As introduced in Chapter 3: Method, for the one-year follow-up meeting I chose one process from our Tahoe brainstorming list to do together. In preparation for the follow- up meeting the co-researchers, the researcher, and the assistant, Sharon, were all asked to answer the following question in writing and to bring their written response to the meeting. Their responses, lightly edited, appear below. Sharon’s response is included here to offer a reflection from a woman outside the exemplar group for comparison to the group’s responses. We took a few moments of silence and then, as she felt inspired to do so, each woman read her response to the group. After all the pieces were read, we preserved the meditative space as the women were invited to answer the question again in the moment through creative expression. Some of the creative expression pieces appear in this section as well. The co-researchers’ names follow their written piece.
What is the hunger as it relates to your relationship with your body, food, and weight?
Though I have no formal religious background, the first and only consistent answer to this question for me is that my hunger is for God. Not for religion or church, but a deep serenity and sense of well-being. For me, God is present in the creative process and in the ability to be present in my body for the events in my life. This includes dark and distressing moments as well as those moments of pure creative ecstasy of production. It also includes those many moments of coasting along with a deep sense of being connected to Source. I hunger for a consistent, continuous integration of self and source. Centeredness, self-love, serenity, creative productivity, laughter, moments of great intimacy and pleasure all seem to be God-given and God-graced. The hunger is to know what truly makes my heart sing and to pursue that path with faith and courage. Daily I ask for answers for how to live my life. I have a hunger to receive and trust the answers with clarity and confidence. The hunger is to trust my intuition, which I feel is a message from Godforce. I am thinking that the hunger is not only to have a healthy body, mind, and soul, but is to have a religious discipline unlike any other I’ve heard of. I hunger for the spiritual discipline of knowing when to feed and water the plants and animals who live with me, when to stop a project and clean up, how to create and maintain the health of my body, and how to respond to my life in a way which reveals an understanding that everything is a gift from God. I have a hunger to make every day a prayer, a handfasted connection to Source. I certainly hunger for health as a human being and between those moments of connection to Source, I also hunger again,... for God. (Tara)
For me the hunger is to be connected with the Divine, feel I am truly useful in my service, and that I truly matter in this world - that my life has meaning and purpose. In part, food has represented being “filled” with this numinous Spirit. When I’ve been in binge mode, it was to leave the “small, insignificant” me behind and to connect with that which I knew as vastly beyond my being, yet part of my being, as well. It’s a hunger for a life unlived by ... who? The collective unconscious? My personal mother? The Divine Feminine? It is a hunger to be beyond the rules and regulations, the shoulds and should nots, a hunger to be beyond the consensus culture’s perception of “being a woman” and “feminine.” It’s the wrathful hunger of Kali, it’s a hunger to finish off old ways of being in order to begin a New Order of Being. It’s a hunger to redefine Beauty and to honor those things often taken for granted, that are GENUINELY sacred. It’s a hunger to surpass living and to THRIVE. Hunger is there to point to where there is a lack of nourishment on physical, emotional, psychic, energetic, mental, and spiritual levels. Hungers seeks attention to fulfill the dreams, aspirations, hopes, and all the deeper truths that we carry in our Souls. (Christy)
My people are starving and have nothing to eat.
My children are starving and have nothing to eat.
I am starving and have nothing to eat. (from Vision Quest by Steven Foster)
I don’t know if I can make intellectual sense of my visceral experience of emptiness in the desert. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, even thinking about anything other than this moment in this place is a distraction. My heart is breaking for the beauty of it, the purity of it. The lizards, chipmunks, birds, and snakes going about their daily routines - it blows my mind - so simple, so beautiful, so profound. The potency of Granite Mountain, the intensity of the burning sun, the daunting charisma of the wind, and the luminosity of the moon and her stars. I am so moved that somehow my body is speaking to me about true hunger, true emptiness, and true food. What really nourishes my Self? My body? My soul? Everything, including my mind, is nourished by this place, by the sacred. It is not the physical food I have indulged in and abstained from most of my life, it is the food of being alive and connected to all that is. Feeling satiated is having a body and senses that can consume the beautiful food of life. (Becky)
Hunger, what’s it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again. Hunger rarely has anything to do with food or my belly or my weight. Hunger speaks to my emptiness, the emptiness in my soul, the emptiness in my heart. Hunger speaks to the hole inside, the hole that prevents me from becoming or being whole. I usually try to fill the hole with food and that’s when it becomes tricky. Food is tricky, puzzling, and sometimes deceitful. Food may satisfy the hunger I have after a long, restful night when I awaken hungry for bacon, eggs, juice, and the best coffee in town. Food is awesome then, filling every hunger and satisfying every need at that moment. There’s a wholesomeness in that hunger and that food that fills me in a very soulful way. It’s important for me to distinguish between my hungers. Hunger is manageable if I stay conscious and present. Hunger is completely unmanageable when I go unconscious, when I numb, and when I stuff the hole with food. That’s when both the food and the hunger are useless, good for absolutely nothing! Say it again. (Feeling unsatisfied with her written response, Katrina added the following as part of her creative expression. Her drawing appears below.) My inner self, my inner light, I’m searching for a gentle reminder of this place and time. I’m searching for a piece to take with me, a piece of this sunshine to serve as a reminder of this powerful journey. A reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come and what it took to get here. A symbol to help light the way on this continuing journey. A ray of sunshine when I’m alone and dark. A bit of brightness to shine on me. A symbol to give me hope and strength and courage to continue on the journey and quest to be whole. (Katrina)
When I decided to let every food be okay to eat and to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was satisfied, I discovered that in addition to hunger for food, there lived in me another hunger. A starvation in fact. I feel frustrated feeling the starvation because I don’t know exactly what it is for, so I can’t seem to do anything about it. Still, simply feeling it seems important. Sometimes when I am eating more that I am physically hungry for, if I get real still and start breathing and feeling again, I notice that other hunger teaming through me. Here are some things I think that other hunger is for: Love, Eye Contact, My Mother’s Soul, God, The Earth, To be Enwombed, To Feel Safe, To be Free to Express All of What is in Me and Be Connected With God and the Earth at the Same Time. When I feel the hunger/starvation and close my eyes, I imagine myself as a baby nursing, looking into my mother’s eyes. I want to see her soul and feel that it is available to me unconditionally. Then her soul becomes not enough, and I feel the need to connect beyond it, to God and the earth (perhaps father god and mother god). Through her eyes, I want to connect to All That Is. I feel hunger at my mother’s abandonment due to severe bums during my nursing period and I feel hunger associated with the years of depriving my body of food through starvation diets. I was SO HUNGRY. I have body memories of that hunger, but I know eating in the moment will not touch it. When I feel the hunger/starvation and close my eyes, I imagine feeling my feet on the ground, connected to the earth, and my head connected to the sky and God, and energy flowing through me, without blockages, it runs into my body. (Rose)
The hunger is for a deep spiritual connection which does not cease. It is for a trust in myself that I can and will take care of myself. That I will not get lost in the hunger but instead stay deep in the connection, embracing my truth, and living it. It is to have courage and ask for spiritual support to live and be fully who I am - connected in god. (Wild Horse Woman)
The hunger is for loving connection - connection with the divine, connection with all that gets forgotten including other beings and self. The hunger for loving connection encompasses the hunger for safety. The hunger is to be embraced and to embrace myself without fear, destruction, or betrayal. The hunger is to be my truest self, to bare my soul, to be vulnerable, and to do all this without reservation, without covering, and without looking over my shoulder. (Sharon)
I chose this question for the follow-up event because ever since it was came up during our brainstorming session in Tahoe I felt drawn to explore it with the group. It also was a simple enough process to nicely fit into our limited time frame.
This question was not directly discussed in later parts of the retreat, nor did it get discussed in my classes outside the research project. For this reason, we were all surprised at and moved by the theme of connection with the divine in our responses. While it does makes sense that this exemplar group of women who view their relationship with body, food, and weight as part of their psycho-spiritual development would address spirituality in their responses, this data speaks to more than that for me. What these women are saying in unison is that the depth of the hunger behind their issues with food and weight can only be met in their connection with the divine. That is a profound, intimate, and demanding statement to be making to themselves, to each other, and to the world in which they live. This exemplar group has revealed itself to be highly spiritualized and it would be expected that other groups, particularly those with other facilitators, would produce less spiritually dominant responses.
Based on the results of this group, there are no easy, one-size-fits-all answers to this hunger. Rather, part of the impact on me of these responses is the tension of knowing and not knowing within them. The responses reveal the pain and frustration of not knowing how to define the numinous hunger, let alone satisfy it. They also reveal the knowing of a need for courage and strength to persevere toward satiation of the true hunger. Their responses illustrate a deeply embodied sense of a connection with the divine that is capable of feeding the core emptiness completely. However, they suggest that the connection comes in moments and they long for a more continuous relationship.
This relationship with masculine and feminine aspects of the divine is directly experiential in nature, appearing as a felt connection, an interactive engagement with a source of wisdom and inspiration beyond and within themselves. The hunger at the core of these women is for connection with a source of truth, wisdom, and guidance that includes and surpasses human sources of support and human-devised concepts of determining and achieving physical health and wholeness.
Data Analysis - Lenses of Interpretation
This presentation of the results of the researcher’s intuitive/hermeneutic analysis is divided into six subsections by lens. However, as discussed in Chapter 3: Method, the term lens has been changed here to “magnet” to more accurately reflect the experience of “attraction” inherent in my kinesthetic process of analyzing the data. The magnet names have been expanded to phrases that better represent the results of each area: Motivation to Act, Learning and Knowing, Wisdom of Space, Love as Power, Call to Differentiate, and Meaning Making. Each magnet subsection is further divided into three parts: (a) a brief definition of the magnet, (b) findings of the researcher’s experience of resonance when the magnet was held with the data, and (c) a brief discussion of the findings incorporating the original and new literature.
While a detailed explanation and rationale of my treatment and presentation of the data appears in the previous chapter, a brief description is included here for quick reference. The magnet definitions are my best attempt to verbalize my kinesthetic experience of the six foci of interpretation; thus, I have included lists of images or bodily sensations in an effort to communicate something of my kinesthetic process. The findings are the result of many layers of distillation and expansion of the data as I held it up to each magnet. To put the quotations from the stories and transcripts in context, I’ve woven them together with pieces of my own inner dialogue, which appears in italics. The magnets are discussed individually in the discussion subsections; however, the reader will find that even here the magnets begin to reveal their intersections.
During the analysis I was surprised to discover a developmental order to the magnets. Initially, I was confident no such order existed, however, as I strove to explain my learning I realized that certain aspects of the findings would not make sense without a previous immersion in another magnet. While I am not suggesting these women’s experiences followed a linear developmental process, it became clear to me that a huge portion of their healing was rooted in the Wisdom of Space magnet. Having roots in what I have described as the wisdom of space made new growth possible in other areas, such as power and knowing. I address these connections in the magnet discussion sections and have ordered this entire section to reflect the momentum of growth through the magnets as I experienced it.
Another surprise in the analysis was to discover new information in the original literature. Pieces that stood out for me upon post-analysis review I had ignored during the proposal stage. Upon reflection I feel the reason for this is twofold. First, I did not understand the significance of what I read. Two, in some cases I simply did not understand what I read well enough to incorporate it into the literature review. The Woodman (1980, 1990, 1993,1998) material in particular appeared much more lucid and understandable to me post-analysis. This was a fascinating outcome of the analysis, which I attribute to my deepening and more integrated understanding of the material as I made my way through the various layers of analysis, particularly the intuitive analysis.
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