Moment By Moment

Moment by Moment                    February 2016 by Jean Miller

When I was a child of seven or eight, back when the dinosaurs roamed, I remember having a carefree uncomplicated life.  When I played, my only thought was on whatever game, adventure or pastime my brother and I had decided to do that day. I was not a fussy eater; so when I ate, I really enjoyed and thought just about the food and maybe if there was enough for seconds; but that was it. When I was not active, I enjoyed books and drawing and imagining all kinds of things.  Life was not complicated. 

Looking back I realize that each thing I did, I did with complete abandon to that pursuit.  Social media, as we know it, didn't exist.  We had a television with three channels, a radio, and a record player.  The phone was installed a couple of years later. ..a standard black wall phone, rotary dial with a party line, which we shared with seven other families. Our ring was two long rings and two short rings.  There was nothing to prevent any, or all, of the other seven families from listening in on one another's phone calls. ..and they did.  I guess you could say it was my first introduction to social media.  But we weren't allowed to use the phone much and we didn't.  It never proved to be much of a distraction.    

As I grew up, the simplicity of my youth became displaced with school, marriage, motherhood, work and so many other things that filled each day. They left little time to just be.   There never seemed to be time to live in the moment.  Yet, looking back, that is really all there was time for.    

With the approach of the Lenten season, when so many of us are focused on making personal changes to prepare ourselves for Easter, I thought it would be beneficial to make mindfulness my Lenten focus.

“How to Sit” and “How to Eat” are the titles of two small books I recently read by the Buddhist Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. While seemingly simple in their content, they contain profound wisdom delivered in easy to digest mini-chapters.

The focus on of these books is mindfulness, specifically while sitting and eating . . . something we all do.  To be mindful means to stop our busy brains and focus just on what we are doing at any given moment; not forcing anything, just being present in each moment and each breath.  The writer suggests that we begin our meals by sitting with awareness, by breathing and by emptying our minds to focus completely on our food.  

He recommends that we first sit with awareness of the comfort and support that our seat provides us. 

The next step is to stop thinking and breathe. "It takes only a moment to take a mindful in-breath and out-breath before you eat. Bring the mind back to the body. 

Your body is always available for you."  "Breathe in such a way that you are nourished.  You are nourished by your breathing and you nourish other people with your practice of breathing. We nourish one another."  

The third step is to empty our minds and focus completely on the food.  Look at an apple or ear of corn or string bean.  The soil, the sky, the sun and the rain are in that apple or corn or string bean.  The loving labor of the farmer, those who picked the food and those who brought it to your market are also in that food.  "When you put a single grain of rice into your mouth, you are putting the whole universe into your mouth. This is possible when you stop your thinking." 

I have discovered that I am not very mindful about my sitting or the food I prepare or eat.  While my food is generally healthy, breakfast is rushed, lunch at work includes multi-tasking, and dinner often includes conversation about negative things, worries, concerns or the to-do lists.  Emptying our thoughts and becoming mindful is definitely a practice that takes practice.   But, even a few moments of mindfulness are healthy and beneficial. I am making infinitely small baby steps.  

So for Lent, I have planned an exercise in mindfulness for myself.  I will repeat this exercise weekly.    I plan to sit quietly, cover my eyes with a soft cloth (all the better to focus with) and eat an apple in silence.

I will notice the shape and texture of the apple in my hand and I will smell its aroma.  I will feel the apple against my lips and teeth as I enjoy the crunch of my first bite. I will chew and try and feel the sun and rain, the earth, the sky and even the sturdy tree branch where the apple grew. I may even be able to feel the bees that pollinated the apple blossom and the birds that nested in the apple branch.  I want to chew that apple and be grateful for all the loving care and hard work that went into bringing it to my table.   I will practice mindfulness, if only for a few minutes. Perhaps I will encounter the universe in that apple.perhaps I will encounter God.


Jean Miller