Food felt like my only friend when things were really unstable as a child. I knew that the peanut butter jar wasn’t going to forget about me or scream at me. It was always going to be there. I knew that it would give me sweet moments of comfort and care.
As I got older and I kept using food to reach that comfort place, all that food started to have a different effect. Now it created a sensation of deep numbness. The cycles were vicious. I would reach for the nearest food. I would eat it until it was gone, and keep reaching.
The more full that I would get, the more numb I would feel. The less I felt, the less I was present to experience all of the moments of life. Things would happen around me, and I would have a vague notion of emotion. Then I would stuff it down with the next round of mac n’ cheese.
Looking back, I now realize that another big reason why I numbed out with food is that it helped me to feel invisible. Using food this way made it so that I was unable to interact with people. I was either passed out in my room with a food coma, or I sat in a corner somewhere trying to not be noticed, while I scarfed down chocolate cake.
The self-judgment that I felt about “being fat” allowed me to check out even more. I would be disconnected from the people around me and totally in my own world where I felt disconnected from everything, especially my body and mind.
Escaping from our physical bodies can be a powerful tool. In moments of incredible trauma, it can be a saving grace. However, prolonged self-inflicted numbness and dissociation is a recipe for a life that is deeply unfulfilling and unkind to our selves.
This is the moment of choice. Once we recognize that we are numbing ourselves out in order to not experience the fullness of life, we have the opportunity to make different choices. I offer that creating deeper awareness is the key and the first step to overcoming numbness.
When we are aware, we start to learn what we need to satisfy the deeper hungers of our life. These are some of my deepest hungers of life: love, care, creativity, exploration, learning, connection. We each have our own truth of what fulfillment is, and when we choose awareness we begin to gain greater knowledge about our own personally fulfilling life. Identifying these deeper hungers is some of the most exciting work that I do with my clients.
Awareness can be uncovered in a myriad of ways. Today I am going to suggest a super basic and simple awareness exercise that is an incredible way to choose more awareness in your life. It’s all about the micro-pause.
Micro-pause. This is definitely one of my favorite tools. It doesn’t require a dedicated 20 minute meditation practice. All it requires is one moment in which you choose awareness. One pause, when you take a couple deep breaths, where you are able to come back to yourself and whatever you are experiencing in that moment.
One example of how this could work is to put a chair in front of the refrigerator and do an experiment with your self. Each time before you open the fridge, sit down and take a micro-pause.
Explore what it is like to sit down in that chair and take three conscious breaths. Where are you feeling the breath move through your body? What body sensations arise? What thoughts are present? Ask yourself: “What would really satisfy me right now?” After these three breaths, you can stand up and do whatever you want. Get more ice cream from the freezer. Go to the living room and read.
The more awareness we cultivate, the more we are able to choose our actions. The more we choose our actions, the more we are able to create our vivacious life from this moment. Micro-pauses are an awesome tool to begin to cultivate the sense of awareness and give us the knowledge we need to satisfy those deeper hungers.