Affirmation: I eat mindfully
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware of the present moment without judging. John Kabat-Zinn brought a greater awareness to the practice back in 1970's when he began teaching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). It is still taught worldwide. I studies MBSR at Duke Integrative Medicine, NC several years ago. It's a gift we give ourselves when we develop the ability to be in the present moment. It's also the practice of a lifetime. Most of here in the West don't sit in a lotus position for several hours a day chanting or focusing on a mantra (a single word or phrase). Most Americans are more concerned about the past or the future and are missing whatever is happening in the present. In general we are a busy, pre-occupied population. But, most of us are also looking for ways to improve the quality of our lives. We are searching for that which will enhance our daily experiences and not leave us feeling so worn out and tired. Tools, we are looking for the tools we can use to fix or to shape or to color our lives so that we are able to take deeper breaths, appreciate the beauty of nature and relish the precious moments of connection with those we love.
For many, prayer is a powerful tool. It's my first choice. Time to communicate with my God, time to tell Her my concerns, to offer up thanksgiving for all my blessings and time to simply sit and listen. It doesn't have to be formal prayer. My day is lifted up and given over to God, Jesus Christ, before I even rise from the bed. Then, if it's a day of unending activity which I must confess is not unusual, I still know that I am in prayer mode throughout all the business.
In yoga the practitioner is called upon to focus on his or her breath. Sometimes a yoga practice may only involve pranayama, breathing techniques. There are many, some more elaborate than others. The simplest one involves watching one's breath. I encourage my students at the very beginning of practice to simply notice their breath. "Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath, the in and the out, the up and the down, the rise and the fall." After years of beginning practice this way, I simply need to think the words and I feel calmer. When a group of us are all focusing on our breath at the same time, the entire energy level in the room changes from charged to serene.
Another breathing technique that can be used anywhere anytime is to simply take a deep breath. Breathe all the way down into your belly and then release it. Want to make it even more effective, sigh it out. Oh, not just a little sigh, make it a full "haaaaa!" Don't believe it'll make a difference? Try it right now, do it a few times and then just notice. Don't judge, just observe if you feel any different. I attach the name of Jesus to my deep breaths. It's a mini-prayer that I can do anywhere, anytime.
Journaling is also an opportunity for me to practice mindfulness. I like to have a large mug of tea next to me; my favorite spiral bound journal, an easy flowing ballpoint pen and a pleasant space. I usually write in my sun room. I have a nice chair and ottoman and the room faces my garden, the bird feeders and a small waterfall. It's a yellow room with much of my favorite memorabilia on the shelves. I begin with a prayer and then write my three pages. I am fully there in the time and space. It centers me for the day. It leaves me feeling grounded and calm.
Another way for me to practice mindfulness is when I am eating. It's a reciprocal process in that when I focus on the process of eating, my eating becomes healthier. I'm always fine tuning my diet. I'm a moderate person, meaning I don't usually go overboard when I'm making changes. I'm a sure and steady kind of gal. I share this with you because while I know a lot about vegan diets and vegetarian diets, I have not fully embraced any restrictive form of eating. I avoid certain foods that I think aren't my best choices, like things with sugar, artificial colors or flavorings, foods that are heavily salted or have preservatives. I try to eat mostly fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and chicken. I love a glass of wine periodically and sharing an ice cream with friends or especially with a grandchild, is a real treat for me. I know how important it is to eat a "good" diet. I'm also aware of the global impact my choices have on the rest of the world.
When I trained at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, breakfast was always silent. It was a very educational experience for me. I am a social eater. I love to sit with family and friends and share a meal and conversation. If there's no one around, I don't really care if I eat or not. I'm an "eat-to-live" person, not a "live-to-eat" person. In order to make the best food choices for me I decided to simply pay close attention to the eating experience. Have you ever tried the "raisin" experiment? You place a single raisin in your mouth and you don't chew it. You allow it to dissolve very very slowly. You notice the texture, the sweetness. You think about how it came to become a raisin, where it was grown, who harvested it. It can take 10 or even 15 minutes to eat that one raisin. It can bring you to a whole new appreciation for every bit you take.
What is your eating environment like? Do you take your time and savor each bite or have you just gone through the drive-thru and are eating as you go? What's dinner like? Is the TV on or is the computer in front of you? What if you simply sat at the table and focused on the food you are putting into your mouth and your body? If you ate mindfully would your choices be different? Mine are. We are what we eat. What and how we feed our bodies, our minds and our spirits determines every cell of our being. Slow down, breathe deeply, say grace before your meal and savor each bite and especially each moment of your life.