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A Workshop in Self-Care, Kyoto, Japan, Given by Bruce Fertman and Midori Shinkai


Being Fed

– What No One Ever Taught Us About The Act Of Eating

I have this thing about looking up the definition of words, especially simple words.  Maybe that’s because I have come to understand that words, spoken and unspoken, are powerful. Now I am no linguist, but we all know that when we think or say, I need, when we mean, I would like, makes a difference in how we feel. We know that if we think or say, I always, or I never, rather than, sometimes, that it makes a difference in how we feel. We know that if we say, I should, or I must, that underneath we often feel like we can’t, or we won’t.  Eat.  What does that word mean?

We all know that an increasing and distressing number of us have problems around eating. I don’t have to quote the statistics.  They are startling, and sad.  All we have to do is look around. Maybe all we have to do is look in the mirror.

How did something as natural as eating, become so neurotic?  Do non-domesticated animals have eating disorders? Do they think about how much they should eat, or what they should eat? Does a baby think about how much they should eat, or what they should eat?  No they don’t. They don’t if they don’t yet have the word, eat, or if they don’t understand the concept of eating.

Babies don’t eat. Babies are fed. Now those are two different words. And they are two completely different activities.  Linguistically, eating, to my surprise, has a much more aggressive connotation. Feeding has a kinder connotation. Here is what I found when I looked them up in the dictionary.

To eat: to put food into the mouth, chew it and swallow it. To consume, devour, ingest, to gobble, wolf down…to munch, chomp, guzzle, nosh, snack, put away, chow down, demolish, dispose of, polish off, pig out, scarf down…eat away at…erode, corrode, wear away, wear down, burn through, dissolve, disintegrate, crumble, decay, damage, destroy.

Oh my God! I had no idea.  But it gets worse. Here’s what I found under common phrases. I am not making these up.

eat someone alive informal (of insects) bite someone many times : we were eaten alive by mosquitoes. Exploit someone’s weakness and completely dominate them: he expects manufacturers to be eaten alive by lawyers in liability suits.

eat crow be humiliated by having to admit one’s defeats or mistakes.

eat dirt suffer insults or humiliation.

eat someone’s dust fall far behind someone in a competitive situation.

eat one’s heart out suffer from excessive longing, esp. for someone or something unattainable…to encourage feelings of jealousy or regret: eat your heart out, I’m having a ball!

eat humble pie – make a humble apology and accept humiliation.

eat someone out of house and home – eat a lot of someone else’s food.

eat one’s words – retract what one has said, esp. in a humiliated way: they will eat their words when I win.

have someone eating out of one’s hand – have someone completely under one’s control.

I’ll eat my hat – used to indicate that one thinks the specified thing is extremely unlikely to happen: if he comes back, I’ll eat my hat.

eat away at something – erode or destroy something gradually: the sun and wind eat away at the ice. To use up profits, resources, or time, esp. when they are intended for other purposes: inflation can eat away at the annuity’s value over the years.

eat someone up or eaten up – to dominate the thoughts of someone completely or to be dominated by the thoughts of someone: I’m eaten up with guilt.

eat something up – To use resources or time in very large quantities: an operating system that eats up 200MB of disk space. To encroach on something: this is the countryside that villagers fear will be eaten up by concrete.

Powerful words. Do those words make you feel a certain way?   Personally, reading this list made me smile just thinking about the man or woman who compiled it, how much fun they must have had. But underneath my smile, I was feeling scared at the amount of aggression hiding in that three letter word. Now this is what I found when I looked up the three letter word, fed.

 To feed or to be fed:

The act of giving food, or of having food given to one, receiving food…

To give food to…to supply an adequate amount of food…to derive regular nourishment…to encourage growth…to fuel…to supply power for operating…to supply water to a body of water… to provide…to nurse…to exist on… strengthen, fortify, support, bolster, reinforce, boost, fuel, encourage.

Why are these two little words, eat and feed, which technically, are synonyms, have such a different feel to them?  I have no idea.  But I do know, because I have conducted countless workshops on the this subject, is that when I teach people how to turn the act of eating into the act of feeding themselves, which only takes a little bit of training, the results are astonishing, utterly astonishing.

But I am not going to try to convince you of this.  I am not going to try to prove anything. All I know is that this shift from eating to feeding literally works wonders in how people relate to themselves and treat themselves.  And once this shift happens in relation to food, it begins to happen in relation to everything.  It is transformative.  I have seen this transformation happen over and over again.

But don’t believe a word I say. Not one word.

Just give it a go.  Just read this book, one simple exercise at a time, then stop reading, put the book away, and do the exercise.  That is all. Then, if you want, tell me about your experience. I would love to hear.  And I mean that.

I am very happy to have discovered these simple principles, which are in accord with nature.  I wish I had discovered them sooner. I feel an obligation to help people to question their habits, and often their cultures, and to better understand what is natural humans.  That is what I do. That is my job.

Here is my only advice:

1. Follow the simple directions to a tee. They are designed to work.

2. Each exercise you do creates a slight shift in attention. Each exercise elucidates a simply principal. Once you understand the principle, you are half way home. To get all the way home, you have to put these principles into play. It’s no problem if you forget them for hours at a time, or even for weeks at a time.  Sooner or later one of them will resurface. And the moment one simple principle resurfaces, a subtle shift occurs, and there you are, no longer eating, but being fed.  Just like that.  It doesn’t matter how long it lasts, a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, or for the rest of your life.  As soon as this slightest shift occurs you have entered an opening into another world, a kinder world that exists inside this world.

You don’t have to practice them perfectly or diligently.  Shifting 1% of your attention on just one of these simple principles creates a slight shift, and that is all you want – a slight shift.  These principles are pleasurable, so quite effortlessly the nervous system, when undisturbed, chooses them because the nervous system prefers pleasure to pain.

3. Using your imagination, just a little bit, helps a lot.

Chapter One – Two Bodies Cannot Occupy The Same Space At The Same Time. Not True…to be continued…

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