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“Each breath is an invitation back to this moment, back to this life, lived in this one and only moment”
The mornings this week have been some of the coldest of the winter. It was -2° C on Friday, and -1° C was forecast for the first day of the weekend and for our usual early Saturday morning bike ride with friends. Good sense meant a later start, and out of the cold and frosty morning emerged one of the glorious sunny, and nearly cloudless blue sky days the Central West is well known for.
Cycling is popular in our town. However riding in a group means everyone has preferences for how they like to ride; some like to go fast and get to the top of the hill first, others prefer to put their heads down and burn energy to the ‘max’, while many of us prefer to stay together and chat about the week’s past events. Sometime I choose to ride out mindfully – which means I am by myself and mostly last. But the rewards are plentiful – the majesty of the hills, the visual array of the farms, the sounds of the animals, the momentary whiff of a fragrant garden and the personality of the different vineyards we pass. Time spent mindfully rarely disappoints.
This weekend out of the cold and frosts of winter emerged the first daffodils of the season. I love Daffodils. A sign of spring. A sign of a new beginning.
No matter where we cycle, the end destination is always the same.
Again everyone in the peloton has preferences – some do fruit toast, some do a hot breakfast and we all do coffee. The problem of eating with a group is that the sight of enticing food on the menu, or on other’s plates , can make us want to eat, even if we’re not hungry and have eaten before leaving home.
The unhelpful thoughts inevitably arise (“I want to eat this..” ). The narrative builds (“I have done plenty of exercise surely I deserve a treat”). You probably know how it goes…on and on, until the thoughts take over and we end up mindlessly eating too much, or not eating want we want. All of which can leave us feeling guilty or cross.
Psychologists call this the abstinence violation effect (a sense of loss of control over our behaviour that has a demoralising effect). In mindfulness practice this is called life. Mindfulness helps us learn to accept and tolerate the urges and cravings that invariably arise when we are surrounded by eating cues such as freshly baked scones! Triggers for “…eating because it’s there”, “eating because it’s nice”, “eating because I’m too busy talking” or “eating because I just don’t have time to think before the waitress comes ” and “eating because it’s in my mouth before I even notice what I’m eating”.
Eating mindfully is easy in theory – in reality in an environment filled with readily available food it’s hard. Very hard. And it’s hardest of all when surrounded by friends, with our attention swirling around in the joys, and conversations, and social pressures of being with others.
What to do? I think we are all in situations when we could ask what ourselves what can we do?
I have a little Kelly Rae Roberts plate at home that reminds me what to do. It says: •B•R•E•A•T•H•E
By breathing we give ourselves the moment: to respond, not react.
Breathing helps bring us out of our heads and getting swayed by our thoughts (I notice the thought: “Hmm… my partner’s ordering scones perhaps I should order something too?”).
Focusing on the physical sensations of our breath helps bring our attention back into our body. It’s the reminder to turn inward: Am I hungry? How hungry am I? Am I thirsty? Am I emotional? What does my body need right now?
Each moment our breath is an opportunity for a new beginning.
Even once we have made the decision what to eat (or what not to eat), when we’re eating with friends, it can remain hard to stay mindful. If we’re drawn into our friends compelling stories (“… and then she said to me… “). Breathe. When we’re back in our heads and lost in our thoughts (“…humff… that looks nice why did I just order coffee…”). Breathe.
A breath is an invitation back to the mouthful, back to the body, back to the intention to eat or drink this mindfully.
Each breath is an invitation back. Back to this life, lived in this one and only moment.
And yes, then I’m reminded again about the pleasure of eating mindfully. Half a scone on the neighbouring plate is pushed towards me. Still warm, it’s topped with homemade raspberry jam. I add a dollop of cream. One, two, three slow and delicious mouthfuls. I smile and reflect and I’m thankful – for his mindfulness, and yes how well and truly he knows me….