Gretel Hallet, is a Trained Chocolate Fairy and is running the Getting Started half day workshop in Norwich - perfect for beginners to experience the core principles of Beyond Chocolate and equally great as a refresher for any Beyond Chocolater. If you live in East Anglia and want to know more about Beyond Chocolate or her workshops, get in touch with Gretel.
I’ve just come back from a week’s retreat at a women’s Buddhist centre on the Welsh border. The retreat was focussed on meditation and the development of ‘metta’ for ourselves and for other people. For anyone familiar with all this – just tune out now and tune back in a bit later. For anyone not familiar with this, I’ll explain briefly. Metta is roughly translated as ‘loving kindness’ and the idea of the Metta Bhavana meditation is to practice feeling this towards ourselves and towards other people. That’s a simplistic explanation, but it will do for now.
The point I’m working towards is that much of the discussion on the retreat could equally have taken place on a Beyond Chocolate workshop. I was astonished by the similarities in what I was hearing. For anyone who is a strong adherent of any other religious practice – don’t worry – I’m not out to make converts to Buddhism and I’m sure that Beyond Chocolate fits equally well into your religious beliefs or no religious beliefs at all – this is just my personal experience of a Buddhist retreat.
As all the participants were women, that was one immediate similarity. One immediate difference was that they weren’t there primarily because they were struggling with their relationship with food and their bodies – in fact it was lovely to bake a large rich chocolate cake for a group of women who WEREN’T dieting! However, some of the advice being given to women struggling to achieve a feeling of ‘metta’ towards themselves was very similar to the advice Beyond Chocolate offers to women struggling with their own self-esteem and their own eating and bodies.
In fact, without ‘metta’ for ourselves, without viewing ourselves with ‘loving kindness’ it can be difficult to make changes to the way we feel about ourselves and our relationship with food. Viewing ourselves with loving kindness AND curiosity can help us to being to work through any problems we are having with food and our own bodies.
One of the tenets of Buddhism is that life equals suffering. We can’t help suffering because we are alive. If that sounds rather bleak, it’s not meant to be – it’s actually true. Some of it is self-inflicted; some is inflicted on us by others. It’s our reaction to that suffering that was being discussed on the retreat. What can happen when we encounter suffering is that we either block the feelings or we ignore them. But the feelings are still there, they haven’t gone away and they will re-surface. When they do, we deal with them in many different ways, but the one that caught my attention was dealing with the pain by using food to squash it down.
And one of the ways we can short-circuit that process was remarkably similar to one of the methods we can use with Beyond Chocolate. We pause. In between the suffering and our reaction to it is a brief space which we can use to pause and decide how we want to manage or deal with this suffering. With Beyond Chocolate we have a moment between the urge to eat when we know we’re not hungry and we can use that moment to decide whether to deal with what’s urging us to eat by eating or by deciding not to.
Either way, we have the power to short-circuit suffering by using this very powerful pause and by making a decision, rather than being driven by our feelings into doing something that won’t help us in the long run.