In the Oriental Five Element System, Late Summer is all about the stomach and spleen – organ systems to do with nourishment, digestion, energy, feeling centred, grounded with inner confidence. I’ve called it the season of the belly and am focusing on mindfulness for healthy digestion. Digestion of food for optimal nourishment and also of our daily experiences and how we develop and maintain energy.
Mindfulness for healthy digestion of our food means, for me, practising mindful eating. I’m not sure when I learnt to inhale my food (probably working in a job, like many of us, that prioritised just about everything other than my need for a lunch break), and I really enjoy my food so it’s not like I wasn’t tasting it but, I’ve recently discovered that when you teach mindfulness your partner is more likely to point out your lack of mindfulness, and so I’ve spent the last week beating him to be the last to finish dinner. Man, have I upped my patience quota! This mindfulness stuff never ceases to amaze me. I didn’t realise just how much I multi-tasked when eating. I found it a real challenge to slow down and focus on just eating – and nothing else. Try it – no TV, no internet, no phone – just eating.
I start with gratitude (good stuff happens when you start with gratitude). For the people who grew my food, transported my food, sold me my food – you can connect across the globe with this one – and connection is also very nourishing. Then I look at the food – so many incredible colours! Seriously, red cabbages are so beautiful and we miss this every day stuff, this every day miraculous stuff that surrounds us – so much beauty, so much nourishment right before our eyes. Try swapping the doom loop of your mind or the pointless attempts at swiping out all the notifications on your phone for a few minutes of absorbing the rich colours and textures of your food. Then taste the food – really taste it. Its tricky, at least I find it tricky. My mind wanders off quite quickly to find something in the room to look at or preparing the next mouthful as if someone is about to steal my food.
I think of all the times I’ve prepared really good food, looked forward to my partner coming home so we can eat, and then missed tasting it with my hurry to absorb it as quickly as possible. Sometimes I think I’ve spent longer queuing for food or enjoying choosing from a menu, than actually eating – savouring, tasting. It’s not intentional, it’s how things are, our minds scanning for the next experience. Eating mindfully helps interrupt this habit and absorb nourishment, not just by improving our gut digestion, but also our digestion of our life experiences.
And it works – as in, it increases the sheer joy in my life. The more I practise mindful eating, the happier I am. And not just with my food – it seems to be having a subtle and gradual increase in my ability to notice and digest the good stuff around me. So, strangely, when digging stinging nettles out of the ground yesterday, I was able to see and appreciate the colours of their roots (rather than just swearing at how they are taking over my garden). Tiny powerful changes every day.