Last year my resolution for 2013 was to be more optimistic. While I felt I wasn’t a particularly negative person, the goal for me was to be more reflective and effective at being optimistic. Now that the next year has begun and I look back on the last 12 months, I believe I made an impact on my outlook on life. I surrounded myself with the study and care of optimism and the end result is, in a word: gratitude.
Being thankful for everything and in everything made me aware of all the wonderful things that surround me. If there was a counter theme to the last year it would be mindfulness:
Definition: mindful (adjective) mahynd fuhl 1. Aware; actively attentive, or deliberately keeping something in mind.
The year of optimism couldn’t happen without thinking about it. I had to be deliberate and intentional about keeping optimism in the forefront of my thoughts and wrote out concrete lists of things that allowed that optimism in my life (gratitude list). So now that I am pondering a resolution for 2014 it occurs to me, “What other parts of my life could be impacted by simply being more aware and attentive?”.
I know myself well enough that keeping a resolution well defined will keep me on track. Having something as ambiguous “let’s be more mindful” will easily slip away from me. I needed to tie this mindfulness to something more concrete, and I’d like it to be something that will strengthen my relationship with God.
My priest likes to say there are three important pieces of wood in the church, the cradle, the cross and the table. I remember when I first heard him say that I was a little baffled by “the table”. He went on to describe the setting at the front of the church and how the centerpiece is the altar; where bread is broken and shared. The pinnacle events of the Christian faith happen in those three places, the cradle where Jesus is born, the cross where he is crucified and the table where he teaches us, by example that the most important meal we ever share is with God. We gather around the table every day with our families and nourish our body, we gather around God’s table every week and nourish our soul.
Most religions practice some form of mindful eating. Judaism keeps kosher and Islam has dietary restrictions as well. Both of these practices require the worshiper to think about what they are eating, how it is prepared and where it came from. These practices are not meant to deprive or be restrictive. They are meant to create an atmosphere of mindfulness. Buddhist monks practice mindful eating with every meal by eating in silence and chewing food to a mushy soggy oblivion, thinking with each bite, about the taste, provision and communion of eating that food with their brothers. With each deliberate bite, they are remembering their connection to the world around them and expressing gratitude.
As a Christian, I do not have a mindful practice around my table. I do not think about the nourishment of my body and relate it back to the sustenance of my soul. Where did my food come from? What will eating this meal feel like an hour from now? Am I grateful for the preparer of the meal? Did I thank God for the bountiful provision? Is this food healthy? Am I even aware I am eating (think about eating drive through burgers in your car, or mindlessly popping cookies in your mouth while watching TV)?
This is where my mindfulness could be most effective in my life – with food. Mindful eating is my goal for 2014. I am hoping to be more reflective about food and eating and not just for the likely side benefit of better health. So often our faith is a searching for a deeper appreciation and understanding of real nourishment and sustenance. I’m looking forward to examining my spiritual nutrition alongside my physical diet.