Monday, November 8, 2010

Mindfulness of Guilty Pleasures

I make a bowl of pumpkin ravioli for dinner, and... eat in front of the computer while searching for dharma talks on mindful eating. Really. I notice exactly what I'm doing as it's happening, and I laugh. But does that pause remind me to turn off the computer and focus on the meal I've prepared?

What is it that happens inside when we see ourselves behaving badly? That concept of a "guilty pleasure" -- often applied to eating, in particular -- implies awareness of a misstep, without change. It's often layered with self-judgment that further clouds what's really happening.

Mindfulness of mindlessness: There's a pause, but not necessarily a course correction. I know what I'm doing, as I'm doing it, and... I don't change what I'm doing.

If the stakes are low, these moments can bring humor into mindfulness practice. With humor, there's a chance to soften towards ourselves too. When we see our frenetic or rebellious or slothful behavior, and we watch in slow motion as we fall once again into well-worn potholes of habit.

Just as a joke or story gets stale when told too many times, so it goes once we bring mindfulness to so-called guilty pleasures. Finally, the pleasure of shirking or acting out isn't so great. And whose rules are we resisting anyway? Who is it that we're pushing against?

Certainly it's not useful to berate myself for multitasking or seeking distraction. But looking at the behavior, even continuing to play it out a bit, eventually can be a window into greater awareness of the emotional experience within.

Or perhaps I simply turn off the computer and enjoy the ravioli.

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