Spiritual Weight Loss: the Body as the Soul’s Mirror

Frankly, I never expected to address weight loss on this blog.

whatdoyouwantI mean, yes, it’s a problem I’ve had, but it’s never been severe; and anyway (I tell myself) it’s such a mundane issue, no one wants to hear about my latest attempt to diet… And it’s such a simple thing — all I have to do (I tell myself) is get a little more discipline and the problem will simply disappear!

But I’ve been searching for that “little bit of discipline” for twenty years

Regular readers will, I’m sure, be delighted to know that I haven’t changed my mind. I will not be addressing my weight problem on this blog.

Instead, Kara-Leah Masina, in an amazing display of generosity of spirit, will be addressing my weight problem on her blog.

A Healthy Relationship with Food

When I read Kara-Leah’s article on healing your relationship with food, I was thunderstruck. I had never before considered my weight problem to be a spiritual issue.

Well, to be fair: I had never seriously considered the idea. Naturally I’d heard of Christian weight loss programs, in which you acknowledge that this body is part of God’s universe and you’d better treat it right, but that always seemed to me to be nothing more than the World’s Biggest Guilt Trip. No offense meant to those for whom it’s worked: that’s awesome! But it wouldn’t be my cup of tea, even if I were Christian.

But from Kara-Leah’s perspective — in which we are spiritual beings having a physical experience — the Body is a reflection of the Spirit; it’s the form that the spirit has chosen; it is a reflection of spiritual health. If the body is unhealthy somehow, that’s a mirror of your spiritual state; it’s an indicator of your spirit’s relationship with physical reality.

Kara-Leah gives a magnificent example in her second post on the topic:

My entire life I had six-pack abs contrasted with well-padded hips and thighs. The percentage of fat on my body would be low (sometimes even around 15!) and still I would have larger hips. It didn’t matter what I ate, or what exercise I did, the hips stayed. Of course, friends and strangers were envious of my abs, and dying to have them, but as I didn’t do sit-ups, I couldn’t explain it.

Lately, as a result of my yoga practice and personal development I have begun to understand that this physical manifestation of my body (which started at around age 12 – prior to that I was skinny all over and my abs were “normal”) represented the way that I processed and dealt with emotions and feelings.

I prided myself on being in control and this meant suppressing all emotions – literally stuffing them down into my hips and holding on tight with my abs to keep them there. I was a control freak, and it manifested in the way I energetically held myself, holding the torso tight. This death grip on my emotions eventually led to a herniated disc at L4/5. The doctors couldn’t explain this physically as there was no reason for it, but I understand now that my grip on my emotions was creating constant pressure on my lower back!

I’ve worked through this in my yoga practice recently with backbends. Fear of lack of support (money issue right there) and not trusting my spine to hold me up meant that when I went into a back bend, I gripped with all my might on the front side of my body. But when you bend back, you soften the front of your body and allow your spine to support and lift you, grounding down through the hips and lifting up through the sternum. (Which also means opening the heart.)

Changing how I bent back created changes in my body. My abs are softening now, while still maintaining strength. My back is growing stronger by the week.

Now, I realise this is a long example, but the point is – to REALLY understand how you manifest physically you have to come to understand yourself inside out – literally! No one else can do this work for you. Yoga really helps. So does meditation. And so does just BEING CONSCIOUS.

When I read this, I realized I had a monumental task in front of me. I’ve been overweight since puberty, bouncing around between 200 and 230 pounds, frequently flirting with obesity. While I love exercise — particularly yoga and jogging — my relationship with food is very unhealthy. I have almost no control over it. Wrapped around this problem is a heavy layer of guilt and desperation: heart disease and obesity both run in my family, and I know the older I get, the harder it will be to change my habits.

After reading Kara-Leah’s articles, I began to realize why my attempts to control my weight have been failing. I’ve been trying to use my raw willpower to effect change; but if my physical manifestation is a reflection of my inner self, willpower just won’t cut it. The inner self must change first. The body will follow after, effortlessly.

Mission: Physical Manifestation Overhaul

It’s going to be a huge project, and it will certainly be a very meaningful one for me — personally, emotionally, spiritually. In most cases, embarking on a spiritual project like this, my instinct would be to blog about it — and thereby explore it in a form that would clarify my thoughts and allow others to comment and explore it with me. But in this case it doesn’t seem like a good fit for the Druid Journal. I don’t post more than three times per week, and I don’t want every second or third post here to be about my waistline. This blog isn’t primarily about personal development or self-improvement; and while I certainly think that kind of thing has an important place here — especially taken from a spiritual point of view — I don’t want to skew the content too far in that direction.

So I asked Kara-Leah if she’d be interested in doing some co-blogging on the topic. She posts very frequently, bless her!, and one post a week about spiritual weight loss wouldn’t overburden her site. She graciously accepted, thereby earning my eternal gratitude! And we started hammering out the details. Others have chimed in with their own perspectives and advice, and it’s becoming very clear to me that I have a long, long way to go… But also that I have some very dear and very generous friends out there.

It is not going to be easy. I have twenty years of habits and thinking to dig through. I’m going to be meditating, manifesting, law-of-attractioning, and cleaning out the musty corners of my subconscious. If you have a similar problem, or think you might, consider dropping by Kara-Leah’s site weekly to check out our email correspondence and track my progress. It’s our greatest wish that the fruits of our labor will be cause for hope and the seeds of change for others in my situation.

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Note: it will be the fruit of my labor and the fruit of Kara-Leah’s labour, since I’m in the United States and she’s in New Zealand. Just wanted to make that clear.

Note 2: This is now a very old post, and a lot of the information is out of date. The dead links have been removed or replaced. You can read some updates on this experiment here. Kara-Leah’s current site is here.

Comments

  1. Wonderful introduction to our blog mission. I laughed and laughed when I read the bit at the end… I never know quite which spelling to use as I know most of my audience is American… but yep, it’s labour and energise over here…

    I’m stoked to be working through this with you. I suspect we’ll each learn as much from each other. And I’m amazed at the depth of insight and giving already appearing in the comments. So much so that I am going to see if I can figure out how to get a forum working on my site specifically for this post. I think we’re going to need it Jeff!

    And food for through… (he he he). Most of the body remakes itself at regular intervals, for example paths of the thigh bone regenerate every four months. What that means is that even the parts of our physical body that we PRESUME are fixed, like bone structure, are NOT.

    This opens up huge possibilities as to what changes are possible in our physical bodies…

  2. I have no doubt that tis will work for you Jeff! And for me, and for anybody who puts in the spiritual focus and effort. It is, as they say in the Goddess charge: “If that which you seek you findeth not within, you shalt never find it without.”

    I know that my extra “padding” is just a cover over my inner wounds, a disguise for having to sort through misunderstanding sin my life.

    If I took away the birthday cake (usually being eaten when its not even my birthday) then what would I have to do while not putting hand to jaw? What about myself would I suddenly be having to spend time with and face up to?

    It is definitely hard to break patterns and habits, whether physical, emotional or some other kind.

    We are all in this together and I am behind you 100% of the way!

    😀

  3. I have been on the weight loss track for a number of years and I’ve not lost any weight. While I’m mildly upset about this, I know I have no one to blame but myself.

    The first thing I had to do was figure out where the binge eating came from. The reality is, I replaced binge drinking and drugging with binge eating. Once I realized that, and it took me a few years, then I had to notice what I was binge eating (mostly pototoe chips). Now I don’t keep chips in the house and when the binge comes, I get a small bag at the store instead of a huge bag. There’s discussion I should get the chips at all, but I find if I can give myself a small bag, I’ve satisfied my binge and don’t need the big bag.

    The other thing I’ve done is tried to elminate other unhealthy foods. And I make sure I eat three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner.) Recently I made the discovery of how food affects my moods, and more importantly, how it affects my behavoir. And that’s when I realized I have to stick to a strick time table for eating. If I don’t, I get too hungry and I make bad decisions: I lose my impulse control and say/do/eat something I shouldn’t.

    THe last component for me is exercise. I very much DO NOT like to exercise. When I was a thin kid, I would get these terrible cramps in my sides if I was running around too much. And then I started smoking and did so for twenty years so not only do I have the cramps I did when I was a kid, but I can’t breathe because I get winded so easily. But it’s something I’ve been wanting to change.

    The execise component made me realize I need to go to a gym and hire a trainer. I cannot motivate myself to exercise if I’m not paying for it. And since we haven’t had the money for gym memberships (for both of us), we haven’t been exercising. But since I’m a goal oriented person, I told Wolf I want to run the Boston Marathon and to do that one must train for years.

    Now I’m waiting for inspiration to get my fat butt outside to start running so I can accomplish my goal.

  4. Jeff, I think this is a pretty interesting concept, that the body is simply a reflection of the spirit or soul. In Heathenry, we consider the physical and spiritual to be very closely related; but I’ve not yet encountered anything that suggests one is actually a reflection of the other, and that’s something I’ll be pondering for a while – thank you for the mental yum-yum 😉

    On another level, I wonder how this concept might also relate to totemic influences?

  5. Jeff Lilly says:

    Nio, the Boston Marathon? That’s a pretty serious goal! Wow! Hats off to you!

    One of the things I find most intriguing about the approach I’m trying is the fact that absolutely no will-power is engaged at all. Yes you have to work at it — but the work is all internal, spiritual work, inner exploration. There are no epic struggles in the convenience store. There’s no need to consciously make sure you don’t keep chips in the house. There’s no need to force yourself to eat when you don’t want to. There’s no need to exercise when you don’t want to.

    Instead, you work with your spirit until you want to exercise, you want to eat reguarly; you don’t want chips… You see? You’ll end up doing all these great things for your body, but because you want to do them, because you’ll have healed the schism between spirit and matter.

    So for example: last week I did a serious meditation and dug out some of the roots of my problems with my weight. Ever since I did that, my desire to binge has been edging lower day by day. I’m sitting here at the computer, and I could be having three heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter, like I have indulged in on occasion. But I don’t want it. (I did have a banana.)

    Bottom line: you do the right thing because you want to. Then there’s no struggle.

    It’s so backwards from everything I thought I knew about dieting…

  6. Jeff Lilly says:

    Bernulf, it’s great to have you back!

    The closest thing I’ve found in the Celtic and Germanic traditions of Indo-European is the very ancient mystic parallel between the microcosmic and the macrocosmic. There is evidence that the ancient druids believed that the universe was, in a deep sense, a physical body writ large; and an individual’s body was the universe writ small. This is why they could read the future in the entrails of sacrifices (human and otherwise). As for the Norse, there is the myth of Ymir, which connects the universe quite literally with a physical body. Throughout Indo-European art and poetry, one finds references to natural phenomena — clouds, the sky, rocks, and so forth — described as if they were parts of the body. It is so second-nature for us to think of rocks as the “bones of the Earth” that it may come as a surprise to learn that non-Indo-European cultures don’t use that kind of metaphor so much…

    That’s all I got, though. 🙂 What do you mean exactly by totemic influences?

  7. Hypnosis can really help you if you have problems with late night snacking.

    My site has a free weight loss hypnosis session, you can find it below –

    http://www.freehypnosistreatment.com/weightlosshypnosis.html

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  1. […] in there and find out WHY you carry weight. Jeff Lilly of Druid Journal has been taking this journey for the past two months. Despite the best healthful efforts of his […]

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