“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” Zen proverb
Most of you will know exactly what I am talking about from just reading the title. However, I am going to add some examples just to get you thinking in a broader sense of all the ways distractions might be getting in the way of mindfulness.
For children, having a television on, toys nearby, lively music, loud noises, an uncomfortable chair, eating in a new environment and even having other people in the area who aren’t sitting down to eat can be distracting. For the adults, here is a list of other things that sometimes distract us at mealtimes: our phones, the computer, work, reading material, intense conversation and driving. I am sure you can think of more.
Mindfulness and distraction have a hard time co-existing. Spend some time in the next few days just noticing what your distractions are. What keeps you from being able to sit down and be present with the food you put in your body? What gets in the way of your children being able to do the same?
We love having picnics, but have found that playgrounds are too distracting. If you have the kind of child who can eat a full meal in one sitting while watching all the other children running around, that’s great. My experience has been one of short spurts of eating with lots of running around in between. What works well for us is to play at the playground between meals, then when it’s time to eat we find a patch of grass in a quiet area sometimes even a few blocks away and lay our blanket there. This summer, we have been eating lunch at a community garden a few blocks away. It’s a lovely setting for a calm meal outdoors.
One thing that I find to be helpful is to say a little blessing or read a nature poem right before the meal. It helps me to be able to pause for a moment and so I can remember to be more present. Taking a few deep breaths will also help relax your stomach and aid digestion.
I know that sometimes our children can be distracting. I have no easy answers for that one! It’s possible that as you add more techniques for introducing mindful eating into your lives, some of those ways children can be distracting will become minimized.