I was simply ravenous last night. Truly, it was the kind of voracious hunger that you see when you put kibble in your dog’s bowl and listen to him literally inhale his food. This was not the complacent hunger of the post-hunt lionness, who slowly licks her lips and swishes her tail ambivalently before diving into her hard-earned meal.
No, this was the post-teaching, long-day, very-sweaty hunger. I will save you the trauma of having the physical evidence of the dishevelled mess I was. In truth, I was too hungry to function and too tired to care, so when I got home to a hot-off-the-grill bison burger and sweet potato friends, my instinct took over and I dove in with gusto.
My regret (and there is only one) is that I didn’t really get to taste my food. Why? Because I hadn’t taken the time to really taste it. I acted without thinking. How often does that really work out in our favor?
We’re often pushed in our daily lives to go faster, work harder, and do more. Part of this is just our socio-cultural norms and what we’ve created for ourself as a society. There are so many times I just eat (since we’re in the theme of food) at the counter while I do something else. It’s a mindless habit and a purposeless kind of moving about my environment. It lacks intention and it lacks, well, any kind of meaningful discernment. Naturally this transcends beyond my eating and into other facets of my life, from the rote conversations I have to the patterns I follow as I move throughout my day.
Part of my joy in a yoga practice, particularly the asana, is that there is a cadence of movement and breath. I know when I step onto my mat, I am stepping into something familiar and tender, even if the sequence is different or the teacher pushes me to a physical edge — or gives me permission to slow down and soften into my body. Recently, however, I’ve been challenged to re-evaluate how I consume and participate in my yoga practice. In this confrontation of my patterns, habits, and tendencies, I’ve tried to shift the way in with I interact with my experiences, and I’ve been working on doing this without judgement in favor tender observation and gratitude. This is a challenge in and of itself. My response to this challenge and my considerations of my own behaviors has been to slow down. Take deep breaths. Pause before I move foward with intention and mindfulness.
I find that as I get a little older and a lot more secure in who I am (simply put, being yourself is your best flex!), I am hungry, perhaps even insatiable, for different things than I was 5, 10, 0r 20 years ago. I find myself voraciously reading about yogic philosophy, traditions, and ethics. I find myself delving into how we culturally treat yoga, including how we’ve misappropriated it and manipulated it to suit our Western experience. I find myself consider yoga and our social interactions, noting the way in which our society embraces the asana as the only limb when in fact there are seven others that concern us.
Learning has been my long-time hunger; I welcome getting lost in new skills and concepts. This activity fulfills an earnest, eager, and curious side of me. Of course I am hungry for other things in life — my family, traveling, experiences, food, physical activity, conversation, and the list goes on. I find, though, that sometimes I don’t appreciate these moments, these hungers and their satiations, as much as I could, or should. Like most others, I am subject to frenzy, to moments of aimlessness, and to a mechanical way of moving through my day. As a high school English teacher, my day is essentially guided by bells; a bell rings, time for class. A bell rings, say goodbye. A bell rings, start over. I feel it as much as the kids do. One thing I have done to combat this “go go go” condition in a busy school day is to start meditating with my students. We sit and breathe, feeling the “here now” moment, and being fully present in our bodies. Every day is a little different; sometimes they are guided meditations. Sometimes they last three minutes; sometimes they last six minutes. Sometimes I play my crystal bowl. At first it was a little tough to get a 35+ teenagers to buy in. How do you feed the people who you know are hungry even when they don’t know they’re hungry? You just do. And you know what? Now they ask for it. Now they curiously ask me, when I forget to write Silent Sitting on the board, if we’re going to do it and they sigh in relief when I say yes. Now they are well and truly hungry. And that, my friend, is a beautiful, beautiful thing. In this moment, we are in the here and now; there is nothing else; there is just me and there is just them. What an amazing gift this is.
Find what you’re hungry for, start consuming it with intention and meaning, and then pay it forward by sharing it with others. Being full and fulfilled is lovely, but it is far lovelier when we can share it with others. This brings us fully together in inspiration, community, and progress.