Imagine the scene: It’s a weekday, a little past the “regular” lunch hour. I have a break in my schedule and lacked the foresight to pack my lunch, so I head out of the office for a breather and some food. Driving across to the nearby shopping center, I notice that a new Marshall’s has opened in what was formerly an electronics store. I park and decide to go in and take a look around.
Like a bee drawn to honey, I find myself in the kitchen section. I am a bit of a foodie and cook, and while I have a kitchen bursting with lovely tools, pans, and food storage containers, I do like to look. And at a place like Marshall’s, whatever I find is going to be a deal, right? It’s almost COSTING ME MONEY not to take a gander.
Winding through the gourmet foods and non-stick pans, I find myself deeply engrossed in perusing the snap top plastic food storage containers. There’s a particular brand of these containers that has a rubber gasket and closes securely with a snap, of which I have many. I like them a lot. They are orderly, they stack together nicely, they don’t spill, and I feel “wealthy” when I fill them up with portions of food and throw them in the fridge or freezer to grab for lunch at work (which I didn’t do that particular day).
In browsing the containers, I am drawn to some larger ones for baking, that are advertised as THE PERFECT SIZE FOR A POUND OF CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR. Well blow my socks off, I do need something for my confectioner’s sugar. Can’t argue with that logic, I have nothing, NOTHING, for my confectioner’s sugar. How have I lived this way so long?
Overwhelmed between my choices, juggling the PERFECT SIZE containers for confectioner’s sugar, 5 pounds of flour, and countless other baking supplies, a little voice inside me said “stop.” The reality is, I no longer bake from scratch. I try not to eat white flour and sugar whenever possible. I need these containers like I need a hole in the head.
But I needed something. Anyone remember where this story started? I needed lunch.
Hungry, overwhelmed by choice, succumbing to advertising, bright colors, and overhead lighting, I was at risk for overspending on things I really didn’t need. I was trying to fill what my body craved–food–with what was readily available–stuff.
Our brain is a constant craver of pleasure, administered through hits of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Eat a good meal–dopamine hit. Win the slots–dopamine hit. Drugs and alcohol–dopamine hit. Scroll social media and find something interesting–dopamine hit. Score a great sale–dopamine hit. Buy a snappy new plastic container–dopamine hit. We can be pretty indiscriminate about how we get this dopamine, and pay poor attention to what our bodies really need.
I left the store, grabbed some lunch, and thanked my stars that I listened to that quiet voice of reason. I don’t always. But it brings me to think about how we listen to or ignore our bodies. True wisdom is some interplay of present moment sensory awareness and recognition of how our thoughts, feelings, and sensations connect us to our greater selves and values. It gets easy, though, to ignore our bodies. We get busy, prioritize the immediate demands of our jobs, our bosses, our families, and we fail to listen and respond to our bodies’ basic needs: food, water, sleep, even bathroom breaks. We push ourselves until exhaustion, and then mindlessly overeat (we haven’t eaten much all day so now we make up for it with heavy food before bed), drink (not always water), or “veg-out” mindlessly in front of social media or television re-runs.My challenge for you is this: just for today, pledge to really listen to your body. Turn towards what your body tells you, and respond to it. Need to take a break to get a drink of water, a meal, a breath of fresh air, a bathroom break? Then do it. Unless you are conducting surgery, your work can probably wait for you. If you can’t take these breaks, examine your schedule and figure out what needs to change. If your employer truly expects you to work through basic human needs, you might want to seriously consider if your job is a good fit. And if you are your own boss and push yourself past physical complaint to get more work done, then by all means please be a nicer boss to yourself.
Listen beneath the surface. Your tomorrow-you will thank you.
Need help really listening to what your body, your thoughts, and your feelings are telling you? I’d love to partner with you on this incredible journey of life.