Smiling Into the Mirror with Ali Kane 

Is our culture making us hate ourselves?

We talk a good game about unconditional love. But we often withhold it from the people who need it most of all: ourselves. "The mass media inundates our daily experience, and it is rife with self-damaging messages. We are in fact trained to have contempt for ourselves," said somatic-transpersonal psychotherapist Ali Kane, who blends psychotherapy with Buddhist-inspired meditation in an effort to address such societal woes.

"We are conditioned to believe that there must always be something inadequate about ourselves," she said. "We are then motivated to buy products designed to change us. While this benefits corporations and big business, the cost is tremendous to our integrity as human beings." At the East Bay Meditation Center (2147 Broadway, Oakland) on Sunday, February 20, Kane presents an all-day workshop titled "Cultivating Peace Around Food and Body Image."

"I see such pervasive suffering around this topic. Our culture has become obsessed with body appearance," Kane lamented, noted that eating-disorder rates continue to skyrocket among both males and females of all ages. "Many who are not diagnosed with clinical eating disorders nevertheless suffer terribly around these themes. It has become the norm to hate our bodies. Yet, as Krishnamurti astutely points out, 'It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.'

"What has in effect taken place is a mass cultural trance around self-hatred," she continued. "Our vital life force, creativity, and spiritual purpose for living all become occluded by draining obsessions over how many calories we consume and endless self-analysis in the mirror. It is time to wake up and remember we have more important work to do in the world than stagnate in this struggle.

"Just as Pavlov's dogs were trained to pair the sound of a bell with being fed, we have been trained to pair upset feelings with body image and food issues," said Kane, who is also a certified massage therapist and has studied archetypal astrology since 2000. "Yet these are not the true sources, nor the true cures for our ailments."

Comprising large-group as well as small-group activities, the workshop will flow back and forth between guided meditation practice and interactive discussions and exercises focusing on mindfulness, forgiveness, and the transformative loving-kindness known in Buddhism as metta. One key theme is the notion of mindful eating, a process of slowing down and savoring every bite.

"Meditation is designed to liberate our minds from the trance of illusion," Kane explained. Through meditation, "we learn to be present with ourselves unconditionally. We are able to train the mind in a conscious and intentional way to free ourselves from self-defeating mental habits. We learn to connect with our bodies and emotions compassionately, to address and heal the internal wounds that are the true source of our suffering. ... Through meditation we learn to bring peace to our minds and loving kindness to our experience, thereby healing the roots of our unhappiness.

"The world needs our healthy, vital selves," Kane said, "and so do we." 10 a.m., voluntary donation. EastBayMeditation.org

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