One of the results of mindfulness practice is a growing awareness that what I think/feel is not who I am. We usually don’t pay attention to happy because that feels good, but sad or mad (any feeling we consider “bad”) gets lots of attention. We perseverate on them, which often makes us think we’re terrible people, or we feel justified in lashing out at others, or more likely, we’re just unconscious. We have no idea what we’re thinking or feeling, we’re tossed to and fro by sad, mad, glad feelings as they come and go.
Mindfulness provides a steadiness, allowing us to see that thoughts and feelings come and go- that we don’t have to identify with them.
Last night, after a first and last date, I came home and started nibbling and then ate more than I wanted to. It wasn’t a binge, just my old habit of using food to ignore something painful: having a date that would not progress beyond the evening, brought up sadness, loneliness, etc. I wasn’t paying close attention to my feelings. In retrospect I saw I was “out of my body” and got a little lost in the feelings and my reactions to them. When I woke up this morning, all the feelings were still there. Eating, ignoring etc. didn’t make them go away or resolve them. In fact, there were more! Feelings of inadequacy (I can’t take care of myself), anger, blame etc. But…
I have a regular morning gratitude practice. A friend and I text gratitude messages first thing in the morning. All that’s required is a sentence or 2 stating what we’re grateful for. Today mine was: I’m particularly grateful for practice today- going through a rough patch and working to pay attention and live the talk. A bit more difficult with monkey mind. I hope the monkeys in your mind are eating bananas or at least preoccupied with something other than jumping around. 🙂
Though it’s simple, over time the practice has proved to be another grounding tool- not because I’m “accountable” to someone else but because it makes me aware. I have to attend to what’s happening in the moment- I have to push aside thoughts and feelings and settle in my body. What am I grateful for? If I don’t know, I have to pay attention- and when I do, I know.
Then I get up and begin my day.
I know that my mindfulness and gratitude practice has gently shifted my attention from food as a coping mechanism, to attention to the present moment- and even though I do sometimes eat more than I want to, the desire to binge is almost entirely gone- the edginess of having to eat- the compulsion to eat- is significantly less.
Studies continue to show the benefits of present moment attention, meditation, and the practices that go with them: deep breathing, sitting in silence etc. It’s not easy work but neither is living one’s life in ignorance. Ignorance equals suffering. Waking up is hard, but the only way out is through and it’s never quite as bad as you anticipate.