Had an hour to kill yesterday and I was captive in the mall without any shopping to do and I'd already had my coffee. Luckily there is a very cool newsstand in this particular mall and the Starbucks employees were only too happy to get me a free cup of ice water upon request. I wonder if it was the simplest drink they'd made all day, what with the expanded holiday menu of eggnog, caramel (salted and not), peppermint, chocolate and various other festive flavors.
Sorry - took off for tangent-town there. Anyway, I purchased a copy of the latest Yoga Journal and Shambhala Sun magazines and settled down to read for a bit. I came across an article that perfectly fit my frenetic needs for the moment (short, easily digested, impactful) on mindfulness and was instantly hooked. I am afraid that, while I love food and drink, I sit squarely in the center of that camp who uses both to self-soothe. I have also cultivated the habit of multi-tasking for no particular purpose whatsoever. Example: unless I am at a table with other people, I never eat or drink without also reading or surfing the internet or dashing off an email or twelve or talking on the phone. None of those activities are time-sensitive, so it's not as though I need to be doing them while simultaneously eating or drinking. It is also rare for me to sit down to do something (write, read, perform surgery on a beloved stuffed pet, watch the latest episode of "House" or "Parenthood") without having at least a cup of tea or coffee or fizzy water or a glass of wine next to me. I have come to equate the acts of eating and drinking with doing other things. In other words, I am completely UNmindful when it comes to eating and drinking.
Now, read this excerpt from the article I read and tell me how much you want to stop and be mindful the next time you put something into your mouth: "After writing for a few hours I'm ready to reward myself with a [lemon] tart. The first bite is delicious. Creamy, sweet-sour, melting. When I take the second bite, I think about what to write next. The flavor in my mouth decreases. I take another bite and get up to sharpen a pencil. As I walk, I notice I am chewing, but there is almost no lemon flavor in this third bite. I sit down, get to work, and wait a few minutes. Then I take a fourth bite, fully focused on the smells, tastes, and touch sensation in my mouth. Delicious, again! I discover...that the only way to keep that "first bite" experience, to honor the gift [of the tart] my friend gave me, is to eat slowly...if I do anything else while I'm eating, the flavor diminishes."
The glands at the back of my mouth began releasing saliva with the description of the first bite. But when I began following her thoughts and movements throughout the next few sentences, the sensation was lost. That's exactly how I eat. Anticipate. Realize that first bite. Move on mentally and shovel the rest in until the plate is empty. Be sad that it's gone because I only really enjoyed the first bite and forgot to savor the rest. Decide I want more. Get more. Repeat the entire sequence.
It occurred to me that when babies are taking their first tastes of food, they are a captive audience to the mindfulness of eating. They are fully experiencing the smells, tastes, and textures of the food that is going into their mouths and, one one hand this is awesome and exciting, but it's not all that strange that they reject some foods entirely because of this overwhelming experience. As adults, we have learned to dismiss most of the sensations associated with foods after that first bite, but babies aren't reading or writing holiday cards while they are tasting food. They are simply eating and experiencing that entire process and all it brings with it, for good and bad.
I am taking Lola and her best friend out to lunch today for their holiday "date" and while I know the table will be loud and giggly and rambunctious, I am going to do my best to eat slowly and mindfully and be present with each of the sensations that accompany my lunch. I'm willing to bet I will eat less but feel more sated at the end of it.