For many years, I have spent my life in either the past or the future. I refer, of course, to the life of the mind – or at least my mind. My brain goes to many places that I wish I could place off-limits but, sadly, it has a mind of its own.
Over the last few years I’ve made repeated, sporadic attempts to anchor myself more firmly in the here and now. Throwing pottery did it, when I first tried it: I could sit at the wheel for hours and not even think about food. But then the studio became my social center, which just gave me more fodder for the mind-mill. I’ve repeatedly tried meditation, but haven’t been able to develop a consistent practice. I’ve taken classes, done a lot of yoga, attended weekly guided meditation sessions. Nothing has stuck.
My latest approach is to take a few moments of intentional mindfulness. This, too, has been hard, but it’s had some interesting benefits. Take dinner. I haven’t had time or energy to really cook this week, so I’ve eaten lunch out three days this week (unheard of for me) and eaten whatever I could pull together quickly each evening. Tonight I fell back on an old standby: grilled cheese. But I added a twist: three huge sage leaves, picked fresh from my garden.
Two small slices of firm whole wheat bread surrounded a hodge-podge of leftover cheese: Cabot’s hunter cheddar; some kind of hard, sharpish cheese with the consistency of a very firm Swiss, bought two weeks ago at the farmers’ market; and the last small remaining piece of fresh mozzarella, which I didn’t even try to slice but simply plopped onto a corner of the bottom piece of bread. On top, the herbs, then into a hot iron skillet it went, with a tablespoon of olive oil, covered to ensure complete melting.
So good, that each bite caused me to look up from the computer (yeah, I know, really mindful eating wouldn’t in any way involve a computer), chewing slowly, all my senses on high alert. Egads! I have had similar experiences all week with the multitudes of raspberries I’ve been stealing away from the squirrels and the Japanese beetles in my back yard. In their third year of production, my four bushes have produced in spades. Each time I wrap my tongue around a warm berry, the burst of juice is as wondrous as if I was eating for the first time.
We all get stuck in ruts. Who looks up for that? We need new stimuli – a new flavor combination, a different route to work, a new friend– to shift out of automatic and pay attention to the moments we inhabit. How amazing to think of all the small, simple miracles we may be missing when our heads are down.