I sat with a group of about 8 other women around a table. In front of us, we each had a plate. One the plate, a slice of watermelon. My favorite fruit. It was mid-afternoon and I was hungry.
“First, I want you to pick up the fruit and look at it,” our instructor said. “Look at every part of it, very closely.”
The watermelon was cool to the touch. The red fruit looked soft, and glittered with tiny crystalline drops of watermelon juice. The rind was tough and green, with streaks of white running through it. I know what watermelon looks like. But really, up close, it’s quite beautiful.
“Now, I want you to think about the watermelon’s journey. Where did it come from? Imagine it starting as a seed. Imagine the rain that needed to fall for it to grow. Who grew it? Where? Who brought it here? Who cut it with a knife and put it on this plate?”
That was a lot to think about. So I stared at the watermelon and tried to imagine all these things, but really, I just wanted to eat it.
“Now, smell the fruit. Smell all the parts of it to see how they are the same or different.”
Oh now this was borderline torture. To have the watermelon so close to my mouth, but not in my mouth. I breathed in the fresh, sweet scent of the ripe fruit. The rind smelled like nothing.
“Now I want you to take a bite, but don’t chew it. Not yet. Just let it sit in your mouth.”
“Really?” I thought to myself. “This woman is a food sadist.”
But I obliged. I sank my teeth into the soft fruit and then let it sit there on my tongue. It took all my willpower to just leave it there and not eat it. All I could think was, “When do we get to eat the damn watermelon?”
Finally, our instructor gave us permission to chew – SLOWLY. Mindfully.
This was, after all, a mindfulness class. Camille has a weekly mindfulness class at school where the kids learn to meditate together, which I think is amazing. This day, the school offered a mindfulness class for any interested parents, so I showed up.
Mindfulness can take many forms, but at its core is about being present in the moment – taking time to be aware of all of the sensations of whatever task you’re doing, whatever environment you’re in, whatever is happening around you. It can be a meditation. It can be as simple as mindfully washing the dishes, noticing the soap bubbles and how they feel on your hands.
It can also include mindful eating, which is what she was teaching us to do with the watermelon.
How many times do I eat without giving any thought to what I’m eating? How much I’m eating? If I’m distracted, like watching TV or even having conversation, it’s easy to just mindlessly bring food from plate to mouth, over and over, barely even tasting it.
Now, I certainly don’t want to eat all my meals the way we ate that watermelon. First of all, it would take forever. By the time I finished breakfast it would be lunchtime. I’d spend my entire day looking at food, contemplating food, smelling food, letting it sit on my tongue, and finally eating it. That sounds awful, really.
But every now and then, it’s kind of nice to take the time to think about what I’m eating and where it came from.
When I told Lee about my lesson in mindful eating, he laughed at first (and I agree – it was kind of funny). But then I reminded him that this is how he and his friends enjoy beer. If you’ve ever been with them when they open a bottle of something special and new, you’ll know that it takes about 10 minutes from the time they pop the top to the time they actually drink it. First they have to admire the label art. Discuss the brewery. How hard was it to attain this beer? Was it expensive? Exclusive? What style of beer is it? What kind of hops were used? What spices or fruits were added?
Then they talk about how it looks in the glass – from color to bubbles to lacing and foam. They smell it for a while. And then, only then, do they drink it.
Mindfulness in general – I need so much more of that in my life. It means not thinking constantly about what’s next or what else is happening, or what happened yesterday – but appreciating what is in front of me. Right now. This very minute.
A friend posted a quote recently on Facebook that resonated with me. I can’t remember now who posted it, but the quote is by Elizabeth Elliot and here’s what she said:
“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.”
Here’s to making the most of today, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. Mindfully.