Breaking Free of Patterns With Mindfulness

By: Katelyn Twardzik & Jedly Paredes

“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.” – Richard Feynman.

Patterns are everywhere we look, from the smallest DNA particles to the wings on a butterfly, to the human experience of following time, schedules and routines. We get set in our ways and repeat similar actions and behaviors only to get similar results. While these results may or may not always be desired or intentional, the art of mindfulness can help us stay in touch with the life that is going on within us as well as around us. To be mindful is to be present, to reflect, and to be aware and thoughtful. Mindfulness can be applied to many areas of our lives to help us gain perspective and to help us take a step back and observe without subjection. This allows us to make needed changes that break us free from old habits, which can lead us to improved mental clarity and physical health. Taking a look at mindful eating and mindfulness as it applies to literacy will help us take a closer look at its benefits.

Mindful eating can positively affect our emotional and physical state. In the U.S., the lack of mindfulness in our diet and eating has caused many health problems. These problems range from diabetes, anorexia, heart disease, liver overload, obesity, stress, bloating and indigestion to name a few; not to mention that our immune system and nervous system are supported by a healthy relationship with food.

Mindful eating can be achieved by knowing what you are eating. You can start having control of what you are putting in your body by keeping yourself aware by checking the packaging label. Your body will react positively to avoiding unnecessary additives such as chemicals and preservatives. Selecting natural and fresh products from a local vendor is a great way to get more food and fewer ingredients. An economical advantage to this is that local farm stands are often much more affordable than the grocery store price since you are purchasing directly from the source. Another advantage is that local farm stand produce is usually sold within twenty-four hours versus the seven to fourteen day journey other produce can take to arrive at the grocery store. Being aware of the process that your food takes to get to you is an important part of mindful eating. This requires extra thought when eating at a restaurant where you are not preparing your own food. Getting your chicken grilled instead of fried will make a major difference in keeping more nutritional value to your food.

Another part of having a healthy relationship with food is giving yourself time to enjoy it. Eating with the company of others is a tradition that has occurred over centuries which validates that food should be enjoyed and can even be joyful and celebratory. Eating slowly allows you to take in the flavors, textures, aromas and presentation. Learning about your taste buds and how you experience taste through your tongue is an enriching way to sort through flavors, making eating an experience. On the very tip of your tongue you will taste salty and sweet flavors. On the sides of your tongue you will taste sour flavors and on the back of your tongue you will taste bitter flavors. Having a bite of food and deciding what you taste first allows you to truly have a mindful eating experience. Eating slowly also allows the food to reach your stomach in a timely way so that you are able to more accurately judge when you are content with the amount of food you’ve consumed. The key to eating a healthy amount is to stop eating once you are no longer hungry, not until you are full or on the brink of feeling like there is no more room in your stomach.

If you are still unsure of the effectiveness of mindful eating, why not ask your body how it feels? Experiment with eating more nutritional foods such as raw fruits, nuts and vegetables and see how your body reacts. How does your stomach feel? What is your energy level like after eating? What is your stomach telling you about the food you ate? Compare your results with more processed foods such as a bag of chips or fast food. Mindful eating does not mean to deprive yourself of food but rather to allow yourself to have a balanced life, eating more of what makes you feel healthy with more energy and less of what makes you feel bloated and drained. Having a mindful relationship with food will lead to a healthy mind and body.

Mindfulness skills are useful in an educational setting. Teaching children about eating mindfully will make them healthier and give them more mental clarity. Mindfulness can also be applied to improving literacy. Practicing mindfulness exercises such as breathing and memory games can strengthen focus and concentration, enable an ability to see a new perspective, reduce stress and increase metacognition. A student’s well-developed metacognition can influence self-monitoring skills, which would build their scaffolding toward independent reading. Having the mindfulness skills of breathing, noticing thoughts, noticing feelings and letting them all go are coping mechanisms that will help a stressed student remain calm. When students are able to keep their feelings, thoughts and emotions in check they will be equipped with the tools that will help them develop further academically. These tools can also be carried into their everyday life to help them with their relationships, job performance and over all well-being.

The idea of reading and mindfulness can be interchangeable because mindfulness can help a reader and reading can help with mindfulness. Reading is actually a way of being mindful. In a world where we are motivated by sensations, literacy is a great alternative that can broaden our awareness in a positive way. When you read a good book, it traps you in its pages. You can become engaged with the characters, the scenes and the atmosphere. You can gain wisdom from the words that you read while leaving behind your own personal judgment and worries. You can gain an outside perspective that you never would have had by meeting characters in a story. You can also experience and connect with feelings and emotions through another’s words that can transform and enlighten you. Reading can take you to a place in your mind where you can self-examine your own acts and reactions.

Mindfulness is so important because our thoughts are the cause of our actions and interactions. Thinking permits us to make sense and interpret the world in ways that are significant to us. Reading can expand our mindset and allow us to experience life in new ways. By reading mindfully, we are opening a door in our mind that connects new information to our own personal experience and gaining a new outlook. This gives us the opportunity to admire, discover and see the broader picture. To have a complete awareness of reality you have to transcend from the personal and leave aside ambitions, fears and old perceptions in order to be able to perceive the truth in front of you. A book does can do this for us. Like a good book, life requires you to be aware of your sensations, thoughts and most importantly, aware of the present moment. Mindfulness can be applied to many other areas in our lives besides eating and improving literacy. It is up to the individual how they can best maximize mindfulness to help them reach their fullest potential. So be full, be light, and be mindful.

Jedly Paredes, originally from Puerto Rico, is studying Spanish at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is enrolled in the Dual Degree to get the education license to teach Spanish at secondary level. She likes to cook and enjoys swimming. She has a part time job at a tire shop, where she loves the contact with customers. She can be reached by email here.

Katelyn Twardzik is currently working as a Paraprofessional with the 2nd Grade team at Atlantis Charter School in Fall River. Her undergraduate degree is in Fine Arts from Bridgewater State University and she currently attends the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth where she is taking classes toward becoming an Elementary School teacher. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, music, yoga, and arts & crafts. She has a webpage where you may view some of her arts & crafts.


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8 thoughts on “Breaking Free of Patterns With Mindfulness

  1. Thanks you so much for this thoughtful post. To me, to be mindful is to be grateful–that is perhaps the key to education and to life. Yes?

  2. There are so many great points in this post – especially regarding mindful eating. It’s a reminder to slow down, enjoy the experience of eating and give yourself the time needed for your body to sense when it’s had enough.

  3. “each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry” With all due respect to Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman – a man I admire, time has proven his statement to be wrong. A pattern in nature is more than the sum of its parts. Examples are fish schools, ecosystems, and the human body. The form and function of each superorganism cannot be gleaned from from a “small piece of her fabric”

  4. Mindfulness can help humans in so many ways, and your article highlights the relationship between being mindful and eating. When we eat, we do so to survive. Without food, our bodies would shut down. However, in todays “hectic” times, too many people consume food in a car while zooming off to their next destination. This might feed your biological system, but it certainly does not feed your soul! You highlight the connection between being a healthy human being and slowing down to eat so eloquently.

  5. Hello Jedly and Katelyn!

    I really enjoyed your piece about patterns, and in particular mindful eating. I think it’s especially important to think about the time we give to eating. I feel as though technology as interupted what used to be tradition. Now, for many people, food is an on-the-go act. How many people do not sit down the eat meals anymore? There must be statistics, and they must be scary! But being mindful about food is important for another reason you mentioned: health. It may seem like a huge inconvience to some to take the time to think before eating, and while eating, but it is something that could really change a person’s life. Today, there is not enough education about how to eat well. Great job, guys!

  6. Linda

    Hey Jedly and Katelyn, I enjoyed your blog about patterns and mindfulness when eating. I can clearly see the appeal of mindfulness with relation to food. I remember a time when I never even tasted my food. Gobbling it down on a fifteen minute break when I used to work 3-10. I found that even when I wasn’t working I was racing against some internal clock, every time I ate. Food was a chore, something necessary not ever enjoyed. Just a burden of necessity, a interruption of my daily activities. That was long before I was introduced to the theory of mindfulness. Comparable to literacy, food like knowledge needs to be absorbed, mulled over, digested. I am grateful for learning about contemplative practices, they have helped me achieve a level of peacefulness I never enjoyed before. I have learned how to slow down, which is a huge accomplishment for a person who ran around like a “chicken with her head cut off” for seventeen years while working and raising my three children alone. I was the hamster on the wheel for sure, only falling off to sleep, then start all over again. Slowing down and living in the moment has really helped me stop and enjoy my life. Either it is food, or a book or time with someone I love an care about. Contemplative practice has helped me understand the importance of enjoying the moment. After all, we tend to thrive in the false sense of security of endless tomorrows, or memories of yesterday, when all we really have is now, this moment, right now, it is the only thing that is real. I have learned to make better use of time, even if I am not doing anything big and important, I just try and be present, and breath in this time and space that is now, a moment of my life. I find pleasure in places that I never looked before. Changing Lives through Literacy has had a positive impact on me an amy experience at the university, it has taught me to stop, ponder, come to my own conclusions, right or wrong.

    Thanks,
    Linda M DaSilva

  7. Linda

    Hey Jedly and Katelyn, I enjoyed your blog about patterns and mindfulness when eating. I can clearly see the appeal of mindfulness with relation to food. I remember a time when I never even tasted my food. Gobbling food down on a fifteen minute break when I used to work 3-10. I found that even when I wasn’t working I was racing against some internal clock, all of the time. Food was a chore, something necessary not ever enjoyed. Just a burden, what to eat, when to eat, time to eat, an interruption of my daily activities. That was long before I was introduced to the theory of mindfulness. Comparable to literacy, food like knowledge needs to be absorbed, mulled over, digested, understood. I am grateful for learning about contemplative practices, they have helped me achieve a level of peacefulness I never enjoyed before. I have learned how to slow down, which is a huge accomplishment for a person who ran around like a “chicken with her head cut off” for seventeen years while working and raising my three children. I was the hamster on the wheel for sure, only falling off to sleep, then start all over again. Slowing down and living in the moment has really helped me stop and enjoy my life. It can be food, or a book, or time with someone I love and care about. Enjoying a leisurely meal with friends and family has become such an important positive change for me. Slowing down, savoring the taste, talking, listening, living, better. Contemplative practice has helped me understand the importance of enjoying the moment. After all, we tend to believe in the false sense of security of endless tomorrows, or memories of yesterday, when all we really have is now, this moment, right now, it is the only thing that is real. I have learned to make better use of time, even if I am not doing anything big and important, I just try and be present, and breath in this time and space that is now, a moment of my life. I find pleasure in places that I never looked before. Changing Lives through Literacy has had a positive impact on me and my experience at the university, it has taught me to stop, ponder, feel, come to my own conclusions, right or wrong. I feel contemplative practice would be beneficial to most people, because it helps with both physical and mental health.

    Thanks,
    Linda M DaSilva

  8. I also believe that mindfulness when it comes to eating is important in creating a happy and healthy relationship with food. Being mindful of what I consume can really positively effect my metabolism, mood, and energy level. I love going to local farmers markets and picking out fresh produce! I think that preparing and cooking my own food helps to create a healthy relationship as well. By physically interacting with it, and getting to know its properties before I consume it, I’m really getting to understand what what I’m eating before I put in into my body. I also believe that chewing slowly is important in enjoying and experiencing what I’m eating. My mother always told me to chew my food at least twenty times before I swallowed it, a concept that I didn’t truly understand until I began seeing eating as a mindful experience as well as just a basic means of survival. Chewing slowly and really savoring all the flavors, helps me to appreciate good healthy food. Sometimes it can be difficult to find time to cook or to pick out foods that are beneficial to the body, especially as a college student, but I always try to do so when I get the chance. Thanks for your article! It was really enjoyable to read!

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