Staying conscious is being mindful. If your head isn’t full of self-conversation then much more of the world can get inside you. You notice more and that’s helpful. So when a friend and I were recently disagreeing about an important issue we were working on I noted quite clearly that in the middle of the discussion of the good friend said, “have you eaten?”
Me being upset lead to a friend asking if I’d eaten, meaning she had related my mood to my food. I trust her so we ate and I did feel better as my body chemistry regulated. It turned out I just needed some sugar. You could leave it at that but if you’re going to think don’t ruminate, meditate. So I spent the next two days meditating on how that happened.
In that meditation I recalled another similar experience where I had snapped at a different friend for very little reason. At the time my reaction had been so strangely immediate that it registered with me. I remember meditating then on the fact that I loved the friend so it didn’t make sense, plus I hadn’t been thinking any relevant negative thoughts. So what was the cause? My disappointment over how I treated my friend was what motivated my meditations.
After more consideration I realised both situations reminded me of when I got upset really easily for about eight months when I was in my late teens. I was going through a growth spurt and my off-balance chemistry gave me a different personality for a short time. And now here was a friend responding to me being unreasonable by asking me if I’d eaten. Food relates to body chemistry. Can you see if you’re more aware that the truth becomes obvious? The question was, how did it happen?
Sometimes the big challenges in life are so obvious and huge in our lives that they cause us to miss some of the smaller implications. A few years ago I underwent my life’s most difficult period where rather than an 8 hour day and a 40 hour week I needed a 40 hour day and a 280 hour work week just to avoid disasters, but that in turn lead to a series of sub-decisions that were far less conscious. Life can deliver us more than we can handle. That happens.
There is no good way to prioritise the very serious and absolute demands presented by very elderly and sick parents, a book deadline, your life’s work, the needs of clients and the business that pays your equally important mortgage, or even your basic life obligations like the fact that you need to eat, drink, sleep, grocery shop, and personally groom, plus you’ll have needs relating to everything from house and yard work to necessary car repairs or maintenance and of course there’s the never-ending administration that life requires.
I knew during that time that I would be letting friends down and I accepted there would be a price. I worked with my doctor on a plan for so little sleep and so much work and I developed a special diet, but even then I accepted there would be both a price and a limit. I worked off an insanely inhuman schedule that I still can’t believe I maintained.
Despite all that effort I was still constantly letting everyone down, including myself. I never had enough sleep and I had quietly developed terrible eating habits over time. I was still eating healthy, but I would often go to bed at 2am realising I hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 5am the previous day. And there in my mediation was my answer: In my busy-ness I had accidentally learned not to eat.
Because historically we can be chased by wild animals the desires to eat and to pee can be deferred to later. Pain stays, the desire to eat comes and goes. I got so used to dealing with not being able to eat that it became an unconscious habit to just immediately dismiss the desire. I needed to get conscious about food again.
For the next several weeks I watched myself closely. Sure enough, once I was watching I caught myself tons of times deferring the desire to eat. As often as possible I would remember to respond to it and I’m currently about half way to re-teaching myself to eat when I’m hungry. That’s how busy-minded we can get: we can forget something as basic as eating.
So can you see that I’m now glad the friends reactions were pain because I care about them? And I’m glad one defended herself by asking me if I’d eaten? Without those signs that I was off the path how could I have rediscovered the path? I needed those ditches to help me find the road. Of course we always want to treat loved ones well, but part of love is that they can help us make it through tough times like that and then we can do the same for them. That’s how love serves.
So now I’m grateful that the universe has taught me to appropriately value food and that my friends were patient and now that I do have the time to eat I’m getting conscious enough to actually do it. So this can help you too if you remember that if you have a problem don’t focus on the problem itself, ask yourself what its source is.
Believe you are a good person that is lost not a bad person that needs changing because that is the greater truth. If you approach your mistakes that way you can see your innocence and then make the change without guilt. Speaking of not feeling guilty, another great truth is that I’m hungry right now so, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to get something to eat. In the meantime, you have yourself a stellar day. Bon appetite.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.