Metta Musings: Open Sesame…
- Written by Deb Langhans
Brunchtime! I can always tell: Around 11:30 a.m., my tastebuds start signaling it’s time for my first meal of the day. Today the message felt more like a forceful craving for warm veggies topped with toasted sesame seeds. “Perfect timing!” I thought as I opened our spice cabinet to retrieve the bottle purchased at Marketplace earlier that morning.
The tiny cream-beige seeds created a pleasing contrast in my jet black, cast iron skillet. As the heat rose under them, my mind drifted to that shopping errand… Then, within seconds, the seeds’ pale hue deepened to golden and I realized they’d be scorched if I didn’t act fast. As I tried scooping and redistributing, the frenzied dance began; picture Mexican Jumping Beans! I tried mightily to seize control with my spatula, but the delicate little marvels started bolting and leaping defiantly, replanting themselves everywhere—around the stove, on the countertop and floor, against my apron, my face, even in my apron pocket.
Just as my mind, those tiny seeds were stubborn and willful… robust in flavor and, especially toasted, a good source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds… compounds… cleaning compounds the frail senior had been trying to reach on the upper shelf… the upper shelf… the upper shelf in the spice cabinet needs culling… !#)!%(*%(9!!?! There went the seeds again, popping up and flying outside my skillet… flying…
What was that a younger client shared during our recent phone session? “It feels like my days are just flying by!” I’d instantly smiled at her declaration but didn’t have the heart to confess that time acceleration only worsened with advancing age…
At this point, all the seeds were sufficiently toasted and ready to be transferred to a paper towel for cooling. As I gently distributed them, my thoughts revisited my own perceptions of time and what I’ve learned about maximizing it…
In our culture, quantity and productivity are highly prized and encouraged; multi-tasking has long been considered the perfect manifestation of both. Yet current research suggests that doing numerous tasks simultaneously is a double-sided coin: Remember when you first started riding a bike and driving a car? In the beginning of learning each skill, fluidity and even safety were impossible because your full attention was required on each new task. Your singular concentration wasn’t yet ready to shift into automatic behavior like multi-tasking; only when each task was adequately mastered could you make that transition. The irony about multi-tasking is that, while it can encourage efficiency, productivity and even mental agility and resilience, it also fosters unconscious behavior. And when we go through life addicted to such fast-and-furious juggling, it’s no wonder our days whiz past us in a breathless blur.
Try this: Remove distractions like family members and technology (phone/computer) so you can enjoy 3-5 min. of uninterrupted private time. Then retrieve a simple food like a piece of fruit: an apple, orange, prune—whatever you have on hand. Hold it in your hand and look at it closely, really explore it with your senses of sight and touch to discover its color, texture, weight, temperature. Now smell its fragrance. Bring the fruit up to your mouth and notice if your tastebuds have awakened; maybe you’ve begun salivating in anticipation of the imminent tasting experience. Go ahead and open your mouth to receive a portion of the fruit, but instead of immediately chomping down with your teeth and taking a bite, just hold it there with your lips at the entrance for a moment. Count to 10, while being aware of your emotional reaction. (Clue: This delay in gratification often feels like torture!) Now allow your front teeth to do their work; fully receive that bite into your mouth and again stop for a count of 10 to notice your response. Challenging, eh?! Now, proceed with your usual mastication, but instead of performing this task unconsciously, pay attention to how your teeth, tongue and jaw interact. Also give yourself permission to experience all the other sensory details that accompany this miraculous, never-to-be-repeated adventure. I’ll bet you’ve rarely, if ever, eaten a piece of fruit so consciously, so “mindfully.” I’ll also bet that, while you did that just now, rather than flying by, your time felt suspended.
Mindfulness—deliberately paying attention to what’s going on around and/or within us, ideally in a spirit of curiosity and non-judgement—could be the single most powerful way of maximizing our time and our day. Unlike the auto-pilot nature of multi-tasking (which, as already stated, fosters acceleration and unconsciousness, not to mention scattered sesame seeds!), mindfulness encourages slowing down and soaking up the details of our lives. Those ways of being can positively influence our perception of time.
Mindfulness can be cultivated through an informal practice of focusing on the simplest of everyday activities (as the one just described), and also through an extended, formal practice like meditation. As a student of both, decades of personal experience have taught me that, when we’re paying attention more frequently, time actually feels expanded because those moments are being more fully (consciously) experienced.
My mindfulness coaching clients are often surprised and intrigued by the invitation to focus on mundane tasks like waking up… using the toilet… pouring coffee… looking out windows and up at the sky… folding wash… chopping vegetables… beginning and ending a myriad of activities we typically do unconsciously as we efficiently multi-task throughout our day. They’re always amazed at how the quality and even perceived quantity of their day increases with their regular practice.
We miss and waste so much when we don’t pay attention. Yes, a moment represents a very small increment of time. Yet just as the tiny sesame seed, that moment contains within itself a gift, a miracle; added together, those moments represent the very stuff of our lives. When we choose to focus on more of those moments, our daily experiences, as toasting, can be far less chaotic and stressful. Indeed, when we choose to be more mindful, we help create a fuller, richer, more thoroughly embraced life.
If you’d like to experience your time expanded, I invite you to consider exploring mindfulness. If you suspect you could use some guidance learning how to practice more effectively and consistently, please contact me using the information below. It would be a pleasure and privilege to support you along that fascinating, empowering journey!
May I, we & all beings fully experience more of the moments that make up our lives.
My best, Deb~
Deb Langhans has worked in the wellness field as a coach/counselor, writer & speaker for over 25 years. She currently owns & operates Journeys to Healing on San Juan Island where she offers "wholistic" life coaching, mindfulness & grief recovery coaching, reflexology, Inner Journey Collage© & a developing line of products designed to encourage healthy habits.
Most services are available in Deb's studio or via phone or Zoom. For more information or scheduling, please go to www.journeystohealing.com (website). firstname.lastname@example.org (email), or 360.317.4526 (texts preferred).