How This Program Was Born
Just before I wrote this book, I woke up with a sugar hangover after three bowls of sugar cereal and a bag of peanut butter M&Ms for dinner. I had a headache, a yeast infection and recurrent self-loath- ing for my apparent lack of discipline. I wondered in self-judgment, “Why am I sabotaging my life when I’m so blessed? I have no excuse for this kind of destructive behavior. When will I grow up?”
Food addiction runs in my family—and many of us have struggled with this for a lifetime. I’ve seen what it looks like at the end of this addiction—when someone I knew died in her bed, alone, over five-hundred pounds, unable to move from the weight. She didn’t want visitors because she was ashamed of how far things had gone. She couldn’t get up to use the restroom. She had bedsores and painful skin eruptions. The four paramedics that came to take her body away could hardly carry her body out of the door due to size. She was my age at the time (forty-five years old).
I had fat “rolls” around my middle for the first time, shortness of breath, I was the biggest I had ever been at one-hundred-seventy-six pounds—afraid to get on the scale again, and was feeling achy! The worst part was that I felt resigned about it.
Years ago, the traditional 12 Step program (originally created for alcohol addiction) provided hope from my resignation and some limited relief, but after 2 years of working the 12 steps my pattern of addiction continued.
The traditional 12 Step program, however, had 3 magic ingredients that REALLY worked for me—it provided a spiritual solution to a seemingly physical addiction, it provided community with authentic sharing and it provided an action plan to move out of the old pattern of addiction. However, after a couple of years of saying I was “powerless” over food and focusing on the problem during our meetings rather than focusing on the future we desired to create. I found myself unconsciously conspiring with others in the group, that I was a victim to addiction for life, and that the program could only help me cope. We kept focusing on the very thing we did NOT want to recreate!
I have come to believe that what we pay attention to persists and what we don’t give our attention to falls away on its own. Therefore, I’m spending a lot more time visioning the future I want to create than remembering my past.
I tried hypnosis last year and one session lifted the veil of addic- tion for four months with no effort on my part, and then I relapsed once again. I thought there’s something there—but how to make it sustainable. If my addiction is subconsciously driving my life, then addressing it with tools that influence the subconscious should assist tremendously. We will use affirmations daily in this program for this reason.
We will also use archetypal embodiment in these 13 Steps. Embodying archetypes is something humans do from time to time, when we’re lucky, without even realizing it. It occurs when we step into a part of ourselves that is bigger than our individual personal- ity. It’s transpersonal. For example, when a man becomes King, he steps into a mythic life that is much greater than his personal needs and desires. He speaks for the entire kingdom and offers leadership. When Amma became the hugging saint, she stepped into her mythic life offering unconditional love and hugs to all of human- ity. This path is much greater than her personality and is therefore incredibly powerful. Mythic figures are humans that embody arche- types such as the Shaman (indigenous medicine men & women), priest/priestess, jester/fool, Knights on mythic journeys, crones/ Kahuna (wisdom keepers), kings/queens.
I also recommend using color, essential oils, certain flowers/ trees, intention setting, physical movement, healing modalities such as homeopathy and massage to assist our well-being.
One morning, I woke up with a vision that offered another way out of my addiction—a path to freedom! I call it the 13 Step Program to Freedom.
The 13 Step Program emerges out of my training in a spiritual path that connects us to the Divine (Higher Power) from a femi-nine perspective.1 These steps are inter-faith, so that anyone from any faith tradition could apply these steps and become even more deeply spiritual in their own tradition.
The 13 Step Program also takes its lead from the 12 Step Program created by two compassionate men who founded a spiritual path that followed 12 steps that they called Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 step path is linear, focuses on “doing” the steps as mental practices and follows the analytical psyche. The 12 Steps works well in the American culture because it values DOING (action), linearity, and the masculine.
In contrast, the 13 Step Program is based directly on BEING—on mystical experience of the Divine, particularly the Divine’s feminine qualities that so often get overlooked in our male-centered culture. I’m talking about love, compassion, surrender, intuition (inner know- ing), stillness, dreaming, connecting, receptivity, release, softness, comfort in NOT knowing everything, acceptance, listening, creativity (art), synchronicity, and simply Being, to name a few. No one gets paid very much in our culture to just BE these qualities. Instead we reward mental intelligence, scientific method, power OVER nature or others, consumption, productivity and generally overdoing it (such as in extreme sports).
When we don’t take time to cultivate our divinely feminine qualities, we don’t give ourselves permission to balance out our Yang energy and rest, reset, receive and recharge. No wonder we all end up feeling exhausted and so many women have heart attacks. Overuse depletes our soil, overfishing depletes our oceans, our schools lack books and basic supplies, too many cars congest our streets, and we live on top of one another in little boxes on con- crete slabs we call apartments—often feeling disconnected from the Divine and nature. No wonder we reach for food!
1 I would like to express my gratitude to Ariel Spilsbury (www.holographicGoddess.com) and the 13 Moon Mystery School (http://sanctuaryoftheopenheart.com) for remembering our archetypal embodiment. 13% of all profits will be given to them.
This Is Not a Religion
I strive to honor all religions in this process so that whatever religion you are when you arrive, you will feel encouraged to become even more deeply so. At the same time, my approach is more spiritual—a deepening rather than a “religion.” I hope that we all can look at whatever beliefs are nurturing us, and whatever beliefs we may need to discard, if they are no longer serving us. We are all on an independent search for truth, rather than just believing what a guru or group of people may say is true. This is a path of freedom. Those, who prefer the rigidity that structure can often create, may not enjoy this particular ride. We are all on a ride through life; we may as well take the path that excites us the most. It takes a great deal of courage in a world that is perceived as dangerous to step out of the black and white, right and wrong, heaven and hell conversation. This path encourages self-reflection and a willingness to be in the paradoxical gray zone, the uncomfortable world of NOT knowing all the answers, in hopes of glimpsing truth with an open heart and mind. We may have to be reminded to say, “Trust the Process” every day.
I don’t think of my work as religious, possibly others may perceive it differently. For example, we will be exploring what it would
be like if we stepped into our own Divine magnificence from a femi- nine lens. Most qualities of the Divine feminine have been stamped out of religions for thousands of years and so most of us don’t have a lot of experience with this. Right now, our currently male-focused world needs the power of the feminine for balance, but it can also feel like a threat to existing power structures. There is no need to perceive that there is a power struggle—just a reclamation of our feminine values, whatever they may be.
Feminine qualities inspire each of the 13 Steps. The first step, for example, embodies the qualities of motherhood—how we can be a Great Mother to ourselves. Knowing how humans love to put labels on things, I imagine some may call this work mystical, Jungian arche- types, sacred theater, new age, pagan mystery school, or Goddess worship because we are honoring the Divine feminine in each of us.
The 13 Steps are more accurately whatever you make them since YOU alone apply the steps to your life—no one else. With all things, including religion, I recommend taking what works for you and leaving the rest behind. Whatever choices you make are most valuable when made in alignment with your unique soul’s journey.
Why 13 Steps Instead of 12?
The number 12 represents the solar cycle—the masculine. There are 12 sun rotations in a year (if we add a few extra days to make that work). There were 12 apostles of Christ, all men. The number 13 represents the lunar cycle—the feminine. There are 13 full moon cycles in a year—exactly—and the female reproductive cycle follows it exactly—restarting every 28 days. The pope recently acknowledged
Mary Magdalene as the 13th apostle of Christ. How synchronistic that she, as number 13, represents the missing feminine in Christ’s group.2
I spent most of my life valuing ONLY the masculine qualities and dismissing the feminine. Who needs rest anyway, right? No one is paid to sleep! That approach left me exhausted.
I’m so excited to apply this body of wisdom to my current state of affairs—my experience of life-long inherited food addiction. I do not want my life to be all about food—how to get it, how to hide it and how to avoid it. This program is one of wholistic spiritual transformation—it will transform your LIFE not just your relationship with your food and your body. We approach it as a remembrance of a way of BEING, not something you “DO” although ACTION in alignment with your JOY is rewarded. When you feel joy, you can’t help but do your happy dance. When that happens, you’re moving in the right direction—enjoy the joy ride.
Powerful practices are suggested only to prime the joy pump and to clear things out of the way so joy can flow freely. This program should be approached as play, not work. We get out of life not what we put in, but what we are willing to allow in our lives. It flows through us, but it is not driven by us.
Yes, this program can be applied to any addictions, not just food, except that some of us need an intervention or to hit bottom to create an opening just to read this book. Most of us have more than one addiction, especially if we get rid of one only to replace its expression with another. I’ve seen food addicts who give up food
reach for smoking or shopping, for example. So, let’s get to the heart of the matter and get started.
2 “Does Catholic praise for Mary Magdalene show progress towards women priests?” by By Trevor Timpson, BBC News, Jan. 12, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38528682.
What Is the Divine Feminine?
When speaking of a “higher power,” I usually use the word God or Goddess because it is most comfortable for me personally. If these words trigger you emotionally, feel free to use whatever word(s) works best for you.
God is neither male nor female, and paradoxically, God is both because I experience God as bigger than I experience all of that. Most religions believe that God cannot be defined at all. I can only share my personal experience. I used to try to find God in a book, but at the age of nineteen, I discovered that reading it repeatedly didn’t create the personal relationship that I was looking for. That’s why I call myself a mystic because I prefer to experience the Divine personally rather than intellectually.
In my heart, a love and light burns brightly. That is God within me. Around and outside me, God infuses all that is with the same light and love. God is in every cell of my physical being. God is the glue that holds the electrons to the atoms and binds my molecules together in the greatest wisdom. I choose to believe that God con- spires with the rest of the universe to surprise and delight each of us every day. It is our job to notice and be grateful for such blessings—even when blessings come in the form of challenges. It is my work to listen to the divine light within me, and to follow that joyful inspiration with wisdom, ease and grace.
Having grown up in a Christian Pentecostal church, God was always described in the masculine. The God of the Old Testament could be judgmental, angry and quite a destructive father figure. He was strict about his laws and purportedly threw Adam and Eve out of the Garden, blaming Eve for wanting to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Not wanting to be associated with such a seductress and “sinner,” I grew up to value only masculine characteristics and never cultivated my feminine side. Our entire culture has done the same for a couple thousand years (patriarchy) creating a society that is very out of balance with itself and nature. Many pre-Christian societies revered the feminine and Her softer qualities. The patriar- chy destroyed them.
All of our qualities are divine for they all come from the same God. I believe that all of our great religions are divinely inspired, for they all come from the same God originally. It is humanity—not God—that adds all the dogma over the years and makes the spiritual message sound different. The sun rises each morning— some- times we call the day “Monday” the same sun rises again, and we call it “Tuesday” Similarly, God rises in different cultures at different times to offer wisdom for our human development. That’s why different religions have different social teachings appropriate for their time and place. I still consider myself a Christian mystic, AND I get to enjoy the wisdom teachings of all religions. It would be silly to think that people who wake up on Monday are going to heaven, and people who wake up on Tuesday are going to hell. The God/ Goddess I have come to know is bigger than that. I can easily create my own heaven or hell right here and now just by the stories I make up.
However, you don’t have to believe what I believe to make this system work for you. My intention is to offer the world of humanity more freedom to think for ourselves and ask —what is real?—rather than to answer that question with someone else’s opinion or what a particular book may have to say. I believe it our responsibility to learn to discern what is real in our own feeling body. “Feeling navigation” is a required skill for spiritual development, particularly when we leave our bodies someday to become spirit again and need to navigate without our five physical senses (more about this later).
After 35 years of developing my masculine qualities, I became a successful lawyer with my own law firm making a six-figure income and at the top of my intellectual game. I didn’t have time for friends and didn’t let my spouse contribute to me. I also found myself wondering why I didn’t feel completely fulfilled and why I felt so exhausted all the time.
Men have much more testosterone than women have and their bodies use it to combat stress. Women must mostly rely on their adrenal glands. Mine were completely exhausted—my thyroid had to work harder so it soon became deplete. Finally, my own immune system started to attack my thyroid.
I also noticed at age 45 that many of my girlfriends began to have breast cancer. Breasts represent our feminine abundance and the gifts we bring, so many of which are not appreciated nor are they currently respected by many cultures. Sadly, breast cancer is on the rise and women are losing a symbol of their femininity to this disease.
On the larger scale, this masculine culture has been allowed to run rampant like a parasite on a host planet that is on a suicide mission. Without the balance of our feminine qualities, we have rewarded those who have conquered, dominated and controlled other humans (slavery) as well as the planet’s resources unsustainably.
It is time for both men and women to embrace, cultivate and balance our masculine and feminine qualities if we are to survive as a species in harmony with our planet. This underlying imbalance feeds my addiction because lacking fulfillment, I find myself reaching to “fill up” on the feminine from sources outside myself—most often food. Whenwe remember that our desire to fill up is a spiritual one andwe are unlimited spiritual beings, we realize we deserve to “have it all.” Finding tools to help us remember this is key because we are constantly bombarded by carefully crafted marketing to convince us that we need what they have to fill up our emptiness. Unless we fill that emptiness with self-generated joy, we will forever be dependent on eating, shopping, and external indulgences for little bits of joy in our lives. That’s why this program is about freedom.
What if you could feel fulfilled right now, rather than “someday” when you lose 40 pounds, or when you have the “right” job, or find the “right” partner? What if you could simply generate the experience of joy—whenever you wanted—rather than wallowing in old stories of victimhood? If that were possible, you could create a life you love regardless of your circumstances!
Putting the Steps Into Practice
To work the 13 steps, you will read one-step per week, broken down into daily bite-sized pieces. Each day has its own affirmation and action items. Speak the affirmation to yourself as often as you can remember, and if you like, print it on a card and tape it to your refrigerator each day. (Or purchase the Affirmation Card Deck avail- able at www.DivingIntotheDivineFeminine.com)
Feel free to embellish and modify your process creating your own exercises as your intuition directs. The steps toward your healing are personal to YOU, and YOU are the expert. There is nothing to learn in this book, just reminders of what you already know.
1. Spiritual processes are not linear, but more like a spiral.
Each of the 13 Steps builds on the last to some extent, so I recommend taking them in order the first time. As you move on to the next step, continue to practice the prior steps—do not abandon them. Do what you can, and move on to the next step each week regardless. We could work these steps endlessly and never be perfect. If a step feels incomplete, just plan to come back around to it for further development later. If it feels like you’ve already mastered a step, look to unwrap the next layer of unknown—a blind spot—it’s like peeling an onion. Ask the universe to reveal it to you with grace and ease. Throughout this process, you are always have a choice. Therefore, YOU must give yourself the freedom to choose which exercises to attempt and which are not in alignment with your Self. I use the capital S in Self here because I want you to listen to your higher Self, the divinely connected Self. Listen to THAT Self.
2. Start a Journal.
Journal the answers to the following questions:
- Whatwould it take to accept myself and my addiction just as it is right now?
- Would I have to give something up?
- Am I willing, even though I may not know “how”?</li >
- What do I get out of overeating or eating food that some- how sabotages my goals?</li >
If you’re like me, you have lots of empty journals and don’t want to write in any of them for fear that: 1) someone will later read it, and 2) it’s too pretty to fill with my messy life notes. This is where the steps require you to step out of your comfort zone and just do it anyway in the face of those concerns. This is called courage. Trust the process in its imperfection. Don’t have time? You must create time. Add one-half hour to your calendar every day so you have time to read the step and apply it to your life. Morning works best for me, but before bed is also a good time. Ideally, I do both.
3. Generate the feeling of well-being that comes from total acceptance . . .
. . . just as you are and just as you are not—with all of your “imperfections” including your addiction. Use the affirmation. “Fake it ‘till you make it.” How does it feel to stop making yourself “wrong”? How does it feel to love yourself regardless? YOU generate that feeling—it comes from telling yourself a different story. There’s nothing wrong here! There’s nothing to fix! Begin to notice when you don’t feel “good,” and what story you are telling yourself. Choose a dif- ferent story that feels better. For example, most of my life, I retold the story “Something is wrong.” I would find evidence for that everywhere because then I could be right about it. I could tell you what was wrong with my body (My hips are too big and don’t fit in any pants.), in politics (corruption), in my relationships (He’s not supportive enough.), in my closet (I don’t have enough clothes.), in my bank account, etc., etc. When I realized that I was actually creating this story, I decided to choose a new one: “The entire universe is con- spiring to surprise and delight me every day.” Now I find evidence for that reality—and it’s way more fun! I’ve become a magic moment collector. It doesn’t matter if our story is “true” because we are limited in our personal perception of reality anyway. The stories we think are true are just limited thought patterns. Change the pattern and “voila”—a new reality that automatically creates new feelings.
For example, if two identical twin boys were given a shovel and told to clean up a horse’s stall full of manure, they would have completely different experiences, depending on the story they make up about it. One boy might decide that he hates life because cleaning manure is a stinky, dirty job. The other boy might be excited to accomplish the same task because he thinks, “There must be a pony in here some- where!” The entire universe conspires to provide the pony when it hears this desire. Wouldn’t YOU want to give a pony to this little boy?i That’s why crowd funding has been so successful. We all want to conspire to manifest our dreams together.
4. Be Open to Miracles.
Our intelligence can often be our own worst enemy. The universe would shower us with abundance and every desire’s fulfillment were it not for our limited thinking. Get out of the way! Notice when your own self-talk is stopping you. When someone embarks toward spiritual development such as these steps, there is no way to avoid the showering of Divine assistance that pours forth—sometimes in surprising ways. Ask for miracles then notice and be grateful for them.
Meaning and purpose, which is where happiness is most easily accessed, come from our ability to contribute to others. That is what will keep you coming back week after week. Your working the program 100% will inspire others, and their lives will change because of your example. You cannot contribute if you feel like you have nothing to give. You owe it to the world to complete this program for yourself, so you can help others heal in the future. That’s right; once this program heals you, it doesn’t end. This is not a one-way relationship. You must contribute back.
6. Share vulnerably.
Your courage to share vulnerably from your heart with at least one human being each week creates intimacy and connection—an important ingredient for your healing. It doesn’t “look good” and may therefore feel scary to your ego. The more you hide, the more you feel isolated. The more you feel isolated, the more you want to eat. You are not alone! Set an example for others by having the courage to share vulnerably.
7. Declare your future.
Instead of focusing on the present moment and declar- ing what is so (Hi, I’m Heather, and I’m a food addict”), declare the future you want to live “into.” It should truly inspire you. For example, you may declare a future of carefree delight, laughter and abundance. When generating your future, be careful that the words you choose are not a reaction against the past or even informed by the past, but rather the words are independently inspiring. For example, it is not as empowering to say “I am not a food addict” as it is to say, “I am powerful, free and beautiful.” See the list of possible futures in Exhibit A to get you started.
How Powerful Practices Work in This Program
READ. If you are approaching this program for the first time, read one of the 13 Steps each week in the order in which they appear. If you are returning to this program after completing all 13 Steps, feel free to go more deeply into any of the Steps that call you. Pay closest attention to the first three steps, which lay the foundation for the rest. Each step is then broken down into seven days. Each day, read the corresponding section.
AFFIRMATIONS. Each day speak the affirmation aloud.
JOURNAL. Take some time to journal about how this step applies to your life each day. This practice can include creating art, writing poetry, songs or modalities other than words.
EMBODY THE QUALITIES. Each step has its own energetic qualities or archetypes. BECOME the energy of the Step. Generate it, feel it, and cultivate the qualities. If I were my own Great Mother, for example, I might close my eyes to feel completely and totally loved within my own skin. BEING the Great Mother is bigger than my personality, it is a mythic persona. You may be tapping into a part of your Higher Self that have not met before. Try it out.
TAKE ACTION. From this state of BEing, listen to your inspi- ration bubbling up so that you will know what action steps would be in alignment with your new way of being. Make a list. For example, in Step 1, I might feel inspired to take a warm bath or cook a healthy dinner because that seems like I’m being a Great Mother to myself. If I really let myself BE in my feminine, however, I might instead feel inspired to receive a warm bath and enjoy a healthy dinner prepared by a friend or lover. My initial approach is more masculine by directly making things happen by doing them myself, and the second approach is more feminine by receiving. Both approaches are valid, but I’ve spent my whole life making things happen from my masculine self, which leaves me physically exhausted. Our entire culture is yang—masculine—focused. This program encourages us to balance that out with a lot more yin—feminine. What would it be like to ask for help and let yourself receive?
CALENDAR when you plan to complete your homework. If it’s not on my calendar, it generally doesn’t happen until it becomes a habit.
BONUS POINTS. Everything else that looks like homework or exercises in this book or on our website is just gravy! Do them as bonus points if you feel inspired and your support team will applaud you, not to mention what YOU might get out of it. In school, I played down my intelligence so others wouldn’t think I was showing off. In contrast, here we are playing BIG and supporting each other in pushing the enve- lope on freedom and self-expression. This is NOT a competition; it’s a garden of delight where we celebrate each other’s victories and breakthroughs.
How Do You Relate to Homework?
People have different relationships to homework. Becoming more aware of your own resistance may help you find your growth edge Here are five kinds of reactions to homework:
1. “I am only as valuable as what I accomplish.”
For twenty-four years, I went to school and did home- work, not really to learn anything, but to pass the test, get good grades, get into college so I could get a good job, buy a house and be happy. If I didn’t do my homework, I felt bad about myself. If I got good grades, I felt good about myself. I made it mean something.
This program offers homework as a gift, not something on which to judge your success or failure. If you usually judge yourself harshly, it’s time to give up that story—it just doesn’t work because your accomplishment or lack thereof does not define you. There is nothing you could do or not do, that would make you any more perfect and divine than you already are. There is nothing wrong and nothing to fix. Do you love your children more or less based on their homework? Of course not, but you may want them to do their homework so they can manifest their dreams. Apply the same logic to yourself.
2. “I must work hard.”
My old limited thought pattern said, “The harder I work these steps, the more I’ll get out of them and the closer to
freedom from addiction I will be.” In which case, I may just get addicted to the 13 Step Program and accomplish noth- ing. How sneaky of my old self!
I often have to remind myself that enlightenment can happen in a moment of grace for people who have never sought it. Enlightenment can also bypass someone who read every self-help book ever published. For me, enlightenment would be clear and complete freedom from all addiction, as though a veil had been lifted. This is my intention. You don’t have to work for it or earn it—it can be effortless. Be open to the possibility that the light may turn on at any moment in the dark room and reveal all. Perhaps a few sparks happen each day until together they form a pattern of awareness that you never noticed before. It is your job to notice!
Be in awe and wonder of how the universe is rooting for you and giving you clues all the time. It’s your job to collect them. If ALL you did were follow the homework to the letter, as an intellectual experiment, you would gain more knowl- edge, but not more freedom. Your freedom includes breaking OUT of the limited homework to find your own exercises that work best for you.
3. “I don’t do homework.”
There are those of us who did not do well in school and resisted other people telling us what to do, for whom the idea of “homework” will repel us instantly. If you usually rebel against homework, now is an opportunity to “surrender.” You always have a choice in this program because
this program is about freedom! This program is here to empower you, not make you feel victimized by homework.
4. “Tell me what to do.”
For those who excel in the linear world and prefer to be told what to do step-by-step, homework may feel like a flotation device in the middle of the stormy sea. Structure is a wonderful gift, until it is too small for your Mythic Self, then it becomes a golden cage. As you do the homework, start to notice if it’s working for you. What is it that’s missing in the homework? What do you want more of in the homework? If you designed the homework section, how would it be dif- ferent? Now do THAT homework. Homework should never stifle your own expertise and magnificence. Stop playing small.
5. “I don’t want to do the homework.”
Homework in this program has no value in itself. It is the intention of the homework that matters. WHY do you do your homework? Make a list of what you intend to get out of this program. For me, my intention is freedom, love, and connection. I am also tired of suffering and watching others suffer. I now choose vibrant health.