The Vitality of Mindful Presence
I recently finished an extraordinary certificate training in mindfulness. I needed the CEU’s, I needed the break, and I needed a few days of meditative practice in a beautiful setting with delicious, healthy food and like-minded folk – all of which I got. What I did not anticipate were the powerful learnings that awaited me. Here are two related ones.
By way of background, I’ve known for some time that being embodied in the present moment is a good thing. For me, embodiment has been a work in progress. I tend to hang out in my head, often caught up in imaginary conversations, past regrets and future frets.
Late into the retreat, we had a day of silence – which I approached with the general intention to stay present and no specific plans for how to do so. At breakfast, I found myself staring at my bowl of food for several minutes before taking a bite. The textures and colors of the granola, berries and yogurt seemed unusually vibrant. The first mouthful, slowly and deliberately taken, exploded in a burst of flavor as I bit into it.
Lunch was a similar experience, but even more profound. Again, I was amazed and mesmerized by the beauty on my plate – the lush and varied greens of lettuce leaves, sauteed asparagus and poblano peppers, the soft browns of the pinto beans, the fragrant basmati rice, the many hues and shades in the generous dollop of guacamole, the topping of pumpkin seeds – each seed uniquely sized and shaped, each subtly different in color. Across from my big plate, was a smaller dish with one giant, ripe organic strawberry dipped in dark chocolate and garnished with a delicate drizzle of bright white sweetness.
Despite my watering mouth, I was in no hurry to start eating. At that moment, the feast was primarily visual. Mind empty, I sat transfixed for many minutes before taking a first bite. Each forkful was slow and deliberate, with long pauses in between, as all my senses savored the delights before me.
One lesson for me in all this was the “wow” of focused and spacious attention. The power of my surrender to full engagement was much stronger than similar experiences in the past. I felt joyful and alive and serene.
The second, more powerful lesson came with the shift that occurred – maybe 45 minutes into lunch when my plate was still half full. I became aware that I’d left the present moment. I was still gazing at my food, but my mind was elsewhere, engaged in an imaginary conversation. That’s when I noticed that the vivid colors on my plate were noticeably duller, dimmer, more drab. During the rest of my meal, vibrant intensity returned with mindful presence and departed when mind wandered.
What a difference! The knowing that had been theoretical suddenly became very real for me. The connection between mindful presence and vitality of life had never been clearer.