I’ve come to the end of a month of eating mindfully. Summer has turned into autumn, and it’s suddenly too chilly now to take my meals outside the way I did for most of this month. After thirty days, I feel I’m really only at the beginning of bringing mindfulness to my meals; I’m a long way yet from making it my habitual way of eating. Already, though, I’m feeling more connected to what I eat. I have so much more appreciation and gratitude and feel more satisfied afterwards. I never could remember to say grace before meals; just the sight of a plate of food would make me zone out and not be present even before I began eating, and I wouldn’t even be aware that it was happening. Now, though my attention keeps wandering while I eat, and I’ll come to, realizing I’ve just taken several unconscious bites, I’m staying awake long enough to say “Thank you.”
After today, I’ll keep posting about eating mindfully as I continue on, but less frequently. Writing about it every day has helped me remember to pay attention, as I hoped it would.
than thirty days to turn eating into a trigger for mindfulness and appreciation instead of a signal to zone out and disappear. But I keep bringing myself back and starting over, often several times during one meal. The wonderful thing is, no matter where you are, you can always begin again. I’m in this for the long haul.
I had the day off and spent most of it reading (more like devouring) Margaret Atwood’s new book, The Year of the Flood. I’ve been following her blog about being on tour for the book while I waited to get my own copy. There’s a lot about eating in the book and in the blog. The characters in the novel belong to an eco-religion called “God’s Gardeners;” they’re vegetarians. I am completely sucked in by her book and it’s very hard to put down. This is my favorite author and it has been years since her last book was published. I am not one of those people who can dole out an especially delicious read one chapter at a time, to make it last.
The whole time I was reading today, I longed to go whole-hog and be stuffing myself at the same time. Putting the book down to eat lunch and supper (I skipped breakfast altogether) was hard. Not eating while reading a book that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go felt like going through withdrawal. I did it anyway, not eating, that is, mostly because I have committed myself to write this blog every day for the thirty days of September and I didn’t want to have to post, “I gorged myself while I spent the day sprawled on the couch reading and now I’m paying the price–I have terrible indigestion.”
I’m full now, but comfortably so; I had an especially delicious Maryhill peach with yogurt, and I mixed some cardamom powder into the yogurt. It would have been a real waste to eat that without tasting it!
New Seasons was having coffee tasting today, along with a couple of dozen different kinds of cookies to try along with the coffee. There was a big crowd at the counter. I tried several different coffees I hadn’t tasted before, mindfully savoring each. I’m always looking for new coffees to start my day; I don’t like to get the same kind time after time, and I did like one of the ones I tried, the New Seasons Sellwood Blend. I ate a few of the cookie samples, taking time to really pay attention to each one in a very distracting atmosphere with dozens of people milling around. Maybe because I was trying them out, I was able to pay attention, but none of them cried out to me to be bought. That was a surprise–cookies are my favorite sweet. I like them far better than candy, cake, pie, or ice cream. I ended up going home with a melon instead.
Today I kept checking for tense muscles while eating. With each bite, my neck and shoulder muscles would tense up; I think it must be a reaction to chewing. I’d consciously relax and then it would happen all over again with the next bite, and I would relax again. I did this over and over during breakfast and lunch. Then tonight while I was having a bowl of rice noodle soup and tofu and vegetables, I noticed that I wasn’t tensing up. I was relaxed and comfortable. I kept checking in with myself–have I had enough yet? I left some soup in the bowl and put it aside to mix with tomorrow’s dog food. That way we’ll all have something to enjoy.
I noticed my neck and shoulder muscles tensing up while I eat. Maybe it’s triggered by chewing my food, and engaging the jaw muscles causes all the muscles in the vicinity to engage as well. Or is it a vestigial animal reaction? The dogs are always on guard when eating, protecting the bowl and keeping an eye out in case another animal approaches. A fierce warning growl rumbles out of Kieran if the cat comes into the room at mealtime. She’s far too picky to touch dog food, but eating is serious business in the animal world.
Today has been especially hectic and busy. My meals were hurried along with everything else, and after work I rushed over to Costco to get salad fixings before they closed. Back home, I put away the lettuce and tomatoes and cheese and at last was able to sit down with an apple and stinky-feet-smelling Stilton cheese. I was very hungry, and the meal tasted wonderful but I looked at my two dogs and lost myself in thoughts about how my friend Martha walks dogs at the pound on Fridays. The dogs are walked in a certain order, and they can hardly wait to go out. If you skip one it will be fully aware that its turn was missed and be very disappointed. “You are so lucky,” I told Kieran and Jilly. I finished my apple with less than complete attention, and I was still hungry.
Then I decided to do one of the exercises in the book that I bought, Mindful Eating. The author, Dr. Jan Chozen Bays, included a CD with several exercises. I chose “Asking the body what it wants,” which seemed very appropriate considering that I still wanted something to eat. You get quiet and ask the body, “yogurt? Peanut butter? More cheese? Cookies?” I ended up with a mindfully-eaten slice of buttered toast. Now I feel satisfied.