Mind the Chopsticks

April 28, 2014

The mindfulness of an odd love affair.

I like Japanese food.

Didn’t always, though. I guess what they say is true, it is an acquired taste. Also, I was always terrible with chopsticks. Good thing the food is already supposed to be eaten cold, because I would take ages to grab that slippery piece of sushi and my meal would be stone cold halfway through.

In the past year, I’ve ditched the quietness of a rural, commuting-free lifestyle in a small town in Portugal, for the epic chaotic run-for-your-life madness that is Central London. From walking to work everyday, to commuting for almost forty long minutes each way.

And just like that, things like escalators, buses, elevators, became always too slow. People are too slow! A ten minute delay on the Jubilee line makes me cringe; I’m not going to get home at my usual time, and I desperately need to cook and get dinner out of the way so I can do everything else on my endless to-do list.

Get out of my way, fat man! Walk on the right, for the love of the Queen!

At the office, I read as many articles as I can during the lonely lunch breaks, often developing my own version of speed reading. God knows I won’t have time to do that at home, because there’s the cooking, the exercise, and the bajillion things on the to do list… and don’t get me started on the “Read Later” list. Movies? Wait, doesn’t everyone watch a two hour movie in 3 nights like I do…?

However, it was when food was no longer satisfying that I knew that something was dead wrong. Because food is the best thing in life, of course, and I was rushing to get my meals over with.

When did I stop savoring food? I would just finish eating my meal, and I’d barely remember what it had been. Maybe it tasted of chicken, just… yes, I believe it was chicken. Who knows, it all ended so fast.

And then I went for Japanese again. I remembered what it was like to savor food. It was my new form of meditation. My moment of Zen, my Buddhist’s life awareness ritual. I wondered why; after all, I only like sushi, I don’t absolutely love it. And then it hit me:

I had found my daily meditation practice. And to keep doing it, it cost me no more than £4.50 on Amazon.

I’ve bought a fancy pair of wooden chopsticks, which I now use to eat all my meals. Even the trickier ones. Food is hard work now, but at least I’m aware of that. I still struggle to grab that thin piece of broccoli at the end, damn it, it keeps slipping away. But I’ll get it in the end, and I’ll be damn sure to celebrate that small victory, thank you.

It’s taking me forever to eat these meals, and yet I’ve never felt so satisfied. I no longer wonder where my food went, and I almost distinctively remember every bite I took. I wash the chopsticks, put them away neatly. I somehow found a bit of balance and quietness, just before the rest of the chaotic city life settles in again.

Because if you’re capable of celebrating the success of picking up a slippery freaking piece of broccoli, god damn it, you can celebrate all the other small victories in your life.

Photo credit: Olli A.

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Written by Ricardo Magalhães who works for the Internet. By day, a front-end web developer with a passion for typography and design. By night, he sleeps. Follow me on Mastodon.