Every Friday, I set off to teach my regular class, weighed down with my usual yogic paraphernalia of speaker, iPhone, lesson plan…..and a cake tin! For Friday is ‘Feel Good Friday’ when the class is treated to a home made slice of something yummy after their equally yummy practice. So, what’s the secret? I keep one back, ready for my return, when I sit down, kick back and indulge in a coffee and cake. If it’s sunny, I take my treat into the garden and sit, basking, lizard like in the sun and savour every moment. Do I feel guilty of taking time away from my mat, computer, family, cat?! Not now but, it’s taken a while not to allow that wave of guilt to wash over me for daring to sit still and simply be.
Too often, we set impossible standards (or allow society to set them for us) that can only ever result in failure. Aren’t you sick of it? Of lugging around this unidentifiable guilt that gnaws at you for even thinking of desiring something we’ve been conditioned to believe is “bad”, be that a delicious pastry, time alone, a long luxurious bath?
This may sound a cliche, but I believe the answer can be found in embracing the thing we are most scared of – the “bad” foods, the night off, the pyjama day. Time to step off the hamster wheel of negativity because, in embracing it, in bringing shame out into the light, we are taking control over it. Demystifying it, normalising it, and, finally, allowing ourselves to enjoy it. Setting one small ritual a week – in my case, a coffee and biscuit, alone with my book – holds the potential for rippling change as it returns enjoyment to us, and brings stability and tranquillity back into too-busy lives.
Indulgence is too frequently equated with negativity and deprivation with achievement. The result is an internalised narrative in which a biscuit is “bad”, and its consumption is akin to the one-night-stand you swore wouldn’t happen again: a brief moment of masochistic pleasure followed by shame, regret, self-loathing, and invariably, indigestion. What a waste of chocolately heaven! My solution? Taking ownership of that shame and turning it into something joyful, anointing it with status, time, and love. Twisting this act of private failure – failing at being a perfect wife, mother, friend, failing at resisting temptation – into a positive occasion, et voila, ‘Feel Good Friday’ was born!
The premise is simple: self-love instead of self-sabotage. I decided if I was going to feel guilty about eating something I considered “bad”, I wouldn’t eat it. Not because it really was bad – either for the environment or for me – but because this negative attitude was inhibiting the enjoyment it should excite, which made the eating pointless. If I could promise myself that I could have something without then self-flagellating over my supposed “indulgence”, then it was mine to savour.
The result was surprising and far-reaching. In the manoeuvrings of my everyday routines, choice and the power of ‘no’ – or ‘yes’ – were bestowed once more upon me as I realised, and forgive me if this is something I should already know, that I could choose either option without an agonising crisis of identity. I didn’t have to seethe with resentment as I ploughed through packed lunches and chowed down on lentils as I hankered for pizza, I didn’t need to spend the entire day riddled with self-loathing over the gym class I skipped; I could delight in a ‘night off’ without the incumbent guilt.
I was anchored by the ritual and the promise of mouth-watering delight. My mindful treat returned awareness to not only the decisions I made on a daily basis but rather how I felt about those decisions. It was no longer about restriction but about ownership and, in being fully cognisant of how I was treating my body and why, guilt dissipated, and happiness began.
However, the pastry itself (delectable and delicious as it is) is only half responsible for this transformation. Turns out, it’s the holistic experience of the ritual I’ve found myself craving week on week. In life’s hectic chaos, enjoying the basic machinations of routine is fast slipping away from us – a mindful pastry affords me a return to the simple pleasure of time.
Time to sit, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, and take in the world unfolding around me. Time to shake out life like a clean linen sheet, wringing it of usual worries and ironing it smooth into an altar of experience. Time, in the frenetic rush of breakfasts gulped over a keyboard and unread emails, dinners hashed together in one-pot frenzy, to be fully present in the act of nourishing my body. It is a gift both liberating and anchoring, sustaining me through difficult weeks and freeing me from that which no longer serves. How often do we dedicate ourselves and allocate our time completely to joy, untethered from preoccupations, guilt, panic? Without checking our phones, without wondering if everyone else in the café thinks we’re sad, without the urge to freefall into frantic to-do lists or look busy?
It is a rarity becoming an oddity and yet it is vital. The art of enjoyment – pure and unadulterated and without inhibition or self-consciousness – is being diluted, forgotten but it is there to be reclaimed in the bubbled layers of pastry.
Let’s celebrate our efforts not with self-sabotaging recklessness but with mindful self-love. Embrace indulgence, whatever shape that takes, and carve it with care and love into your week. Anticipate it. Look forward to it. Treasure it with rolling eyes, inappropriate groans, and hand-wringing reverence. It might just change your life.