“…be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. “
After years of professional counseling in eating disorders, I have come to believe the true “disorder” is one of a deep, personal nature within oneself – one that employs food, absence of food and/or control of food as a “medium,” somewhat in the way an artist chooses a canvas. The designer then creates an exterior representation of an inner angst: an unmet need, an emotional pain, a confinement – perhaps an imprisonment or a genius – that demands expression.
If a disorder were to be viewed as an art form, then mastery of this art form is a reasonable goal and an achievement to explore and understand. What might happen if a person chose to “master” healing and walked the path of true masters? What is this path? Do we recognize it and begin the journey? Or do we – as the poet Antonio Machado says – “make the path by walking”?
Perhaps mastery encompasses both: trusting ourselves and taking the courageous step of beginning the journey, creating the path – by walking. The following is offered as a guide, a “manual” for mastering healing, designed to be changed by the walker. This collection of components is simply an idea – yet one designed and created from years of walking many paths, all leading to now.
The Master’s Journey: what defines it?
Trust: First and foremost, mastery requires trust. It is essential to trust the process, the path of learning – being a constant student, the teacher being anywhere or anyone. To refine a skill, the path may not be straight. Rather, ups and downs are to be expected by all masters. Embrace them all.
Immersion: It is not enough to write about or talk about mastery. The true master is immersed in the journey and has abandoned mediocrity. This is a calling for a select few. Be one of those few and dive in. Accept each moment of the journey, the magnificent as well as the mundane. And remember: all moments are truly neither – only moments. Suspend judgment and keep walking.
Commitment: Mastery commands a personal patience, an acceptance of impermanence. Nothing stays the same. Trusting emergence and being patient with the pace is essential. A true master of healing welcomes each experience as learning and doesn’t allow the unexpected (which happens all the time!) to deter or discourage
Reciprocity: Mastery of healing asks for a collaborative way of being: an ease of give and take. Mastery is about confidence and an elegant spirit. Mastery is about being whole and seeing ourselves as expansive. Mastery invites courage and asks us to take action in the face of fearful thoughts.
From years of yoga, mindfulness meditation and professional counseling of women, I have learned these essential elements of being “masterful”. It is important to note that a path toward mastery excludes efforts to be perfect, fearless, famous, driven or demanding of ‘now’. Rather, the following principles guide a true master:
Be fully present: grounded in who you are and open to others
Pay attention to what has heart and meaning and follow it
Open to outcome, not attached to a certain goal:
Be an open learner
Welcome your teacher – it might be a mistake
Tell the truth, face a truth:
Tell your truth, without blame or judgment
Define a limiting belief: own it and move on
Attention on intention:
Keep your eye on your vision
Have your intention clear and then let it go
Surrender to your practice: In yoga, “how you do your mat is how you do your life”:
Stay on the mat
Nurture a practice of mindfulness, welcoming each moment
Trade comfort for challenge:
Take risks and challenge limits
Create confidence and self respect
Insist on wellness and well-being:
Nourish and nurture yourself
Be in nature everyday
Eat, drink and be merry – happiness is the way
What does the “Master’s Journey” look like for you?
What is the journey asking of you right now?
With openness, objectivity and observation, ask yourself tough questions and then listen, deeply. Develop focus, resourcefulness and perspective. Cultivate resilience and notice an ease in going “toward” life rather than isolating.
By freeing the mind from preoccupations about the past and worries about the future, we are able to live fully in the present. As Dr. Dan Siegel states in his book, The Mindful Therapist, the present is an ‘art form’ that “liberates the mind to relieve mental suffering”. The present moment offers a state of tranquility and opens to a life of meaning, purpose, compassion and connection.
Any journey, as it has been said, starts with a single step. This is true along the way as well. Going slowly will happen – stay on the path, take the next step. Adopt new thinking and ask yourself: what is the gift in this experience? Could this barrier be a doorway? Accept thoughts of “what if” and remind yourself you are on a committed path. And above all: dwell in gratitude. Be thankful for everything. Enjoy the journey and may beauty and joy be your constant companions.