Four months ago I embarked on an exciting journey with elephant journal’s Academy.
I was prepared to write, read, listen, and more importantly—learn.
At our first meeting, Waylon mentioned that this course was not only a lesson in writing—it was a lesson in mindfulness.
It was what he offered us next that really stuck with me: the “no to-go” challenge, a true practice in mindfulness because it meant being mindful of choices—making decisions for a better world, not just an easy dinner.
As someone who loves eating on the couch and has a history of mental health issues, I was excited by this opportunity to become more mindful and change my habits. Still, part of me whispered in terror, “How will I survive when I’m too overwhelmed to take care of myself?”
Ignoring that voice and ready for change, I deleted UberEats off my phone and set off for success.
A day later I went to lunch with a friend. I thought about how easy this challenge would be—until I wanted a drink. Like most quick-service restaurants, there were no reusable cups, so we decided she should order a drink and we’d share it, since it meant I wasn’t technically breaking any rules. A part of me knew this was merely a technicality, so my ego decided to chime in to remind me of my failure.
The next week I ordered to-go food almost every single day.
“You are a failure. You couldn’t even make it one day. How do you expect to change your life if you can’t manage a single day?” My ego continued to berate me as the days passed. Each day it became a little louder, filling me with a deeper sense of shame and guilt.
A few weeks went by and I decided I could no longer take this feeling. Something needed to change. Clearly it wasn’t going to be my eating habits, at least not right away, so it had to be the voice in my head.
The next time I ordered out, the voice came back to tell me how much of a failure I was. But something had changed. Instead of listening to that voice, I heard a new one asking this question: “What about ordering this food makes you feel good?”
This simple question let me tune in to my inner child, the part of me that was crying out for comfort food. It wasn’t that I was lazy or hated the Earth, I was hurting and seeking comfort. There were feelings behind those actions and they needed to be heard.
Once I started to care for my inner-child by listening to what she was asking for, whether comfort food or a chance to rest, I began to respect where I was. It was this acceptance of my habits, lifestyle, and current situation that opened up space for changes to happen.
Suddenly, I wasn’t ordering to-go food daily. I began to cook more, I was looking at labels, avoiding plastic-wrapped food, and all without stressing about it. As I became more gentle with myself, I was able to honor where I was and move forward.
I began to shift my focus. Rather than trying to stop a habit, I decided to create a new habit. I turned my relationship with food into a mindful practice. It became an exciting challenge to see if I could make the comfort food I was trying to order, to find new recipes, cook more, and eat better.
Sometimes we’re able to make a radical change quickly. Most of the time though, change is a process. Everything changes, even from moment to moment.
Many of us are familiar with the saying, “You cannot put your hand in the same river twice.” The same is true in our lives.
Our failures are merely moments in time, not life sentences. There’s no reason to beat ourselves up when we order to-go food, when we have a second dessert, or when we make any mistake for that matter. We’re only holding ourselves back by living in the past.
Since everything is changing from moment to moment, we are gifted with a wonderful opportunity. Every second we get the chance to change, make a different choice, create a new pattern, and live a little more in tune with ourselves. We all have this potential within us. We can allow our failures to defeat us—or we can allow them to inspire us to live the life we want.
When we nurture where we are, we can authentically move forward. There is no shame in being a beginner. There is no shame in failure. There is only a child inside who wants to be understood, who wants to do better. Our failures open us up to look at our values, to examine the kind of person we want to be. Our values guide us to making choices that not only align with our needs, but the needs of the world.
During this challenge I became aware of what was holding me back, and what still needed to be healed. I also became aware of how my habits impacted the world.
While I’m still in the process of changing my diet and I can’t speak from a place of all-knowing, I can tell you that even these small changes make me feel much better. I still allow myself to eat junk food, but I’ve also learned that my body and mind are happier when I eat guacamole instead of a whole pizza. My wallet appreciates it too. But there’s one pretty lady who loves and deserves it more: Planet Earth.
By loving ourselves and making conscious change, we continually send love to the Earth and make it a better place to live.
If failing this challenge has taught me anything, it’s how to be a more mindful person and live a more value-centered life. Our ego may see failure but our witness, or our higher self, sees an opportunity. We have a chance to look at our lives, to see if we’re living in a way that resonates with our soul. This failure is a chance to change directions, change actions, or change our mindset.
I’m becoming a person who makes value-based choices. I’ve always said I love the environment and my body, but I struggle with taking care of both. What my ego saw as a failure, my witness saw as a chance to improve, a chance to find more alignment, and to live a life I value.
When I think about ordering to-go food now, my mind doesn’t just race to what will be here the quickest. Now my thought process consists of a series of questions:
Can I make something similar at home?
What kind of to-go ware does this place use? (Plastic is toxic.)
How will my body feel afterward?
Instead of the instant click of a button, there is a process of which I am mindful. I consider the values I want to live my life by, the kind of person I want to be for myself and the world, and most importantly, the kind of person I want to be for my future children.
While it’s not a completely plastic-free life, it’s a big step in the right direction, and that’s something I appreciate.
Author: Zahra Ali
Editora: Lieselle Davidson