How Practices Saved My Life

Those of us who have experienced extreme amounts of pain and trauma use the best tools that we have to avoid any more pain.  Often the pain we are avoiding with such vehemence is not of the same severity as the original wounding, and still we desire to escape from it. 

By Nikola Jones

By Nikola Jones

People cope with the pain in their lives in all kinds of different ways, whether or not the way they cope is effective.  We can feel so out of control and what we eat can become one of the primary things that we can actually control.  My go-to method was to eat as many chips and chocolate as I could.

I remember overwhelming feelings of getting in my car after work and feeling so panicked by all of the things over which I had no control.  I would rush to the store and buy food so that I could go home and binge.  While bingeing, I felt like I was the one making the decisions.  No one else was telling me what to do or making me do anything. 

I was still suffering when I binged.  But at least it wasn’t the same kind of pain as before.  At least I was in control of this pain.  I did this to myself. 

Paradoxically, over time, I realized that this way of eating actually made me feel incredibly out of control.  While trying to control the effects of my emotions on myself, I ended up creating a “practice” of bingeing for myself that left me feeling totally crazy.

Photo By Tim Cigelske

Photo By Tim Cigelske

Instead of trying to create control, which is always an illusion, I offer that we are able to create practices for ourselves that help ground us.  When we are grounded, we can feel incredibly resourceful and capable.  I define a practice as a set of actions that one is committed to doing over a period of time in order to live a more fulfilling life.  

Envision your ideal practice for yourself.  What qualities will it have?  I personally wanted to create something that activated my body, my mind and my spirit.  And I wanted to do it in the morning so that it would set the tone for my day.  

At first, I envisioned a practice for myself that was incredibly intricate: 20 minutes of meditation, a half hour yoga practice and writing at least 750 words.  And if I didn’t do it all then, it wasn’t worth doing any of it.  If I didn’t have an hour and a half, then why bother.  

By Lazlo Ilyes

By Lazlo Ilyes

This black and white thinking did not serve at all.   Learn from my experience.  Start small.  Get down to the core of the practice. From there, explore what is the smallest action you can take to get to that core part of the experience.  What is the tiny drop of action that will create a giant ripple in the pond of your life?

I learned that taking a few conscious breaths, doing a downward dog and scribbling a few words of reflection could take me 5 minutes. Even if I just did the 5 minute version, the rest of my day felt more grounded.  I felt more capable of making choices throughout the day that honored my intentions.  The need to be in control dropped away because I was now choosing how to live my life. 

Now that I have had this morning practice for years, I can tell you that it has been one of the single most important parts of recovering from the eating disorder.  It has been the foundation upon which I have been able to grow this rocking life that I am now so grateful to live.  

What might be the building blocks of your practice?