This morning at breakfast, I noticed the sky in my spoon.
I guess this requires some back story. Like many people, I have an off-again on-again relationship with eating well. I do well for a while, fall off the wagon, then get back to it again. I track it for a while, lapse, decide I hate tracking. I’ve never been a fad dieter — that’s my mom — but it’s so much easier to just eat whatever comes along, slap something on the table when it’s you that’s responsible for what’s on the dinner table… if you eat at the table at all. Right? When I decide to eat “right,” I simply choose to eat clean and eat things in moderation.
I’ve been in an off-again, off-the-wagon phase since vacation and starting college (did I mention starting college? I guess that’s a topic for another post). And then last week I had an IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) flareup at the same time as a cold, and that was no fun. Okay, back to the wagon.
But this time, I decided I’m not going to worry so much about what I eat, as how I eat. I’ll wager you’re like me and most of the time when you’re eating, you’re also doing something else. Surfing the web, watching TV, reading. Talking to another human kind of counts and kind of doesn’t. It definitely does count if there is another human present and you are both doing separate things at the same time while also eating. Don’t do that. Look at your loved ones once in a while. Across a table is a good time.
Anyway, this time I decided not to “diet” or even “eat better/clean/whatever.” I’ve been exploring the benefits of mindfulness and meditation in so many ways, and I thought that this time around I would change only one thing: I will eat mindfully. I will really think about whether I need that ice cream and whether I know what’s in it. If I’m unwilling to sit still and savor that thing I think I’m craving, did I really want it? Or did I just want something to mindlessly shove into my face to fill a different need? Am I actually hungry? If not, why am I eating?
A long time ago I came across something in a Thich Nhat Hanh book about mono-tasking. About taking the time to do what you’re doing and paying attention. I played around with that for a while but I discovered that it was really hard for me to just eat when I was eating.
Last time I was at McKay used book store I picked up a book called Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, MD. I’ve barely started reading it, just the last day or so. The irony is that I was sorely tempted to read it while I had breakfast. Heh.
But I know how to be mindful. So this morning while I was making my breakfast, which was a bowl of bulgur hot cereal with dried cranberries a sprinkle of granola, slivered almonds, raw milk and honey, I paid attention to everything. It’s 25 steps from my bedroom to my kitchen. My refrigerator could use cleaning. I filled the bowl about one third with the cereal. Honey is beautiful, I love transparent things that catch the morning sunshine coming in my kitchen window. Cold, clear water readily available from a tap in my house, that also is a miraculous thing, have you ever thought about that? Not to mention ice. Imagine an ancestor even three generations back plopped into the middle of your kitchen. We have running pure water we don’t have to go anywhere for, and lights with the flick of a switch, and ice.
I sat down to eat. I actually set my meditation timer with background music, because I wanted to remind myself not to just let my mind wander, but focus on where I was and every sensation. Eating is the only time, really, that you can mindfully indulge every sense: smell and taste come into play in a way that is much more powerful than at any other time, and you can notice the sensations of the food, the sound of your crunching and any other sounds that are in your environment. Sight really starts to take a back seat, which is why your brain tries to get bored and find other things to do, because sight is so prominent for most of us all the time. Entertain me.
Maybe that’s why I noticed, as I sat at my desk in my dimly lit bedroom, that as I lifted my spoon to my lips, the sky outside my window was reflected in it.
I’m pretty sure that if I was reading that book, or anything at all, I wouldn’t have noticed that. Here’s an excerpt from John Kabat Zinn’s foreward to the book:
“But just like Blake’s grain of sand and his wild flower, you can see the entire world in one raisin, hold the universe and all of life in the palm of your hand, and then, of course, in your mouth too, as it soon becomes a source of nurturance on so many different levels, energy and matter and life itself enlivening and replenishing the body, the heart, and the mind.”
So it was pretty poignant that the sky was in the handle of my spoon and all the world and all five senses were in the sweet goodness at the end of it as I put it in my mouth.
I’m convinced that mindfulness is the answer to everything. Even if my IBS isn’t cured, or if I don’t lose weight, I stepped a little nearer to the center of being this morning while I was eating breakfast. And if those two things do happen, that’s a win all the way around.