Even if the menu says ‘All you can eat‘, what you get out of the meal is largely up to you. Much as is the case with life. Like the generous spread on offer at a lavish buffet, we are offered a wide variety of experiences. And just as we can navigate the meal in different ways with varying consequences, so it is with life. It has taken me a while to learn the ‘art of eating at buffets’ and I felt many things understood there are equally relevant to the way we move through life. So here are 9 parallels one could draw between enjoying such meals and life:
- Run a quick survey first: Instead of loading up the plate from the start, an observant glance around the table will give a good idea of what is on offer. While it may be tempting to think one can sample it all, going by the number of dishes put out on the average buffet these days, it would be wise to be more discerning. Similarly, there are number of interests and experiences available out there, but realistically, we cannot sample them all. Having a general sense of what you would definitely like towards the top of your list and what you can live without is a useful place to start.
- Decide what you don’t want: The older ideas of sampling a spoonful of everything before deciding on the mains is now simply impractical. You will either end up overeating or be too full to really dive deep into the flavors that appeal to you. The body knows what it would like and what is good for it. Those inclined can learn muscle testing to quickly and discretely discover what would work for them. In life, mindfulness can just as easily guide us as to what would be appropriate for us. The thoughtful pause is extremely useful in making conscious choice a way of being.
- All that glitters is not gold: Attractive looking dishes may not make for the healthiest of food. Artificial colors, additives and unhealthy ingredients can often look appealing but prove costly in the long run. Which one of us has not had difficulty in resisting temptations in life? But here too, short term indulgences can lead to expensive, long term consequences. Sometimes the best things appear simple and you may miss their true merit if you go by appearance alone. Weigh the pros and cons carefully.
- Don’t be afraid to explore: Bearing in mind the above, you can still experiment with the unfamiliar and unknown. We tend to stick to old favorites, even checking the spread with an intention of finding what we liked the last time. Be open to discovering something new. If you never ask ‘What is good and new?‘, something fresh and wonderful may be under your nose, but you wouldn’t see it. We often need to unlearn our old ideas in order to see radical shifts in our lives.
- Choose quality over quantity: Anything in excess can prove detrimental to one’s health. Selective portions of pleasing items can appease the taste buds and yet not be excessive. We can practice the same discernment in life, displaying a wise moderation in our choice of activities and behaviors.
- Make room for your favorites: I have no qualms about having a sweet tooth. So I ensure that I have a look at the desserts section at the very beginning and adjust my other intake accordingly. I feel the same way about making room for sweetness in life. There is no point in filling our hours with activities (or the lack of it) and depriving ourselves of whatever it is that really makes us come alive.
- Remember tastes differ: One man’s meat is another man’s poison. The beauty of having so much diversity on offer is that everyone is free to enjoy what suits them. This is also true about diets, religion, philosophy, healing techniques and so on. So live and let live.
- Value everything: People seem to believe that the only way to get value for an expensive meal is to overeat. Which implies that the only thing you are valuing is the quantity. Whereas you are actually also availing of taste, ambiance, space, comfort, pampering and so on. So don’t worry about stuffing yourself, but do make sure you appreciate the finer nuances of the dining experience. Ever seen the modern day, typical tourist? They seem so busy clicking pictures to take home ‘memories’ (or demonstrable evidence of their travels), that they forget to actually experience memorable moments. Don’t pass through life blind to all the gifts it offers you. The moment you widen the scope of what you value, you will find yourself appreciating each experience with a new depth and sincerity.
- Appreciate generously: A lot of painstaking effort goes on behind the scenes, to make possible your heavenly dining experience. If you like something in particular, do make it a point to pass on your compliments. Look around you and notice how many people have contributed towards whatever joy you are experiencing today. Have you thanked them for it?
What insights have you gained from your own buffet outings? Do share your comments below.
Image Kind Courtesy: Marylou Falstreau (all rights reserved)