I have spent the last year trying to develop a compassionate awareness of what triggers some of my behaviors around consumption. This includes all kinds of consumption or consuming: everything from shopping sprees to drinking wine, from mindless eating to escapist Netflix watching.
This has required mindfulness, a willingness on my part to bring awareness to situations that I am trying to avoid thinking about (because it’s painful), and sometimes to stop in the middle of reaching for the glass of wine or that third brownie and tune into the emotion that’s driving me.
This is what I’ve discovered around food:
My desire to open the fridge and mindlessly inhale in large quantities whatever looks good (which is everything) has to do specifically (for me) with fear of the future.
It has to do with those times when some aspect of my future life looks uncertain and me being so very uncomfortable with that.
That’s when I find myself standing in front of the fridge.
And I know I’m not alone in this fear.
Because, frankly, the future IS uncertain; elements of both our own personal futures, the futures of those we love and the world’s future – if the climate change crisis has anything to tell us – are uncertain.
So many of us want the future to be predictable – we want to know the how, when and why of the next day, week and year.
All of it.
We want it all spelled out in a memo from the cosmos. “Just put me out of my misery and tell me how it’s all going to be fine,” I say to the sky.
Of course, the future remains unwritten and the present moment, here in my kitchen, is all I have.
And in fact, it’s all I need.
Because now, after a year of practice, if I am gazing into my fridge with an anxious heart I can stop myself and say: “Good, good, you are afraid. It is excellent to know this. You will not be eating the rest of the leftover lasagna right now, you will go to your laptop and write about exactly what you are afraid of.”
And so here I am, I have just left my refrigerator and write here now about my fear.
And as I do so it occurs to me that I really want to cultivate the ability to deal with my fear mindfully because I have an inkling that this year, more than ever, I am going to do things I am afraid to do, I am going to try things I’m not good at and possibly fail (or succeed, which is also scary!), I am going to push myself to my edge, take risks, and walk through my fear.
And I mostly feel excited about this — and I definitely know that I do not want to compromise my health and well-being by mindlessly over-consuming anything and everything in the process.
So probably this year I will continue to walk through my kitchen to the pantry where the cookies are kept. And then laugh at myself and walk back out again empty handed (usually) and write it all down.
And I have also noticed that whenever I am mindful in the face of fear, that I become free to explore the other side of fear, which is trust and ultimately love.
In those moments, which are more and more frequent this year, when I am accepting the great design of things, when I am operating from a place of trust (you could also call it faith) I feel each moment so full of potential and fluidity and vibrancy– which can only be true when there is uncertainty.
Which can only be true when we are in the present moment, and not projecting ourselves into an unknown future.
When we step forward in trust to meet that which is not yet in form. When we remember that we are powerful, that we can take inspired action that leads to a future we have dreamed of.
That the road will rise up to meet us if we take that first step.
This is a lot like taking a leap off a cliff, a way of living always on the edge of our comfort zone, a way of life that takes practice. And compassion.
And so I do practice because I want to live. I really want to live fully, energetically, and with purpose.
“Where your fear is, there is your task.” C.G. Jung
Living is not for the faint of heart. If I am to live in total trust, I have to remind myself over and over that whatever comes (the love, the joy, the triumphs and even pain and catastrophe) that I will be held, that I will find a way through, that I will be connected and reunited with joy over and over again.
And I know that I have to have compassion for myself in this process. It’s so terribly easy to berate myself for all my mindless consuming while my brain was in the grip of fear and my heart was feeling so anxious and my hand just kept dipping into the chip bag.
So before I eat something mindlessly, before I try to stuff down my fear with whatever is at hand, I try to be mindful.
I ask myself: what is the emotion behind what you are doing in this moment? Are you being kind to yourself, eating all this, drinking all that? What are you afraid of?
I don’t want to be afraid of the future anymore.
Perhaps you feel the same. Perhaps you too know that right now you have everything you need and that the future, our future, is bright.
And it’s not hiding in my fridge.