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Are You Savoring Your Life, or Rushing Through It?

August 1st, 2010 · 2 Comments

A few months ago, I visited my friend Anni at  her fabulous bed and breakfast in Barbados.  Her inn is renowned for her sumptuous three-course gourmet breakfasts.  During my visit, her right arm, the dominant one, was in a cast.  Most mornings, her helpers, steeped in true island spirit (or maybe a little  too much rum the night before), came late or didn’t show up at all.

I joined her in the kitchen at six every morning to help her prepare breakfast for her guests, but she wanted none of my help.  She sat me at an open window with a cup of fresh coffee and some crackers to feed the birds who perched on the sill.

Mesmerized, I watched her literally single-handedly prepare an elegant feast for six or eight people, with care, with grace, and without rushing.  While her cast iron pans warmed up, she set out her beautiful serving dishes, and chopped and sliced with precision.  She stood quietly before her giant gas stove, in constant but deliberate motion.  Soon, the counters overflowed with pancakes, eggs, fruits, breads, sauces, and puddings.  She carefully arranged everything, garnished the plates with sprigs of herbs and fresh tropical flowers, and only then allowed me to assist her by carrying the steaming dishes of edible art to the dining room.

It was an inspiration to watch.  I told her that watching her cook was like observing a moving mediation.

Since then, I’ve tried to savor food preparation and cooking.  The old me flew into the kitchen and tried to get things done as quickly as possible.   It wasn’t much fun.  As I practice what I learned from Anni, my kitchen is a quieter, happier place. I play music, stay in the moment as much as I can, and even take a look outside as I work, allowing myself to enjoy the vibrant tropical foliage just inches from my fingertips. I think my cooking has improved, too.  It tastes more like love.

And you?  Is there a place in your life that could use less rushing and more savoring?  Here are a few hints that might help:

1.  Set an intention. Before you start, remind yourself that you intend to slow down and that you want the process to be as enjoyable as the destination.

2.  Breathe. Some slow gentle breaths signal our nervous systems to re-regulate and to regain a natural pattern of speeding and slowing.  When our physiology matches our intentions, we have a much better opportunity to enjoy the experience.

3.  Align your thoughts with your actions. Let thoughts of other things go for now.  You can come back to them later.

4.  Feed your senses. Use your beautiful mixing bowls instead of the scratched up plastic ones.  Put on your favorite music and then listen to it. Smell your surroundings, and if there isn’t a smell, add one you love.

5.  Bring mindfulness into your task. Allow yourself to be aware of what you are doing, as you are doing it.  Feel your knives in your hands, your fingertips on the keyboard, your hands in the garden gloves.  Notice your feet in your shoes and how they contact the ground.  Observe what you are doing.  Watch the magic of the sharp knife as it shreds celery. Look at the water from your shower as it falls, and feel it touch your skin.

6.  Allow yourself to play. Approach your project like a small child who is learning to put clothespins into a bucket.  Don’t get hung up on judging your efforts or comparing yourself to others.  Simply notice what you are doing, stay curious, and remain open to let things happen.

So give these tips a try.  See which ones work best for you, and which tasks or projects you can try them with.

There’s a lot to be savored in our lives, wherever we are.  Let’s not miss it by hurrying to get to the end.

Tags: play

It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose . . .

November 16th, 2008 · 5 Comments

softballcarry_080501300w2Last April, the women on the Central Washington University softball team lost a game to Western Oregon University and forfeited their chance to go to the playoffs.  They did it in a spectacularly unusual way.

An opposing player hit a home run over the center-field fence, but she injured her knee, and fell to the ground, unable to run the bases.  The umpire ruled that she would forfeit her run, and that her own teammates couldn’t help her.  So the Central Washington first baseman and shortstop picked her up, and carried her around the field.  She scored, and their team lost.

“In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much,” the first baseman said. “It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain, and she deserved a home run.”  The three players laughed their way around the field, wondering what the spectators were thinking.  You can read the whole story here.

By losing the softball game, these amazing young women won something so much richer.  They’ve won a round in finding the real work of life—that of living it to our fullest, finest potential.

Tags: joy diet · play

Can You Work Like a Child Does?

November 16th, 2008 · 1 Comment

boy-irons_000005521272xsmallToday, I randomly opened the Tao te Ching to this:

“The best athlete wants his opponent at his best.
The best general enters the mind of his enemy.
The best businessman serves the communal good.
The best leader follows the will of the people.

All of them embody the virtue of non-competition.
Not that they don’t love to compete, but they do it in the spirit of play
In this they are like children and in harmony with the Tao.”

The task itself, the way it is approached and performed, is more important than the outcome.  This is the spirit of play we bring to our work, our careers, as joy dieters.  Living to our fullest potential is not an impossibly tall order when we let go of outcome and just do our best.

Tags: joy diet · play