Today I am feeling fat. What does that mean, anyway? Does "fat" have an emotional impression? Does it communicate a need? Is it a physical feeling? Maybe I feel soft, or impressionable, like clay. Maybe I feel vulnerable. It could be that I am feeling big, but really I feel quite small.
I don't think I am actually feeling my body when I "feel fat." I am feeling a nebulous mish-mash of emotional ick that for most of my life this has been lodged in my skin, like I'm wearing heavy emotional blanket I can't take off. I think "feeling fat" is how I have avoided the real emotions, the real needs, the real reasons for my sadness, or shame, or anger, or dis-ease. In fact, I think of "feeling fat" as a kind of dissociated state, like when you are so caught up in your thoughts that you just keep driving past your exit on the highway. When I am "feeling fat," I am definitely caught in my thoughts, and not living in my skin, or with my emotions, in the present moment. I drive right past myself.
So, what do I do with this feeling, these feelings, that I have until now lumped together and labeled "fat." It isn't my fat-ness that I feel. It is something else. If I stay present to it, feeling "fat" is actually feeling all of the things I have run away from, and which demand my attention, right now. I can't feed it chocolate, because sadness isn't tended with sugar. Anger isn't assuaged with oil. Shame isn't banished with bread. Food just hides the feelings, packs them back into my body, and keeps me thinking it's the fat that makes me so blue. As if my hips, or my belly, or my breasts are the source of my pain.
The actual fat of my body just is. Sometimes I judge it to be beautiful, sometimes not. Sometimes I can thank the parts of my body that have held my sadness, anger, and shame when I could not bear these by myself on a conscious level. Sometimes I rage at these parts of my body, as if they are withholding, keeping me from feeling my feelings, and getting on with it already. Sometimes I can just let go, and let my body be. Sometimes, when I am lucky, I can let myself be, in my body. I like those moments of connection and presence. The paradox is that when I am really in my body, I don't "feel fat." I feel like me - peaceful, and present.
I suppose the most present I can be for myself, right now, is to acknowledge all of the feelings coming up, each of them, without the avoidance and dissociation of calling them all "fat." My actual fat is just one aspect of my physical reality. It is really neither here nor there, on an emotional level. So maybe I need to let my fat off the hook. It really isn't the source of my pain, it is merely the container in which I have stored my pain away. And now that the pain is coming out, I just have to let it come. I can't mis-use and abuse my fat, or any part of my body, any longer. I can't pack the pain back in again, so I have to name it, experience it, and let it go.
Jack Kornfield talks about using the acronym "RAIN" for moving through painful emotions, or things that cause us suffering. It goes like this:
R - Recognize. This means acknowledging the pain for what it is. In my case, it is not fat.
A - Allow and Accept. I have to allow space for the negative, painful feelings. They are real. They are here, whether I like them or not.
I - Investigate. What is it like to experience these feelings? How do I experience them in my body? Investigating is about being really present to whatever comes up, and being curious about it.
N - Non-Identification. Whatever comes up, it is not me or mine. The anger is not me. The shame is not me. The sadness is not me. These are impermanent states of being. I can let them go, rather than grasping at them, or pushing them away.
For me, RAIN brings up the image of actual rain, gently touching my skin, my "fat," and washing away the sorrow. I also notice my tears, like body rain. If I allow these feelings to surface, they move out of my body with my tears. I don't have to hold my pain in my body, in my fat, anymore.
There is release and relief in this practice for me. I can face "feeling fat" today, and I do not have to be paralyzed by it. I can recognize "feeling fat" as having nothing at all to do with the actual state of my body. I can move through the painful feelings I have associated with "feeling fat" - and I can let them go. And then, I am real again. Fat and all.