The past week has flown by faster than any in 2017, I think. In the ten days since I hobbled home to New Jersey, damp from early morning drizzle and limping on a sprained ankle, I’ve cooked and orchestrated and eaten a meal far more complex than the roasted-roots-and-greens bowls I “assemble” most nights for lunch and dinner (and breakfast, too, if you simply swap the veggies for fruits). Most of the work I had to do was self-imposed, for my veganism stood in stark opposition to my family’s beloved traditional Thanksgiving menu, where meat and dairy are the stars of the show. My feet and legs were sore by the end of the night in that cliche way (I almost shouted at one point, “We’ve been slaving over this stove for hours!” but I composed myself), but it was worth it. Adding about half a dozen plant-based bowls to the table this year—yes, we ran out of serving spoons—I couldn’t help but tear up a bit at the sight of it: partly I was reacting to the dishes that filled the rest of the table, and the environmental and moral costs of their making, but mostly I was feeling supremely grateful for the abundance of sustainable foods that my family gobbled down perhaps even more so than their animal counterparts, and the abundance of love in the room. (The only disappointment was an ambitious savory/sweet raw pumpkin pie. Sometimes you just don’t mess with originals…)
The abundance continued through to last night, in fact, when I ate up the last of the leftovers I brought back to the city. Although I can’t quite say that I binged on the holiday or the days following, I’d been trying to space out the remaining dishes among lighter fare to combat what can only be described as a different, not wrong way of eating. Tiny portions of many flavored, many textured dishes layered one on top of the other for hours on end is definitely not my normal eating schedule, despite its perhaps being of similar quantity. The foods were all delicious of course, but the abundance was on the verge of becoming excess. We collectively felt we had to make sure to pack in all the deliciousness as soon as we could, and only in the days after could I actually taste and savor what I’d made. Consider in contrast the original intention of Thanksgiving: the abundance then being celebrated was not anything along the lines of how we think of it. The Indians and Pilgrims were acknowledging the lack of scarcity—the enough-ness—of their food; they wouldn’t starve this winter, which was good enough to call it a feast. When did our standards of “enough” get so out of proportion? When did humans decide that feeding themselves required the stealing of life from other beings—in the modern age, that is, when we have year-round access to foods that grow in the ground from so many places? I attribute it mainly to speed, the norm of our current society that includes all things convenient, instantly gratifying, and pre-packaged. We need to have everything now, do everything now, fill ourselves up with now out of fear that somehow in the future it will be gone, or to avoid scarcity we may have known in the past. But in basing all of our decisions on things we’re running away from, we’ve forgotten what it feels like to simply be satiated. To simply be, period. It takes time of course to really feel being: twenty minutes post-digestion, which was just a little less time than my family took to consume our overwhelming feast. This is time, when extrapolated to all the things we ingest daily, we say we don’t have, but what this is implies is that we really don’t have time for the processes of life to take place inside and outside of us. Why not wait for the fruits and vegetables to flower and ripen so that we may enjoy their sweetness? What does being “busy” afford us besides a need to be more busy? I for one know it causes my stomach to lurch up in knots, blocking the entire digestive process at stage zero.
The long holiday weekend was the first time I can remember not having to work (though I worked hard to suppress the urge to “just get one thing done real quick”), and thanks in part to my injury I decided to actively rest my body so it could replenish itself. Although I’d had more than enough food-nourishment, something serious was lacking given how well I responded to the time “off.” Fourteen episodes of Project Runway later, the constant buzz inside my body turned down a few notches. I simply was, existing without needing or even wanting to be anywhere else. The treadmill underneath me had stopped, and in that pause I could more easily feel what it was I really needed, no more and no less. Making a conscious decision to slow down more often is not only ideal for this time of year, but for all times of year. Our desires to achieve more usually activate that busy-brain mentality, and yet as yoga philosophy teaches us we must cultivate the opposite when the mind is disturbed (aka busy). Do less, try less, work less hard, and find the capacity to feel the sensations of slow is my new-life resolution, starting this last month of 2017. How it unfolds, and however long it takes, will be an uncomfortable process I’m certain, but one with urgency that extends beyond my well-being and health to that of the entire world. Will you slow down with me—for all of us?