Can’t We Just Sit and Eat With Each Other?

Can’t We Just Sit and Eat With Each Other?

by Susan Downing

Sometimes when I’m talking with my Reiki friends about the great calm and happiness a Reiki session brings to both recipient and practitioner, we consider this question:  What if, when someone came to us for Reiki, we just had them lie down on the table in the dim room, maybe with some soothing music playing, and then just sat next to them for an hour, silently keeping them company?  Maybe they would feel just as good – or almost as good – as they do when we give them Reiki.

None of us has tested this, but last week I came across an article about food pouches for babies and toddlers. Reading it, I became convinced not only that we can all use the kind of undivided, loving attention from others that Reiki gives us, but also that it’s precisely this kind of interaction with others that is becoming rarer and rarer in our everyday lives.

The food pouch grew out of developer Neil Grimmer’s desire to provide “mobile food technology for the modern family” and to give kids a way to have more control over what they eat.  Parent response has been positive: they see the pouches as a way to avoid meal-time struggles that arise when they try to get their little ones to eat healthy foods.  They also appreciate that the pouches make it possible to feed the kids on the go. Give the kids a pouch of a tasty fruit or vegetable blend that they can suck down on the way to or from day care or a sporting event, and you’ve killed two birds with one stone: the kids get something healthy to eat, and you don’t have to take the time to sit at the table with them and spoon it into their mouths, or sit by while they struggle to feed themselves. The article’s author tells us:

The pouch “is about recognizing the moment we live in,” he [Grimmer] told me. “We have ideal selves as parents, but there are also real moments as parents” — I assumed he was referring to those less-than-ideal times when distractions like work make cooking food or cajoling a toddler to eat it almost impossible — “and you need to find solutions.”

Grimmer rejected the author’s thought that maybe regular mealtime is worth enforcing: “My kids are more scheduled than I am as C.E.O.: soccer, ballet, theater.”

Am I alone in thinking that this is a totally misguided way to approach our lives?  This is precisely why we end up needing the relaxation of a Reiki session: because our lives have turned into a frenetic race from one activity to the next, or rather, from one multi-activity to the next.  For some reason, we seem to have trouble rejecting the idea that we need to be doing at least two things at once. And now we’ve reached the point where it doesn’t even seem important to sit with our tiny children as they eat and learn to feed themselves.

All of this multi-activity results in part from our mistaken belief that simply being in someone else’s presence as we engage in shared or parallel actions gives us sufficient connection with them, and so it’s okay to do something else at the same time, too.  But what’s missing when we interact this way is the key non-verbal component of our communication.  Sure, we can dispense with sit-down  meals and instead jointly wolf down sandwiches or pouches of food as we ride somewhere in the car.  If we do that, we won’t starve.  Not literally.  But we will certainly be starving ourselves emotionally and spiritually.  Because sitting with our children or parents or siblings or friends at a shared meal is about a lot more than ingesting nutrients.  It’s equally about nourishing our loving connections to each other.  We can say the same thing about all of our interactions with others.  And if we don’t arrange our lives in a way that makes it possible for us to regularly share this vital undivided attention and communication, then we will suffer from emotional and spiritual malnutrition.

Given that we seem to give and receive undivided attention so rarely, thank goodness for Reiki!  The warm, caring connection we experience during a session is a powerful antidote to all our harried, non-focused interactions.  But I think it would be much better if we could find a way to live differently, so that a Reiki session could function not as an emergency antidote to the poison of the rest of our lives, but as a gentle and welcome boost to an already healthy system.  And we can start right now.  Just for today, even just for ten minutes, we can give our full attention to interacting with one person we care about.  You can try that for yourself and see how both of you feel afterwards. You may find that it’s more delightful and sweet than even the most wonderful Reiki session.

Leave a Comment