My husband has been working on living more intentionally and being more mindful in everyday moments. He has made a lot of progress, but as with learning any new skill, challenges inevitably arise.
One day we sat down for lunch with our young son who often mirrors his dad’s beautiful, boundless energy and excitement for each new day – except when eating. Most of the time our son does not seem to find meals an interruption to his plans. Rather, meals are the next opportunity for the next adventure – maybe a picnic, a silly faced sandwich, or just a chance to eat his favorite food. If no preplanned adventure awaits, he creates an imaginary world, and his adventure begins. He is the captain of his mind and often calls out to us, the adults, to join him on the sea of his own making. Sometimes, we secretly groan because lengthy lunch adventures delay one plan or another. Yet, with or without us he sails to the edge of his plate creating new animals one bite at a time out of his peanut butter sandwich. Maybe the sandwich animals will slide down his apple slices or swim in a sea of peas taking a break to giggle at his milk mustache.
However, this day seemed more of a scientific exploration than an adventure. The focus of his studies were seven grapes which took him approximately twenty-three minutes to eat. Between bites, he told stories – stories about things he had done and others about the adventures of an imaginary friend. My husband, who finished his meal in record time, initially engaged in the conversation and listened to the stories. Then, as the minutes passed, his resolve dwindled. His foot started tapping, and he reached for things on the table to occupy his hands. About fifteen minutes into this, he offered to get a laptop to check on finances, a normally hated chore. He thought he might need to get his phone – wasn’t there a date we needed to check on the calendar.
He might have made it to the end of the meal had our son not then bit a grape in half to examine the grape seeds. I do not normally think of mindfulness practice as a risk factor for heart attack or stroke, but I saw my husband’s jaw clench and the veins in his neck begin to pop out. Our son, oblivious to his dad’s struggle, continued to ask questions about grape seeds. I took one look at my husband and laughed. Then, so did he. In fact, we laughed until our eyes watered and tears streamed down my husband’s face.
While the peace and calm we envision resulting from mindfulness never appeared that day, we found great joy in taking ourselves a little less seriously. Now, when eating grapes, I occasionally bite one in half and smile.