A few months ago, I took a class with Polly Campbell and instantly loved her gentle style of teaching. I was so pleased when I heard that Polly was writing a book on, basically, spirituality for the rest of us! Titled Imperfect Spirituality, the book focuses on helping us find peace in our heart but without all the pressures of following a certain path or doing things in a particular and specific way. Her voice is gentle as she guides us through our daily lives to stop and think and really focus on what is important. She does not judge, she does not point fingers, she truly just guides.

About Polly: Polly Campbell is the author of Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People available online and in area bookstores. She is also a writer and blogger at Psychology Today and  www.imperfectspirituality.com.

Her magazine articles on personal development topics and spiritual practices appear regularly in national publications. She is also a teacher with The Daily Om, and a sought-after speaker who has integrated the things she writes and talks about into her own life through practical experience. She lives with her husband, daughter and two self-absorbed cats in Beaverton, Oregon.

I requested Polly to pen a few words on spirituality and eating and she kindly obliged.

I hope you will read and leave a comment. I will be picking two random winners and each will get a copy of Polly’s book. I purchased three.. one is for me!

Giveaway ends: January 4th 2013

How To Practice Mindfulness at Mealtime

By Polly Campbell

We ate waffles last night. For dinner. I’m reluctant to bring it up at all, on this beautiful site which showcases such inspiring and beautiful recipes because, not only did we eat waffles, but we made them from a mix. Out of a box. We did add real, organic eggs so that’s almost like making them from scratch, right?

Still, I decided to confess here, because this particular column isn’t really about cooking anyhow. This post is about living and eating well and allowing all of life to nourish our bodies and our souls. Last night I got a reminder of just how to do that. Last night while eating mix-made waffles for dinner I got a lesson in mindfulness.

Paying attention

We sat down late. It took the waffle iron awhile to heat up and by the time my six-year-old and husband were seated and dishing up the fruit salad, I just wanted to be done with it all. To gulp it down, get the dishes washed and be done with my day. I was tired and zoning out.

My husband ate a half a waffle in a single bite and I was cutting through a stack of waffles. My daughter was just looking at hers. She lifted it up and held the square near the light.  “Mama,” she says in a tone that sounded a lot like awe, “this is just beautiful.”

And it was. This food, this simple little piece, in its golden-sepia sunset color was beautiful. I hadn’t noticed. Then, she laid it on her plate and begin counting the little waffle pocks. There were 36 in a square. I’d never noticed. And when she cut that thing and bit it into it, the way she moved it around her mouth and the sigh of ecstasy she let out reminded me how good this little piece of dough tasted. I hadn’t thought about it.

So much of life is like that. In our haste, our busyness, our need to produce, get’er done, finish it up, we get doing so fast that we rarely notice what it is we are doing. We worry about all that we have to do, rather than feeling gratitude for what we are capable of doing. We fail to notice the details of our lives, the beauty, the things that make these moments matter. It’s all there for us, though, whenever we decide to tune in. And my waffle-eating daughter reminded me of that. It’s simply a matter becoming mindful.

Mealtimes and mindfulness

Mealtimes are an ideal place to practice mindfulness, this art of paying attention. Mindfulness is about noticing, experiencing, seeing what is all around you. It’s about experiencing the beauty of a waffle, and feeling the texture in your mouth, and paying mind to its vanilla aroma, and the heat of the syrup and the cool of the pear in the salad.

When we are mindful we connect to our inner self, the spiritual center, the place where love and appreciation and compassion and gratitude bubble up. Mindfulness then, for me, often leads to the bigger thing.

It’s hard not to feel gratitude for the food before me when I notice it’s beauty and appreciate it’s flavor and the energy it took to bring it to my table. It’s impossible not to feel gratitude for my 6-year-old sage, when I am mindful of her words and her experience.

Mindfulness not only yields a deeper, more profound experience and awareness for all that you do – including eating – but it allows you to move into your highest self and to live in that place for a moment, without judgment. Without stress. And with deep appreciation and love.

Too often we eat standing at the counter, or in our cars, or we grab a protein bar as we’re running out of the house. You can be mindful of those moments too.

But, what if you used your family mealtime as a practice in mindfulness? What if you came together to slow down, notice your food, appreciate its aroma and texture and beauty. To allow time to savor each bite, and the time you have together, and then allow the gratitude to come in.

As I learned – again — last night, when you can do that, remain present and mindful in the moment, then, even a waffle becomes transformative. And, with mindfulness, the food does more than nourish your body, it also nourishes your soul.

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