“When walking,walk. When eating,eat.” – Zen Proverb
For the first month of my More Conscious Year, I have been focusing on becoming more present, or mindful, in my own life. I chose presence, or mindfulness, as my focus for the first month, because I believe that it is really the foundation for a more conscious life. If you aren’t aware of how you are feeling, what you are thinking or, sometimes, even what you are doing throughout your day, it is hard to make conscious choices because of the way our brains are wired for automatic processing.
When we aren’t aware of what we are feeling, it is easy for frustrations to build or for stress to adversely affect us, leading us to react strongly or negatively to situations, rather than to calmly choose our responses.
When we aren’t aware of what we are thinking, it is easy for our moods to be affected by our thoughts without our knowledge or understanding.
When we aren’t aware of what we are doing, it is easy to make mistakes, misplace things or waste time wouldn’t have had we been more focused.
Mindfulness practices works to avoid all of these by helping us be more aware of how we are feeling, what we are thinking and what we are doing throughout the day.
In order to practice presence, or mindfulness, I committed to developing a new practice each week, each week adding a new task to the previous week’s task, with the intention of continuing each new practice throughout the year to form new positive habits:
Week 1 – “Single” Tasking – Practicing Mindful Eating
For the first week of January, I worked on doing one thing mindfully each day. I had originally intended to try to do everything I did mindfully each day, but after reading this post, which suggest just choosing one thing to do mindfully, I scaled back my lofty aspirations and decided to just focus on eating, since it is something I am fortunate to do at least three times a day.
My practice of mindful eating consisted of taking three deep breathes after I sat down to a meal, before beginning to eat, putting my fork down between each bite and focusing my attention on the act of eating, while I was doing it. If I was talking or getting up to refill water glasses, I wasn’t eating. When I was eating, I just ate.
As simple as that sounds, the experience was incredible.
As I started to take more time to eat, just simply putting my fork down after each bite, I realized how often I just shovel in food, trying to get through the meal, before getting up to fill little cups, clean up spills or lecture about polite table manners.
It was so nice to slow down. It was like a mini break from the rush of the day. It also gave me more time to appreciate the food and to be grateful for the abundance we have in our lives.
Now after a little less than a month of mindful eating, I have noticed real changes in how I respond to the simple task of eating.
Whereas before, I could easily eat on the go, in the car or rushing out the door, I now notice almost a physical resistance to eating on the run, as if my body doesn’t want food it isn’t offered in a state of calm.
Before, I would often find myself at the end of a meal, after having spent time shopping for it and preparing it, not even haven taken the time to enjoy it; now I thoroughly enjoy each bite.
Before, I thought that I could enforce a state of calmness during mealtimes, but now, I find that I am able to create it within myself and am less agitated and more understanding of the countless ups and downs of meal times with small children.
I don’t always remember to eat mindfully. Sometimes I forget to breathe before taking that first bite. Sometimes I find myself getting up to get something mid-chew. Sometimes I’ll eat a snack in front of the computer when find myself needing to do both quickly. But when I don’t eat mindfully now, I notice it. And I return to my practice.
For me, and maybe a lot of you, new habits are easier to maintain when you see or feel a real benefit. For me, the practice of mindful eating feels good, and in just four weeks, it has become a positive habit that I am looking forward to continuing.
What about you? Do you find yourself rushing through meals or craving more peace and calm in your life? Is so, why not begin a practice of mindful eating today?
For more information on Mindful Eating, see The Center for Mindful Eating’s publication Food for Thought – What is Mindful Eating?
Thanks for reading!
Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook