aging, Body Image, Food, Gratitude, Health, love, Self-Care, Spirituality

Embodied Gratitude

I recently had a birthday, another year older, another curly silver-grey hair sprouting from my temple.

I have been thinking a lot about my body and my relationship to my body as I age.

The only guarantee in life is that I will continue to get older, until that is I pass from this life and who can say what will happen then.

Although I do like to recall the lines from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself:

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
I like to think that I shall return as a blade of grass or the laugh of a child.
Yet.
I am here.
Now.
Still of this Earth and instead of despairing my body, which seems to be declining into a certain kind of age, I wish to celebrate it.
I wish to embrace my body, the skin that has started to sink around the knees and make a funny frown there.
I wish to see the curly silver sprout of hair springing from my head–although, yes, the first time I saw the dread intruders I did pluck them out.
No longer though, the salt in my pepper hair seems to be proper, alert, a flag gently waiving to the shore of wisdom.
I have perhaps not aged enough to be called “wise,” but I can see that shore, it is not as distant as before.
I also want to hold my belly in warm regard.
This soft creature that is my center–strong and soft–which is how I wish to be, strong for you, strong for me, but also tender, vulnerable, open to connection.
And.
It is also the place of deep intuition.
How often have I known I need to “trust my gut” in this situation, go with my instinct, feel that space and know that when it is perturbed there is a message being sent to the rest of my being.
Tread lightly, be cautious, be honest, integrity stems from my stomach.
And what a beautiful belly too.
For it holds that organ that processes all my food and feeds the rest of me, the brain that gets flush with deep thoughts, the mouth that wishes to talk, the heart that beats with or without me paying attention to it.
Let me embrace that part of my body and have appreciation for it rather than contempt.
I have too long-lived in contempt of my body.
Perhaps it is my age.
I am 46.
That is neither old nor young.
It is a resting place in between.
I cannot go back.
I cannot go but forward.
Which means that I must appreciate and love this body for the 46 years it has carried me, me, my mind, my soul, my psyche, my heart, through this world.
For without it I would not be here, typing away at my keyboard writing this.
An aside–how brilliant are fingers?
How nimble they dance across the QWERTY board.  How soothing they can be, a soft hand brushing hair off the forehead, a pat on the back, a warm squeeze between two friends, these appendages which pick apples, make coffee, wash dishes, write notes, light candles.  I am so grateful for my hands!
And please.
Do not start me on my feet and all the places they have allowed me to travel.
I used to bemoan my feet.
They are too big.
They are too flat.
I wished for something else.
I was young.
Now, again, I am perhaps not “old” but I am certainly more mature and with that maturity comes an appreciation of my feet for they have carried me over thresholds, walked me to school, ran through wet grass in July in a thunderstorm.
My feet get me to and fro and they certainly do not ask for much.
Well.
They do, of recent years, seem to get colder faster, so it seems they do ask to be kept warm and dry.
I am happy to provide them with cozy socks.
How grateful I am to have my limbs, all attached, accounted for, clothed?!
When I tell myself that my body isn’t enough, strong enough, fast enough, thin enough, I am disparaging this beautiful piece of art that was created just to carry me around in.
I am thankful every night for this beautiful body and deep in appreciation for what it does.
For what it still gets to do!
So.
I urge you.
Love up your body, give it some props, respect the journey it has taken you on.
Our bodies are miraculous.
Your body is.
My body is.
Grey hair, wrinkles, tender knees and all.
Every line an etching of laughter from a smile well smiled.
Every bit of me sings with gratitude for this body.
Even when it does not want to get out of bed in the morning.
Most assuredly then.
I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me 
is a miracle.
-Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself
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Food, Gratitude, Health, Self-Care, Spirituality

Mindful Eating

It’s the holidays.

Mindful eating seems like a strange topic to write about.

Yet, it is often on my mind as the days seem to go faster and faster and the number of holiday goodies becomes ever greater.

The first thing I remind myself of is to have gratitude for the food I am consuming.

This means that I say a simple invocation of thanks.

This thank you may be directed to the Universe, your higher power, God as you may understand God, or to no one in particular at all.

Perhaps you say thank you to the persimmon tree for the beautiful persimmon on your plate.

It is the act of being grateful that expands the awareness within that this is food and food is important for growth, life.

Food is meant to be enjoyed.

Somehow, for me, when I say “thank you for this beautiful food” before I put the fork or spoon into my mouth, it gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the journey it took for this particular bit of nourishment to get to my table and then into my mouth and on down into my belly, said belly really does like persimmons so much.

Hojicha persimmons.  I’m afraid I’m a touch biased against the Fuyu, they are not happiness in my mouth.

Pausing.

Saying thank you, expressing gratitude.

Breathing in the smell of the food.

Smell is quite correlated to taste and it is important to enjoy this sensory pleasure as well.

It seems, to me, that in the quest for all things “quick,” “fast,” and “easy,” that much of the very simple pleasures of eating are lost.

This means that I also am mindful of where my mind is at.

Am I on my phone looking at social media posts?

Am I trying to squeeze in just a bit more work and multi-task?

Am I actually present for what I am consuming?

Both from the technology as well as from the food.

It has occurred to me often enough being preoccupied with looking at e-mails and getting a jump on the work week, that I will suddenly find myself with an empty bowl of oatmeal in front of my laptop.

Did I even enjoy what I ate?

This morning for breakfast I had organic oatmeal with a perfectly ripe pear and the aforementioned persimmon, I used sea salt to cook the porridge as well as seasoning it with pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  I finished it with unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

Just writing that makes me hungry!

Good thing I have already eaten my lunch today.

What a loss it would have been if I had not stopped and enjoyed the bounty before me.

Persimmons have such a short season in California that I want to be present and accounted for any time I get the luxury of eating one of these beautiful fruits.

No amount of getting extra work done is worth checking out from the pleasure of the bounty.

Another way that I practice mindful eating is to make sure that I am sitting down to eat my meal.

Just taking time to stop, pull the chair out from the table, and relax for the duration of a meal is an incredible experience.

Too often in the past I was eating on the go, not enjoying what I was eating, forgetful of what I had just consumed, racing to the next deadline, school paper, work event.

I would eat standing up, or worse, in rapid movement from place to place.

There was no enjoyment.

There was just consumption.

Food was not a pleasure it was simply fuel and I needed to get it inside me as fast as possible.

Slowing myself down and acknowledging how much I enjoyed eating my food whilst sitting was revelatory.

I invite you to try.

It doesn’t have to be all at once either.

Start with one meal, even just a snack, if you have the tendency to eat on the go, stop what you are doing and sit with your food.

I guarantee it will taste better.

For you will be present to taste it.

Speaking of being present.

No technology while you eat.

This one is hard and I have had to wean myself slowly from my phone or my laptop.

I am not always successful.

But out of my three daily meals I can happily report that I eat two without any technology in front of me.

I will admit I still often have my laptop or phone with me for breakfast before I sail out into the day.

Yet.

I have discovered, due to a lovely view that I have access to of downtown San Francisco, that when I take the time to sit down at the table at work, look out the window, contemplate the birds flying in the sky, watch the weather as it changes in front of my face, that I am far happier at work the rest of the day.

Taking the time to pause and connect with my food and a lovely view engages many of my senses and the pleasure of eating becomes integral to my self-care at work.

I could little do without it now that I have been practicing it for months than I could say, brushing my teeth in the morning.

Dinner too has become a way for me to slow down.

I used to sit in front of my computer and eat my dinner.

Until about three months ago.

I decided to further implement mindful eating into my routine by making myself a hot dinner when I got home from seeing my clients.

Nourishing myself after being of service is an ethical responsibility for me so that I may continue to help and empower my clients.

And, well, really, it is just lovely!

I light candles, I put on music, of late Coleman Hawkins, I heat up my food (another part of mindful eating is making sure I have food prepped to eat so that I don’t end up eating fast food or take out), and I pour my favorite flavor of sparkling water into a glass.

I do not drink from the bottle.

I use a cloth napkin.

I make it very special.

I find myself becoming revitalized.

Just being with my meal and the warmth of my home and some relaxing music, just these small changes, helped me have a quality of self-care that I find enriching and constantly rewarding.

So.

If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with the busy and the shopping and all the holiday  comings and goings and doings and getting, just stop, pause, take a moment.

Enjoy your meals.

Sit down.

Slow down.

And give yourself the best gift of the season, your own company.

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