A new form of meditation: The Oreo cookie

As Paige was eating an Oreo cookie after dinner tonight, she closed her eyes as she savored the taste of the cookie. For a moment it looked like she was meditating. I wondered if it was possible for an Oreo to trigger a meditative state. Seeing her like that made me think about how I feel when I am hiking or even writing. If it was possible that she could meditate eating an Oreo cookie, how many other ways was it possible to meditate?

Yesterday was Sunday, my day to refresh and clear my mind. No, I didn’t go to church, but I do have a place for my own form of prayer as it were. On a Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon I love to head out with the family for a hike (assuming Tucker has not hidden at the neighbor’s house to avoid the hike). Also hiking is seasonal even in Arizona. For some reason I can’t get excited about heading out on a hike at 2 in the afternoon when it is 118 degrees. Maybe if it was only 102, just not 118. I had been waiting weeks for the opportunity to hike (when it wasn’t pouring down rain) and my body was feeling like it had been ‘missing out’ on something these last few weeks. Was it possible that meditation was what my body was missing?

There is something ritualistic about strapping on hiking boots with leather that has been scratched with wear and are so covered with dirt that it is impossible to see the original color of the boots. Boots should be well broken in, and mine certainly were – even for this relatively short hike. For those who know me as a bit of a tomboy, they would be surprised to know that I wear a skirt to hike in Arizona. REI really knows their stuff, so if they sell a quick-dry, brown skirt with numerous pockets, I feel obligated to hike in it. I realize I live in Arizona (and the heat doesn’t require it) but I still wear wool hiking socks. Either I am too cheap or too lazy to buy new ones, but I patiently wait for them to wear out so I can purchase new ones.

Hiking with two kids can be a challenge. The amount of water and snacks required to keep them happy on the journey seems to add up to the same weight as my college engineering books (combined). This is a lot more than I enjoy carrying; however, I have learned from experience that either I carry all the ‘stuff’ or listen to whining and complaining for the full length of the hike. Yesterday’s hike was planned to be over 3 miles, so 3 hours of whining? or a real ‘workout’ from carrying the extra weight? I chose the weight. I guess another option would be earplugs, but that would just defeat the purpose of relaxing to the sounds of nature.

On the hike yesterday I wandered along the narrow and winding path, with Paige shuffling along in front of me, and I felt like I was in another world. It was quiet. The ground was covered in a green carpet rarely seen in Arizona. The wildflowers were amazing. Poppies were a beautiful orange-yellow and everywhere you could find these teeny tiny flowers. I had escaped my busy life and my blackberry for a few hours and all I could focus on was the scenery (and of course keeping the kids moving along and nourished). For me, hiking is so much like meditating because the mind seems to be ‘free’ to finally relax and escape the over-stimulation of daily life. Writing actually has a similar effect on me. I am not sure why, but something happens during both of these activities that is so similar, yet so different.

Whether you go for a hike, sit on your patio to listen to the birds chirp, go to your local church for a sermon, or you have some other tradition you like to do on Sundays (or any other day for that matter) you should savor this meditation time. With the overflow of text messages, e-mails, and mental demands it is nice to escape that for a while. I am looking forward to trying a new form of meditation soon…over an Oreo cookie. I think Paige has something there.

Don't try the chocolate chip diet

For some reason I decided that it was a good idea to lose 5 lbs this month. This is not just a goal I committed to myself, but I committed it to a room full of other goal-setters. In other words, I can’t just back out now, I have to keep going. I was just pondering how many calories it would be if I ate my notebook? I was talking about the paper kind, not my computer. I feel like I am counting calories of everything around me, and now, not just food! I have a few strategies I have come up with, but none has eliminated my tremendous pangs of hunger. Did I mention I could really eat?

Considering I work from home and I sit only feet from a vast selection of tasty treats in my kitchen pantry, it has been a real feat to eliminate in-between-meal snacks. Every time I would walk past the pantry (before) I would stop and grab something. It wasn’t anything big. Just a Cheez-It or a pretzel. What could be the harm? Well, my pants are so tight I feel like if I eat a single grain of rice, my stomach will expand – ripping my pants apart like the Incredible Hulk. As a result, I will be forced to buy a whole new wardrobe. Clearly this weight-loss thing is about mind over matter; my minds desire to not go broke buying new clothes. Right now the mind is winning, but my stomach pangs are holding strong.

As a tactic to limit my eating, I started writing down everything that crosses my lips in one of those on-line food diaries. It is great because you can even track calorie burn by activity and your weight over time. I now log every cup of tea, every nibble of a cookie, and every chocolate chip. Everyone eats chocolate chips right out of the bag don’t they? Or is that just me? When I tried to log it in the food diary it didn’t have a measurement for “chocolate semi-sweet morsel”, so I had to improvise with 1/100th of a cup = 1 morsel. I didn’t actually count the morsels, but surely a handful couldn’t be more than 15 morsels? Could it?

Now I see why the ‘single chocolate chip habit’ is so bad. You eat a handful, which doesn’t look like much. Then 10 minutes later you have another handful. It isn’t long before you realize that 1/2 the bag is gone and you barely have enough left for those chocolate chip pancakes you were planning to make at the weekend. Did I mention this would happen by Monday at 10 AM? I kept wondering if someone else had been getting into my chocolate chips. Then I realized I opened the bag this morning and everyone else was out of the house for the day. The next day when I stepped onto the scale, I would realize that it must have been me eating all the chocolate chips, because the dial inched upward ever so slightly. Now I am scared to eat any snack for fear that I will tumble down the slippery slope where my single cheez-it turns into a box-a-day habit. Sadly, my eating problems are just that, habit.

You would think without all my snacking, I would be a lot more productive because I don’t have to brush bright orange crumbs from my keyboard. Unfortunately, at times I find it hard to focus because I am distracted by the hunger pangs. Pangs that seem to hang with me most of the day. Well, except when I am sleeping. Then I can just dream about eating everything I want. I may feel hungry a lot of the time, but something must be working because the scale dial has started inching downward instead of upward.

How am I surviving this hunger? Surprisingly I have been positive for the most part. I have traded my sugar crashes to “Choose to feel better”. Besides just watching the calorie counts, I have reduced my gluten intake (you know, wheat? or anything made with flour?). This seems to really improve my mood and alertness. Another trick I tried, but not sure if it actually works – I wear my loosest pants and ‘think thin’. Can I brainwash myself to think I am thin? Will my brain just ‘make it so’? I thought this might be more motivating than trying to squeeze into pants a size too small. The pants must have shrunk in the dryer because I couldn’t have gained THAT much weight? In 2 weeks it looks like I have lost about 2 pounds. Feeling hungry isn’t so bad; just don’t put your hand too close to my face because my choices may be down to eating your hand or a notebook (although I need to check my calorie counter first). Here comes another hunger pang, time for my mantra…”Choose to feel better”.