What I learned from Feast

Rachel Cole’s online, 12-week course Feast aims to guide women along the path to becoming “well-fed” — by food, by careers, by movement, by LIFE. I am celebrating the end of this program this weekend.

The program focuses on grounding into intuitive eating principles, showcased in the fabulous book, Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. But that’s really only the foundation, because once you make peace with food and with feeding yourself, the door really opens to feed yourself in other ways as well.

As I reflect back on the last 12 weeks, thinking about what this journey has meant to me (particularly in concert with my yoga teacher training), I’m left with the feeling of full-ness. By this, I mean that I have the strong sense of being well-fed by my life, in a way that I haven’t ever quite experienced before.

One of the more important lessons I gleaned from Feast is the importance of recognizing your own sensitivities, then allowing yourself a life that accommodates them. This was perhaps most keenly visible in my experience going to see the Dixie Chicks in mid-August, right around the time we were talking about what it means to be a highly sensitive person. Through my reflections and work around my sensitivities, I became acutely aware of how large crowds completely overwhelm my system. This wasn’t, of course, a ground-breaking revelation on my part; I’ve always know that large crowds exhaust me in a uniquely draining way, but I didn’t have a structure for understanding how or why. Armed with this new knowledge, I was able to set some parameters for the concert that supported my needs — namely, leaving after about 90 minutes, because I just couldn’t take any more sensory input.

Another lesson learned: Stop and listen. Each of us has such tremendous inner wisdom about what we need and want from our lives, but we’ve been too often pressured to ignore that wisdom and instead chase the shoulds — what should I be doing, what should I be eating, what should I fill up my time with? When I pause to listen to my inner wisdom, I recognize that the shoulds are crowding out my deeply felt desires: to connect with others in a deeper way; to hold space for thinking, reading, and resting; to pause and take in the beauty and joy of my life; to see and appreciate all that others do for me. I had so many shoulds that I had no space at day’s end for the things that really matter.

Should is one of our mind’s greatest diseases. I don’t mean to imply that life is all about shirking responsibility or forsaking work for a life of sloth and leisure. Yet, I’ve learned that it’s all too easy to convince ourselves that the world’s demands are ceaseless and uncompromising. The group of women gathered in Feast this season almost all spoke of doing so much for others that no energy or time was left for themselves. This feels nearly universal among women — at least, women I come into contact with. There’s more to life, though. Feast gave me a structure, a language, and the space to find my own, fuller life.

As I begin to take baby steps from student to teacher in this realm, I feel tremendous gratitude for the space created by Rachel in this program. Each of us needs such a space, a place to be still, tune into our inner wisdom, and find ways to let that wisdom shine.

The journey to becoming a well-fed woman never ends, but there’s no question I’m much further along the path than I’ve ever been before.

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