Feeding the Soul by Finding My Life's Mission

My adolescent soul was hungry for belonging and acceptance.  As I matured, I felt the longing for meaning and purpose becoming stronger…and with that came a deep dissatisfaction with what I saw around me.  The world that I experienced was in sad shape, and I believe it may be in worse shape now.  I became hungry for a path, a direction, a way to make a difference in the suffering that was happening everywhere, and still is.  As I navigated that path through young adulthood, life became increasingly about emotional and physical survival, and the deeper questions about how I could be of service to the world were buried under layers of issues that surfaced during those years.  Now, many years later, the questions that formed when I was still in my teens:  how to follow the path of my life’s mission, how to unearth the urgent longings of my soul are still with me, and becoming my life’s focus.  I am noticing that I am not the only one attempting to clear the brush away from this path so that we can find the ancient sign posts that have been posted by our guides and ancestors…There is work to be done, and it is in the doing of this work that we will finaly find the food that our Souls have been yearning for.. The search for the work that is mine to do has carried me through the past decade, and one thing I have learned about myself is that : the many different facets of my Self have different ideas about this path that I am searching for and the challenge is to find a way to focus these energies upon one task….

Finding My Way with Food

Food is the nemesis of many women and girls.  We crave it, we need it, we avoid it, we hate what it does to us, and we think about it much of the time. When we cook, grocery shop, eat, plan parties, worry about what our family members are eating…we are also drawing on our own memories of the role food has played in our lives….
I remember looking through a Betty Crocker cookbook as a child.  It had photos of glorius birthday cakes, each one frosted and decorated, each one tantalizing an exciting.  I made a SoulCollage(R) card for the little girl who fantasized about her birthday and asked Mom every day to make a cake just like the one in her favorite picture in the cookbook.  One year Mom actually created the cake that was in the photo!  It was a white frosted cake with candy canes and cherries on it, making it look like a drum in a marching band.  How exciting to have my dream come true! I wanted to have it all to myself, never wanted to cut it, but of course….it had to be eaten.  I can still taste the white icing–and the maraschino cherries.  I can still feel the soft cake crumbs on my fingers.  I feel the special feeling of being a kid who has been celebrated. ….Could I eat that cake today with complete abandon as I did when I was five? Could I enjoy every bite, and savor the special moment? Maybe, if I could eat like my five year old, without the anxiety that goes with enjoying something sweet,  I could enjoy my food instead of fearing it, and then craving the satisfaction that I missed later…..maybe really being in the moment with each bite would change the way I approach my food…..

Rewriting the Script of Adolesence

Adolesence was hell for me. My body was out of control, and I felt so much shame of my “femaleness” that I wanted to hide. When I created the attached SoulCollage(R) card, I felt like I was getting to do my transition to womanhood over again….  This card has shown me that I can go back and welcome the young teen that I was into my heart.  She can live there with Hestia, who has no shame of her womanly curves and softness. In this  card, the Goddess of Fertility has decided to be present.  She says:” I am one who celebrates your transition from little girl to young woman.  I am proud of your body and you can be proud of her too.  She will serve you well as you accept her beauty and grace as part of your identity.”  The twelve year old says:  “I am one who is excited to be me.  I never was happy about getting my period, becoming lumpy and big, but now I can see how beautifully everything has worked out.. I am sorry that I was so mean to myself, and so ashamed of my awesome young body.”  The ice skater on the ground decided to be in this card at the last minute.  She says:  “I am one who enjoys using my body to glide and  to express my love of movement and music.  I can be graceful and athletic, and I can fall on my bottom.  I want you to know that mistakes happen, and your body forgives you.  Just tell her you love her and move on to your next step.”
I think I am going to ask this twelve year old to go out for a walk, or a bike ride with me. I want to get to know her better….she has been buried for a long time.

Defending The Vulnerable Parts

   I have often suspected that having a bigger body felt safe in some odd way. This is hard to understand from the point of view of one who wants to be accepted by others.  But when I speak from  the part of me who wants to keep others away, (see the SoulCollage(R) card  attached)  it makes sense to want to have some protective armour.  She was most likely created by my four or five year old self.  It was hard to be small and defenseless in my home.  I needed boundaries and protectors because I didn’t feel safe anywhere!  So it made sense to create a part of me who would keep out invaders. I remember being sent to stay with an aunt and uncle when I was around this age. I am not sure where my parents went, but I knew that I felt abandonned.  I think I have memories of this experience because I have a clear sensation of finding comfort in food during this time.  I can still taste my aunt’s pot roast, mashed potatoes. soft white bread and gravy.  I recall hearing my aunt and uncle remark that I had been eating alot for a little girl!  I had found a way to soothe my fears and my loneliness…food could fill the hole that I felt.  Food could also give me the largeness I needed to feel safe.
My challenge now,  as an adult who has lost the extra pounds of protection,  is  to convince this four year old that she is safe enough to let go of the need to be bigger and tougher than she is.  I know this isn’t going to be easy…somehow I need to get her to trust me enough to let down her guard and join me in the safe place I am trying to create inside. She will crave food until she can trust me.

The One Who Doesn't Trust Me

Even though I am loving creating this safe inner hearth for my Self, I sense that some parts of me are saying “Not so fast!” I feel the resistance in my neck.  It is stiff, knotted, and relentlessly reminding me that I am not so comfortable. Is there anger in there?  You bethca.  I think it is coming from the part of me I call, “my reptilian brain”.  She protects me from being vulnerable, open, and loving toward anyone, including and especially my Self.  She is all about survival and safety.  She says:  “I am one who guards you against any feelings of “softness” or “warmth”.  I am here to keep you strong, stoic, and on alert.  You willl not survive if you allow your self to relax into a goopy state of lethargy. You must be ready for fight or flight at a moment’s notice. ”  I don’t like this idea of becoming “comfortable” with your body.  You must maintain discipline and awareness of all that goes on outside of you.  What your body needs is protection on the outside, and toughness on the inside.
Whew! She is tough, and will not just “go away”.  How can I help her get on board with my quest?

Creating My Inner Hearth

Hestia” says to me: ” I am one who has built a fire in your heart. I am here, waiting for you to come home where there is warmth, comfort, and nurturing foods. I love you just the way you are….nothing you can do will drive me away. I am here just for you. I have no judgement, no conditions, no expectations. I only wish that you would remember that I am here and ready to care for you.”
My next step in my process of creating a comfort zone within my self was to create an inner hearth. If you look at the word, hearth, you see that the root is “heart”. The heart is the place of warmth, comfort, nurturing and light. I began the process by looking through magazines for images of interior fireplaces that appealed to me. There were many to choose from, especially in decorating or remodeling magazines and books. I found that I prefer natural stone hearths. My “Hestia” SoulCollage(R) card was “consulted” in the process. I wanted to create a collage of a hearth that she would build, or inhabit.
Once I had chosen an image of a hearth, I chose images of furniture, rugs, pillows, accesories that make me feel comfortable. I cut and glued these images until I had created a room that invited me to sit back, relax, and feel “at home”. I imagined this room as being located in my heart area, inside my body. I felt the warmth of the fire, and nurturing comfort that radiated from my heart to the rest of me.  This collage will go into my scrapbook, which is called “My Home for My Soul”.

Home Making for My Soul

I was born in the 1950’s.  My ideas about home and Mom and nurturing and comfort live in that era. My body came of age in that time. I often feel the need to go back there to reclaim something important….something about reconnecting my heart to my mind and my body.  A key to a missing link…
The happy home maker of the 1950’s was an illusion…yet she had a purpose. Her job was to create and maintain a comfortable, clean, safe place for her family to come home to after a long day of facing the perils, the trials, the chaos of the outer world of work and school. The iconic homemaker was able to whip up a nutritious, delicious meal for her hungry children and spouse using inexpensive ingredients. She set a lovely table with colorful dishes and clean, ironed table cloths. She comforted and soothed by providing the needed band-aid or chocolate chip cookie. She provided toys and bicycles and roller skates and swing sets for her children so that they could get outside and PLAY! She kept schedules, budgets, routines, and gave structure to daily life that often seemed harsh and “out of control”.
We all know that this wonder woman was a fantasy that many women tried to become. She was an idea, a character, a representative of a feminine ideal that began with the Greek Goddess Hestia. Hesita was and is the one who builds and maintains the hearth. This is the center of the home. The place where heat, light, and cooking happen.
Hestia knows the importance of inner sanctuary. Hestia knows that the sacred inner hearth is the key to inner centerdness and wholeness. She has been forgotten in recent years, but her spirit is sorely needed now. You may see the iconic Mother as the Great Mother, or Mother Mary, or Kuan Yin. She can be “Suzy Homemaker” or your Fairy Godmother, or a combination of all of these. However you imagine this energy, her sole desire, whatever she calls herself is to keep you alive and comfortable by providing you with warmth, light, and nurturing.
I like to think that we all have an inner Hestia. If we did not, we would not be alive. My verions of her is one who  lives in our hearts. We may be very resistant to her. We may be unconcious of her existence. She is here, within us, no matter what we think. She is our life force. She is the one whose job is to nurture us and provide us with the will to keep on living. This comes from her love of life on earth, of life and of the experience in a body on this planet.

My Quest to Create a Home for my Soul on Earth

Like many of you, I have spent most of my life at war with my body.  I didn’t like it.  It seemed to make me a target as a child: for teasing, for abuse, for criticism from “well meaning” adults and from myself.  I remember being 8 years old, sitting next to my mother in our Oldsmobile, and showing her how I wanted to cut off the fat from my belly.  I can clearly see myself gathering the extra layer of skin with my fingers, holding it tightly and wishing I could just take a pair of scissors and cut it.  I think my mother said something like, “wouldn’t that be nice”….This war escalated during adolescence, when I tried starving myself, which lead to binge eating, and to extreme disgust with this out of control thing that seemed to determine my ability to be loved and accepted by others.  In adulthood, my body has served me by giving birth to two healthy children and by remaining healthy and able to perform all that I ask of it.  Still, I have continued to exercise, diet, and push my body in an effort to look and feel lovable….
Some part of me, living down in the first or second chakra, knows that I am ready to really, truly, learn to live in my precious body:   The place where all of my memories are stored as energy.  The place where my vitality lives.  I couldn’t write, think, move, or breathe without this amazingly efficient place that my soul calls home on Earth.
My body deserves love from me.  I know this.  My body needs to be accepted, felt, seen, and even celebrated.  My body has been through hell, and she has survived and served me for over 50 years.  It is time for me to take the journey inward, into her.  How can I do this?? This blog is the beginning step of my quest.  I intend to experiment with ways to create a comfortable home within that I will not feel like leaving.  A home within that soothes and renews my entire being.  My body, my home, my friend: I pledge to take a step toward you each day.  I will share my creative experiments on this blog…and I invite anyone who would like to join me, to feel free to try these ideas along with me.  Let’s see if we can find our way together.  This could be fun!