{You Pick Six} An Interview with Author: Heather Sears

Here we are. In the thick of the holiday season. Food is everywhere. Especially sweets. And the urge to graze on anything and everything can be profound. It takes a lot of willpower to resist.

Since I’ve started my meditation practice, it’s given me some tools to be mindful and deliberate in many areas in my life. Of course with me, everything comes back to food. I love it, but have to resist it too. Gah!

Recently, I learned that Heather Sears is exploring how we can be more mindful with our meals. I was intrigued and interested in learning a bit more about Heather and the work she is doing. So let’s resume this ongoing series with the 17th interview of You Pick Six.

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What brings you peace every day?
Moving from my mind being nowhere to now-here. When I bring my attention to the present moment, take a few conscious breaths, and take in life with non-judgmental sensory awareness I always feel a deeper sense of calm and peace. I do this multiple times during the day – it could be at my desk, slicing cucumbers, or even sitting at a stoplight in the car. The repetition of many moments of mindfulness increases the spaciousness in my heart and head, and my appreciation for so many wonderful aspects of my life.

What are some of your pet peeves in the kitchen?
I used to get really worked up when my husband and son would be milling around where I was cooking right before dinner in a hangry state of agitation. Our kitchen is not big so the temperature seemed to increase as the stove heated up and their hunger grew. What I’ve learned to do is to breathe, rather than react. Instead of raising my voice or getting irritated, I now turn to whatever I am doing, focus closely on the slicing or stirring or whatever, and breath very deliberately a few times. This mellows me and I can think of a helpful action to change the dynamics, rather than join into the intensity.

What do you think that most people don’t understand about food?
That our minds create our meals long before any food touches our palate. All of our senses are processed in our mind, which interprets what we take in and connects it to our body, our experience and can spur our actions. And we make 225 decisions about meals every day. A lot is happening before each bite. For example, research is proving that viewing #foodporn can lead to eating more; that being in a bad mood can make food taste bad; that buying healthy food first in a shopping trip can lead to the “permission to sin” and buying more treats afterwards; and that hearing high pitched music can make food taste sweeter. The examples are endless.

We go through a mostly unconscious consumption journey of meal planning, shopping, cooking and preparing our eating space. Becoming aware of the existence of external triggers and internal factors through mindfulness gives us more power to connect to food and ourselves, and create the experiences that we desire.

What is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
Ahh, there have been so many! And actually I’ve realized that when I pay attention and become really present with the food I’m eating and the situation I’m in, even the simplest sandwich in the park with my son can be memorable and nourishing on many levels.

But there is one meal in Bali over 20 years ago when I backpacked through Asia with a friend that remains like Technicolor in my mind. It was chicken satay, eaten at sunset on a beach, with a man playing “Blowing in the wind” on a guitar nearby. The colors, smells, sounds and feel of the air were amazing and distinctive. I remember telling myself to take everything in, moment by moment by moment, because I probably would not be back! So I drank it all in through my senses and wrote a permanent record in my memory. ☺

Tell me about what you’re working on now.
I just released my book “Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick’s Guide to Mindful Mealtime Moments,” so I’m in the midst of speaking engagements and events! It’s really interesting to hear what women are saying about the content. Almost everyone I speak to has something about their eating habits or mealtimes that they would like to evolve. The research that I share is very surprising to them and the simplicity and effectiveness of integrating moments of mindfulness inspires them to take immediate action. It’s deeply gratifying that they are finding my content can make a difference in their lives.

Tell me about your book.
I wrote the book because I started choking during working lunches when I was rushing and triple-tasking to get things done in order to pick up my son. Mind to Mouth explores the realization that ultimately changed my life: that each bite is the end result of a journey through meal planning, shopping, cooking, and eating, and that a mindful approach to each of these moments has the power to shift everything. I share my research about how to plan, shop, cook, and eat mindfully; create mental space and be more fully present; and save time, energy, and money

Readers will find surprising, insightful data that will help them take ownership of mealtime experiences. As well as learn easy-to-digest mindfulness tips that fit into already-packed schedules. And you’ll see how you really can be both a busy chick and a mindful one at the same time. 😉

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Thank you so much for participating Heather!

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Photos: Provided by Heather Sears.

Taking Note: Mindfulness During Summer

Taking note of a tree branch in the foreground, puffy white clouds, blue sky, a dock, boats and canoes in the Charles River in Boston, with buildings in the background. On the right, two small pictures, the top is a square piece of cherry and pistachio tart on a napkin and minted lemondade in a plastic cup with the word "Tatte" printed vertically, the bottom picture shows the moon rising in a bluish grey sky over the tops of trees.

Summer is precious when the weather isn’t always beautiful. And by beautiful I mean, lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s. Having daylight past 8pm is an added bonus. For those of us in New England, we only get this perfect combination in July in August. So I’m taking note. Paying attention to how I spend my time.

Time is our most valuable currency. We can’t get it back. No exchanges or refunds. Plus, we don’t know how much we have. So we need to budget accordingly.

Enjoy what we have now and be able to look back at how we spent it and revel in the memories. For this first weekend in July, I met up with a friend on Saturday. We walked and talked. Strolling along the Charles and then went to Tatte Bakery for a snack. I had a pistachio and cherry tart and minted lemonade. So good!

Every Sunday I have dinner with my family. When I brought my mother home, we noticed the moon rising. At 8:30pm, the sky was still light. The beauty of July!

My mom’s lavender plants are blooming. Tomorrow, I’m going to get some to bring home and dry. She also has a lot of very tall mint plants that are ready to take over the place.

I’ll do her a favor and take some of that too! The minted lemonade that I had at Tatte was really delicious, so I plan to make my own. Of course I’ll be taking note and hope to blog these too!

There are so many things that I’d like to do this summer, but besides time, money is always a factor, so I will have to improvise. Good thing that there are so many free events around the city!

At the very least, like I say every year, I’d like to go to the beach (on the Cape, maybe the North Shore, or somewhere far away) at least a couple of times. Also, I hope to enjoy some outdoor music. Of course, I like eating outdoors whenever possible.

Hopefully I’ll also be able to attend a few of the free outdoor yoga classes as well. Maybe even just take my home practice outdoors. There’s a nice park nearby. I should use it!

By the way, I’m working on the new 2017 summer list of free yoga classes. Hopefully it will be up within a couple of weeks!

What about you? What are your summer plans?

Recently Read: 10% Happier

Cover of book that I recently read, 10% Happier by Dan Harris.

I recently read the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris and thought I would share a few impressions.

Since I meditate mostly everyday, I didn’t need to be convinced of the benefits of meditation and becoming mindful. However, I’m always curious to learn how and why people make it part of their lives. Seeing their realization that it’s a great thing to do is a source of endless fascination.

The book begins with Harris describing his early career tackling stories in war zones. The adrenaline rush and violence, then his early drug use. To me it felt like a book focused on an audience of hyper-masculine young men and was losing my interest rapidly.

When I was young, I used to always finish books that I started. Sometimes I would finish books that I hated from the beginning to the end. Then I’d be upset that I couldn’t get that time back.

I started thinking, “Who said you have to finish?” I realized that I was the one making the decision, so I stopped. Now, if I’m not feeling the book or many other things, I don’t finish and cut my losses.

Since I was really curious, I kept reading and got to the parts that I truly enjoyed. We see Harris, who is quite the skeptic, slowly make his way to trying and believing that mindful meditation works. He finds that it makes him “10% happier.” It’s a step-by-step process and he brings us with him for the ride. Harris is now such a believer that he even has a website and an app to help you learn to meditate as well.

It’s also very interesting, especially to me as a black woman, seeing how Jewish male friendships are a big part of his story. I went to Brandeis University for my undergraduate degree, so I was part of the Goyum on campus. Believe me. I didn’t know the word until I got there and started being referred to that way. But that’s another story.

So anyway, Harris has a whole chapter called “The Jew-Bu” where we meet Dr. Mark Epstein. He is a a New York psychiatrist and writer who writes “about the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy.” Epstein’s writing really spoke to Harris. Like with many other authors, Harris wanted to learn more, so they met in person for a “man-date” as he describes it. Below are some passages from the book.

It hit me that what I had on my hands here was a previously undiscovered species: a normal human being. Epstein, it appeared to me, was the anti-Tolle, the anti-Chopra. Not a guru in the popular sense of the word, just a regular guy with whom I was having a drink on a Friday night.

We started to talk about his background. He, too, had grown up in the Boston area. His dad was also a doctor. He didn’t have some fancy backstory, à la Tolle or Chopra. No sudden late-night spiritual awakening, no hearing of voices. …

I asked what a beginner should do to get deeper into this world. … As I madly typed notes into my BlackBerry for future reference, it was impossible not to notice that nearly all of these names were Jewish: Goldstein, Coleman, Kornfield, Salzberg. ‘This is a whole subculture,’ he said. The little cabal even had a nickname: The ‘Jew-Bus.’ …

Mark also pointed out that mindfulness was a skill — one that would improve as I got more meditation hours under my belt. In that spirit, he said I should consider going on a retreat. … Specifically, he recommended that I sign up for a retreat led by someone named Joseph Goldstein, who Mark referred to as ‘his’ meditation teacher. He spoke about this Goldstein character in the most glowing terms, which intrigued me. I figured if a guy I revered revered another guy, I should probably check that other guy out.

As we were paying the bill, I said, ‘If you’re up for it, I’d love to get together every month or two.’

‘Sure,’ he said, looking up from the remains of his drink and meeting my gaze. With uncontrived sincerity he said, ‘I want to know you.’ That was one of the nicest things anyone had ever said to me. After we’d finished, as we said good-bye, he gave me a hug. It was touching, and I appreciated his willingness to be my friend, but there was no way in hell I was going on a retreat.

We hear so much about female friendship, but I think male friendship is very important too. As we get older it’s harder to make new friends. But it can happen and this book shows it beautifully.

It takes a lot of vulnerability and strength to tell someone that you want to be their friend. Plus, it showed the same strength and vulnerability to write about it. I’m glad that Harris put it out there.

Coincidentally, in addition to what I’ve recently read, I recently watched an old episode of Seinfeld when Jerry becomes friends with New York Mets baseball player Keith Hernandez and they go on a “man date.”

Also, I just recently listened to a podcast of This American Life where two men are set up on blind “man date” to see if they can become friends.

While I loved reading about the friendships that formed, it also left me wondering. Was Harris only able to receive and implement this new information because it was placed before him by men who were just like him?

If he had not learned about the “Jew-Bus” would he have ever been convinced about mindfulness and meditation? If not, would he have ever written this book? And what does that say about us as people? How often do we learn something new from someone very different from us? And then want to become friends with them. Not very often.

What books have you recently read?


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Image Credit: HarperCollins Publishers



A Study on Sunsets

Sunsets January2016

While doing errands Saturday evening, I truly enjoyed the sunset. The picture on the left was taken just a few miles away from the one on the right and less than a half an hour apart. But they look so different.

The colors. The fluffiness of the clouds. The starkness of the bare branches against the sky versus the lush greenery.

No matter the number of sunsets that I see, they never get old. All sunsets have their own unique beauty and feel. What a treasure. All we have to do is look up to find it!

Have a great week and keep looking up! 😀