How to Improve the Start of Your Mornings in One Simple Practice
A silent breakfast is a wellness practice that Buddhists have used for centuries to be more mindful.
Meditating is a fairly unrealistic habit for many of us. I don’t meditate so I look to other parts of my day to be mindful, like my coffee and breakfast routine. My method is, of course, eating in complete silence.
Eating in silence has been an ancient practice for many years. The concept has roots in Buddhist teachings, for example, many Buddhist teachers encouraged their students to meditate with food.
In a famous exercise, the student is given three raisins to spend 10 or 20 minutes gazing at, reflecting on, and patiently chew. This is thought to expand your consciousness by paying close attention to your surroundings and the purpose of each bite.
Could a practice explored by Buddhist monks teach us how to get healthy, relieve stress and boost our brainpower? The theory for silent breakfast is simple: focus on your food, quietly, and cope with the thoughts that come up. It’s more challenging than you think, but the results are fulfilling.
A Silent Breakfast for a Purposeful Day
At the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, a ‘silent breakfast’ is on the menu. A sign is on every table to remind guests to be silent. Educational cards sang the praises: serving your mind and body to start your day purposefully, calmly, and in gratitude.
Interestingly, a mindful lunch hour even recently became part of the schedule at Google, and for self-help gurus like Oprah Winfrey.
So in a weird series of events, I and other friends decided to at-home experiment this. The first day, I carried my breakfast, feeling like some angst-ridden teen in a school cafeteria scene.
It was dead quiet. Occasionally, my ears picked up the sounds of silverware. And sometimes, a chair would scrape across the floor.
No one spoke, all in agreement with the principle of mindful eating. No gossiping, no watching TV, no Tweeting and no updating one’s Facebook status.
Throughout the practice, I noticed that I felt more prepared and had fewer burnouts throughout the day. Even my memory recall had gotten better. But how?
How to Apply Intermittent Silence in Your Life
In a 2015 article in the journal Brain Structure and Function, silence was found to stimulate the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus — which is the part of the brain that handles learning, memory and emotions.
This explained why I handled mental exhaustion more competently, which resulted in fewer burnouts. It also demonstrated that the improvement of my memory was down to the week of mindful eating.
Though, at times, the struggle of controlling my inner thoughts became frustrating.
Starting a mindfulness practice to quiet the external noise, is when you start to hear more of the internal noise. If you’re not used to this, it can be especially unpleasant.
The key idea here is to notice the whispers before they become screams. So I let my mind run free through the list of concerns and reminders. Eventually, my thoughts calmed down.
After a week of silent breakfast, I started to hear myself. My worries and thoughts didn’t plague me first thing in the morning. I could focus on what was in front of me, without obligation and stress — it was incredibly freeing.
When you work towards being your own company, you can focus on what is in front of you, which allows you to face each turbulent day with a greater sense of peace and acceptance.
Most of us are not going to be Buddhist monks. Likewise, most of us struggle to make time for breakfast.
If we can take that pre-existing habit and tune out the background noise of day-to-day life or the morning news, it can allow us to practice mindfulness for the day ahead — without taking on an unrealistic new habit.
In addition to that, you’re not supposed to be able to switch on your mindfulness button and to do it at 100%. It’s a practice you keep working toward.
If it’s impossible to eat mindfully every day, consider planning one special meal a week. Click off the TV. Sit at the table with loved ones.
Maybe all you can do is three mindful sips of tea.
Choose a day or two, maybe a week, and see how to integrate the practice into your daily routine for a calmer, more prepared life ahead.
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