Mindfulness...What the heck does that mean?
I am a fast eater. Like usually first one at the table done. I'll place my fork and knife to the side of my plate and then think "well now what do I do," and then get seconds because waiting around for other people to eat makes me bored and then causes anxiety. For me, eating is entertainment. Also, I grew up in a household in which wasn't scarce by any means, but I had two siblings and it seemed like we were always rushing to eat the good foods to see who could get MORE of them. Food means love for me (for a lot of us) and I think probably what we were rushing for was our Mom's attention and love....however we could get it, we wanted more. Alas, the life of a kid with two working parents. (Side note, my mother was and is an excellent mother and in no way did she ignore me or scar me, just saying when you're a kid, there's never enough attention to go around, amiright?).
Anyway, recently, I've been working really hard to be mindful about my eating. Not sure when it hit me, but it feels like a lot of times I'm racing around like a crazy, and I eat on the go, or wolf something down so I can cook something for someone else.
I've been trying really hard to come up with ways to remind myself that food is nourishment. A quick google search reveals that "nourishment" is defined as "the food or other substancesnecessary for growth, health, and good condition." Food is important. Food gives us energy, mental clarity, and joy. You know the way Mary Berry talks about "crisp pastry" on The Great British Baking Show--that's the joy (if you don't know what I'm talking about, go to Netflix immediately). You know the way as a kid, you would twist apart an Oreo and lick the frosting off bit by bit and then hold the cookie in your mouth until it became mushy (oh wait just me? weird.)? I'm talking about that kind of nourishment...the kind that brings you energy AND joy. Truly savoring the experience sense by sense.
But I want to talk about the other substances for a minute. There are other things in our lives necessary for growth and health...genuine human connection, sleep, and a sense of purpose to name a few. Without a balance in those areas of our lives, food becomes the only source of nourishment, and if you're like me, that's when the crazy kicks in.
So I've been doing some thinking about how to slow down and enjoy my food. How to create that balance around a ritual that I do three times (or more) a day. "How do I bring a sense of mindfulness and gratitude to eating?" is the question I've been asking myself a little bit recently. Some people say grace before they eat--that means they're bringing their spirituality and faith and love of family to the ritual of eating. I've been thinking about how I can create a ritual for myself that fills me with gratitude, and feels authentic to my personality.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope you'll allow me to share what I've come up with. I am an incredibly physical person...I need to move my body and touch things in order to understand them. so I'm going to bring that physicality to my food. My new mindfulness ritual is to truly engage all 5 sense as I eat.
- Touch. I'm going to put my hands over my food, or around the bowl to feel the warmth of what's there on my hands. Especially right now as it's freezing out, taking a moment to recognize the warmth that my body is about to take on creates anticipation and gratitude.
- Sight. Look at the food. Acknowledge each color, the arrangement and simple beauty of what's on the plate or in the bowl.
- Smell! This one might seem straightforward, but I want to pause to see which smells I can recognize. Is there ginger? Lemon? Something spicy? What exactly do I have to look forward to?
- Taste. Seems like it's a no-brainer, but how often do you think more than "good." "average." "disgusting." I don't stop to acknowledge quality of taste, flavors or textures very often.
- Sound. Did you know you make noise when you chew? (Yes, mom, even when your mouth IS closed.) I'm going to take time to think about the sounds. Also, if you have dinner company, truly take a moment to listen to what he or she is saying.
I hope that this helps me slow down and feel gratitude and joy. I hope you found something here that makes you think a little something too.
So, as I sign off, just know, I'm sitting in a neighborhood cafe, with my hands wrapped around a bowl of steaming water. My cup has one beautifully green fresh mint leaf in the middle. The scent of my grandmother's garden trails towards my nose, and I'm smiling as I sip, thinking of happy summers past.