Changing from Within - Nourishing Body and Spirit by Analouise Williams
We live in the richest nation on earth with food in abundance. At the same time, we are the most overweight people on earth. Nutrition advice and food facts are often contradictory. We diet constantly. When we do not succeed with weight loss, we feel miserable, believing we are failures. We then perpetuate cycles of self hate: eating empty foods, feeling dissatisfied, gaining weight, and returning to self hate.
As strange as it seems, obesity is a disease of malnutrition. We crave foods, but we are really hungry physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Dieting takes food away from us while we are starving. Until we recognize these unaddressed hungers, and unite this emotional intelligence with changes in what and how we eat, we cannot heal ourselves or achieve our goals. Truly nourishing ourselves involves loving and accepting ourselves and finding nourishment that satisfies our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
When we try to change behaviors without also healing our spirit, we cannot truly change. We are simply rearranging the game pieces; but the game never ends. My philosophy, developed while listening to clients, and my shamanic, nutrition, and spiritual training, has convinced me that we cannot change anything, including our weight, until we become whole.
Becoming whole begins by tending to our spiritual and emotional needs. I facilitate spiritual healing with shamanic methods such as soul retrieval, power animal retrieval, and extraction.
- Soul retrieval helps mend the fragmented self by bringing back to the person those aspects of wholeness that split off from the psyche in fear or during trauma.
- Animal retrieval helps restore a person’s sense of personal power and connectedness to our planet.
- And, extraction helps remove old, negative elements that are stuck in our psychic bodies.
Based on personal research, my experience with clients, evidence from shamanic traditions documented in numerous books and research studies, and teachings from spiritual teachers over the millennia, I believe that healing our spiritual selves often has profound effects on our sense of self, our awareness of our physical bodies, and our psyches. This new awareness often translates into physical changes and a commitment to live a healthy life.
The power of shamanism comes from its “healing dyad:” a shaman facilitates healing and then teaches the individual to journey for themselves. They are empowered to be their own healers, that is, they learn to access the wisdom that resides within. Learning to journey allows each of us access to recessed memories, old agreements, and false assumptions that we unknowingly carry, in addition to the journey’s ecstatic and mystical aspects. Using the technique of journeying helps us reconnect with our deeper selves, with plants and animals, with our bodies, and with ways we can nourish ourselves and others.
During the journey, the sonic driving of the drum or rattle causes changes in the energy of the brain’s various structures. We transition into a deeply meditative state. Our brains begin to produce predominately theta waves that unite the neo-reptilian, neo-mammalian, and neo-cortex parts of the brain. Normally these structures operate in an alternating pattern between beta and alpha waves. This synchronic wave allows recessed memories and visions to arise within a safe sense of oneness and connectedness to all things.
When we ask questions and enter into our journeys, answers come that do not arise from our ‘mental,’ thinking brain. These answers allow us to become more aware of the unconscious assumptions and memories that drive us. This new wisdom allows us choice; we no longer react ‘automatically’ to events that trigger emotions. We begin to take time and develop a sense of space between actions and re-actions. When we have that space, we can choose how we react and thus begin to change our lives.
This path to change from within is not all about spirit and release, or feeling whole emotionally and spiritually. It also requires attention to our physical, mental, and analytical selves. Since food directly affects how we feel, we begin a process of turning our metabolism around. This is a holistic process combining new information about foods, changing the types of foods eaten, and learning to feel full from the richness, diversity, and freshness of real food, as opposed to processed and filler foods.
We begin to fill ourselves physically by first tracking everything we eat. Keeping a food diary is not easy; we have to face our old habits, our emotional attachments, our negative self-talk. We learn the facts about leafy, crunchy, and starchy vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, and oils that nourish us. We renew ourselves with the healing oils: fish, olive, nut, and flax. We monitor how we feel as we turn from just ‘eating to live’ to ‘living to eat and celebrating food’ as we take it in.
We study our digestion by using our intellect and intuition to understand the process, learning to sense how certain foods feel as they move through us, and journeying to the spirits of our digestive system and the foods we eat for guidance from their spirit natures.
We begin a process of getting our bodies moving. As a physical anthropologist who has studied genetics and evolution, I learned that human beings evolved walking. Our bodies sicken when we do not move. Cells cannot communicate with each other as effectively when we sit still for long periods and eat non-nourishing foods. And, since body and mind are one; our minds and emotions also sicken when we don’t move. So, as we are beginning to feel full from a new sense of spiritual wholeness and eating nourishing foods, we begin to move. As I tell clients, I don’t care how you move: jump on a mini trampoline, dance naked, walk your dog briskly, work out in a gym, swim, use a personal trainer, climb steps, roll down grass covered hills—just move your body every day.
I have not spoken about diets. We all know that diets don’t work. The Changing from Within program supports the changes each person wishes to make. When we are ready, we begin setting goals to release extra weight. This usually happens after we embody a new sense of spiritual and physical wholeness, release old assumptions or concepts that no longer serve us, and re-connect with our emotional and physical selves. I work closely with your health care providers, to find a nourishment plan that supports your body while setting goals for releasing weight. Often, because of the emotional and physical changes you have made, the weight is already releasing from your body.
The work of Changing from Within takes a minimum of two years: one year to turn around from within, and another to begin to manifest the wisdom from within. For most of us, the non-nourishing, compulsive eating patterns, negative self-talk, and emotional attachments have taken a lifetime. Giving ourselves two years to begin allows a gentleness to return in our lives. We can reclaim that childlike wonder and awareness coupled with our wisdom as adults to learn to nourish ourselves spiritually and physically for the rest of our lives.
Analouise Williams, Ph.D., N.E. has a doctorate in physical anthropology and has managed large health policy research projects for over 30 years in developing countries and the U.S. Currently she is a co-investigator on the first National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial of shamanic healing for women with temporomandibular joint disorders. She has studied shamanic healing for over ten years. She completed Sandra Ingerman’s soul retrieval and teacher training, and continues to study individually with a gifted shaman. She completed the Nutrition Educator program through the Institute of Educational Therapy (now known as Bauman College). She has an active shamanic and nourishment coaching practice, teaches classes, and meets individually with clients.