In Part 3 of the Mindfulness Series inspired by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Peace is Every Step, we direct our attention at the pace at which we live our life. Are you a speed walker? Do you find yourself eating so quickly, you realize you’ve hardly had time to take a sip of water or come up for air? Do you dread emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, and cleaning up after yourself? If any of these scenarios apply to you, relax your shoulders, exhale deeply, and read on. We’re going to analyze how each of these are related to the pace at which you live your life, how it translates toward your mindset, and how to work intentionally to steady it.
What’s Your Walking Pace?
I’m a speed walker.
Blame it on either my earlier college years walking >20 minutes to get to class or my current hospital job, rounding on all of my patients across the expansive hospital layout.
In my mind, walking from point A to point B needs to be as quick and efficient as possible.
I happened to pay mind to my fast walking pace recently. The other weekend, a girlfriend and I went out for dinner to celebrate a girl’s night out. As we were walking into the restaurant, I noticed that I was walking a few strides ahead of her. At one point, as my friend was telling me a story, I needed to pause and turn around toward her to better hear what she was saying.
The pause in my step, made me pause in my thoughts.
Why was I rushing ahead of her?
What was I in such a big hurry for?
As I listened to my friend’s story, I dropped my pace and matched my stride to hers. I relaxed my shoulders, took a few steady breaths, and simply, “slowed my roll.”
This shift in my energy level translated into a more relaxed enjoyment later on at our dinner. I sipped my wine, I nibbled on appetizers, and I took my time savoring the taste of my entrée. By intentionally slowing down the energy I brought into the restaurant, I was better able to relax my body and mind so I could refocus my attention on my dinner company and the taste of my food.
How Long Does It Take You To Eat A Meal?
We used to joke with my grandmother (Omi) about how long it would take her to finish her meal. She would patiently cut her food, chew slowly, put her fork down, and join in on the table discussion. She’d sip her drink, grab her napkin and sit back in her chair as she’d pat her lips.
Even just visualizing her eating in this way gives me a sense of innate calmness and relaxation.
Now, let me tell you how I used to eat…
- Heaping serving size that will safely balance on my utensil.
- Shovel into mouth.
- Chew / think about the next bite without knowing what my current mouthful even tastes like.
- Repeat until food is gone.
- Occasionally come up for air.
- Water? Later…
When my plate was clean, I’d immediately start to think:
- Where did my food go?
- I’m still hungry / dissatisfied.
- Time for another serving.
(I’ve been working on How To Break Your Bad Eating Habits, On Your Own)
I look back at Omi’s eating habits and mentally high five her. She had it figured out!
How can you bring peaceful mindfulness to your eating?
I love Omi’s approach to setting her fork down. This is such an intentional act to bring mindfulness to our eating! Not to mention others around us whom we are sharing our meal with. By slowing down the pace at which we munch, we can be intentional about the delivery and enjoyment of the food we are providing our bodies.
If you struggle with eating mindlessly, consider this 15 minute online course taken from the 12 Week Weight Management Program:
Do You Despise Doing Chores Around The House?
What mindset do you bring to the chores?
My first thoughts that come to mind when I think of dirty dishes:
Thich Nhat Hanh challenges us to change the energy and mindset of how we approach our chores. If we bring hostility, irritation, and urgency toward the chore, then we will propagate those emotions into the chore itself, and for the next time end up doing them again.
However, if we steady our pace and call attention to our mindset during the act of the chore, we will start to realize that the chore may not be so bad.
I decided to give this a try because… well to be honest… I was skeptical.
I dislike washing dishes and emptying the dishwasher. I dread it. It frustrates me. And I procrastinate on doing it until the sink is full of crusty bowls and spatulas.
However, I put my distractions away, gave myself 10 minutes at the sink, and let myself leisurely approach washing the dishes.
- I took my time emptying the dishwasher
- I lingered on soaking, scrubbing, and washing them
- I restocked the dishwasher
- I cleaned the sink and dried the wet counters
Once I was finished, I stepped back from the counter with a different mindset. When I was calm and relaxed washing the dishes, I didn’t actually mind doing them…! There was something mindless and soothing about cleaning the dishes and restocking the dishwasher. It was easier to enjoy the act of cleaning when my mind was at ease and to savor the feeling of accomplishing a task around the house when I was finished.
Overall, take inventory of your pace of life. Look at the steps in your day and see how quickly you move through them.
Recognize that the fast pace at which we drive our lives can often be riddled with anxiety, stress, and frustration. By intentionally slowing down our pace, we allow our bodies to take a breath and relax, which in turn redirects our overflow of energy toward our mindset.
Breathing in, I am present. Breathing out, I am at peace.”