Each August, I remember the day—some four years ago, now–that my gnawing hunger and craving for connection closed the door on the way I lived.
Always, my memory of that pre-dawn, August 12th morning feels crystalline yet memory is the mind’s filter, a selective and often soft light on pain past. Still, the remembrance is sharp enough.
Then, my heart was as empty as my stomach. In all ways, I was perfectly hollow, mindless in my approach to decades of autoimmune disease and related health issues.
I had reached the point where no food satisfied my hunger and almost any food would trigger digestive issues. My weight just continued to climb no matter what I ate or did not eat. Inflammation was systemic.
My doctors—I had a whole group by this time—increased the variety and type of medication for my stomach and thyroid as well as musculoskeletal pain, more tests for my kidneys, and always more blood work as if to make sure both lupus and Sjogren’s remained rampant.
Mindlessly, I lived, not present for any of it. Rather, I looked to the days when remission would return—as it always had for the thirty years previous—then, I would return to life as I knew it.
There was no remission but there was no organ failure, either. What did happen was a dramatic decrease in my systemic inflammation, my digestive issues are no more, and I have maintained a 68 pound weight loss for 30 of the last 48 months with only gentle yoga for exercise. Musculoskeletal issues, in particular mobility, remain a challenge.
Mine is a life few, if any, would want but it is mine—and I am mindful of it—something I never was in the way I once lived.
Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself—in your body, heart, and mind—and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without judgment or criticism.
(Mindful Eating, Jan Chozen Bays, M.D., p. 2)
It was the hunger in my stomach that brought me to mindfulness. I had to learn what food my body needed, for each body is unique in its nutritional needs. No two are the same. I had to sort through the food that would satisfy my hunger and ultimately, open my heart.
Eating mindfully is a bite-by-bite experience. Not all foods are equal in nutrients but being mindful of each bite keeps my focus on whether or not the food is satisfying my hunger. I have found I am much more selective in what and how I eat. Why would I eat food that leaves me not only hungry but craving more?
Am I eliminating my disease process? No, but I am assisting my body by eating nutrient-dense food rather than adding to its burden with empty calories. And yes, it has taken most of these last four years not only to realize the difference between the two but to find food I love to eat.
Grains, even gluten-free, are not something my body processes efficiently but infrequently, I partake. The same is true for any starch or yeast. Sugar brings on “brain fog” and increases my musculoskeletal pain. Dairy and soy I just avoid.
My being present in eating opened me to my life as it actually is, filled with infinite possibilities unique to me. Mindfulness helps me discover them and experience life in ways I never imagined. Every day is fresh, its own possibility.
In creating a physical, compassionate connection with my body, I opened my heart to life as it comes–I connected–this August 12th, I paused to remember. Thanks, regular readers, for walking with me down this memory lane yet another time.