January 29, 2015

Everyday Mindfulness: Put Down the Silverware

There are many ways to rush through our days. And there are many choices for small yet substantial pauses. Spread throughout the day, purposeful pauses can shift our landscape. One of these places is mealtime. Food nourishes us and, in community, it nourishes connection. It's an important time to be fully present. Yet we seldom are.

While in academia, I ate at my desk facing the computer, barely chewing my food nor tasting the flavors. Everything seemed so important and pressing. If I made time to experience lunch, I wouldn't get everything done. Yet I was perpetuating my own busyness, removing my choices. And in that process, I lost connection with myself.

It's common to feel we're "on our way" to something else, even as we're in the here and now. Eating a meal can feel this way. But meals provide a gentle and needed space. Here's a counter-culture approach to food: close your eyes for 30 seconds, pay attention to your breath, be in your body; look at your food, take in the colors; smell your food, breathe in the aroma; taste and fully chew your food. I know this might sound radical. (I don't have time for this nonsense, there's more important things to do.). Here's a key ingredient: put down your silverware (or your food), let go, between bites; between every bite. This act, in itself, will slow your pace. Even if your mind races and you quickly anticipate the next bite, there's a bit of space. You can notice your reactions. If you're with other people, you can give them your full attention. Look them in the eye. (Or, if alone, look inward at yourself.) 

Give yourself this gift: put down the silverware, release your grip. Make space to savor your meal--even if in small ways. It helps your digestion, but more importantly it helps you connect with others and reconnect with yourself. (I'm with you on this journey, still practicing and starting anew each day.)

January 21, 2015


I read an interview in a magazine. "I don't meditate. It just doesn't work for me," quickly followed by "I don't understand when someone says, 'I don't do yoga, I'm not flexible.'" The interviewee accepts his own unwillingness to meditate yet judges another's resistance to yoga. A contradiction. 

I smiled when I read this. We all hold contradictions inside us. I judge myself far more harshly than I judge others. I practice the Buddhist precepts yet I drink wine, regularly. I don't want fame yet I daydream of having a book published. I'm a pacifist yet I'm often at war with myself, or at war with the present moment. 

We're human. We're complicated paradoxes. We needn't be shocked by these contradictions. They're in everybody in every form we can imagine. But neither should we ignore the contradictions. They hold wisdom. They show us where we're stuck; where we're blind or resistant or ignorant. Paradox is a rich place for growth. But bring these tools: curiosity, gentleness, tolerance, honesty, and kindness. See what shifts; see what grows.

January 16, 2015

Everyday Mindfulness: Red Lights

Daily life can feel hectic. We cram our schedules full, leaving no space for surprises and interruptions, both of which we can depend on regularly. This feeds our irritation and separates us from joy. Yet it's possible to make breathing room in the tightest of schedules. Momentary pauses abound. 

Red lights and stop signs are beacons of stillness. It takes this subtle shift: I'm stopped from moving forward (argh!); I'm allowed to pause and be, to relax for a few breaths. This practice has buoyed me. I now welcome red lights. I don't look in my purse or at my phone or obsess in my mind, I bring my awareness back to my breath and my body. I rest at the red light.

I also do this as a pedestrian. When crossing a busy street, I must wait for traffic. I wait and breathe deeply. Or I repeat loving-kindness phrases to myself: may I be safe, may I be happy, may I live with ease. Whatever the practice, it creates a break in the busyness. It gives me access to the present moment. It moves me toward both stillness and aliveness.