On our intention when we practice

A few days ago I attended a lecture by a wonderful teacher. After she was introduced by the host, referencing her incredibly impressive CV, including having graduated from Harvard Law School, starting her own company (whose clients include CEOs and Supreme Court justices), and publishing a New York Times bestselling book, she shared a story I found most moving. Very recently, she had flown across the world (she lives in Europe) for her 20 year Harvard Law School reunion. The reunion would be taking place from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning. As she was getting ready on Friday afternoon, she found herself unable to go. She felt like a failure because she never had children, and she didn’t think she could face other women from her class sharing pictures of their children. Long story short, this continued throughout Saturday and Sunday, and she did not attend any of the meetings.

She did, however, read Chris Germer’s book, “Self-Compassion”. I was incredibly moved by her vulnerability in sharing this, and also by the reason she chose to share it. She wanted to make a point about how mindfulness practice is not about achieving a different outcome or behavior, but about noticing and relating differently to whatever our experience is; about cultivating curiosity, kindness and compassion.

Too often I find that the motivation for practicing mindful eating is the hope or intention of achieving a specific outcome that is more often than not focused on behavioral change – eating less, eating a certain way, eating certain foods. And through this, the ultimate goal for many people is weight loss.

I think this is only human – what motivates most of us to start and sustain a mindful eating practice is suffering. And we truly believe - because that’s the dominant narrative in our fat phobic culture - that we suffer because the number on the scale is higher than we would like, because we don’t fit in a certain size, or because we eat a certain way. This, in turn, drives the belief that the only measure of how successful our mindful eating practice is is our eating behavior or our weight, or maybe even how we think about food.

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What if our only intention in cultivating a mindful eating practice was to see hunger, satiety, cravings, food, and our relationship to all of these clearly? To cultivate a nourishing relationship with ourselves and discern wisely that the problem is not our body, but systemic oppression and stigma? What if we could approach this with kindness and compassion?

What would this mean for you?

About the author

Lilia Graue is a physician, psychotherapist, consultant and teacher. She works with brave humans to counter performative health, among other oppressive discourses, to do the compassionate healing work necessary to collectively create a culture of body justice and liberation, so that we may all become Fiercely Embodied.

Lilia Graue