Philip Friedman/Studio D
Most of the time we are so busy wanting the next thing, the piece that we dont have, that we dont allow ourselves to enjoy the one thats in our mouth. When we are busy focusing on what we dont have, we dont pay attention to what we do have.
Wanting is different from having.
Wanting is in the future. It is based on an idea of what might make you happy in five minutes, tomorrow, next week. But having is here, now. Most of us dont let ourselves have whats in front of us, so were always wanting more. When you dont let yourself have what you already have, you are always hungry, always searching, always restless.
Think about the last time you ate something you really wanted. Where was your attention after you took the first bite? Was it on the next bite? Did you start thinking about all the things you had to do that day or what your best friend said to you about her hair? Did you immediately think, Oh, this tastes so good, one piece will not be enough, I want more? Did you feel so guilty about having what you wanted that you couldnt let yourself actually savor it?
In my weekend retreats, we eat lunch together. At our last meeting, I bring in a flourless chocolate cake from Debbie Does Dessert, my favorite local bakery. Before anyone eats the cake, I ask them to look at it and be aware of how they feel. Some people realize they are full and dont want to eat dessert. Some dont like chocolate (they are missing a gene, I am certain). And some start worrying about getting enough before they take even one bite.
Then I ask those who want a piece of the cake to take it. To notice how it feels to cut a slice, put it on their plates, walk back to their seats. Before they eat it, I ask them to breathe a few times. (Breathing helps. It always helps. It allows you to stop the automatic hand-to-mouth momentum. It allows you a few seconds of being present instead of racing around in your head and telling yourself that you shouldnt be doing what you are doing. That you dont deserve this bite, this piece, this pleasure.)
Finally, I ask everyone to scoop a bite of the cake onto their fork and move it to their mouth. One bite. Then I ask them to really, truly allow themselves to taste the whole range of sensations that are in one bite. The way the chocolate explodes on their tongue, the way it feels on the sides of their mouth. How the taste changes from moment to moment, what it feels like in their throat, the lingering taste of it after theyve swallowed.
We eat each bite slowly, as if heaven existed right here, right now, and we deserved to experience it.
Next: Have What You Love