As part of the Eat for Life course — a program aimed at enhancing health and quality of life through mindfulness and mindful eating — I recently participated in an exercise that brought about one of the most revealing insights I have ever had.
I was invited to think about negative things I say to myself about my body. Working with a partner, I was instructed to write down a negative statement that I constantly repeat to myself in my internal dialogues (my ‘old tapes,’ as the course calls them), such as, “I am out of shape, my body is flabby, and my belly is pathetic. I must exercise daily and make better choices regarding what I eat and drink.” Then, I was instructed to read the statement out loud. Finally, it was my partner’s turn to repeat to me what I had just said. When I heard her say, “You are out of shape, your body is flabby, and your belly is pathetic, and you must exercise daily and make better choices regarding what you eat and drink,” I felt a rush of indignation and rage invade my body. Although absolutely conscious that I was participating in an exercise, I still felt, “How can she say such harsh things about me? Who does she think she is to talk to me like that? How dare she? This is so unkind!”
And then the realization hit me… This is what I do all the time. This is the way I talk to myself all the time. This is the abusive way I treat myself all the time. I am my own worst critic. I say the most hurtful things to myself, things that I would never even consider saying to anyone else. I criticize myself harshly all the time. I use the most demanding tone. And I do all this without any compassion, kindness, or consideration for my feelings.
Wow! What a revelation that was!
In my philosophical/spiritual ponderings I say to myself that I came here to Earth — and was given this life — to learn some lessons, the most important being to grow in selflessness. I wholeheartedly believe that I came here to learn to be less selfish and more unselfish. But after the awakening that took place with this exercise, I am now considering that an equally important lesson that I need to learn is to be kind and gentle with myself, and to love myself just as I am.
I am now beginning to understand, in a much more profound way, something that I thought I already knew: that if I am unable to love myself fully and totally, I will never be able to love anyone else. I am beginning to realize that if I don’t accept myself as I am, I will live my life criticizing not only myself, but everything and everyone else, wanting the world to be different than it is, and that, definitely, is a pitiful way to waste a lifetime.
I am always in awe with the the fact that learning has no end.
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Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect, and write, and who not only strives to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches mindfulness meditation and mindful living, and organizes Silent Peace Walks.