Tag Archives: meditation

half eaten chocolate bar

Mindfulness and Chocolate

As I convalesce, I have been listening to presentations on mindfulness through the Mindfulness Summit, a 31-day project with a mission to make mindfulness mainstream.

Here I have to admit that I’m not very good at practicing mindfulness…or anything else that requires me to sit quietly.

I’m getting better, and I think the daily talks and practices in the Mindfulness Summit have helped.

I want to share with you one thing that I have learned in the last few weeks that I have known but never fully embraced…

…be present.

In my mindfulness practice and in listening to these daily mindfulness talks, I have not specifically focused on being present. However, this is what I’m taking away from these 31 days.

It is true that if you practice, you will improve. It does not matter what it is that you are practicing. And though I spend most of my evenings reminding my daughter to practice her piano and practice her singing, knowing all the while that this is what she needs to do to improve her skills in these areas, I consistently neglect practice in my own life.

Mindfulness is a skill, and one that needs to be practiced.

Without realizing it because I’m doing it as part of a daily routine of listening to the Mindfulness Summit, I have embedded the practice of being present in my mind.

I’ve written here about counting before speaking or reacting, and I’ve practiced that inconsistently over the years. It’s a similar idea to being present, but once you’re present, you are in that moment and can be in every moment if you choose it.

Here is where I get to the part about chocolate.

I love Caramilk chocolate bars. My husband brought one home for me the other night. It has been sitting in the pantry ever since.

Today, I decided to eat it.

But I found myself not wanting to just devour it as I would have in the past. I broke one square off, thinking I would slowly savour the treat.

After popping it into my mouth, I chewed it and swallowed it rather quickly. It was just so good. I couldn’t slow myself down.

I walked away from the chocolate bar. It was tempting me. Pushing me out of my present zone. Dragging me toward wanting more.

I came back a few minutes later, thinking I was ready to handle the delicious little temptress, and I took the chocolate bar to the kitchen table with me.

I sat down at the table, opened my Kindle app on my phone and proceeded to read while I ate the rest of the chocolate bar.

I allowed a couple of squares to melt in my mouth without chewing them. I was winning the battle of temptation. I was slowing down my time with this delicious treat; appreciating all that it had to offer.

But was I?

I was reading and eating. Not fulling enjoying either activity.

And all that mindfulness practice came flooding in.

I closed my Kindle app and pushed my phone away. I took the next square of chocolate and paid close attention to how much of the chocolate bar was left (half, in case you’re wondering).

I put that square in my mouth, closed my eyes and let it melt. I took slow, deep breaths. I savoured the melting chocolate, the feeling of it as it coated the inside of my mouth, the sweetness of it as it slipped down my throat, the way that it activated a sense of calm in my brain.

As I felt my mind wander away from the chocolate to the next item on my To Do list, I gently brought my mind back to the chocolate, back to the sensation, just like in the meditation practice I learned on day one of the Mindfulness Summit.

That square lasted just under a minute, but the feeling of being present in that moment with that square of chocolate and caramel will last in my memory for a life time.

As I write this, I feel a sense of calm and relaxation from the memory alone.

The other half of the chocolate bar is wrapped neatly in its wrapping in the pantry for the next time I need to be reminded of how to be present.

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bench in a filed

Getting Some Distance

There was a time when I was involved in everything that peaked my interest (and everything that I thought I should be involved in as a mother of school-aged children).

I was on several committees at church, on the parent council at my daughter’s school, on the parent involvement committee for the school district, volunteering with the heritage society in my community, and basically burning out faster than I could stay lit.

All this was to grow I told myself. To expand my horizons, meet new people, get involved and help out. And it was invigorating and exciting for a time.

But the more I got involved, the more I felt I had to be involved.

And the joy went out of the volunteering. I already had a full-time job. And now the volunteer commitments were adding up to another full-time job. My family was not getting my focus. I was rushing from one thing to another. My kids were cranky and reacting to the rushed pace of my schedule. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was cranky, too. I worked late into the night on projects for the various committees on which I sat. Then I went to bed and tossed and turned for hours, going over in my head other things that still needed to get done.

I was also trying to manage a chronic pain issue. I could ignore it mostly. But some days it was so bad that I didn’t want to get out of bed. My husband encouraged me to revisit a specialist I had seen years ago to see if there were any treatment options that might alleviate some (or all) of the pain. Of course, with my busy schedule and “I can do it all” attitude, I put off going to the specialist.

Eventually I caved, or my body gave up and I didn’t have a choice. I don’t really remember what the final straw was.

But after several visits to the specialist, it was determined that something could be done for me, and the surgery that was offered might alleviate most of the pain for a good period of time. (I’m talking years here. I could be relatively pain free for years to come following this surgery.)

In those consultations with the surgeon, I was told what to expect in terms of recovery (very long) and he offered some advice about how to prepare for the time that I would be mostly reliant on others for basic things like meals, help getting dressed, moving around, and other things that I’m still discovering that I can’t do on my own.

His advice was to slow down. Remove myself from some if not all of my commitments. Do only what I have to do (which is work full time).

And so, about 11 months before I had a firm surgery date, I started to cut back. I stepped down from committees. I said no to other, new opportunities. I spent more time just hanging out with my kids instead of shuttling them around to activities, camps and school. I kept them home and did simple activities with them, played games, read books…all the things that I had always wished I’d had time for.

And now that I’ve done that, I’m more focused on what’s truly important.

As much as I’ve enjoyed volunteering and helping at church and my children’s school, my children need me at home. And I need more time to myself. This is what I’ve discovered.

And this discovery has led to another discovery.

My children need more time for the things that they enjoy, the things that spark their interests, things they wish to pursue.

And school and our busy life is not the place for that. I have thought long and hard on this for quite some time. It’s not just about me giving up commitments to scale back and spend more time with my littles. Space needs to be created for my littles, too. What does that look like?

Fewer organized activities; fewer commitments outside of the home; fewer big plans to occupy our time on the weekends, the only two full days we get together each week. More time with family. More time moving slowly, truly absorbing what we’re learning. More time meditating. More time in nature.

Distance from over-commitment has improved my perspective on the need for space to grow and to learn. If there is space, there is room to be together, to learn together, to grow together. This new view is why we are looking for ways to make the simple life our life. It is why we are not enrolling our kids in so many activities this session. (It is also because I cannot drive and it’s easy to be simple and distanced when you can’t get around on your own and create your own busy-ness.) And it is why we are going to bed earlier, spending more time reading and less time looking at screens. It is why we are considering making some big changes along with the little changes.

Distance from it all seems to be just what we need. And with faith and courage, we will follow this new path.

Five Minute Friday – Listen

Linking up with Lisa-Jo over on her site today.

It’s Five Minute Friday. The word is listen. Here’s how to play:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back to Lisa-Jo’s post and invite others to join in.
3. And then, absolutely no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community...

GO Continue reading

Why should faith be easy?

On my drive into work, I looked up at the sky and noticed the most beautifully illuminated and reflective clouds filling the sky.

It was a stormy morning and the clouds, though broken, were numerous; most of them dark and foreboding. But two big mountain peaks of clouds stretched up into the blue, hiding the morning sun behind them and reflecting that light back up into the sky.

It was stunning to see. I wished I’d had my camera with me. Then I wished I was a better photographer with better equipment to truly capture the beauty that was shining in front of me. Then I thanked God for showing me this display of beauty which so lifted my spirits.

And, as all those thoughts tumbled around in my head, clawing at each other to be the thought that floated to the top and shaped my day (or at least my drive into work), one thought slipped between the chaos up to the front of my mind and whispered, “What if God just heard you thanking Him and laughed at you because you believe that His magnificent displays in nature are signs of His existence and love? What if what He’s really doing is just enjoying Himself up there, not a care in the world, and mocking us down here who think that faith is easy and that all we have to do is believe and open our hearts and we will be shown the way?”

It kind of sounded like the Devil’s voice. Continue reading