lunch as a spiritual discipline

As I said last week, this post will be the last in my series on establishing a rule of life. I would love your suggestions as to what to write about when I am finished with this series.  In the past I’ve often written more for my own enjoyment than for my readers’.  I don’t want to stop doing the former, but I’d love to be able to do both!

My topic today is the concept of a small, daily “Sabbath” rest.  (I’m putting the term in quotes because, of course, it literally refers to something that happens every seven days.  I’m using it loosely here.)  During my conversation with my co-worker who is an experienced spiritual director (see the post entitled “A Conversation with Purpose”), she asked me how I could incorporate the concept of Sabbath rest into my workday.  I knew the answer immediately: I should start taking a lunch break.

Before I go on, I should clarify that I am blessed to have a salaried academic job with a relatively flexible schedule.  If I wanted to go out to lunch and stay longer than an hour, no one would say anything as long as I didn’t miss a meeting or a class.  But I typically don’t use this privilege.  Most of the time I eat lunch at my desk, attempting to keep working despite the difficulty of typing an email while eating.  I end up getting my keyboard all sticky and not really enjoying my food.  People feel weird when they come to my office to ask a question and see that I’m eating lunch, even when I tell them they shouldn’t feel weird.  More importantly, I don’t have a time built in during the day for refocusing: celebrating the accomplishments of the morning and asking for God’s help with the tasks of the afternoon.

A lunch break is the perfect time for either fellowship or solitude.  Perhaps I could schedule a little of both into my work week–lunch with others on Monday/Wednesday/Friday and lunch alone on Tuesday/Thursday, or something like that.  During the lunches with others, I could be deliberate about getting to know different people from inside and outside my department.  During the solo lunches, I could pray a form of the examen prayer (I mentioned this in my introductory post on crafting a rule of life).  In this type of prayer, I would review the day up to that point, thanking God for blessings, confessing sins, and thinking (not obsessively) about how I could have done things differently, and then I would look ahead to the rest of the day, asking for wisdom and strength for each task.  This need take no longer than five minutes, so I could even do it at the beginning or end of a lunch I’m eating with other people.  I could even include my lunch buddies in the practice, asking them what their high and low points of the day have been thus far.  (Thanks for Alvin Ung, one of the professors of the Taking Your Soul to Work class, for this idea.)

Oddly enough, I think this might be the most difficult to implement of the disciplines I’ve written about so far.  Not for any logistical reason–there are plenty of places to eat lunch in and around my building (including the roof!), and there’s no need to spend money; I can still pack a lunch from home.  The reason this is going to be hard to start practicing is that it will require me to break a well-established habit and to allow myself to feel unproductive for at least half an hour every day.  I think the solution may be simple: I need to put lunch on my calendar, just like I recently started putting “write for 30 min.” on my calendar at the same time every weekday, with excellent results (why do you think I’ve been so prolific on this blog lately?).

I want to thank everyone for the kind, interesting, and helpful comments you’ve made during this series–here on the blog, on Facebook, and by text message and email.  I would love to hear about your own experiences with these practices and other spiritual disciplines you have incorporated into your own life!

2 thoughts on “lunch as a spiritual discipline

  1. carissajoy says:

    This is a timely post, as I’ve recently started a full-time job with a consistent lunch hour and have been trying to figure out the most constructive way to use it. I love the idea of reflecting on the morning and planning for the afternoon!
    On a separate but related note, while on the Daniel Plan I’ve been learning the value of not doing anything else (TV, reading, scrolling through social media, working) while eating a meal. When I actually pay attention to my food, I notice more flavors than I do when I’m distracted and realize that I’m full much more quickly. It also strengthens our relationship to food in general–not just something to idly consume while working on something else, but focusing on the purpose and value of food.

  2. I love this, Carissa! Does the Daniel Plan have anything to say about eating with other people? I feel like I enjoy food more when I’m sharing it with others, even if we’re talking about other topics.

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