Sadie and I sat by the door near the bird feeder as dawn approached. A frustrated cardinal scolded us; he is used to having an unobstructed snack at first light. A pair of bard owls discussed whose turn it is to make supper.
The other night, I sat by the lake with Bob and watched the full moon eclipse; on my run that afternoon I’d been dazzled as a bald eagle few low over the water in the bright sunlight. Meg and I stood in the same place a week earlier, holding hands while the sun rose in the mist.
It’s easy to practice mindfulness, to be fully present and aware, when we are in nature or beautiful places, doing things we really love to do. It is much more difficult when we are in the flow of busy life or when we are stressed, sick, grieving, or unhappy.
And yet…most of us don’t really want our lives to pass by unnoticed. We are all dismayed and alarmed when we arrive at the office and don’t remember the things we passed as we drove familiar roads. We aspire to be awake to our lives, but it’s so easy to slip into semi-conscious routine.
That tendency, by the way, is hard wired. It takes a lot of neural energy to be fully engaged in awareness, and human brains have evolved to be efficient. If we don’t commit ourselves to awareness, we easily fall into a sort of mental “auto pilot,” which saves energy for novelty and reduces focus on the ordinary.
But, I want to experience the ordinary fully, too, don’t you? The practice of mindfulness, of deliberately focusing our attention in the present moment, is a way to approach this sort of “awakening.” We all have a perfect “anchor” for mindfulness at the ready: our breathing. Using the breath as a focus of awareness is known as mindfulness meditation and is a wonderful way to help our minds to be healthier and more nimble.
Even without formal meditation, simply reminding ourselves to focus attention on the present moment is important to a satisfying life. Make a mental note to drive when you are driving, to shower when you are showering, and to walk when walking. I like to practice mindful eating. Paying attention to the experience of nourishing ourselves is a good idea for many reasons. It enhances the enjoyment of food, allows us to notice feelings of satisfaction and fullness, and can prevent overeating. And, it’s fun!
Last fall, I posted a recipe for a delicious whole grain bread I call Mindfulness Bread. The recipe was based (with permission) on the Life Changing Loaf of Bread by Sarah Britton. The recipe I am sharing with you here today is a riff on that bread. I think a good, healthy, homemade breakfast, eaten mindfully, is the best way to start the day.
Why not practice mindful preparation of this recipe and then cultivate awareness when you eat it? Take time to notice the appearance, smell, and feel of the grains, nuts and fruits. Use all your senses while you stir, portion, and bake the muffins. When you eat, notice aroma, flavor, texture, your body’s response to the nourishment. Enjoy, with my blessing! Namaste’.
Overnight Oat Mindfulness Muffins
I use all organic ingredients. These are naturally vegan and gluten free.
Makes a dozen muffins.
1 ¼ cups thick cut rolled oats
¼ cup each:
pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 bananas, 1 mashed, 1 sliced into 12 pieces
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup water
Mix all ingredients. Taste the mixture. If you want it a little sweeter, add some honey or agave. You want everything evenly moistened with a bit of extra water in the bottom of the bowl. If the mixture seems dry, add an extra ¼ cup of water. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 325°; line muffin cups with 12 paper liners. Stir the mixture well. Use a portion scoop to fill the cups and place a banana slice on each, pressing lightly.
Bake for 45 minutes, until the muffins are firm to touch and lightly browned.
Let them stand for at least 2 hours before serving. If you do snitch one before that, you may find that they are too crumbly.
I love these served with peanut or almond butter.
Variations: instead of the banana, you might try fresh or dried figs or apples. Berries would also be good. Or go with the original Mindfulness mixture and use raisins or dates. You may choose different grains, seeds, or nuts, just try to maintain the original proportions.