The following article is an excerpt from Anna Palmer’s book, Coming Home: Healing From an Eating Disorder by Finding Beauty in Imperfection. May the words here grant you deeper permission to come home to the fullness of yourself, humanness, divinity, and all. Welcome home.
Chapter 22. The Mind, Awareness, and Forgiveness: The Journey Doesn’t End Here
We hear so many spiritual teachers nowadays talk about the state of “awareness.” Monks and meditation gurus preach the benefits of meditation, of a calm and detached mind. Some have tried meditation and found great peace. Others have struggled to settle the monkey mind, “efforting” their way to no avail into this elusive state of stillness.
The mind was never meant to be still or without thought. Awareness is the stillness behind the thoughts and feelings themselves. Awareness is not some elusive state of enlightenment we need to seek or strive for. It is a resting in what is already here.
It’s a returning, a coming home to what is present. It’s the choice to be a little more mindful and take notice of your body and your breath when stress clenches us in its grip.
It’s not a matter of seeking to be different, but to return to our natural state of awareness. It doesn’t always “feel” natural because we haven’t practiced it. It’s a practice that needs not more effort but less. All it takes is the willingness to be with the mind and body and to observe what is happening within either. The power of observation (without judgment or noticing the judgmental mind) is a profound practice to cultivate.
It almost feels too simple, causing our mind to struggle and overcomplicate it. Awareness is a transformative practice as we begin to feel and experience that the fluctuating thoughts and feelings are just that, always changing. But what stays the same is the awareness behind it all.
My beloved yoga teacher’s question, “Remember?” comes to mind. We can remember this awareness at any moment. And yes, a meditation practice can be a part of honing that skill. But it need not be hard or a place to “get to.”
It is not a destination. It’s right here, within us. Awareness is the power to settle into the present moment and rest in the natural goodness and wellspring of life and love that are already here.
Awareness can be the beginning and also the endgame of this healing work, truly. When we feel we need to “do more” to heal, perhaps that is our invitation to do less. It’s an invitation to return to the goodness within the self, not in a far off future healed and better version of the self.
It’s the choice to “wake up” from the mind’s hypnosis. So often, thoughts are thinking us. We are hypnotized into the mind’s reel of thoughts, distractions, worries, fears, resentments and limiting beliefs. The mind is an imaginative, but scary place to live at times. I’ve heard it compared to a haunted house, full of ghosts and goblins.
Many of us have a mind that hasn’t always been our friend. It holds our conditioned trauma lens and our pain-patterned beliefs, hypnotizing us into believing these stories as truth. Awareness and observation can be the gentle invitation that wakes us up. It’s the choice to return to the moment, out of the haunted house that is the mind.
Perhaps the mind can become our friend again. We just need to show it the tools, such as observation and awareness, for it to become our ally.
We can observe our thoughts like leaves floating down a river; or perhaps we can see them as clouds floating by in the sky (the river and sky being our awareness). This all sounds fine and dandy, but thoughts aren’t always neutral.
It is a daily, moment by moment practice to detach and observe from a space of observation and awareness. It’s a deep invitation and radical acceptance to all that is here, however ugly it may be. It’s also a deep invitation to feel the feelings as they arise, and to surrender them as they go.
What we “do” with that awareness is up to us. We can choose to wake up. We can choose to not believe the stories. We can choose to forgive, or we can choose to hold others, as well as ourselves, in a prison within our mind’s story of wounding, victimization, and disempowerment.
We are darkness and we are light. We have “good” and “bad” parts, healed and unhealed parts. No one is perfectly healed or perfectly human. We are all so damn human. The point is to look at ourselves with wholeness, not as a project to be fixed, but as a child of God to be loved.
This is our nature. We all carry shadows and the more we deny that we have one, the more unconscious and powerful the shadow becomes. We must acknowledge and embrace both sides if we want to be whole.
Fear is what we learn. Love is who we are.
We learn from our parents and caregivers conditional love because they too learned conditional love. We learned how much love would be allotted depending on how far up the food chain we were and how much our parents had left to give. Love was not only conditional in most of our upbringings but also had a cap to it.
Love was taught in scarcity and dependence upon how “good” you were. It’s a scarcity and reward-based mindset that has infected us all. Love is believed to be conditional and limited.
But, that is not truth. In spiritual Truth, we are whole and already full and made of the unconditional love we seek externally from our parents, friends, and loved ones.
Forgiveness is not always the easy choice. In fact, it is the hardest choice sometimes. We think we are doing ourselves a service by holding onto this weight, when in fact, letting go would be the greatest service to ourselves and to all involved.
We need to forgive if we truly want to heal. This largely means forgiving the self who was in so much pain, forgiving and releasing the guilt we feel over how much we hurt ourselves or others.
Healing and forgiveness create a ripple effect that extends into the future of generations to come, and back into the past of our former selves, and prior generations even. What we heal now, we can heal in our families, too.
Cycles of abuse, pain, neglect, anger, and aggression toward self or other can stop with us. We are that powerful. We can end these cycles by healing them in ourselves. We do not need to tell anyone else (not even our parents) to heal it for us anymore. We heal these patterns by facing them within the self.
It is of the utmost service of love and devotion to offer this healing back to our families and back to our world. One ended cycle of abuse in the self ends another in the world and gives that much more oomph to the world collectively shifting these patterns.
We can be a vital part of that, even if we can’t “see” it. We can face the shadows in ourselves (i.e. the unloved and rejected parts of self) and bring them back into loving awareness and kindness. Let them know they are safe in love now.
We are the wounded healers. We are the ones who have been wounded and through that wounding, we can find and create healing. We become the healers we needed when we were wounded.
We reparent the parts of ourselves with love and tenderness. We can then offer that love and tenderness outward into the world and into our families.
The healing continues, and so do we. And in that, there is so much beauty, grace, and joy to be found again.
This concludes the end of the book series. Thank you for journeying alongside me for this deep dive into healing, real-talk, and spacious presence of all the things that make us human. It’s been a pleasure sharing my journey with you. With the utmost gratitude and heartfelt appreciation, may your light shine ever so brightly upon the darkened spaces within and around you. May love be your guide. May kindness remind you of your own worthiness of tender, loving care. May we remind each other how loved and precious we are. And how healing is an ongoing journey, where all we have to do is keep showing up. Thank you for showing up. Namaste and blessings to you dear hearts and beloved souls.
Read part one of this series: Coming Home: On Healing from an Eating Disorder.
Read part two of this series: How Eating Disorders are a way of Coping with Emotions & the Effects of Traumatic Events.
Read part three of this series: Hello Bulimia, My Secret Friend: When Food Becomes Survival & the Body the Enemy.
Read part four of this series: The Real Toxin: The Harm of our Fat-Phobic Culture.
Read part five of this series: How Eating Disorders Feed on the Insecure Self.
Read part six of this series: What Sparked my Healing Journey from an Eating Disorder.
Read part seven of this series: The Dark Side of Religion: On Religious Trauma & Body Shame.
Read part eight of this series: When Lines Blur: Journey into the Heart of an Empath.
Read part nine of this series: Spiritual Bypassing Won’t Heal You—but This Will.
Read part ten of this series: Shadow Work, the Unintegrated Ego & How to Reclaim our Wholeness.
Read part eleven of this series: The Seat of Addiction: Trauma, Emotions & the “I am not Enough” Club.
Read part twelve of this series: The Body Holds the Key: We Heal as we Feel.
Read part thirteen of this series: Reconnecting to the Divine Feminine Essence of Life.
Read part fourteen of this series: Myths of Perfectionism & Why we Need to Back the F*ck Off.
Read part fifteen of this series: Astrology & Plant Medicine: a Healing Journey “Off the Beaten Path.”
Read part sixteen of this series: Reparenting Ourselves with Loving Boundaries.
Read part seventeen of this series: The Beautiful Feeling of Coming Home to our Authentic Selves.
Read part eighteen of this series: Reintroducing Pleasure into our Lives can be so Damn Healing.
Read part nineteen of this series: Voice of Truth: How our Words Guide us Home.
Read part twenty of this series: The Mother & Father Wounds, Body Image & Self-Love: On Healing our Relationship with Ourselves.