"Carry the Dharma" -- an online space for survivors of spiritual abuse

Starting in July, I'd like to offer a space for people to gather online and explore spiritual abuse through the path of meditation. If this sounds interesting to you, please feel free to reach out to me through the comments below and I can share more about the group (and the password to the sign up page).

Each meet-up will consist of:

~ 10 minutes of sharing about a topic that relates to healing/moving on from spiritual abuse

5 minutes of guided Shamatha (breath awareness) meditation

15 minutes of Q&A

Here are a few topics that I've been tossing around. If you have any ideas for future topics, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

  1. Intro to meditation instruction, why we're here and discussing: "How do we 'work with' spiritual betrayal?"
  2. "After experiencing spiritual abuse, how do we work with concepts like 'faith' and 'belief'?"
  3. "How do we work with trusting ourselves again?"
  4. "Who am I after spiritual abuse?" 
  5. "Is my body good?" (guest speaker)
  6. "What do I tell my children about God in light of spiritual abuse? Talk about spiritual topics?" (guest speaker)
  7. "How do I find practical help after spiritual abuse?" (guest speaker)
  8. "How do we relate with dying and uncertainty after spiritual abuse?" (guest speaker)

Getting a fresh start with plants

Have you ever been down in the dumps? I mean, really, truly, depressed, flailing, lost, sad, emotional?

I didn't think so.

But hypothetically, if you ever had been in such a place, you might start to feel a certain desperation.

That's basically where I've been the last eight months.

If you're at all familiar with my site, there are a few places I've written about intuitive eating and my journey away from yo-yo dieting. One of the things that's made it so difficult to not diet is the fact that eating was the only way I knew how to manage my emotions. Upset, sad, lonely, angry? Pop a bag of potato chips on the couch and get to work! Then once I'd gained 20 - 30 pounds, I'd flip the recipe for emotional management and start using dieting as a substitute for potato chips -- upset, sad, lonely, angry? Shove it away with intense exercise, restrictive eating, under-eating, over-eating, you name it.

Finding the balance, staying in touch with my emotions, eating mindfully -- all these things I'm committed to in my heart, but they take a lot of practice and patience and gentleness (something that dieting doesn't cultivate in anyone!). Not surprisingly, I gained quite a bit of weight in this recent season of life. Our software business is cray. My friendships have been all over the map. I'm in my second year of marriage to a wonderful guy, but WHOA can marriage bring up some gnarly inner stuff. I kept trying to get back in touch with what I knew I needed (gentleness, slow, intentional eating), but instead I would just soooooaaaaarrr past anything healthy, good, or kind for me and devour any and all food products.

Desperado ...

Enter: the desperation. I've been in a lot of pain. Many mornings I'd wake up with a stomach so distended I'd swear I was 5 months pregnant (I'm not). I began choking in my sleep, coughing incessantly, clearing my throat like some throat-clearing maniac, and I would sleep upwards of 15 hours a day with my trademark afternoon naps. I could. not. stay. awake. Finally, at the urging of my psychiatrist and therapist, I went to see a nurse practitioner. She surmised it might be silent reflux (a form of acid reflux) and suggested I try to change a few things in my diet.

Intermission: Have I mentioned that my grandmother was a homeopathic doctor (aka a witch doctor)? Have I mentioned that we basically were taught that laxatives and echinacea could cure any and every ailment? Grandma was all about self reliance ("God helps those who help themselves, Amanda!"). So I began researching silent reflux and was convinced that everything delicious in life was now off-limits.

No chocolate, no tomatoes, no fizzy drinks, low sugar, no fatty meats and more.

Something in me clicked.

"I don't like meat that much anyway."

With silent reflux, your stomach takes a long time to process things -- and fatty things like fried foods, fatty steaks, butter, etc., weigh it down tremendously (often causing pain in the stomach because there's not enough acid to process the food).

I knew cutting out meat wouldn't matter that much to me because I only like it when it's topped with lump crab and hollandaise sauce (the latter now also being eliminated for its stomach-heavy toll). 

Exit: meat, Enter: curiosity

So I became curious. I knew a handful of friends who'd made the switch to mostly plant-based eating. I've read the research about how large amounts of meat aren't necessarily good for me (or at least, other things were likely more nutritious). So I thought I'd give this no-meat eating a try, though I was a bit cautious.

One of the biggest things about intuitive eating is enjoying the things you eat and finding food that's delicious and satiating and satisfying. I didn't like the idea of just cutting out a few "trigger" foods for my acid reflux. I wanted a way to make these foods delicious and enjoyable and satisfying.

So like all good women on an adventure, I turned to Facebook for advice and was introduced to this cook book.

And the rest is history.

I'm on week 6 of plant-based eating, and I'm tremendously surprised.

I feel amazing.

I'm not napping every day.

Each day I wake up and my clothes FIT (I've only had one or two days where my clothes were a little snug due to inflammation).

I feel optimistic about the future (well, optimistic most days -- entrepreneurism is still tough, y'all).

And I LOVE what I'm eating.

Everything tastes good. I eat as much as I want. I take a break between each bite to smell the fresh flowers that are on my table. And I say "thank you" with each bite.

Thank you, this tastes so good. Thank you, this feels so good. Thank you, I'm here today.

What's next

As a way to say thank you, I'm creating a plant-based starter guide for anyone interested in adding more plant-based goodness to their kitchen.

I'll be posting it next week with links and tips.

The friend of my life: six months in, a lifetime to go

I'm finding that love, especially in the context of marriage, is much less about being safe and much more about being set free. Despite all the discomfort in our first months of marriage and seemingly endless anxieties and tremors (which Lee has journeyed through like a champ), it's this exact lesson which I needed the most.

Without choosing to bravely step into married life with him, it might have been decades before I began embracing love's latest "take it or leave it" lesson for me. Love isn't about seeking escape routes and remaining safe; it's about choosing to love even more deeply because there is no other way.

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The mind and its many containers: relating with everything around you as a writer

Imagine a room filled with people who have gathered for a dinner benefit. The room is aglow with soft lights, and music from a small orchestra can be heard playing from a far corner of the ballroom. There are tables arranged with crisp linens, polished silver and baskets filled with warm, freshly baked bread. Everyone is gathered for what will surely be a wonderful, memorable, inspiring night.

Now imagine just as everyone is circling the room to find a place to sit down, that a large, barreling elephant barges through the ballroom doors.

People instantly begin running for safety, maybe tables start flipping over left and right, champagne glasses begin shattering as the elephant swings its trunk from side to side. What had begun as a joyful gathering of people has suddenly turned into quite the circus of destruction.

I've been told this is how the mind works.

We all have this roaming elephant that comes barging in when we least expect it. It behaves in ways that make no sense (most of the time). Somehow this pesky, bulky elephant can take a serene moment and turn you, an entire day, week, month, or year on its side. The elephant leaves us asking questions like, "How did I get here?" or "What could have possibly gone wrong?" 

The practice of mindfulness awareness meditation helps us learn how to relate with this roaming elephant. Meditation invites us to explore the nature of our true mind, to discover whether this elephant exists in each of us, and if so, what are its shapes, sizes and habits. It also invites us to consider an absurd notion: that we are not at the mercy of this elephant.

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