Bracha Goetz is the Harvard-educated author of 41 books that help children's souls shine and a candid memoir for adults about her transformative journey to joyfully and spiritually overcome food addictions. Her books can be found at www.goetzbookshop.com.
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🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶
🎶 Episode Intro: Bracha Goetz is the Harvard educated author of 41 books that help children's souls shine. And she has also written a candid memoir for adults about her transformative journey to joyfully and spiritually overcome food addictions. She talks to us about both today on the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. 🎶
Melissa Ebken 0:02
Bracha, welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. How are you today?
Bracha Goetz 0:08
Wonderful, really happy to be here. Thank you.
Melissa Ebken 0:12
And where are you joining us from?
Bracha Goetz 0:15
I'm in Israel right now. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 0:19
That's exciting from coming from halfway around the world. I love it.
Bracha Goetz 0:24
Isn't that amazing?
Melissa Ebken 0:25
So, Bracha, You've got a, what?
Bracha Goetz 0:28
it's so amazing that we can do this. I love it. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 0:34
Yeah, absolutely. Bracha, you've got a lot going on in your life. So tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Bracha Goetz 0:44
Okay, sure. Um, well, I'm the author of 41 books that I say books that help children's souls to shine. And, and then I'm the author of a memoir, one candid memoir for adults about my journey. And let's see, I also have, I never mentioned this. I don't know why I feel like doing it. I have six children who are well, you know, grown. They're wonderful parents. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 1:23
That's amazing. You've got a lot of life experience raising six children, for sure.
Bracha Goetz 1:28
Thank God. Wonderful. And I forgot to mention my wonderful husband. Of course, I forgot to mention him. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 1:35
Well, we can't leave him out. So Bracha, could tell us the I love the title of your memoir. Would you share that with us, please?
Bracha Goetz 1:45
Oh, good. Yeah, Searching for God In the Garbage? Yes. That's the name of my memoir. Love that. Thank you.
Melissa Ebken 1:56
What brought that on? Do you want to tell us where you were? What brought you to that place?
Bracha Goetz 2:03
Okay. Sure. Well, well, it's, it's, it's, I guess, it's not a typical book. Because how I put it together, I took entries from my diary, which became my journal when I got older. And also letters that I wrote along the way. Plus, I filled in the missing pieces. So it's kind of like a documentary almost. You, you watch me slowly developing food addictions, and then healing it. And then the healing process. And it's, nothing's typical about it. I mean, what is typical about it is the pain, a universal kind of pain, the emptiness that I felt and how I tried to fill it. And that involves searching in the garbage. Because I was searching everywhere to fill the inner emptiness. I had no idea how to fill it. I didn't know what was missing. But I knew something was missing that that made life meaningless, unbearable. That made me feel estranged from life that made the whole world feel gray. That's, that's how I felt during those years of getting increasingly deeper into the food addictions. I graduated from Harvard. And then I went onto medical school, I looked like I was a success on the outside. But inside, I was in a prison. And the cage was getting smaller and smaller. That's what an addiction is like. So that's, that's what I experienced. And, and I was also, at my lowest point, I was literally looking through the garbage. And when I found that when I realized the connection at the end of the book, it's it's kind of like a psychological mystery because they had an epiphany. What, Why was I looking through the garbage? I was looking for what had been thrown away. What still had value. That was my roots. That was my heritage that I eventually found, and then gave my life new meaning and nourished my, my, my truly starving soul.
Melissa Ebken 4:41
Wow, that's quite a journey. And I think you really hit on something when you said that by all accounts on the outside, you looked successful. You looked probably enveal, enviable to so many people. But yet inside you felt like you were in a prison and I'm guessing that a lot of people can identify with that description.
Bracha Goetz 5:06
Yes, that's, that's an addiction, I saw this definition someplace. An addiction is when you, you give up everything for something. And when you heal from that addiction, you give up one thing and you get everything. It's right. That's what it feels like you just come out of that very narrow place. That really, our thoughts create the cage. That's the cage that we get into. And, you know, as we get and the more secretive we are, addictions are very secretive. So nobody knows how you're suffering, the more it does come out into the light. That's part of the healing process. So so actually, that book, the book, the publishing of it, people would say to me, Why in the world did you publish this kind of stuff? It's very raw, very candid about the worst times in my life. And people say your life's so great. Now, why are you? Why are you publicizing this horrible stuff? Because when I share it, it helps other people to open up about their own darkness, you know, they're less afraid to. And that's why did I go through all that? We will go through things not to seek we're here not to see through each other to see each other through. We're all here to help each other with our challenges that we're given. It's not an accident where we're given these things purposely and and it's all part of the design to help each other heal. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 6:58
Why do you think people over eat?
Bracha Goetz 7:01
Yes. Why do people overeat? Why do I overeat and why I think other people overeat is that when we experience that immediate pleasure. Food is pleasurable, it's designed to be pleasurable, when we experience it, we want the pleasure to keep lasting. If we, if we're not aware of the abundance of other pleasures in our life, then we want that immediate pleasure to keep going. On my 600 pound life, it's a show. The people all say the same thing on every show. This is the only pleasure I have in life is eating. That's, that's what happens with an addiction. It becomes it takes over as the only pleasure left in a person's life. So the way to heal is to pour in more joy. Bring on other pleasures. It's it's not about restrictions, because those don't last long dieting doesn't last as well. I was I was part of like, the yo yo dieting where I would go on these horrible binges. And then very restrictive dieting. So from the outside, nobody could tell. Nobody could tell how I was suffering. Because you couldn't see it. I wasn't emaciated, skinny, and I wasn't obese. So you couldn't tell that I how I was suffering because I was doing one or the other. It was a horrible way to live. It wasn't based at all on physical hunger. It was based on an empty hole that I was trying to fill. So we overeat because of that emptiness within. The more desperatly we try to fill with externalities, that hole the bigger it gets. So it's because it's a spiritual hole. It's not a physical hole. So all that food isn't going to help. It's it's recognizing that there's an abundance of ways to bring pleasure into our life. Not just that one narrow way. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 9:21
You talk about the pleasure ladder. What is that?
Bracha Goetz 9:25
Yeah, thank you so much. The pleasure ladder, is the description it gives us a roadmap about all the other pleasures available. I'm gonna hold up this chart, I love this. This is very basic, there's five levels, five rungs on the pleasure ladder. And it corresponds to the five levels of the human soul. So as we fill ourselves up with these pleasures that elevates it nourishes both our body and our soul. And I think also it relates to the five fingers, because it's within our power. Every moment to bring these pleasures into our lives, we have the power not dependent on anybody else. So this is a totally empowering way to live. All the physical pleasures are on the lowest level. When we experience joy from all the natural foods that are designed to give us pleasure, then we, when we experience them with gratitude, it elevates us physically and spiritually, because we feel that gratitude. Also spending time in nature, enjoying music, moving, dancing, gardening, all of these things, uplift both our body and our soul. And then the next level up is love. Which is, you would think love is dependent on somebody else, right. But this definition of love, it's a spiritual thing. It's focusing on the virtues of another. When we do that, we could do that, again, in prison, or in the prison of an addiction. It's just, let's say a person's in prison. And they focus on what a grandmother once did for them. Many years ago, they are filled with this warm, emotional feeling of love that can encourage them and uplift them. So that's also that's the next level. The third level is meaning; doing something meaningful. I was on another show, the guy was describing that when I described him and he said, Yeah, the other day, he was sitting by himself. And he was just plowing through a box of pizza. After eating two slices. He's just continuing. Someone knocks on his door and needs his help for a couple of minutes. He comes back afterwards, he doesn't want the pizza anymore, he puts the rest in the fridge, he got filled up doing something kind for someone else; fills you up with a more lasting pleasure. Each one up is a higher, more lasting pleasure. Even greater than that is creativity. When we put a unique part of ourselves into the world, doing a podcast, writing a book, cooking an amazing dinner, whatever is your thing, telling stories, you know, whatever you is your creative talent, putting it into the world, you go into a zone, you don't feel like eating or sleeping, you are in such a high while you're being creative. The highest is transcendence. That's what you've experienced, like under a starry starry sky at night, stays with you forever. Umm. It's that feeling of connection with everybody with everyone and recognizing that we're all connected to the same source the same energy, source. We're all connected. So to climb this ladder, there's just one price to pay. And that is gratitude. That is what that is what helps us climb every single rung on the pleasure ladder and we can climb them simultaneously, we could do something meaningful with a physical pleasure, you know, but we but it's all about bringing gratitude into our life. This is how we find lasting pleasure. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 13:52
So just a quick recap the first rung number five on the ladder, the first rung to step onto is enjoying those physical things this world offers, whether it's food or a park, or what have you, those things we can see and touch and feel.
Bracha Goetz 14:10
Yeah, exactly. I want to say that these are designed to be like, like, all the natural foods are designed to be delicious, and nutritious. Well, actually, junk food is designed to be delicious and addictive. So we can't blame ourselves. When we just put the blame on the food. You know, it's like this. The natural things were designed to lift us up physically and spiritually with gratitude. Yeah, I'm sorry, I interrupted.
Melissa Ebken 14:48
And then the next rung. Yeah, the next rung then is love, focusing on those virtuous characteristics of others. From there is meaning when we have something meaningful in our lives, the fourth rung of five is creativity, whatever our medium might be, and then finally, that transcendence that connects all of us, to each other and to the universe beyond. Exactly. And people, if you want to get a copy of that, there's a link in the show notes. And you can download that to have for yourself, and some other nice teachings and whatnot that go along with that. So make sure you click that link. Now, if we can switch, switch gears for a moment, Bracha, let's hear about your children's books that you've written.
Bracha Goetz 15:43
Thank you so much. The books also, they're designed to teach people, the children to infuse joyful skills from the very beginning of life. So they don't have to play catch up the rest of their lives, like so many of us. That's, that's been my whole goal. And some of my books are about prevention of abuse. Some books are about sensitivity to disabilities, there are books about eating healthy. These are books about loss. If a child loses someone important in their life, these are all things that put clouds on the sunshine, you know, I have a great way of showing this, we all have this, this, this shining light in our soul. And as difficult things happen to us like abuse, you know, this puts this puts a cloud over us, but it's still shining, it never stopped shining. So so we can, how can we melt away the clouds by by nourishing our lives, filling our lives with more and more joy with more gratitude for all the simple beautiful joys in life. And sometimes we need therapeutic intervention or a coach, you know, to help us remove these blockages. It's it's, but this is always here, it's shining, as purely and beautifully and uniquely as it ever was, even if we're not feeling it because of because of difficult traumas a person has been through, or childhood and especially from childhood. So all my books are designed to help children recognize that they're spiritual beings from the very beginning of their life, and how to gain happiness skills, to to use then throughout life.
Melissa Ebken 17:46
I think a lot of people get hung up on the spirituality of their being. Some people perhaps have had a bad experience with religion, or faith communities, and confuse their own spirituality with the reality of a faith community. And I have a few things to say about that, one, faith communities are human institutions, and they are not perfect. And, you know, that's not to excuse poor behavior. Not at all. But there are a lot of faith communities out there and religious groups that do seek to build up and to help to heal from trauma and all of those things. And hopefully, you can connect with one of those but also spirituality, we can nourish our spirits in so many ways. And faith communities religions are one path to actualize that spiritual awareness within us, but there are others. What would you respond with to that?
Bracha Goetz 18:55
Yeah, I sometimes I enjoy when people say, Yeah, I like spirituality, but not organized religions. And I would in my head, I feel like saying, you want a disorganized religion, you know what I mean? Like, my point is, like, they started some place too. These are revolutionaries that started these religions, you know what I mean? And like, there's a reason that some of them you know, took off. Amazingly, there's a reason why they've continued there's there's valuable wisdom to be gained that we shouldn't just discard. I, I feel like, you know, my, my roots in my heritage was just discarded. Very little of it remained for me. What what remained for me to see was my cultural aspects, but the spirituality was tossed. So I didn't even recognize that there was spirituality and in my own religion, I had no idea until I searched as a young adult. And when I found the deep truths and the wisdom, whoa, I was blown away. I had no idea it was in my own backyard because I was searching everywhere in other religions too. And I was searching, you know, social action, environmental searching, everything, drugs, relationships, where is the answer and searching to Harvard too. I was looking for the wisdom to life. I didn't find it at Harvard, though I had a great time there in certain ways, you know, but like, there is this ancient wisdom for a reason and, and revealing it, digging it out from where it's been buried has been a tremendous joy for me too. So, so the ancient mystical wisdom has lots to teach us. And I do encourage people to explore their roots, I think it's like, because when, you know, one of the things I learned in yoga is, root down to rise up, the more secure you feel in your foundation, the more freedom you feel to branch out and be creative. So yeah.
Melissa Ebken 21:11
That's beautiful. So here's an easy question. What's the meaning of life?
Bracha Goetz 21:18
I love it, cuz that was my question. I was searching from age 12. My book, my memoir goes from age 12 to 32. So at 12 I started asking, you know, all of a sudden, this awareness comes, this new consciousness, what is the purpose to life? And, and what I finally got at age 22, when I met this, and really an old Rabbi who's no longer alive, but what he said blew me away. He's dressed in black, long beard. The last thing I would expect him to say was that the purpose of life is to experience the greatest pleasure possible, what? But then I began to understand, you know, the pleasure ladder is what he explained to me. The deepest pleasures in life are the spiritual pleasures. Those are the lasting pleasures, and the physical pleasures become spiritual pleasures, when we experience them with gratitude. That's how we transform them. They transcend into spiritual pleasures when we experience the natural physical pleasures, with gratitude. So that's, that's what I've learned, that we're really here. Our job, we have just one job to do here. To experience gratitude. We were placed in this amazing garden with an abundance of goodness. And we've gotten really far away from that. So coming back to the garden and appreciating so many of the gifts and recognizing the abundance changes his life completely from gray. That's how the colors returned to the world for me.
Melissa Ebken 23:08
Yeah. Beautiful sentiment. Bracha thank you so much for joining us today.
Bracha Goetz 23:16
Oh, thank you. Thank you for all you're doing Melissa. Thank you.
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