I just realized the sun is shining. It’s ten degrees out, but when the sun is shining, the temperature doesn’t bother me. I love the crisp, bracing cold, the sharp inhale and visible exhale of breath.
I touch thumb and index finger together on my right hand. I am connected, I tell myself. I nourish myself with gentleness. As I hear these words in my head, holding this mudra, a sensation washes through me of unobstructed energy, sealing these beliefs into the body.
After a particularly difficult stretch around the holidays – which coincided with being pre-menstrual – I finally called my friend Samuel, a hypnotherapist. I was feeling a degree of hopelessness around some of my more self-defeating eating habits beyond anything I’d experienced in quite some time. It is cyclical, to be sure, definitely affected by my hormonal cycles. But I was feeling so entrenched, so bound by cookie dough and challah with butter, so compulsive about it, that I finally sent him a note. “HELP!” screamed the subject line.
We made an appointment for the following week, and last Tuesday I went into his cozy office down by the waterfront for our first session. I had done hypnobirthing during both pregnancies and was familiar with the premise and techniques of this approach, but was basically feeling confined to my conscious mind, and even distrustful of the subconscious mind. What was going on in there? Was it really possible to change, to be free of this?
Samuel knew that I had successfully quit smoking for good (it took many year, many attempts, many moments – but more on that when you read my book!) nearly five years ago. But this was feeling deeper, harder to uproot, maybe because food is part of our daily lives. Food – functional, pleasurable, difficult – all of the things we bring to it, load it up with, years of stories, associations, behaviors. While I didn’t use the phrase “emotional eating,” that is essentially what I was confronting. Using food as a way of not settling, filling up some endless void instead of just being with the void or feeling whole without it. Food as just food. What a concept.
He was clearly undeterred by my concerns that I wouldn’t be “hypnotizable.” I can only imagine most people who go to him may start there, doubtful, curious, hopeful. He asked what kind of outcome I envisioned. How would I know if it “worked”? I honestly couldn’t answer that, but told him I’d know when I knew.
We went into the adjoining room of his office, this one devoted to the session itself. It was small and warm and simple. “Pure,” he called it. I snuggled into a comfy reclining chair, draping myself with the beige chenille blanket. Samuel briefly explained how he would begin the session, receiving my permission at that point to touch my forehead, my shoulders, and my hands as we went. I chose a line on his palm to focus on as he counted me down to closing my eyes. At first, I had a hard time letting go, a bit like a kid in junior high who can’t stop giggling when they’re nervous. But I just kept taking deep breaths and slowly did begin to experience a deeper sense of relaxation and availability.
Samuel guided me from there, his voice positively entrancing, deep and warm and smooth, like a pint of Guinness. I identified a boulder in my belly that felt heavy and intractable. He asked me to place the boulder in front of me, where I proceeded to ask it questions and listen for what it had to tell me. What was its purpose? I pictured the boulder dissolving, growing smaller. Eventually, it became simply a smooth stone, not so daunting, and not inside of my body anymore. I saw it to my left, just there, sort of floating, unthreatening. It was what it was, just a stone. (This reminds me a post I wrote almost exactly a year ago about just that. But Mama: it’s a rock.)
Without that stone there, I felt connected to my whole body. Rather than consisting of parts, some of which I singled out for battle, my body was one. My body was me. Feelings of separation and judgment vanished. I stayed in this place for a while, describing to Samuel what it was like there. How much lighter, more alive and free I felt. It was then that he asked me to touch my right thumb and index finger together, repeating to me my own words. I am connected. I am light and free. I am connected. I am vibrant and alive. He asked me something about how I would remember this, return to it. How would I nourish myself? With gentleness, came my response. I nourish myself with gentleness. And so he repeated these words back to me, too. I am connected. I nourish myself with gentleness. He asked me what colors I associated with this, what object. I chose green as a color, and an orange as the object.
We did a little more work around letting go of the creased brow and clenched jaw. Many, many deep breaths. I could feel the energy flowing through my body, the whole time strangely aware that I was at once perfectly conscious and yet in this receptive state. It was really nice.
Samuel counted back from three again to bring me back up to a fully conscious state. I opened my eyes, suddenly a little self-conscious again, but also present, ready to describe to him my experience. We discussed a little about using the mudra, returning to it as often throughout the day as I needed to, repeating those statements to myself, picturing myself draped in bright spring green, a gorgeous, ripe navel orange before me. Connected.
Since Tuesday, I have been doing this homework. It has been fascinating. Every time I touch my fingers – I am connected, I nourish myself with gentleness, awash in green and orange light – I feel an immediate response in my body. I picture that stone, smooth and unoffensive, to my left, knowing it is no longer a heavy boulder in my belly. In real terms, I’ve been finding that I am moving slightly more slowly, eating slightly more slowly, feeling truly more present. I did eat two cookies last night (omg you have to try this stuff). But I didn’t feel enslaved. They were just yummy.
And lo and behold, Aviva is so tuned in. Wednesday morning, we were running late again. In an effort to remove myself from hovering tensely over her as she rushed around getting ready, I went out to the car with Pearl. V came flying out the door a minute or two later, and we got off to school. When I walked back in the house an hour or so later, there was a watercolor hanging on the wall. I hadn’t seen it before, don’t even know when she painted it. But there were my colors, greeting me, welcoming me back home.