Awareness is Success

When we set out to achieve a goal we determine how we will measure our success. The beauty comes when we recognize that there are other forms of success along the way. This Axis Yoga Teacher Training student is a lovely example of how success can be found throughout our journey. This student set a goal to eat meals quietly and without distraction as an Ayurvedic experiment. Success was found not just at the finish line but in the multiple facets of awareness that were found during the process.

 

Awareness: of the problem

It was very inspiring to hear former students present their Ayurveda experiments to our class. I was impressed by their willingness to share personal information, experiences and insights as a way to help us contemplate what behavior we would like to change in our own lives.

The first behavior that came to my mind as they were speaking, that I was most frustrated with, was the way I ate a meal when I was alone. I very often ate fast, sometimes in front of the TV, or sometimes just would scarf down snacks simultaneously while I was composing an e-mail, paying bills, or reading. This issue of rushing through a meal, unfortunately, was a behavior I had also carried into the office. I was starting to make progress in the work arena by no longer eating at my desk but continued to struggle at home. Therefore, I wanted my Ayurveda class experiment to focus on my eating behavior specifically at home.

What I found interesting is that I kept on putting off designing any sort of structure or setting up any parameters for my experiment. I really did not want to deal with it. Looking at the class syllabus a few days later, I realized that I needed to start to deal with it sooner than later, or at least figure out why I was struggling and resisting even thinking about it. I ended up taking the time to contemplate the why. The first thing that popped into my head was my memory of eating family meals. Unfortunately, it was not a very pleasant experience, so my five siblings and I ate fast in the hope for an early dismissal from the table. Another thought that came to mind was my struggle to take time to nurture myself and not always feel that I needed to be productive.

Awareness: of the process

Being one to always want to analyze, this mental exercise allowed me to proceed with the next step of formulating my hypothesis which was: If I made an effort to be more aware of how I eat I would be introducing a new nurturing and self-healing behavior into my life.  In order to test out my hypothesis, I decided that I would try and eat one meal a day mindfully by myself. I defined mindfully to mean sitting down at a table, taking time before I ate to express gratitude for my food and then eating slowly in silence.

The duration of my experiment was 2 weeks and counting. My first meal was a dinner. I took the time to initiate the start of my experiment by cooking a special dinner consisting of salmon, sweet potatoes and salad. Before I ate I lit a candle and paused to think about all the people and elements that were necessary and responsible for my meal. This was a profound experience for me because even though I have felt appreciative and thankful for my meals and have expressed gratitude in the past I never took the time until this dinner to really think this process through in detail before eating a meal. Not only did I think of the natural elements in the process of growing our food ( i.e. sun, rain, soil), but thought about the person who planted the seed, caught the fish, tended and harvested the plants, packed the food for shipping, transported the food, received the food, stocked the shelves and checked me out in the store. I also started to think about who these people might be and what was maybe going on in their lives and did they realize the importance of their work to us all. This dive into this process of thought made me feel very humble and appreciative of how we are all connected not only in spirit but in human survival.

Awareness: of our choices

Over the next two plus weeks I focused on having a mindful meal on average every other day. I began each of these meals with expressing gratitude to all those people who assisted in the culmination of the meal in front of me. After expressing my gratitude, initially I struggled with the silence as my mind instantaneously began filling up, reliving the day’s events and reminding me of what tasks I still needed to tackle that day. I felt like I was missing something here. So I tried to focus on slowing down my pace of eating and savoring more of the flavors of the food. Thoughts continued to enter my head but what I started to realize was that I was becoming more present and was becoming aware of the moment I felt I had enough to eat. This was something I never experienced. Unfortunately, this “aha” moment didn’t necessarily prevent me from eating more each time but it made me more consciously aware of my ability to control how I ate. The choice was mine.

Awareness: of the journey

I definitely feel that my experiment was a success even though I cannot honestly say that I am eating each meal with a mindful intent of slowing down and stopping when I feel full. Conducting the experiment, however, was the catalyst for me to consciously address a behavior that I knew needed to change. Awareness is my success.

On a side note, I would like to report that I bought myself a tongue scraper and have added the scraping into my morning ritual. I can’t say I notice any changes, however, I do like the idea of knowing, according Dr. Lad, that “scraping is sending an indirect message to all the internal organs and stimulating gastric fire and digestive enzymes.” Sounds very powerful and with a sluggish digestive system this is the least I can do to keep that fire burning.