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A mala, muesli and a broom (Part duh)

Oh yes, the muesli …

I always find mealtimes at Gaia House a fascinating study. All of life is here …

The peeling of knees and bums off the meditation cushions.

The first day, it’s quite genteel: people have just arrived; they’re keen; many stay on for a few minutes after the end of the session, to enjoy the new silence, after the crashing around of family and work, and the ‘on alert’ journeys they’ve had getting here.

After that, it becomes a question of peeling yourself off the cushion in as streamlined a way as possible, without looking too keen, but in order to get yourself as far towards the head of the meal queue as you can. It’s all done with momentary eye contact (remember that we’re now in silence for a few days), maybe a fleeting smile, and a “no, you first” gesture, of the eyes, the head, a gentle arm sweep.

I enjoyed breakfast on the first full day. I chose muesli, yoghourt, banana and a crunchy oat topping. Hell, I’m on a mindfulness retreat, in a Buddhist-inspired vegetarian retreat centre – I owe it to myself to be eating this stuff.

And I loved it. The mushy banana and cold yoghurt, contrasted with the crunchy oats, nuts and seeds. I was able to take myself back to the invitation I give to the participants in Week 1 of the MBSR course: to go home and eat a meal slowly and mindfully, with full attention. Here I was, doing just that.

And then I looked around me. And the Judgement Show threw back its curtains – “Dah dah!!”. There were people who had piled their bowls far too high: “What!! You surely don’t need that much food!”. There were people chomping, with their mouths open: “My goodness me – who brought you up?!”. There were people (more than you might expect) who had plonked themselves on the forward edge of their chairs, so that the back extended so far into the space between the tables that you couldn’t squeeze between them to get to the seat at the far end of the table: “Thoughtless so and so’s! Did you not realise that there are other people in the room?”

And then there was the stirring. You know that space, in between mouthfuls, when you move the food around your plate, or bowl? And, looking back on it, you’re not really sure why you did it? There was lots of that. Moving the muesli. Mushing the muesli. Making piles. Tidying up the stray oats. Mushing the muesli. Moving the muesli. Tidying up the stray oats. Making piles. Several times. And then another mouthful.

When I was back in LaLa Land, and on my way to uni, later in the week, I watched fellow passengers on the train with their mobile phones, and I was taken straight back to breakfast at Gaia House. They were stirring Facebook (or WhatsApp, or WhateverApp); desperately looking for signs of life out there, in the Phoneyverse. Swipe this way – see if there’s someone who likes me. Swipe that way – see if there’s someone who liked my last post. Swipe the other way – see if I agree with this tabloid’s story about a Z-list ‘celebrity’.

And, guess what? I’m talking about myself. We all do it, in some way or another, whether we want to admit to it or not.

Enjoy your muesli … one oat at a time … 😊

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