Keep in mind that every day can be a celebration. Every meal offers a space to connect. When my two younger sons were 11 and 12, I was working several part-time jobs., teaching part-time at three universities, and family time during the weekdays was limited. And yet, somehow, we were able to spend quality time and make fabulous memories together.
What started as a one-time occasion grew into a family tradition. Coming home from work one evening, I grabbed some takeout tacos and brought them home. I sat on the floor of our living room, exhausted, and called the boys from their rooms.
“Hey, Mom! Tired?” my youngest inquired.
“Yes, and not really sure I even want to get up from here, to be honest.”
He grinned widely and exclaimed, “Let’s have a picnic then!”
“No, that’s fine. I’ll get up, I was just kidding,” I told him.
He came back to the living room with our picnic blanket and spread it out on the floor. “No, no, no, boys,” I said.
“Ahhhhh, why not, Mom?” the boys asked.
I silently asked myself the same question, and having no sound answer, our first living room picnic dinner commenced. Not a very glamorous beginning, admittedly, but a start to something perfectly wonderful.
“All right, then!” Hoorahs and giggles and laughter permeated every corner as we each took our places. Over our takeout, we truly connected that night, and I was filled with joy. We all were.
The next night, the boys asked, “Can we do it again, Mom?”
“Picnic!” I agreed without hesitation, and shouts of joy followed.
“I’ll get the blanket,” both boys offered at once.
Before long, the boys stopped asking. Our nightly picnic had now become a given. The dinnertime living room picnic had become part of our lives. Part of our bliss. Part of our oneness. Part of our new normal.
We all began to look forward to our hour-long quality time together.
Unexpected Benefits: Roles, Rules, Rituals and Appreciation of the Now
Organically, over time, the picnics became filled with rules – nice rules – as in “no screens.” We listened to music instead. And even the aspect of music developed into a taking-turns tradition, wherein each of us took turns choosing the album we wanted to hear during dinner. The boys came up with that ritual of their own accord.
The tradition naturally developed that each of us took turns talking about the most interesting thing we learned that day. Our conversations went far beyond the usual, “How was your day? It was fine” surface-level communications into much deeper, more meaningful and enjoyable discourse.
I learned so much. We all did. And no, it didn’t matter in the least what we ate. It didn’t matter if we were having pizza or ramen or sandwiches or something healthier and home-cooked. The joyful outcome was always the same.
Ways and Reasons to Bring Mindfulness and Appreciation to Mealtime
Regardless of whether you dine on the floor or at a table, you can introduce the idea of “all screens off” at mealtime and let that become part of the norm. Even if there is initial resistance to the idea, the resistance will lessen with time.
Our bodies digest food more easily and readily when we are in a joyful, relaxed state. When mealtime is more joyous, our bodies respond in kind.
Since everything is energy and composed of energy, including our bodies and our food, appreciation of the food, whether through a formal blessing or simply noticing the flavors and textures with a sense of gratitude, helps raise the energetic vibrations of the meal. This kind of conscious focus also helps us develop a more defined sense of awareness of the subtler flavors and finer details of the meal.
Additionally, when we take the time away from screens and visual media, we tend to eat more slowly rather than inadvertently habitually overeating as we may do while watching a movie. We are simply more aware of what we are eating and how much we are ingesting.
Shift Your Mealtime Normal
If daily picnics aren’t feasible for you and your family, another simple shift in the normal routine can bring a festive attitude to mealtime.
If you normally eat indoors, try outdoor dining for a change. If you have particular seats you choose to sit in through habit, shift those. Simply being seated at a different side of the table can bring a shift in your perspective, literally.
Talks at mealtime don’t have to revolve solely around schedules and chores, office or school issues. If topics of conversation around your dinner table are growing stale, try introducing new, more engaging subjects.
A simple change in your routine, whether involving inner or any other aspect of your life, could be just the spark to generate limitless growth and expansion. Perhaps in the process, you could be creating new normals, heightened awareness, treasured memories, and meaningful traditions for all.