Gina living here on Maui and blogging over at Nourishing by Heart.
Living and blogging about mindfulness with food and life. Carla has given me a chance to look back over my own journey to mindfulness and what a journey it has been!
I originally had visions of sharing some profound words of wisdom with you regarding why eating mindfully will change your body and your life, but I got sidetracked by memories of my journey.
So let’s talk story…
My first experience with eating mindfully came unexpectedly.
My youngest child was just entering first grade and I now had full days to myself for the first time in many years.
I thought what to do first? I, of course, want to do something -anything to refresh and soothe my harried heart and soul.
I signed up for an 8 week art therapy course given at the retreat center around the corner.
Not knowing anything about art therapy at the time (this was in 1986) all I knew was I had always been drawn to Stella Maris, the retreat center, the peace and quiet that seemed to call to me during my daily walks past the center seemed almost irresistible
Arriving at the course my first day I was welcomed with a deep quite which I was unaccustomed to, a peace I pined after and a sweetness that brought tears to my eyes.
Fast forward to lunch, which is prepared by the lovely Franciscan sisters and served with love. I was hungry for lunch and with much to talk about from the art work done in the morning session I was also ready to socialize with adults!
When the art therapist announced that our lunch hour is taken in silence and we would observe the silence until we met back in the art room.
Oh my! I was sorely disappointed, no conversation, no discussing our morning art, no new adult friends to be made. I settled in to my chair and noticed I was a bit fidgety and ill at ease.
Not only did I not have children to focus on I had only me and my lunch for the next hour.
For me that was like eternity, what did I sign up for here?
Why would she want us to sit in silence? What on earth was I going to do with myself and my lunch for an entire hour?
Since I had no where to go, nothing to do and what felt like all the time in the world I decided I would do what everyone around me was doing, eat my lunch.
While the food was not a memorable piece for me, the eating of it was quite remarkable.
With focus on the plate, the bites all seemed to matter, they were each one a separate event. I began to relax and feel I could take my time and be with this meal or each bite. I did not have anything else to do!
Quite proud of myself and my ability to take on this new process with such ease and grace I turned to see if it was time to be thinking about returning to the art room.
The position of the clock hands smashed my illusions of becoming an instant monk, I had 53 more minutes to fill! How could 7 minutes feel like an hour?
Thankfully I noticed a number of classmates walking outside and I realized of course the silence was simply meant for in the dining room.
Conversation at last. But not yet…the noble silence was up held outside also as these artists were simply walking in silence. Now I was really alone, no meal to be with only my mind.
I don’t recall what I thought about or how long it took me to settle into the stillness. I do remember the peace and overwhelming gratitude I felt for being alive, for being me.
Tears began to fill my eyes and eventually stream down my face. I had a sense that I had been ready for this moment of awareness all my life yet not a clue how to find it.
I have never forgotten being touched so sweetly by silence, an inner silence that is always there and ready to be tapped if we can only be still long enough to hear.
What a beautiful place to begin to listen, with our meals, our nourishment, our food. We eat routinely and in that is an opening for being aware, daily, no excuses. Aware of what we are eating, thinking, doing. Aware that we are breathing, alive and in a body.
The simplicity of awareness has some folks wonder how it can possibly make a difference.
Yet it is this simplicity that is the difference. This is when less is more and what is can finally be held long enough to be seen fully.
Mindful eating and meditation became a part of me after those 8 weeks.
Not in a big way but a very deep and real way that I would later return to as a source of self care and peace when uncertainty and challenge appeared as it does in life.
Over time I became familiar with the inner places that do not change or go away when the going gets tough and loved this place with all my heart.
With this personal experience and a number of mindful mediation teachers as guides I began to share the mindful eating process with nutrition clients, continuing my own practice with life being my biggest teacher.
If you have struggled with food or life.
If you have experienced the confusion or disappointment of the world of diets and self-loathing, I ask you to give mindfulness, eating meals with awareness and peace, a chance to let your innermost silence be heard it’s not hard and with 3 meals a day, there’s plenty of opportunity to practice.
Your turn 🙂