Spiritual Weight Loss II: the Abyss

Over a year has passed since my first post on spiritual weight loss, and it has been, frankly, extremely difficult — and at times harrowing. At first, things went very well; but then I began to lose ground — slowly at first, and then rapidly. In the spring, my health quickly became much worse, and I began to fear that I had serious problems.

ire30But let me be clear: this was not because the spiritual weight loss program was failing. On the contrary — without the principles of the program to guide me, I would probably have been a lot sicker, and I certainly would not have made the complete turnaround and nearly-full recovery I achieved in July.

But I’ll begin at the beginning.

Physical Manifestation Overhaul

In brief, the Physical Manifestation Overhaul program, introduced to me by Kara Leah, takes advantage of the idea that your body is a mirror of your soul — that it reflects faithfully who you are inside.  Your body is the way it is because that’s what your spirit needs right now.  In other words, you have manifested it — perhaps consciously, perhaps subconsciously.  And if you don’t like it, and want to change it, then what is required is spiritual change.

As Kara Leah said:

As our flesh and blood bodies are the physical manifestation of our spiritual selves… you are perfect right now as you are. This represents you.

In order to change your body, you must change your underlying energetic self… So why have you manifested like this? What does it say about who you are?

Summer and Fall 2007:  Moving On Up

At first, as I said, things went well.  Kara Leah gave me lots of great advice.  I found that my cravings and binges were due to a fundamental spiritual disconnect between my body and my mind; that when I was insufficiently present in my body (because of doing a lot of mental work, or being totally stressed out, etc.), I would feel compelled to binge eat so that I could reconnect.  Kara Leah helped me find other ways of reconnecting — through breathing exercises, meditation, classic yoga, spending more time in nature, and even experimenting with different sitting and standing postures.  As the weeks passed, I began to lose weight consistently, and I had lost about ten pounds by the end of the summer.

Around the same time, I began an experiment with polyphasic sleep — a sleep pattern in which you sleep about 2-5 hours out of every 24, spread out in a series of naps.  (I first learned about it here at Steve Pavlina’s blog; he has tons of information on it if you’re curious.)  I had tried this sleep pattern a couple of times before (in the spring of 2006), but I hadn’t been able to maintain it.  This time I tried a slight modification, and it seemed to go great.  I was able to take a lot more time to get things done, and I made a lot of progress on all sorts of projects related to my regular work and Druid Journal, and also had more time for my family.  I viewed it as part of the same process of the physical manifestation overhaul.

But the Physical Manifestation Overhaul had other effects.  My big old clunky computer suddenly died, and I replaced it with a much smaller, sleeker, faster one.  We were abruptly inspired to throw a lot of stuff out and reorganize the house.  In September, right after school started for the kids, we suddenly found that we had the opportunity to move to a much roomier place right down the street from the school, with a huge backyard for the kids.  We jumped at the chance.  Not just my body, but other parts of my physical world were shifting, too.  In September and October I didn’t make a lot of progress on my weight, but I figured once the house situation was settled, the PMO energy might shift back to my physical body.  Sure enough, in November I lost another ten pounds.

Winter 2007-8:  Into the Abyss

Then the holiday season hit, AND I was given a lot more work responsibility, pulling me away from spiritual development.  I thought it would just last a few months to get through this stressful time, and that my polyphasic sleep schedule would easily absorb the extra work… but it seemed like the more I gave, the more was asked — both at home and at school.  My weight loss stopped and reversed itself — slowly, erratically.  I worked and worked and worked and worked…  trying to get past the hump.  But more kept coming.

Then the strangest thing:  as the spring came, my libido began to decline.  I was feeling more and more disconnected from my body.  It seemed like a rather messy distraction from everything I was trying to do — both at work, where the demands kept piling up, and for my web site, and for the family (it’s generally my responsibility to keep the house clean — which is no mean feat with four small children — plus we were still trying to unpack from the move).

Spring 2008:  The Soul’s Mirror Reflects…

Somewhere in April or May I developed a skin condition around my midsection.  It was a little annoying and itchy, and rather unsightly, but caused no pain.  I still am not sure what it was.

Over the course of March, April and May, I gained weight fast.  By the end of May I had put on twenty pounds, and was fifteen pounds heavier than before I’d started on the physical manifestation overhaul.

Then in late May, my health situation worsened again:  I began to have swelling in my extremities, especially my feet, and especially at night.  I knew this is symptomatic of all kinds of different health problems, some of which are quite nasty.  I began to get seriously worried.

I started reading up more on various diet programs.  I was especially inspired by Steve Pavlina’s 30-day raw vegan trial back in January.  However, I couldn’t find something I really believed in; and since I was still committed to spiritually-based health, I knew I needed something that would inspire me properly.

Finally, at the end of June, we passed some critical work deadlines, and pressure started to ease up a little.  I took a little breather, and made time for some meditations and gathering up spiritual guidance.  I was told that I needed a break — no big surprise there, but specifically I needed to get away into the woods camping by myself for two weeks at least.  My first thought was, “There’s no way I have time for that!”  But I put it to my wife, and to my incredible surprise and relief, she agreed.  We wouldn’t be able to do it until the end of August, and we’d have to break up the two weeks into two separate trips, but we could swing it.

There’s an important lesson here:  you frequently aren’t as essential as you think you are.  Being needed, being the cornerstone of something, can be a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, but it can also be an ego trip.  Who doesn’t want to feel important and needed?  But oftentimes people can get by without you, which gives you breathing space to take care of yourself.

It was around this time that I did the “Coming Back” meditation that you can read about here; its overall message was that I had pushed myself far beyond what was healthy.  I had to get my act together.

Summer 2008:  Climbing Out

I didn’t know whether my odd sleep schedule or my diet was to blame for my worsening health, so I dropped both.  I returned to eight hours of sleep per night and started on the 80-10-10 raw vegan diet.  Both of these felt deeply right to me — the diet in particular, since I had the sense that I was in need of cleansing and simple, clean energy.

The change has been dramatic.  I started on Wednesday, July 9th, at 242lb, and by August 1st I weighed myself at 225lb.  Within the first few days, the skin condition was gone entirely, and I had absolutely no swelling in my extremities.  In general I have a lot more energy and alertness.

(Full disclosure:  I did cheat on this diet — usually once a day, and mainly to relax or reduce stress, not because I craved cooked food.  I generally cheated by snacking on peanut butter or raw oats and honey.)

Say “Anthroposophic Doctor” Three Times Fast

As July came to a close, I went to see our family doctor, Dr. Kent Hesse, who practices anthroposophic medicine (based on the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, who founded the Waldorf school movement).  He listened patiently to my whole crazy story, and asked a lot of questions.  He was an ideal sounding board, because he shared the basic philosophy of myself and Kara Leah that the body’s situation is strongly influenced by one’s spiritual situation.  He told me a lot about the anthroposophic view of cooked vs. raw food (which was fascinating, and I’ll have to write about it sometime), and sleep, and restless leg syndrome.  He suggested that I was moving a bit down the road toward excarnation, which is the opposite of incarnation:  that is, separating spirit and body.  He said this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s something that a number of spiritual paths recommend; while there are other spiritual paths that recommend deeper incarnation.  Both are ways of exploring the relationship between body and spirit.  He recommended some anthroposophic medicines to help with more deeply incarnating, and also suggested I get some blood testing done to check for more subtle physical issues.  However, since all my symptoms were gone (except the lack of libido), he expressed confidence that the blood work would show no problems.

At the beginning of August, I dropped the diet because I was going on a family vacation.  Other people were planning and cooking the meals, and I felt it would be too much to ask for them to accommodate me in this way.  During the vacation I ate whatever I wanted (and we celebrated two family birthdays, so there was a lot of cake and ice cream!), and I put five pounds back on.

When we got back from the vacation I went partly back on the diet — it was too expensive, and too difficult for my wife’s cooking schedule, to continue it fully — and while I haven’t lost any more weight, I haven’t put it back on, either.

Into the Woods

The next stage is the camping trip, the spiritual retreat.  Starting Saturday, for six days I’ll be hiking the Appalachian Trail by myself — just me, my gear, my notebook, a pencil, some trail mix, and lots and lots and lots of apples…  (Yes, I’ll be back on the raw vegan diet during the trip.)

It will be marvelous.  In the woods, among the holy oaks and maples, I will walk in a waking dream.  By the end of the week, my “real” life at home will seem very different, I am sure.  I will have a whole new perspective.

Perhaps I will even get far enough out of the abyss to look back… and see why I fell in.

abyss

Comments

  1. Jeff,

    The concept of excarnation is fascinating. I’ve always been a little prone to this, and now I have a name to go with the sensation. This also explains the binges I tend to get whenever I spend too much time staring at Python 😉 Never made that connection before.

    I’m sure you’ll get in better and better shape in time. From the way you write, it shows that you are actively engaging with your body on a much deeper level than most people would thin possible.

    Vitor

  2. Jeff Lilly says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Vitor! Sometimes it’s very frustrating, but I’ll get there one day…

    I know what you mean about staring at Python. 🙂 It’s an awesome language — I’m a big fan.

  3. Hey, Jeff, there’s an “I Love Your Blog” meme making its way around the Pagan blogosphere, so I named you on my list.

  4. So did I… my post is here.

  5. Mahud,
    we *do* have similar tastes, don’t we? 🙂

  6. Jeff Lilly says:

    Erik, Mahud, and Anne — wow! Thanks so much for your nominations! It means a great deal to me, more than I can say. And thanks, too, for all the other great links on your lists; with being so buried in work this year, there’s a lot of great new blogging going on that I’d missed!

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