Cultivating Kind Intention
Food for Thought Magazine | Spring 2020
by Alice J. Rosen, MSEd, LMHC, TCME Advisory Council Member, Founder of the Conscious Cafe
How many of us work with clients who still deeply believe that their happiness is conditional upon losing weight, and that until then they aren’t deserving of kindness? How do we support them in navigating a path towards kind and wholesome intentions for themselves?
Intention affects the outcome, one’s experience, and the reality created. It is therefore essential to remain aware of one’s intentions and to identify whether they derive from kindness or aversion. Kind intention is the essential energy that steers us towards wellness. “Susan” has made an intention to practice mindful eating but really, she is hoping to “get rid of her belly.” Because her intention is not based in kindness, it only promises more suffering. Given the power of the diet mentality, we must regularly remember, renew, and refine our clients’ intentions by helping them evaluate what they are truly longing for.
The following is a loose guide for cultivating kind intentions in collaboration with clients: Process is encouraged at every point.
- Begin with a non-judgmental acknowledgment of the present reality of the client’s relationship with food.
- Wonder aloud what behavioral choices are attempting to do for the individual. In general, I hear that the intention is to get rid of unpleasant feelings and mind states that feel unbearable.
- Ask, “What are you afraid might happen if you didn’t use food that way?” Following that thread, we can continue to be curious about what they are truly hungering for in their lives. Often, themes of longing for safety, connection, kindness, and happiness emerge. These are universal yearnings that transcend time and place. They are the basis of the Loving Kindness meditation, a 2500-year old practice and a part of the Noble Eight Fold Path: the way to be free from suffering.
- Affirm their humanity by saying, “All beings long for and deserve to be safe. Why not you?”
- Entertain how the world would look if they and everyone else were safe. (Clients find this a positive contemplation.)
- Ask clients to sit and “try on” how it would feel to be safe. For example inquire, “Where do you sense safety in your body… your face, your chest, your belly? What do you see, taste, smell, hear? Can you breathe into this state? Embody it? Envision it for yourself?“
- Ask, “What if you placed your longing and right for safety in the forefront?”
- Ask, “Might it make sense to regularly tune into this universal longing for yourself and all beings using the phrase, ‘May I/we be safe and protected?’”
When “Susan” followed through with this process, she recognized that she was longing for belonging. The next week, she naturally reached out to people and also manifested a more attuned relationship with food. We continue to strengthen her understanding that kind validation of her longing makes better sense than self-aversion and trying to fix herself. Cultivating kind intention illuminates the path towards well-being.
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