Our lives are full of initiations. Life is an ongoing initiation in itself. There are doors waiting to be opened and walked through, leading into new spaces we haven’t experienced before -and that can feel scary. We don’t know where we’re going and what we’re going to meet on the other side. More importantly, we don’t know who we are going to be, coming out that other side. 

Initiations were never easy, nor were they ever meant to be. There is always a challenge to face, which is both external and internal; to move through the gateway, we need to develop skills and qualities, and awaken and embody parts of ourselves that may have previously been dormant. There is often a loss involved; we need to sacrifice something, to lay it down, before we can walk through the door. There are parts of ourselves, patterns and behaviours that cannot come with us beyond that door. None of this is easy.

I personally believe that all our lives’ challenges can be seen as initiations, as invitations and opportunities to grow. And that very much includes food and body-image difficulties. It also includes mental health challenges and addictions. All kinds of loss. And all the struggles we face in the outer arena of life. 

At a purely emotional level, these difficulties often feel like anathema. As if something really bad is happening that we have no power over. To the mind, and to our culture, that wants to know everything and control everything, that sees progress as linear and wants to stay on the bright side at all costs…continuously achieving, acquiring more, rising higher…struggling in any way is seen as a misfortune. And that misfortune we need to fight, fix and get rid of ASAP.

This is how we often see the difficulties we face with food & body-image too. As something that happens to us.

However, after 8 years of doing this work, it’s become very clear to me that those experiences happen for us. They are initiations in disguise -into a new version of ourselves, into more of ourselves really, that is waiting to be birthed. They often replace the rites of passage that we used to have in the past at certain crucial times in our development, but don’t anymore.

In my work, I’ve noticed something interesting over and over again; when we approach a challenge as ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’, when we only focus on making it go away, it tends to persist. I can offer you all the tools and attitude changes I have available (and that’s of course part of what we do), but if we stay there, if we don’t go deeper than that to discover what this challenge is here to teach you, what it’s calling you toward, what it’s come to awaken inside you, we’re missing the point.

Food and body symptoms come up to show us how we’ve been operating in ways that are not healthy or whole. Most of those ways have been with us for many, many years. They point to a phase of our lives we have outgrown, and it’s now time to move past it. That’s why it’s never really about food or about the body. Food and body become the gateway; the visible challenge that sheds the light on the invisible and ignites the inner shift. 

This is not meant to be a fluffy “everything happens for a reason” approach. I don’t want to sugarcoat anything, nor deny or undermine in any way the very difficult and painful aspects of our experiences -that would be spiritual bypassing.

I also don’t mean to disregard the social and cultural factors and systems that contribute to and perpetuate many (if not all) of our struggles. (You can check one of my previous posts on that, about the Project/Problem, Inanimate Body Culture)

What I’m talking about here is: meaning. Making meaning out of our experiences is one of our deepest needs. There is a lot that we can face, when there is a strong, meaningful ‘why’ behind it all. Meaning is what gives us the courage to move through the ‘dark nights of the soul’ that we will all inevitably experience.

Jung spoke about Individuation; the process of becoming who one is. To him, this was the purpose of life and all of life’s experiences, were seen as stepping stones on that process. He also believed that it was the psyche itself, the Self with a capital ’s’, that orchestrated our symptoms and experiences, even the most challenging ones, because the nature of the psyche is self-regulating; always seeking to create more balance, where there is imbalance. Often, it will do so in ways that appear to be getting in the way of what the conscious part of us wants to do, what it considers ‘good’ or ‘right’, such as control, power, achievement, etc. -in this sense, our difficulties seem to be working against us.

It is at that point that we have two choices: to either turn our struggles into enemies and declare war against them…OR see them as messages from a ‘bigger’ part of ourselves, from our Soul, that are here to guide us and take us deeper into ourselves, rather than torture us. 

Looking at things this way won’t take your pain away, but it will make you more willing to connect with and support yourself through the difficulty, work with it and not against it. And that changes everything.

What initiations are you currently facing? And what changes for you when you choose to welcome and befriend all of your experience as innately wise, intentional and here for you?