Getting Mindful with Chocolate

It’s hard for a lot of us nowadays to find a spare moment to relax, much less take a day off.  Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find a precious hour or two to go to the gym, take a bath, meditate, or just do plain nothing. 

My guess, however, is that a fair number of us out there are working stiffs with 9-5’s that rarely stay within that time frame, who have kids, bosses, and iPhones that don’t understand the concept of “no more, stop asking things from me, stop needing my attention, just give me five minutes to unwind.” 

In today’s fast-paced society, we rarely feel like we have five minutes.  So what if there was a way to relax without taking any more time out of your day? 

That’s the beauty of Mindfulness.  Rather than taking time out of your day or trying to make time, you’re simply paying attention to what you’re already doing, so that you can be more fully present and in the moment. 

Let me explain.  You’ve had yet another hard day at work and the one thing that gets you through it is the promise of your favorite chocolate bar on the drive home.  You leave work and you get in the car, chocolate in hand…and proceed to devour the whole thing in 0.2 seconds while replaying all the frustrating, anxiety-ridden, and disappointing things that happened to you at work today.  Did you even taste the chocolate?  Did you notice the scenery outside your window?  What favorite songs were playing on the radio while you were going through everything your boss said to you with a fine-toothed comb, as if you could go back and change it?

For a lot of us, this probably sounds like a familiar scenario: our bodies in one place, our minds in another.  In other words, we’re mindless.  Mindless drivers, mindless eaters, mindless listeners, mindless lovers. 

Thinking about work while you’re in the car isn’t productive.  We like to think it is, but it’s not.  You can’t go back and re-do the work day you just had.  You can’t write an e-mail to your boss to explain a decision you made - you’re in the car.  You can’t make a few last-minute touch-ups on that work project right now - you’re in the car.  The only thing you get when you think about work in the car is worked up. 

Being mindful is simply the opposite of being mindless.  It’s getting all our senses engaged in what we’re doing in the present moment.  If we’re going to do it anyway, why not pay attention to it?  It’s not taking any extra time, but it makes a world of difference in terms of how much good it’s doing us.

The next time you’re in the car with that chocolate bar, hold the chocolate under your nose before you put it in your mouth.  Scent whets the appetite, and it’s a guarantee that chocolate will taste a whole lot better to you if you smell it first.  Break it off into smaller pieces, and pop them into your mouth one by one.  Instead of chewing, let them melt.  It’s not lengthening your commute, but it is lengthening how long you get to enjoy that $1.50 chocolate you just bought.  Notice the change in the chocolate’s temperate and texture as it melts.  Move it to different parts of your tongue and see how the taste changes.  Do you taste the bitterness of dark chocolate?  The sweetness of milk chocolate?  If you’re stopped at a red light, take a look at the chocolate itself.  Is it imprinted with any designs?  What shape are the pieces?  Do they have rounded edges or sharp?  

With all of this food for thought, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for thinking about work – or for the frustration, anxiety, or disappointment that goes with it. 

The next time we need a “break”, all we need to do is look at the breaks that are already built into our regular day: our morning shower, our commute to and from work, our ride up and down the elevator, the brief trip to the corner store, our morning coffee or afternoon tea, etc.  These things are already a part of our day for our bodies – but where are our minds?  If they’re not with our bodies, bring them back by engaging the senses with five simple questions:

1)      What am I seeing?

2)      What am I smelling?

3)      What am I touching?

4)      What am I tasting?

5)      What am I hearing?


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