So now, where were we? Ah yes, four hundred women. Eyes closed. Savoring a Hershey's kiss.
Geneen didn't let us eat the chocolate right away. The pixie cup we were handed contained two raisins, two tortilla chips and one Hershey's kiss.
I was not pleased.
I'd read about these eating exercises of Geneen's. In fact, it's how she begins Women, Food, and God. I had an inkling of what was to come, and when I'm feeling anxious, the very last thing that I want to do is eat. And chips, raisins and too-sweet chocolate? Thanks, but I'll pass.
But I'd paid a king's ransom for this retreat, so I decided to play along, placing the tortilla in my mouth as instructed by Geneen. Had I just put a salt lick in my mouth? The taste was so aggressive that I nearly gagged. When was the last time I'd had a tortilla chip? Months, years, even. The saltiness triggered something in me: I felt naughty and dirty, and not in the good way. "This is way. too. damn. salty. And it's too white. These are not whole grain chips. I feel bloated already. Awesome, now the nasty chip is soggy. Why is this still in my mouth?" I was barely able to swallow it. Then came the raisin, which, thanks to a palette coated in salt, was the most sharply sweet nugget of dried fruit I'd ever encountered. Five minutes had passed, and I'd eaten only a chip and a raisin, and was getting cranky.
I looked down into my cup at that shiny morsel wrapped in silver and rolled my eyes (well, figuratively, anyway). I could see Geneen's plan completely: we were supposed to see the chocolate as a sinful, irresistible vehicle for drowning whatever particular emotion we didn't quite feel up to facing that day. "Whatever, Geneen; I'm not playing that game. I'm going to take the teensiest bite possible so I can at least say that I tried some, but I am not eating more of this kiss because this thing is too sweet for me. These women are out of their mind if they think this is a treat because it is nothing more than sugar processed within an inch of its life."
With disgust and self-satisfaction, I swallowed that teensiest bite and opened my eyes. Rows and rows of women sat before me, eyes squeezed shut, lips pursed and undulating.
"My God, look how happy they are."
I was wrenched out of myself and suspended in a place that felt still and wonder-filled. These women were allowing themselves to taste -- to really taste, and savour, and relish -- this small bit of chocolate, maybe for the first time since they were children. They were treating themselves. Not because they had been "good" but because for a brief moment, they knew that they couldn't be anything other than good, anything other than enough.
I sent out a prayer to Geneen, to those beautiful women, and to that too-sweet Hershey's kiss. The joy in that room washed over me, and I felt humbled.
Baptism by chocolate.