble with.
All of these thoughts, we can question.
We tie in The Work of Byron Katie with all of these stressful, troubling ideas we’ve had in our minds. The Work is the most simple, beautiful, lazer-sharp way to dissolve our suffering about food, our weight, our eating.
This retreat is intentionally left small. I offer it once a year in Seattle (yes, I know I should offer it again during a little more light and a little less rain…stay tuned, this is coming).
Everyone who attends, I’ll be checking in with a month after the retreat to see how you’re doing and if your life with eating needs further support. Everyone at the retreat will leave with partners to do this work with over the phone or skype, so they can stay in touch with questioning their stressful thinking.
What I know now, is I can’t label the Eating Peace Retreat as a big flop anymore.
It’s been phenomenal.
I’m so moved, deeply touched, and in awe of what people learn about themselves through the process of being together and doing The Work on memories, beliefs and struggles they’ve never questioned before….about food, their bodies, their eating.
I am so, so amazed to find that the terrible, frightening, wild and chaotic eating I used to do actually brought me home to a bigger, brighter, more enlightened world….and that the same difficult experience brings me to serve others who want to find a way of eating peace, too.
Eating Peace Retreat is only a month away. I’d be honored to have you, if it’s right. To register, visit here. Room for one more person in the retreat house (ask about how to reserve) and also room for one in a lovely airbnb run by friends close by is still available. Write with your questions.
And now….what if when you think about all this eating and being together, and eating mindfully in a group….it makes you want to run the other way. Fast!?
What if the REBEL comes out when you’re trying to eat peacefully? What if the very thought of slowing down, and sitting with people on an eating peace retreat….makes you want to jump out of your skin, or to strangle something?
It’s definitely how I used to feel (and still do sometimes). Watch the video today to see what happened for me around the Rebel, and how to be with it and let it be here, staying safe and clear at the same time.