"To care for the well-being of your body is an expression of gratitude towards the whole universe, the trees, the clouds, towards all."Until lately, my attitude toward eating has largely been one of mindlessness, not mindfulness. I will eat while I watch TV or while I read. I confess that one of my most favourite things to do is to read a good book while I have a cup of tea and a tasty snack. This habit has resulted in a few different consequences. The first one is that whenever I read, I want something to eat and/or drink. The second one is that I barely taste or appreciate whatever it is I'm eating at the moment, because I am so focused on what I'm reading. A third consequence is that I'm pretty sure I'm underestimating what, how much, and how often I'm actually eating.
Consequence 1: Pavlovian drooling.
Ok, maybe I don't actually drool like Pavlov's dogs, but I have certainly paired eating and reading together enough times over my life that when I read I have a strong desire to eat something. Maybe I do kind of salivate at the thought, actually. When I sit down to read something just seems to be missing if there is no snack. It actually interferes with my concentration if I don't know I have something to eat/drink on the coffee table there, just waiting for me to indulge.
Consequence 2: What was that I just ate?
Was it sweet, tart, salty? Crunchy or smooth? I have no idea. I just took time to prepare food for myself, and others took the time to grow it and harvest it for me, and I have no idea what it was. Not a lot of gratitude in that kind of attitude, to myself or to others, or to the planet. Do I really need to multi-task while I eat?
Consequence 3: But surely these jeans have just shrunk from too much washing?
I spend a lot of time wondering why I don't lose weight, especially since I've become a vegetarian. I have this concept in my head that I don't eat that much, really. But if I'm not aware of what I'm eating half the time, it's no wonder that I have this (mis)perception. And therefore no wonder that the number on the scale doesn't go down, and my jeans don't get any looser.
So, as usual, the solution to this is simple and difficult at the same time: to eat mindfully. To take the time to be thankful that I have food to eat. To appreciate all that went into the food, including sun, rain, minerals, plants, animals and the effort and care of many people to have it sitting here in front of me. To be grateful that I have enough to eat, to remain aware that many don't, and to eat only my fair share.
This weekend was my first experiment in eating this way. I did not read and eat at the same time, although I did allow myself to drink tea while reading, if it had no sugar or honey in it. While I was eating I tried to pay special attention to what it was I was consuming, and to think about where the ingredients in the food came from. I tried to really taste the food, and enjoy the flavours.
It was hard to do. At times I felt kind of bored, and sometimes I tried to eat quickly so I could get back to reading my book. I could tell that I have really taken food for granted. But it's a step in the right direction, and one that I will get better at with practice.