Recently, I had an aha moment while I was eating a salad for lunch and skimming the newspaper.
I don’t have much time for newspaper reading in this season of life. Of course, we all know it’s not that we don’t have time for things; it’s that we’re not making time for them. But I make time to appear on the non-stop quiz show that is hanging out with my four-year-old: “How do the flowers bloom?” “Why does glass break?” “Why does it get dark at night?” I make time to chase my naked one-year-old around the house with a diaper, to prepare more sandwiches some days than a bustling Subway, and to meet writing deadlines, polish blog posts, and edit a book. So, reading the newspaper doesn’t always rise to the top of my to-do list.
But I grew up in a newsroom. My parents owned or edited newspapers until I was ten and then wrote for them. Newspapers were our bread and butter, and according to my parents (and civics teachers), the foundation of an informed democracy. Thus I’ve always tried to squeeze reading one into any moments of my days when I am sitting. Lately, during those moments, I’m also eating.
But on this day, as I ravenously devoured my salad with our bizarrely sordid City Region section — Armed man mistakes pregnant wife for an intruder! Mom lets toddler inhale marijuana smoke! Blind rapper robs car! Seriously. — I realized how ridiculous it was. I was hardly tasting the fresh, organic food that I’d spent good money on and labored to prepare.
Moreover, I was squandering one of life’s greatest pleasures – eating.
More ridiculous still, I meditate for fifteen minutes a day. So I was rushing through my lunch, distracted and multi-tasking, so that I’d have time to sit and pay attention to my breath. It’s like driving across town to run on a treadmill.
So that day I stopped.
Now I just sit and eat. If someone’s eating with me, we converse. If I’m alone, I pay attention to my food. Sometimes I watch the chickens peck around the grass, the squirrels scamper along the fence tops, and the bluebirds flit between the branches.
My meals are incredibly relaxing and pleasurable.
And when lunch is over, I usually find myself scribbling down notes, because it turns out quiet, unhurried lunches are perfect incubators for ideas — for stories, novels, essays, blog posts…
There’s a name for this magic that I’ve discovered: mindful eating.
Full confession: I’ve long been aware of it. I’ve seen half a dozen magazine articles and blog posts about it over the years. I’ve possibly even wolfed down a story about it in the lifestyle section while inhaling my lunch.
But I long resisted actually doing it. Why? I’m a compulsive reader. And the truth is, eating has always seemed, well, a little boring.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. When I worked in offices, the few people who left their desks for lunch lugged along a book, magazine, or laptop to bury themselves in.
The truth is, being mindful of anything can be deceptively tricky. It takes getting used to. But psychologists say practicing mindful eating can help people form a healthy relationship with food, desire more nutritious meals, and sustain a healthy weight.
And as I can attest, once you get the hang of it, it could become the best part of your day.
Do you practice mindful eating? Have you stumbled upon another small change that made a huge difference in your life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.