Thursday, 30 October 2014

"Meditation" on a mug of hot chocolate

One of the participants in my online mindful eating course inspired me to try a fascinating exercise.  She described how she took a small plate of PC chocolate chip cookies (the drug of the nation*) and took the time to deliberately apply all that we've been learning in the course to eating them.  She ended up feeling full after only 2 cookies, and only ate a total of 4 cookies in the space of 40 minutes.  I was impressed.

I tried a similar approach with a cup of hot chocolate.  I had been thinking about having a hot chocolate all evening.  I do love a hot chocolate - as much as I love a chocolate chip cookie (or 100 chocolate chip cookies).  Hot chocolate can quickly transition from a rare treat to a can-a-week habit for me.

Here's what I did. I treated the mug and its contents as an object of meditation, much like you would use a candle, or a sound, or your breath. I even turned off the music, sat on my meditation cushion, and lit the candles on my little meditation table (Hey, I'm a yoga teacher.  Having such items hanging around the living room is part of the job description).

Much like any other meditation practice, a series of impressions floated in and out of my mind:
  • The swirls of bubbles in the surface of the hot chocolate mirror those in the mug pottery.  I love this mug.  I'm so glad I bought one like it for my friend.  What's the name of this potter again? I better find out when the potter's guild sale is.  Oops.  Thinking.
  • A sudden very strong and happy image of drinking cheap hot chocolate from a styrofoam cup while skating on the frozen lake in the centre of my hometown on a cold and bright blue day.
  • The liquid is surprisingly viscous.  That might be gross.
  • The heat coming from the mug is very pleasant on my hands.  Where should I place my hands for the optimal level of warmth?
  • How come this is so ridiculously sweet?  Why have I never noticed that before?
Like any other meditation practice, I also got distracted and forgot what I was doing.  I stopped for a bit I took a bunch of blurry underexposed pictures of the mug.  I looked at all the little doodads on my meditation table.  I wrote this whole blog post in my head.  I wondered about the lady who shared the idea of this exercise with me.  I thought about going to bed.

Sometimes, on very special occasions, insight or inspiration may arise during meditation-like activities. Tonight was my lucky night!  I was able to detach myself from pure desire and all the other non-stomach forms of hunger for the hot chocolate.  It was very much like when you say your name, or any other word, out loud or in your head too many times.  It stops sounding like a word and you start to question whether it really is a real word, or your name.  (C'mon.  Every kid has done that at some point, haven't they?)  It's a disconcerting experience.  The mug of hot chocolate became a neutral object that I could observe with curiosity, but I lost my interest in ingesting it.  In fact, the thought of pouring it in my mouth and swallowing it seemed faintly absurd. 

Now kids, be careful if you try this at home.  This is not for the newbie mindful eater. I'd call this an intermediate level act of liberation.  Liberation it truly was though, because I usually down a cup of hot chocolate fast enough to poach my stomach lining.  Tonight it took me a good 20 minutes to drink 3/4 of it, and I let the rest go cold because I lost my interest in it.  That has NEVER happened in my entire life.  Doing this exercise with a bowl of canned fruit cocktail or "wax" beans or sardines with entrails intact would not be nearly as powerful, if you want to ease into it.

*Fans of Michael Franti should check out this thought-provoking video he made in the days before he did yoga and got all joyful.  Hmm.  I just realized this man has been influencing my thoughts since 1992...

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