Earlier this week I had the opportunity to meet with a wise spiritual leader in our community. One of those chance encounters that is somewhat random but also somehow, you know was meant to be. At one point, and for a reason I can no longer remember, he reminded me of a fable that is present in every religion, every culture, every mythological tradition – of the one who travels far and wide in search of a treasure only to find the gift, the treasure hidden right there in her own home. Of course, as a Classics major in college, I remember this theme in Greek and Roman mythology.
One thing I have learned as a physician is that important stories get repeated, we all experience some version of the same stories, the same human condition. Sometimes a patient will share a personal story with hesitation, often these stories are filled with shame or pain, with the belief that they are alone and the only one. But funny enough, these stories are the ones that I have heard many times before, often that very same day or week. These stories of wanting, striving, loss, and triumph are universal, ones that I have heard repeated so many times in my office chair, ones I have experienced myself.
It felt important to receive this story at this time even if it was random.
The next morning I woke up to my 47th birthday. My husband brought me a perfect cup of coffee, an act of kindness I have received on so many mornings that it is almost mundane. But today it was not mundane. What a gift, I thought to myself.
Moments later my 9 year old walked in singing Stevie Wonder’s birthday song, my son embraced me with his scruffy face, my eldest called me between college classes to tell me that she was thinking of me. Nothing extraordinary, and yet, what a gift, I thought to myself again.
I spent the day with my sister. We shared a sandwich as we drove to a trail that I hike almost weekly. Mundane, but a gift nonetheless.
I received messages from the people closest to me expressing gratitude and sharing how much I mean to them. As a physician, I am used to people thanking me, a gesture that I appreciate but sometimes dismiss. It is my duty after all, no need to thank.
But not today. Today, I savored every message, every thought, every sentiment.
The truth is savoring is always available to us and a way to cultivate gratitude and joy.
I have shared, in this newsletter, the science behind savoring and even how it helps us in our relationship with food. We are so used to eating but not to savoring. By some estimates we have nearly 8000 taste buds on our tongue alone. Not to mention those that inhabit the inner lining of our mouths, cheeks, soft palate, uvula, the backs of our throats, even our intestines have taste buds. What if we took time to savor with all of our mouths, with all of our bodies, with all of our heart and mind?
So often, we mindlessly reach for the next bite, the next promotion, the next car/relationship/raise/
This message was my birthday gift and maybe a gift for you too. To remind you to savor the morning coffee, the hug, the random acts of kindness and the mundane pleasures that we stumble upon every day. Because these simple gifts are perhaps the greatest gift of all.
Wishing you a happy and healthy week!