I have a very special book post for you this week, a guest post from mindfulness teacher and writer Catherine G. Lucas, author of Life Crisis: The Mindful Way, published by Sheldon Press and available now.
Are you one of those people to whom self-care comes naturally and easily? Or maybe you’re more like me; I’ve had to learn what looking after myself and being kind to myself meant over the years and even now I can only take it so far. I watch my husband’s quality of self- nurture with awe and, I have to admit, a little envy too. If, like me, you have to work a little bit harder at taking good care of yourself at the best of times, then when it comes to the worst of times you might well need help. Few of us escape crisis at some point, whether our relationship breaks down, or our health, or we lose a loved one or get made redundant. Reaching out for support is the first and foremost way in which we can self-care. It means communicating honestly with family and friends about our needs. Then we need to look at ways in which we can be kind to ourselves. For me this is an essential part of my mindfulness practice. Self-compassion towards my suffering comes hand in hand with the self-awareness of mindfulness. Having been through several periods of intense crisis, I know how important it is for any mindfulness practices to be realistic, gentle and achievable.
A good one to get started is my Beans on Toast. Fixing ourselves a simple meal is a level of self-care that hopefully nearly all of us can manage even in times of crisis. We still need to keep the basics going, we still need to eat and sleep even when everything else around us feels as if it’s falling apart.
A practice such as Beans on Toast helps us to come into the present moment, so that the mind can’t be spiralling off into catastrophising about the future, imagining the worst possible outcome to our current predicament. Next time you’re having an easy meal try it. The same principles apply to whatever you’re making and eating.
Beans on Toast
Before you start getting anything out of the cupboard feel your feet on the ground. Notice the texture beneath them, the lino, the tiles. We’re bringing our awareness to the senses; sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste. It’s by focusing on the senses that we bring ourselves into the here and now. Get the bread and baked beans out. Find a saucepan or dish for the microwave. As you do so, notice the texture and weight of the things you pick up, how they feel in your hands. notice any sounds you make. Is there any other way you can bring in the senses? Is it fresh bread, with the wonderful, unique smell of freshly baked bread? Just take your time. Notice any thoughts or feelings and let them evaporate like the steam from a kettle, coming back to the senses and the body.
Once you’ve got the beans on toast ready, sit down and eat them with the same level of mindfulness, the same level of attention to the senses. The main sense now will probably be taste. What do you notice? Be aware also of the texture of the toast and beans, the contrast of the two, against your tongue, your palate. Does the juice make the bread go soggy? Every time the mind wanders off, gently bring it back to the senses.
In tough times there can be a lot of emotional charge to our thinking. The mind can be obsessing about something so we simply keep coming back to the senses, to the flavours and textures in our mouth.
What did you notice overall, with eating mindfully? How easy or difficult was it to bring the mind back if it went spiralling off?
I hope you found this helpful. Here are two other soothing, self-nurturing practices for you to have a go at: the Selfie Hug, which you can do anytime, anywhere, whenever you feel in need of a hug and Breeze Bathing, ideal for a sunny autumn day.
Remember, if you’re in crisis do reach out for support from family, friends, neighbours and/or professionals. That’s self-care too!
Catherine G Lucas is the author of four books on the holistic approach to mental health. Her latest in the Sheldon Press Mindful Way series is out now: Life Crisis: the Mindful Way. In her writing, Catherine draws on both her personal and professional experience, as a mindfulness trainer.