Week Three: Temperature and Texture
This weeks theme is, to the best of your ability, to become more conscious of the absence of experience, in and around eating, especially with regard to the tastes, textures, temperatures, smells, and sounds of what you eat. In other words, this weeks theme is to notice what is missing in your eating experiences.
Where do you begin? By realizing that this topic covers a whole lot of stuff in just one week, so go slow and be easy on yourselves. Also, remember that this whole month is simply about *beginning* to reclaim some of your conscious ability to eat; meaning, we are more focused on opening doors than on heal every wound you have ever had about eating.
Please note, this is much harder that trying to notice what is visible given the will to pay attention. Thus, it is much easier to notice what you can experience, even if it is painful, that to notice what is missing in your experiences; your blind spots.
As you begin this week's assignments, then, please again remember that these assignments were designed to utilize and build on what you have already noticed during the first two weeks assignments. Thus, do your best to continue to notice the mental and emotional content OR lack of content in your eating experiences, including blankness, hurry, urgency, frustration, joy, excitement, loneliness, anger, guilt and so on.
As for this weeks assignments, they are as follows:
Day 15 Assignment
Please do this exercise each and every time you eat today, as best you can.
Try, today, to consciously observe any lack of sense regarding the texture of what you eat. You can start with some basics such as trying to taste something creamy, something rough, something grainy, something smooth, etc. Also, please try to notice what you think and feel along with any lack of thoughts and emotions as you try to sense the texture of what you eat.
Here, as with the first two weeks, be especially mindful as to whether you feel worried, anxious, guilty, or in a hurry to sense this characteristic of what you are eating. This week though, try to be especially mindful of any blankness' in your eating process. In other words, please do your best to be aware of the degree to which you can not experience the texture of your food, noting any frustration or worry about how well you are doing.
What did you experience today?
Again, today focus gentle attention on your internal experiences as you eat, being mindful of any time periods in which you are not present, regardless of your focus (i.e. texture, taste, hurry, etc.). Do you go blank as you begin and then when something catches your attention, come back to the present? Do you go blank all the way through? Do you begin very present only to drift away at some point? Do you stay more present of eating when you are alone or with someone else?
What did you experience today?:
Today, again focus on any internal experiences of blankness during the time you eat, again with regard to the texture of what you eat. Add to this focus the taste of what you eat as well.
Remember to not try to force yourself to stay present even if you do find yourself drifting away, knowing that the whole point of this month is to reclaim your birthright with regard to eating consciously, and that reclaiming this birthright does not happen through force or will alone. In fact, the more you try to force it, the less you gain.
Also, notice today any blankness with regard to what and how you drink. Is there any difference between how present you are when you eat and when you drink? Take a few moments during each meal to deliberately slow down your experience so as to see the smaller details, such as chewing blankly or swallowing absently.
And be kind to yourself, no matter what you find.
What did you notice today?
By now, most of you will probably be realizing you spend much of the time you are eating unaware that you are even eating; meaning, you have probably found you spend much of the time you are eating in some degree of shock.
Today, then, I would ask you to add to this process of conscious observation the time just before you eat. By this, I mean, today I would like you to also notice any blankness or anxious anticipation you feel in the time just preceding your meals, such as the time in which you are preparing the food, buying the food, driving to the restaurant where you will eat or buy the foods and so on.
Please know, these missing pieces of time matter very much, even if you experience no pain in and around them. And please, do not blame yourselves in any way. Most people, including me, experience these periods of blankness in and around eating.
Again, just notice these blank spots and do not judge yourself in any way.
What did you experience today?
Today is day nineteen. Has this part of the month been easier or harder than the preceding parts? Have you had any more memories surface such as scenes from childhood? Dinner scenes? Other times? Please just note them and do not try to make sense of what you find. To be honest, healing has little to nothing to do with understanding and everything to do with gentle attention; meaning, consciousness.
Today's focus, then, will be to now add to the observation time the period just after eating your meals, especially the five minutes which follow eating. Here again, notice, without judgment, any missing periods of time, along with any internal sense of hurry or urgency, and any feelings of fear, anxiety, frustration, etc.
And please hear me say once again, in a gentle voice, thank for you courage. Thank you.
What did you discover today?
Two days to go and this third week is done. Are you doing OK? Have you learned anything new about yourself?
If nothing else, I hope you are still increasing your ability to be easy on yourself, especially with regard to eating in general. And if you are still struggling, please, don't give up. We all have different rates at which we grow and progress. Be patient with yourself.
Today's assignment is to continue what you have been doing; observe your internal reactions before, during, and after you eat each meal, especially focusing on times in which you go blank and lose track of the eating process. Include today any times in which you eat in between meals as well.
Do you go blank more often when you eat in between meals? Do you sense any guilt or shame around this blankness? Do you feel like you push yourself to stay conscious for fear someone will notice you have gone blank while eating? Are you worried someone will judge your lack of consciousness?
Here, especially, be gentle with yourself. We have all heard many messages about our spiritual condition and how we are supposed to be able to work ourselves forward if we try hard enough. I, for one, think this is too hard a line to take for something which is supposed to help us to become more loving and gentle with ourselves.
Today, if any of this happens to you, picture that person or group who is or has told you these shaming messages and see yourself telling them to leave you alone and to stay away while you eat. If necessary, have someone you love eat with you and as you begin, ask them to tell you they will love you even if you do go blank; that they will allow no one to criticize you for how or what you eat.
And remember, again, the simple test of whether you are worth loving is just this: are you breathing? If you are ,then you deserve love. Not because you have accomplished something from which you earn this love, but just because you are breathing.
Did you go blank before, during, or after any meals today? What did you notice?
The twenty-first day. Can you believe it? How are you doing so far? Has this week been a difficult one for you, or has it been easier than the others?
On this Tuesday, the last day of the third week, please continue to consciously observe yourself before during and after you eat, both for meals and in between meals, watching for any times in which you lose track of your eating. Again, I know I have asked you to do a tremendous amount of tasks so far but please know, this investment will reward you with so much you have no idea.
Is anyone noticing a change in how you eat? Have you noticed any changes yourself? Are you tasting more and eating slower? Are you eating less or better tasting food? Are you taking smaller portions and yet feeling more satisfied, or have you noticed you are eating the same as always?
No matter what you answers, please, be gentle with yourself. No one here is getting judged or graded or measured. Each one of you is special and courageous. And everything we share with each other helps all of us to feel better about ourselves, especially around eating.
Now, here, at the end of the third week, please take some time, a significant amount of time, to give yourself credit for all of the efforts you have made so far. And if your experiences are at all like those I am experiencing, you may be a little overwhelmed. Maybe a lot overwhelmed.
If so, rest tonight. And let no one criticize how you eat, least of all, your own inner voice.
So, what did you consciously witness this day?
Steven Paglierani is an author, teacher, social worker, and scientist whose writings describe the world through the lens of Asperger's. As a licensed therapist, he teaches others—including those with Asperger's—to stop imitating normal and to be themselves. He's created the first natural description of human personality, a theory wherein everything derives from a single fractal pattern. He's also built and raced Shelby Mustangs, been a singer / song writer mentioned in Rolling Stone, and designed his best friend's home as a wedding gift.