Me, a chocolate bar?  don't be ridiculous..
Me, a chocolate bar? don’t be ridiculous..

I’m told that if you want a beautiful garden the first thing to do is spend 1 year watching it. You see what plants flourish and what don’t – in each season.

English country garden

At the end of the year, you’ll have a strong sense of the character of your garden. Now you can begin to plan. What do you want to keep? What do you want to get rid of? Is there anything new you fancy trying?

I’m no gardener. I’m interested in people. I’m interested in myself. It seems to me that the same rules apply if you want to change yourself. I’ve been practising mindfulness now for over 3 years. This is what mindfulness is. Paying attention to what is.

You want to change? Start by observing yourself for a year or 6 months or a week. Don’t change anything. Just notice. Maybe write it down.

Bad Hair Day
Bad Hair Day

At university, I wasn’t working. Finally I went to see a student counsellor. He advised me to simply record what I was doing for a few weeks. Then report back to him. I never went back. I started to note when I worked but it was pitiful. I was so ashamed, I gave up and went back to socialising. Nothing changed. I did not do well at University….

a) Notice what you’re doing,
b) Notice how much shame you feel
c) Stop judging yourself, justifying yourself or lying to yourself!

If you have ever tried this, you will know how difficult this is. You may need support from a friend or partner.

Let’s take an example… Deciding to cut back or stop eating so much fatty food. Start by just noticing how much you do eat of it. After a cholesterol test, without blinking or even noticing (at the time) I lied to my doctor.

She asked me what my diet was. The words that came out of my mouth said that I had a breakfast of wholemeal cereal, a lunch of whole meal bread, soup and cheese and an evening meal of meat and 2 veg….. oh yes and the odd glass of wine. I failed entirely to mention the chocolate biscuits, crisps, snacks, the puddings with cream, the yoghurts, the bars of chocolate or precisely how many glasses of wine constituted the ‘odd’ glass….

And even though I’ve been trying recently just to notice what I’ve been eating, I hear myself feeling bad and saying ‘well it’s Christmas, it’s New Year, it’s January, it’s been a hard day…. I haven’t had any for AGES….’

So. I’ve noticed something. I’m lying to myself and justifying myself. That’s interesting. And uncomfortable. I’m not the self-disciplined healthy eater I like to imagine. I’m an ordinary person with sugar cravings. this is not shameful. It simply is. I think I’ll start here, this year.

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