The “meat and potatoes” of the Headspace meditation app is the multi-day series programs that it offers (I’m in the middle of a 30-day focus on creativity right now and I’m really enjoying it), but there is more to mindfullness than that. The app also offers one-off topics on a variety of subjects and I noticed one on eating. The idea of mindful eating has crossed my path from time to time, I even think I saw a weight loss program based on it advertised on tv at 3am once. After listening to it, I am becoming convinced that the real meat of meditation isn’t when you are sitting on the mat for 20 minutes each day, it is in your moment to moment living.
Take eating, for example. I am so often on autopilot when it comes to my meals. I have Netflix on or I am working while I shovel food into my mouth. I’m not really paying any attention to what I’m doing and I’m just trying to satiate my hunger. Eating takes on a whole different dimension when you shut off distractions and start to pay attention to the sensations. One bite at a time you can focus on the flavors and textures in your mouth and the feeling of the food going down your throat. Instead of pushing more food into your mouth before swollowing you focus on living in the moment. For me, it is a realy pleasant experience.
Eating is just one example of how I can take a few seconds out of a normal experience and try to be mindful of what is happening. Instead of my mind wandering while riding my bike I can scan down my body and check in with each joint and muscle or I can look around me and really try to take in the beautify of the world. When I’m peeing I can leave my phone in the living room and while sitting on the toilet I can focus on the change in pressure and how little muscles in my body tighten and release as the fluid leaves my urethra. Instead of chugging my morning coffee I can savor the flavors, drink slowly, and appreciate the magic of such a wonderful drug.
Our minds wander all too often from the here and now. Whether we are eating, exercising, cleaning the house, or having sex, our minds are not fully with our bodies. I’m not saying that every moment must be focused on the immediate sensation (that would be an impossible task), but I think it is beneficial for me to bring my mind back to the moment when I realize it has drifted. Instead of worrying about what may happen when a shitty president is elected or what I did in 7th grade (something out of my control) or what I plan to do when I start work (something I can control later), my mind could be in the moment and feeling the sensations. You can’t let life pass you by while thinking about a life that might never be.
It isn’t the time spent at meditation retreats and during morning rituals that bring about mindfulness in today’s world, it is shifting into the here and now during your normal life. It is paying explicit attention to all the sensations that our brain does such a good job filtering. It is really savoring the taste, smell, and feeling of the world around you and appreciating the life you have. I guess the old cliche is right, you gotta stop and smell the roses once in a while.