A simple bowl of brown rice, that’s all I wanted.
I have found that when life is busy, the days long, complex feelings and emotions rising, the most important thing that I can do is to simplify my life in every direction. Now, mind, as much as I love to read about all the books about simplifying your life and downsizing and I adore “tiny houses” that is not who I am. I have many animals and a very large garden and I am a nester, I like cozy, lots of quilts and pillows and blankets, soft, everything soft. Candles all around, books in every direction. My home is reminiscent of my grandmother’s, she who was my safe haven. Vintagey, old, and used things make me feel at home.
When I say I need to simplify my life during these times I mean to slow the pace as much as I can, to have quiet pockets of down time, — a walk outside with the dogs works wonders, and to cut whatever I need to do back to the minimum. I need to keep bringing myself back to the present moment lest my bi polar bits run away with me.
I have a lot of work to do right now and I am loving it. The first of my students have begun to arrive for private mentoring and I am writing material, planning and preparing, and I can find myself getting so amped up that I risk losing the equilibrium that I need to stay whole, sane, and comfortable inside myself. The thing about mindfulness is that if I stay right here, in the present moment, where I am writing this piece for the blog early in the morning, with tiny Delilah pug asleep in my lap, and the little boy pugs sleeping around me, and a candle lit here next to me, if I focus right here I can continue to move forward steadily with ease. My practice holds me steady in each moment.
Last night I worked late again. The animals were all asleep when I realized that I hadn’t made dinner. I realized, in that moment, that what I wanted was something very simple, a bowl of rice.
There is something comforting about cooking rice. It is a very mindful process. Get out the pot. Add 2 cups of water, one cup of rice — I used Basmati, let it come just to a boil, turn it down and put on the lid. My pots have clear glass lids so I can watch it bubbling, I can see the rice rolling around in the water, swelling, beginning to fill the pot as the water is absorbed.
You have to be mindful when cooking rice, it has to be done, but not burned. I was hungry, it was late, I let it cook 30 minutes but I must have turned it down too low because it was still too chewy. You can’t hurry rice, and it’s best if you watch it to make sure that it is still cooking, bubbling along enough to be done when it should be. I added a bit of water and started again. This time I stood in a meditative state, focusing on the rice, watching the steam cloud the glass lid, breathing in the fragrant aroma that I love that seems to come only from Basmati. I got out a bowl, a pair of chopsticks, and water to drink.
When the rice was finally done I filled the bowl and breathed in the fragrant steam. I carried it into my mostly darkened studio and sat down holding the warm bowl in my hands, letting it warm my whole body. I relaxed. Something wound up too tight in my body uncoiled.
I picked up the chopsticks. Chopsticks are a tool of mindfulness because you can’t eat fast as we too often do shoveling food down with a fork, swallowing before we have properly chewed. Rice is especially hard to eat fast with chopsticks. Brown rice is easier because it is sticky and can be picked up in little clumps but you have to go slow. Eat bite is a moment of grace. Eating rice is a meditation.
I thought of all of things that I could cook to go with the rice. Open a can of black beans? Take some shrimp out of the freezer and make a shrimp and rice dish? No, it was too late, and I was too tired, and a simple bowl of rice was just what I needed, to fill my stomach, to slow me down, to bring me to rest. And eating the bowl of rice helped my whole body relax, and when I went back to work it was at a slower and more even pace. It slowed me down enough that I could be really present with my body and how I was feeling. The pushing forward into the work to try to finish this blog post before bed was something that I could have done, but it would not have served me well.
I sat here for a moment, just breathing, and then at peace with my decision to stop there and do this post in the morning I turned off the light and went to bed. So often we push ourselves so hard that it is like a marble rolling down a steep hill. It can’t stop and it pick up speed, faster and faster before it crashing into something at the bottom. If we take time to slow down, to come back to our center, and where we are right now, we can do a scan of our body, feel it tense and knotted up, and nine times out of ten we really don’t need to get that next thing done. It wasn’t going to be a calamity if this post went up this morning instead of last night, but it would not have been good for me to go to bed at 3:00 a.m. I stopped by 1:oo.
Earlier in the even I had an orange and a handful of almonds. These are very large navel oranges with thick skin and they are really sweet. I love the way that there is a tiny burst of juice as a section of the skin is peeled back, almost like a sparkle in the air. I held the heavy orange in my hand and felt it’s weight, breathed in the pungent smell through the skin, and as I peeled back a section of the skin I ran my finger over the soft white rind. A great sense of anticipation built as the last piece of the peel came off and the plump orange, not yet sectioned, sat in my hand. There is that moment, just on the edge of ecstasy, dangling in space, and then I pulled the orange open in half and sit it on the towel on my lap.
I like to go slowly with the orange, pulling each section off of the whole as slowly as possible, and the first piece of orange bursting in my mouth makes me laugh and and my whole body sinks down in the chair, delighted with this special treat. Section by section, the sweet orange is divine.
I am developing a practice of mindful eating. I am not on a diet per se because I don’t believe diets work. I have been on everything in my life many times over and if I lost weight I gained it back. I am keeping good food in the house, cooking it slowly and attentively, and savoring each bite. It is amazing how eating in this way sets the tone for the hours to come thereafter.
It is morning now. I got up before the dogs and came to write this post. I started it last night but was too tired to do it. I am trying to be mindful about my body too. I turned off the lights and went to bed. I will feed the parrots and get them fresh water. The dogs have been out now and are laying in their beds quietly around me, save my tiny girl who sleeps in my lap. I will feed the dogs and when they have eaten I will cook a bowl of oatmeal.
I will take out a pot, I will measure out the water, put in a pinch of salt, open the container of old fashioned rolled oats, measure them out and pour them into the pan, and this time I will make certain that this meal is cooked just right, and I will start my day with a quiet sense of grace.
The sun is shining, there are so many wild birds just outside my windows here that I have to pause and look at them — a titmouse, a cardinal, chickadees, a woodpecker! They fly back and forth, to and fro, and I can’t stop smiling. My parrots inside are starting to chirp and chatter, it is time to turn off this computer and begin the morning routine.
When your days are too busy, the pace frenetic, make a simple meal, go very slowly, eat mindfully, being very present with each bite. How does it smell? Does your mouth water when you wait just a moment, the fork suspended in the air for just a second before you put it in your mouth? When you have taken a bite take time to chew. Feel the texture of the food, note the connection between the aroma of the food before and how it actually tastes in your mouth. Finish chewing and wait just a second before taking the next bite. Enjoy your meal. Don’t rush. Note the difference in how you feel afterward as opposed to the meal quickly gulped down.
A single bite, a single moment, our entire body is moving more slowly, our breath comes easier. This is a kind of healing too. Centered and calm return to your day.
A simple meal can change your life.