Coach and author Amanda Jones explores the simplicity behind our human experience and how understanding this can free us from suffering with things like bulimia, anxiety, depression, binge eating and more.
Amanda Jones is the author of Uncovery: A New Understanding Behind Radical Freedom from Eating Disorders and Depression and explores with clients their true nature and the understanding that what has been believed to be true about the self can be seen as a simple misunderstanding. This exploration uncovers the freedom that we have been seeking for so long.
You can find Amanda Jones at UncoverySpace.com and on Instagram @amandajonesuncovery.
- The discovery that all of life is made of thought
- On the dissolving of the identity with a self
- How we were feeling beings for millennia before the thinking mind got involved
- How our suffering is the thing that wakes us up
- How the diet system contributes to our problems with food
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Dr. Amy Johnson’s Little School of Big Change
- No Self, No Problem by Chris Niebauer
Transcript of Interview with Amanda Jones
Alexandra: Amanda Jones, welcome to Unbroken.
Amanda: I’m so happy to be here. So exciting. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so looking forward to this conversation.
Alexandra: Me too. It’s been ages since we’ve had a conversation. So I’m really looking forward to it as well.
Why don’t you tell us about your background? How you got involved in this work?
Amanda: I was a professional dancer for 25 years. And then, through that time, developed various eating disorders and depression. And I had to retire because of those struggles. I came across Dr. Amy Johnson and Michael Neill and that catapulted me into the understanding of Three Principles and blew my world upside down.
I had been a spiritual seeker from very, very, very young, I mean, just like, having this sense that something’s off here. People around me adults around me are telling me how the world is and how I am and it just felt off like something’s not right here. As a child very suspicious about how does anybody know what’s going on here? And come to find out nobody does. And that’s the freedom right. That’s the peace that passes understanding is that is that nobody knows what’s going on.
And even more than that, I really think started to change in a big way for me when I woke up to Thought. So just like a fish waking up to water, that I had no idea of course, I didn’t, until I did. Everything is thought. All of it is thought. All of it is thought in a way that is nebulous and pliable and changing and fluid and seamless, that there’s nothing to pin down and hold and grasp. I think, for me, the trying to pin down and grasp and hold my identity in one place for long enough to feel okay, the failure of doing that and being able to do that got so painful that when I started to learn about this and learn about thought, and the deeper experience of us, I really came to see that that nothing is as I think it is.
My failure to pin down an identity or a feeling or a self was a success. This whole time, I was succeeding and doing what is impossible and unnecessary. And the pain that it caused was showing me this is not supposed to. But I of course the conditioned mind interpreted that failure as well. Let me just try again. Let me just find the right thing, the right diet, the right book, the right way of thinking. And then I’ll succeed. But it was all on a false premise.
The false premise was that any ideas about myself and the world are completely made up.
Mostly inherited and questioned. And it was just huge for me.
And so to go forward in time I just really woke up and continued to do so. And then I started coaching myself. I went through some training and I’m now a colleague with Amy in her Little School of Big change, and I have my own clients and I wrote a book, and I have a podcast. And then things just things just unfold in ways that I had no idea about. It’s really beautiful to come to see that everything we think is wrong with ourselves that we can’t seem to change is what’s perfect. The inability to succeed at changing something that is not how you think it is, that does not actually really exist in that way is a success. So I’ll pause there and see if what you’ve that was a lot.
Alexandra: What I’m curious about is you talked about it being a painful time trying to find an identity. So can you say a bit more about that? Were you looking for the bumpers on the side? And to try to sort of stay in your lane?
What did that look like?
Amanda: Yes, well, first of all, as a child, we are given an identity. Oh, she’s like that, oh, she’s always like that, or he’s like that. And so that starts to build and fill in this beautiful emptiness that we really are at core with ideas. And then as that self idea develops, it takes these little pieces and learns what is safe, what is okay, what is not okay, what is acceptable to feel what this means, what that feeling means. And so it’s like a holographic kaleidoscope that melds into this sense of me.
And feel solid feels real and feels worthy of being relevant. Protecting, defending, trying to make better because you’re never all the way there. There’s always a little bit more, you could do better.
So yeah, so the bumper thing came as the unquestioned amount of ideas that we’re building upon each other, started to become invisible. So it would be like, I need to look a certain way or feel a certain way or else everything would come crashing down.
And the irony is, that’s what you want. We’ve got to have it all come crashing down. Because it’s not solid in the first place. It was just invisible. And all of the signs and information was there through all the suffering and the pain and just suffering that believing in an imaginary character in engenders
Alexandra: I love that phrase, an imaginary character. That’s so great.
Amanda: Everything is thought do if thought is written in disappearing ink, so are you. There’s a lot of times during the day that the self isn’t even there. And then it comes back online and says, Oh, I was distracted. Oh, I was in the zone. No, you weren’t, you weren’t there.
It’s really fun to start to poke holes in the narrative that keeps trying to rebuild the sandcastle of the dream character. And that’s natural and nothing wrong with it. It’s beautiful. But to live in that sand castle as if the tide isn’t coming in, as it does is to suffer a lot. And really, to allow the tide to come in and wash it all away, and then watch the phenomenon of being rebuilt and then washed away and rebuilt and washed away. It’s a very beautiful experience that loosens the grip that the mind has on its most prized possession, which is its story about me.
Alexandra: Did you find it scary at the beginning to lean into the washing away and the rebuilding?
Amanda: I don’t think I understood that that’s what was happening. And so the scariness was more in the realm of good grieving an identity that I tried so hard to create and make whole and solid it, but that was very temporary. So I wouldn’t say it was scary for me.
I know for some of my clients it’s very scary but that’s such a temporary place. It’s like the unweaving at the beginning feels very unstable and very what’s going on here. And there’s searching for handholds and purchase and that’s fine. But we come to see that those handholds are falling with us. But they were never giving us what we needed, but they’re fine. They’re there. They’re like a handhold, in terms of something that’s helpful, like a book, or exploration into this whole thing. And so that it makes it really, it makes the fear of really come back into perspective. When you understand that you can’t lose anything you never had.
Alexandra: I’m harkening back to a feeling at the beginning of my exploration of this understanding, which was that feeling of sand slipping through my fingers. And I guess I realized that eventually, I just got used to that, the end that you’re tied metaphor is so great. Because it does build back up again.
Of course, we always have thoughts about ourselves. And then sometimes they break down and wash away.
Amanda: It’s fun to be the perspective of the ocean rather than the sandcastle. Yeah, it was, because I would say that is a little bit more accurate. It’s a metaphor, so we can’t really push too far. But I had for years built a sandcastle and kept adding on a little bit more packed in sand, a little bit more higher turret, some flags over here, like it’s an unending urban development project, only to be washed away, and you have to start over again. And it’s that tension between the washing away and the building. That releases when we see the whole phenomenon.
Alexandra: That’s so well said. Thank you. At some point, we do realize we’re the ocean, not the sand.
One of the questions I wanted to ask you today was what you think gets in between us and our healthy relationship with food, if anything?
Amanda: I think the number one thing is a misunderstanding about feelings. The way I see it is that, well, Chris Niebauer, who wrote No Self No Problem, shared that we were feeling beings 600 million years before conscious thought. So we are feeling organisms.
When the brain evolved, suddenly conceptual thought came in and said, Okay, I’ve got a hold on things. What’s this feeling? And it starts to add meaning and judgment and characteristics on to what was already naturally flowing through for 600 million years.
So in that way, we have been conditioned to relegate certain feelings to being unacceptable, scary, some of them need help. Some of them are completely fine. I think it’s that little confusion that brings us looking for relief, in terms of in the form of anything, food, anything. So I think it’s conceptual thought that has adopted the role of manager over feelings. Does that make sense?
Alexandra: Yes, I totally can understand that and agree. And it’s so easy for our big problem solving brains to get in there and want to, as you say, be the manager, sort everything out.
Put it into categories, rather than just letting it be what it is.
Amanda: It’s weird because the thinking mind is a beautiful machine of logic and reason. But when it comes to the realm of the imaginary meaning who I think I am and who the world is, and my worthiness, my love, all of that, that whole imaginary reason and logic have no place. And that’s confusing for the conceptual mind. And sos confusion is also taken to be something unbearable to feel. And so well, I’m just going to not feel this. Because I have been taught and my mind is telling me that there’s danger here. And it’s perfect that the food stuff is a is a symptom of forgetting, misunderstanding being confused. And taking that seriously.
Alexandra: Right, yeah. Yeah, assigning it a lot of meaning.
Amanda: Whereas confusion can become a curious traveling partner.
Alexandra: True. I don’t know what’s happening here. And that’s okay.
Amanda: Because if I know what’s happening, then I know what should be happening. And it’s not this. That’s where we get a little bit lost, the mind gets a little bit lost, because this desperation to know what can’t be known, is running the show in terms of what I believe is right and wrong for me, and the world, my body, whatever.
And it’s interesting, because trying to figure out reality. The very reality in that way is defined by the inability to know what it is to figure it out. So you’d like the walls were trying to break through or being built by our attempt to break through them? It’s all a fantastically brilliant. I don’t know what magic show.
Alexandra: I love that. Yeah. It’s such a paradox, isn’t it? Someone I was speaking to recently, and I unfortunately, I can’t remember who it was said that. When we get into that feeling of paradox of where our circuits feel like they’re frying and we can’t quite get it that’s a really great place to be.
You’re closer to the truth in that feeling.
Amanda: I call it getting your eggs scrambled. It’s like we come into this conversation in hopes of getting popped out of our orbit for long enough to be completely confused enough. That the mind regroups itself in a more expansive and curious landscape.
People are listening right now going I have no idea what she’s talking about. Good. Exactly.
Alexandra: I was just going to say when your clients get confused, you must get excited.
Amanda: I do. I love it. I love it. And it’s so beautiful to watch those knots untie that the mind has believed are necessary for our existence, and to be alive. It’s really beautiful to watch that release happen. That is our birthright.
We’re designed to wake up just like we wake up from a nighttime dream. We’re designed during the day to wake up from the daytime dream. It’s all the same dream. But the degree of perspective is a little bit different. And we’re designed to wake up. Everybody I know even if they won’t admit it, knows there’s something wonky going on here. You ask anybody can tell you a story of when I was little I would think about weird things and daydream and wander. That gets conditioned out of a lot of us. But it never goes anywhere. I mean, we are the wonder, there’s this beautiful quote that says,
“Many sit and wonder. Few sit in wonder.”
Alexandra: Yeah, that’s so true. I love that.
One of the things I wanted to ask you is if you’re working with someone who’s struggling to change an eating habit or some disordered eating, it’s a difficult question, but where do you begin with them?
Amanda: Generally, I want to see what reality looks like them. Who do they think they are? And what the world is. What are the premises that are being lived from that we can start to question and start to rattle apart? Because I don’t see any other way.
Starting from the food thing just doesn’t work. If that was the key, then there wouldn’t be 5 million gazillion books about diets and food. That’d be one. It’s really about going into starting to allow people to wake up to what this self identity is what it’s made of what it isn’t.
Because really, it’s the self identity that dictates what’s believed about the body. So as that loosens up that grip on the identity and who I think I am loosens up, the beliefs also fall away about the body and what’s good and bad, right and wrong. And all of that stuff.
Alexandra: Is there something specific that you can point to that you see your clients struggling with around eating? Is there a commonality?
Amanda: Yes, I would say the overload of information, and rules, and what other people have shared, gets to be very obscuring in the face of simplicity. I wrote about that in my book, when we’re young, we look to our parents and caregivers to show us how to be, how do you cross the street and not get hit by a car. But the whole system, the whole system is always learning. But with this, again, with this, who I am self identity, the self, the self idea, to look outside is a disaster.
I would say it’s the overload of information regarding food and diet and bodies, the overload of information that has been absorbed, can really make this much more complicated than it is. Rules, even science, even nutrition science, they all have their utility, all of these things have their utility, but they don’t address the underlying beliefs, the underlying illusions that are happening.
So I think that would be the first thing that would come to mind that I hear a lot of rules and regulations. And then those are woven into the identities own rules and regulations.
Alexandra: I know, for me, it was scary, too. I had gotten into the habit of absorbing so much information about how to eat and what to eat and when to eat it. And I just kept searching for that structure. And it was so absurd, because it never worked. And yet, I would keep going back to that place and thinking well, either I’m the problem and I just can’t figure this out.
It didn’t actually ever occur to me that the system was broken. The diet system was only adding to the problem.
Amanda: Right? Again, you were successful that whole time in your failure, right? How to eat, when to eat, what to eat is really absurd in the light of realizing that the conceptual mind is an amalgam of have learned ideas and concepts. Like the conceptual mind isn’t beating your heart. It’s not reviving your cells.
It has nothing to do with that yet it is the thing that is front and center on center stage. But backstage, there’s a whole unknown Wonderland, that that is working with no problem. I really advocate for curiosity and tuning into whatever is being felt right now in real time you get information, and it’s simple.
Alexandra: I’m just recalling the confusion again, that that caused me because our culture is just not set up that way.
Amanda: It’s especially because one of the things the self identity can do is tell you to look point you to look everywhere else but it. So that failed, must be my problem. I’ll try again. Something’s wrong with me. I’m broken. So what we want to do is really turn the spotlight on that self identity? What is it? Bring it in close? What is it?
What is it created from? Is it really there? Can you find it? All of those inquiries really help everything to come back into a more aligned experience. That that calms everything down. I don’t like this phrase, but it brings the power back to something that’s not in the realm of imagination gone off the rails.
Alexandra: Let me back up and just say in your book Uncovery you talk about your personal journey and your times of disordered eating.
Since then, do you find that your relationship with food has changed since you started to see what was really going on?
Amanda: Absolutely. It’s really interesting, because the relationship with food is receding on the horizon. There is no more relationship with food, I would say. There’s a body walking towards the fridge, there’s a body eating, there’s thoughts about food, but there isn’t a captain at the helm barking orders at the ocean anymore.
I wouldn’t even say there’s a relationship with food. I know what you mean. But it’s very much a distant horizon thing. It’s more dream, like, as I recall what it used to feel like.
Alexandra: Right, and I love that you said earlier that the suffering that we experience is pointing toward the different existence or relationship that we can have.
It’s pointing toward the fact that we don’t understand something that’s really going on.
Amanda: It’s big, big flag saying stop. There’s hallucination happening. Complete hallucination. There’s nothing happening, that there’s no failure. There’s no success. There’s no backtracking. There’s no progress. There’s just a hallucination right now, in suffering is the only way the system has to wake itself up. It’s not going to be able to do that with any other feeling.
Alexandra: We’ve been listening to our minds for so long. And that’s not the place to go to for the messages.
The suffering is the thing that wakes us up.
Amanda: It’s so intelligent, but it’s been interpreted backwards. And that takes a while, maybe or not to reorganize and re-orient. And then once that is helped along a little bit through the conversations like these, then people just come back alive to where they’ve never left. Except in thought.
Alexandra: That actually really connects well to I had a question about the wisdom of our bodies, and how that connects to eating.
I’d love for you to say anything more you can think of about that wisdom, because that’s a place that I fall asleep to, and then wake up to again, quite often.
Amanda: So the way I see it is that we don’t fall asleep. We’re not the ones falling asleep and waking up, that’s thought identified. So I’ll just say that first.
Secondly, I no longer see that the body has wisdom. I don’t think wisdom is possessed by a body. It is the mystery about the source of it, and then the manifestation of it, and then the outcome of it. So saying that I think that’s why we sometimes feel that I forgot, and then I wake up to it.
If we think that it’s coming from a source, then that sets up this stage where I could forget. And then remember source. So the wisdom of the body at the same time, yes, there does seem to be something beyond conceptual ideas that’s going on. And that we can call that wisdom. But it’s not ours. There’s nobody that that holds it and obtains it and possesses it. I don’t see that anymore at all. Because the one who would have wisdom I have seen to not be what I thought it was.
Alexandra: So what do you think wisdom is?
Amanda: It’s a concept? It’s a word. It’s a concept. We live in a word world. We have a consensus overlay of words and descriptions and concepts that are mistaken to be reality, actual reflections of something actual. And it’s not the case. I have seen that’s not the case. There’s my experience.
So the words like wisdom and awareness and consciousness are beautiful source, beautiful benchmark symbols for something we have no idea what it is. And again, once we lean into that, and really see how that is the case for us, then we can come back to the concepts and use them playfully. Use them for their utility, being able to have a conversation, for example. I don’t know what wisdom is beyond the fact that it’s a word in a concept.
Alexandra: There’s a great quote. The finger that points at the moon is not the moon.
Is that what you’re alluding to?
Amanda: And to push that further, the moon and the finger are the same thought construct. The moon is an illusionary aspect of the finger, they are inseparable, there’s no moon without the finger in that metaphor, right? There’s no finger without the moon.
So that’s just a little way of saying, I really encourage people to explore this idea that there’s something hidden from you. There’s something out there that you just have to discover or uncover, or there’s a puzzle piece that’s out there for you that’s missing. And I’m going to point you to it.
That keeps us focused away from the magic right here. The wonder of being able to even point to a moon that there is nothing wrong with you, there is nothing you lack, there is nothing you need. And yet we can have this experience of lack and want and need and fulfillment, and let it wash away with the tie that comes in next.
Alexandra: Right, having that the experience of those things?
So as we’re starting to wrap up here, I wanted to mention a couple of things.
One was your book, which we’ve talked about, it’s called Uncovery. Tell us a little bit about that, and where people can find it.
Amanda: It is on Amazon worldwide. I wrote it in 2017. And it goes a lot into the Three Principles. So if people are curious about that, it just tells my story. And then it goes into my journey, it’s not very personal at all, it’s really just laid out in a way that helps one to wake up out of the dream of thought, or wake up into the dream of thoughts to see what it really is and how it how it’s really everything. How it’s really the missing puzzle piece that you didn’t even know was missing.
Contrary to what I just said, right? It’s all paradox. So that it’s due for updated edition. But, I have found that it’s really been helpful for people just really starting to get interested in this conversation.
Alexandra: Definitely. It was one of the first books that I read, and I found it incredibly helpful. And isn’t it funny how those of us who have written about this stuff as we evolve, it does feel like this impulse to go back and revise what we’ve written before?
Amanda: Definitely. I know that that’s just a function of this idea that there’s a right way that will stay the right way. And there is that whatever came through in that book is just as right and wrong now as it will be in 50 years. And it’s for the reader to wake up to what they hear. And it’s got nothing to do with me. Or if I you know, if I need to change anything.
Alexandra: I always remind myself that we can never know what’s going how things are going to land with people. I remember I have a friend who recorded a podcast actually with someone and thought it was terrible. She just didn’t think that she articulated herself well, and she was really concerned about it. She almost asked the host not to release it. And it’s the most popular podcast episode that she’s ever recorded. People are constantly going to her and saying, I love it got so much out of that. I’ve listened to it four times. So we just never know.
Amanda: That’s exactly it. And that’s illustrating what I said before. Nobody knows what’s going on. Literally, nobody knows and to pretend to know what’s going on is painful. It’s just like the podcast that I have with my colleague is we do episodes, and then we’re like, I have no idea what I just said, no idea if it’s good or bad. And let’s just find out.
One of the things that I have found is the seriousness of whatever this is, has really faded away and it can be it can be conjured up when appropriate, I suppose. But it’s no longer a driving force towards front behind behavior or action, or anything like that.
Alexandra: Your podcast is The Wonder Land.
Amanda: the Wonder Land, three words. And it’s with my colleague, Alex Linares. And it’s a dramatic, magical, fun exploration.
Alexandra: Cool. And people can find that wherever they get podcasts.
Amanda: That’s right.
Alexandra: Is there anything you’d like to share before we wrap up that we haven’t touched on yet today?
Amanda: I would just love if one thing they want to take away from this conversation, is to maybe see how it’s true rather than how it isn’t true that there’s nothing wrong with you. And there never has been.
Alexandra: I love that. Thank you.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Amanda: My website is uncoveryspace.com. All my words are on there. All the words of all the things are there. Contact me through that.
Alexandra: Great. Okay, perfect. Well, thank you so much, Amanda. I will put links to the podcast and to your website in the show notes at unbrokenpodcast.com
Amanda: Thank you, darling. It’s been an honour.
Alexandra: Thank you so much. Lovely to connect with you again. Take care.
Amanda: Bye bye