Things and conditions can give you pleasure
but they cannot give you joy — joy arises from within.
— Eckhart Tolle
I struggled with anorexia for four years before I went to rehab. Rehab saved my life, and although I am not “completely recovered,” I am in recovery. I am coping. I am living again.
One of the biggest sources of fuel for my eating disorder was my hyperfocus on the physical and transitory aspects of life. In my mind, I overemphasized the importance of my body. I put the appearance of my body, and how I felt about my body, above my true, underlying nature.
I would treat fleeting thoughts, feelings, and emotions as crucial, life-and-death matters. I did not realize or appreciate my enduring self, which (I now understand) transcends the fleeting states of the corporal realm.
Separating My Identity from my Passing Thoughts & Feelings
When I was anorexic, surface feelings took on a villainous and critical role. I know this sounds melodramatic and unrealistic (because it is), but “feeling bloated” literally felt like the death of me. I could not separate my true self from my passing thoughts and feelings. A huge part of my recovery and self-discovery has been my ability to separate my identity from the surface mental sewage that blocks my view of reality.
Through therapy, I realized that I am not my body — I am much more than just my physical form. Kind of weird, but also quite pleasant and freeing. Makes you feel lighter; makes you live lighter. I’m not saying that I’m some waif-like spirit, floating on the whimsical current of an indefinable world (that would be cool though). What I’m saying is that my physical self — my body, my fleeting feelings and thoughts — do not define me.
I am not just me sitting here typing this blog post.
I am not me who ate apples with a whole lot of peanut butter for breakfast.
I am not me who will take a sip of black iced coffee in about three seconds.
I am a conglomeration, a whole melting pot of things and thoughts and feelings and actions and ideas and emotions. I am now and then, and I am more to come. I am so much more than what you see, how I feel right now, and what I think at a given moment.
This Moment Is Not the Whole Me
If you accept and embrace this way of thinking — this “I extend past the fleeting, corporal now” — it makes it so much easier to accept yourself. If you make a mistake, you can just brush it off and move on. You might have made that mistake, but that mistake does not make you.
I am not dismissing how you feel and what you think in the present moment. Being present and aware of your thoughts and feelings is crucial for happiness as well. But your whole world expands when you stop confining yourself to these drifting, passing mental mutterings. They come and go, and they may help to form who you are, but they are not entirely what you are or all that you have to offer. Not in the least.
So the next time you feel like crap — whether you feel bloated, or embarrassed, or hungover, or ashamed — just remember that what you feel right now is not the whole you. What people see right now is not the whole you. This moment will only define and defeat you if you let it. So don’t.
©2013 by Lori Deschene. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com.
Tiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself: 40 Ways to Transform Your Inner Critic and Your Life
by Lori Deschene
About the Author
Lisa Stefany (author of this article, excerpted from Chapter 4 of the book) is a proud graduate of Penn State University. She majored in English and minors in wearing patterns that clash and colors that don't quite match. She galvanizes her mind with yoga, wine, and grasping at the absurd intricacies of quantum mechanics, inflating universe(s), bizarre bacteria, and epigenetics. (For an InnerSelf article on epigenetics, click here.)
Lori Deschene is the founder of tinybuddha.com, a multi-author blog that shares stories and insights from readers from all over the globe. She launched the site in 2009 as a community effort because she believes we all have something to teach and something to learn. She is the author of Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions, and her work has appeared in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review , Shambhala Sun, and other publications. (Photo: Ehren Prudhel)