Saturday, January 11, 2020

Food Boundaries, Healing Energies in the World

[Oct 13, 2019]

Boundaries matter. Knowing where my energies extend to (and no further), knowing where another’s energy field begins in proximity to my own, matters. Distinguishing and honoring both requires a highly sensitized discernment so very new to me today. Most of us in today’s rather secular, materialistic culture(s) are not adept at discerning these energetic boundaries. The reasons for this are vast and varied, of course.

Speaking only for myself—I was reared in a highly cognitive, deeply rational home with a strong religious faith and a rather clinical ‘see it, believe it’ lens on the body. Getting curious about and exploring something so airy-fairy as ‘energetic fields’ would send my father off the skeptical disdainful deep end. He could hardly sit for a whole lunch with a woman who practiced Qigong and wanted to talk with him about her experience. So growing up, I had no way to really know my own boundaries amidst the spiritual and psychological hungers of my parents, those around me. I didn’t become sensitized enough to feel my own energetic field and boundaries until the last 1-2 years. I’m 50 years old.

I don’t want or need to convince anyone about energetic fields, or how they could feasibly be understood as your ‘soul,’ within which your body is nourished (or not). What I’m interested in is the role food can play in honoring good, healthy boundaries—for oneself, for others.

Food is energy. Whatever kind you may choose, it is ostensibly to nourish your cells, your bones, your blood so you have energy to be as active as you want, to do what you dream of doing with your ‘one wild and precious life.’ (Mary Oliver). I have had a wonky relationship with food my entire life, with its role much beyond energy and nourishment.

My storyline: I inherited my mother’s deep fear of scarcity and ‘not-enough.’ She grew up in a rough part of Detroit, one of 6 children in a truck-driver’s salaried family. She knows what it is to not have enough. She and my father have lived a modest but increasingly well-privileged life with an internist’s and school teacher’s salaries. I have never wanted for anything material (except my sophomore year in college when I ran out of money 2 days before my mom was to come pick my up. I used my credit cards at the bookstore to make it to the end). But I have had a deep belly fear of not enough. Yet I was also reared in a fairly rigid religious home with a high-shame ethic. Eating ‘too much,’ or ‘wanting too much,’ was a ready shame trigger. I remember coming home from school, shaky hungry (I now know from high carb, high salt diet), and being refused any food, or shamed for eating too much before dinner.

As a result, I have a hard-to-hit, razor-thin ‘sweet spot’ between ‘not enough’ and ‘too much.’ Food choices have always been highly charged, emotionally-driven, and tinged with shame. These parallel similar body-judgments, many of which were simply my mother’s projections about her own body experiences: too big, too much, not attractive, high shame. I entered into a ‘nutrition re-education’ health program this past summer precisely to see if ‘food-freedom’ could be a fruit of this learning, re-learning. And it has been. I know a freedom with food that I have never known before. Shame rarely comes from the inside of me anymore. When it is directed at me from the outside, which still sometimes happens, I have a strong body-center-awareness of my own freedom, my own energetic field. I can even sometimes deflect it now, knowing who and how I am in my body, for me.

I know my own energetic boundaries when I live into the food-choices that I can feel are good and wise for my own cells, bones, blood, body. What I was taught, what we knew when I was growing up, was simply not accurate for this woman’s body (perhaps most human bodies, but that’s not my argument or intent to surmise here). What I know now, how I know to choose my nourishment now, sensitizes my body to know its boundaries, its expansiveness and its contractions when I’m weary. When I’m in a highly social environment, surrounded by people choosing all kinds of foods for themselves, I can feel where I extend to, where my field ‘ends’...if I am choosing well for me.

What intrigues me is that when I choose as another is eating, particularly if s/he is choosing something that I know my body will not be nourished by, I lose my felt-sense of where my energetic field ends and where his/hers begins. For the longest time, my husband and I would eat almost exactly the same foods and similar portion sizes. It’s important for his sense of generosity and hospitality to serve plates overflowing with food. When I would demur and move my portions to half-size, he would get offended and feel shamed or that his artistry/offerings were unappreciated. Given my own empathic self, my own deep feeling ways, it was often more important to avoid his displeasure than to listen to my own body. Same is true with cocktail hour. He can pour a stiff drink, and it was easiest simply to receive it, usually drinking more than I wanted. So my boundaries would diffuse and while I then felt connected to him in a way I recognized and even thought I appreciated, I would lose my own sense of center. 

I have used food as this energetic connector for most of my life. It is what so much table fellowship in religious communities is built on, after all. Families and friends sharing meals and festivities together. What a beautiful thing, and a web of community building we need to do more of in our highly fragmented civic spaces today. And yet, those who are highly sensitized to the energies of others—empaths, healers, deep-feeling bodies of all genders—often find themselves faced with challenging food choices and confusions when surrounded by others.

The new learning for me is that when I am strongest in my own center, I can be more present and more connected with whomever I’m with than if I allow my own boundaries to diffuse and cave to whatever their food choices are. How odd it has seemed, to feel connected through my body not beyond it or despite it.

So…it means I’m willing to withstand the social pressures a preacher’s wife might face, for instance, at a dinner party of pizza and beer or some marvelously named sugary alcoholic drinks (Jamaican Me Crazy…love that clever wordplay). Or pack my own nourishment when I travel with my husband, minimizing the ‘special diet’ characteristics necessary in restaurants, requests that embarrass his Swedish-Lutheran sensibilities (in which you never ask for what you actually need/want, but only what might be offered or decided by the other…). What I’m learning is that I am able to listen to my body deeply enough now to consciously choose indulgences I want to enjoy, in a rhythm that is sparse enough to make them ‘special occasions’ and indulgent. The rest of the time, I know what helps my body feel the best and be as active as I know I want to be now. As a result, I’m more attuned to my own center, and more present with whomever I am with, able to offer and celebrate whatever they want to eat, as they so desire.

I suspect my capacity to participate in healing work in the world is expanding, as my body gets stronger within its bodysoul field. 
Food is energy. 
Good food strengthens the body so to expand and shine in the world in a way that most of our corporate-created foods simply cannot provide. 
Good food means a greater chance of healthy boundaries, for self and for other.

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