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17 Minute Oatmeal

March 29, 2010
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Last night I was reading the latest edition of O magazine. The latest edition for me is always the one my mom gave me last! Actually, it’s been in my house for weeks now, and Anthony had leafed through it (in that bathroom, of course, never in public) and told me I should read Oprah’s interview with Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn. Please do not ask me to pronounce that.

At any rate, I knew the article would be right up my alley, as he left it open to a page with a big quote that read “People sacrifice the present for the future. But life is available only in the present”. In fact, I read that quote to one of my coaching clients two weeks ago, way before I even read the article! Last night I was finally ready, and because of reading the article last night, my usual morning oatmeal took me 17 minutes to consume.

I do try to eat my meals mindfully. Or at least consciously. Or at least semi-paying attention. Sometimes. I really, really do tell myself I’ll pay attention, chew well, eat slowly, and not surf the ‘net while I eat, but that rarely happens. This morning I made the mindful and conscious effort to take the time to do that.

Let me back up to last night, though. I’ve read plenty of articles and even books about Buddhism and mindfulness, many courtesy of Anthony. I get it, and I think it’s wonderful, and my life coach training through Martha Beck (coincidentally, an O mag columnist) also led me to the same principles. However. It’s hard to actually live it! (Insert tiny violins here.) I really want to, though, and reading how Nhat Hanh enjoys a cup of tea for a full hour (!) really inspired me. Or re-inspired me.

I have always been fast. Too fast, probably. I always finished my test paper first in school, but would then refuse to recheck my work. I would look around to see if anyone else was done, but never brought my test up front, as I didn’t want to stand out in the crowd. I talk fast, jump in fast, and am definitely a quick start in all areas of my life. This certainly has its benefits: I can get a number of tasks done quickly, I am fast (not running), and I can get things done quickly. Yup, that was me saying the same benefit over and over with slightly different wording, as I can only think of one true benefit.

Honestly, my quickness is great in certain situations, but it really does keep me from being mindful. I’m always jumping to the next thing, switching to a task that needs attention now (or does it?) or planning out my next move. What about the right now?? In the shower I think about what I’m going to wear, when I’m eating breakfast I’m thinking about if I’ve got everything packed for work, when I’m petting Coconut I’m wondering if she’d taste like chicken.

According to the article, the real secret to happiness is being in the moment. I completely see that, understand that, have experience that, and want to practice that. So that’s why this morning I planned on plenty of time for breakfast. Not the same hour that Nhat Hanh takes for a cup of tea, but I did give myself 20 minutes to consume my oats.

What did I notice? Well, oats get cold. And I actually got bored eating after a while. I always think I love eating so much, but that’s probably when I’m scarfing it down; it’s gone so quickly I think I want more, therefore it must have been fabulous! I am aware that the first few bites of any food always taste the best, and that was certainly true this morning. I enjoyed the almond butter on my oats the whole way through, but the oats, banana, and raisins got old. I chewed, I pondered, I enjoyed the cold water sipped from the Christmas mug that Anthony’s ex-girlfreind gave him years and years ago. I could feel my fullness better, and I certainly enjoyed eating and only eating. I didn’t have the TV on, I wasn’t thinking about what I was going to do next. 

You know me – I’m already planning on how I can always integrate this, how I can make sure I pay attention, how to be mindful all the time. But when I do that, I am immediately removed from the present, therefore am not truly living. I can set my intentions to eat mindfully, but only at the moment of a meal can I actually make that happen.

One of the few times I’m regularly mindful is while I “do what I do”. That includes coaching (most of the time), writing, making art, and doing other creative tasks. I wonder how much more enjoyable other tasks, like eating, showering, stretching, work, cat-juggling, and driving would be if I was more mindful? I would say I’m going to try to find out, but that would take me out of the present. So instead, Have you practiced mindfulness in certain areas of your life? What impact has it had?

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