Dining In The Dark

Two separate events had similar outcomes, namely how we experience things differently when we draw on different senses.

The first was a morning meeting lacking sufficient caffeine – a lesson on mindfulness. The facilitator instructed us to pick up the small cup containing the strawberry. Look at the strawberry, closely. What do you observe? Now pick up the strawberry, feel it and smell it. What do you observe? Each step, each question was focusing us on how we use different senses, sight, touch, and smell to experience the same thing. Finally, close your eyes and take a small bite of the strawberry. What do you notice? With eyes closed and in a quiet room it was amazing. The strawberry was one of the sweetest tastes I can remember - a natural and succulent sweetness. It melted in my mouth.

The purpose was to widen our awareness and make us think about where our attention was at a particular moment – one moment when you’re looking at the strawberry, another when you’re touching it, etc. Just like you strengthen your muscle memory, you can strengthen your awareness.

The second event was a dinner sponsored by the Foundation Fighting Blindness. After a reception of sushi and wine - plenty of stimulation - the dinner began. The salad and wine were served, while the lights were still on. Then preparation for the main course began. All attendees were given a "Mindfold" - a black blindfold with foam cushioning for comfort - and asked to put it on – the main course would be served and eaten in the dark. Quick, take note - wine here, water next to it. Close your eyes and practice picking them up. Do the same for your knife and fork. Memorize where all these items are relative to your reach. Strengthen your awareness.

Once the dinner came, there was a great deal of chatter in the room. I would have preferred quiet so I could focus more of my senses - taste and touch. So many similar events in hotels prepared me for a meal that would consist of a protein, starch, and vegetable or two. Being a sighted individual, I even had a pretty good sense of where on the plate each item would be located - muscle memory at work. No surprise, the protein was chicken. Clue: the knife was an ordinary table knife. Steak would have required a different knife – more challenging in the dark.

The starch was risotto - I could tell by the texture in my mouth. The strawberry experience prepared me for that. I was grateful for the chatter, however. It alerted me that one of the vegetables was cooked spinach - not a fan. As I ate a piece of asparagus, I began searching with my folk for the spinach to no avail. I put the folk down, reached for a glass - good, it's the wine - and took a sip. Then I ran my fingers over the back of the plate and discovered the spinach. Yes, now I know where it is and I can avoid it. I finished just in time for the announcement that the main course was over. We could remove the “Mindfold” and get ready for coffee and dessert – which appealed to all the senses.

This month is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Individuals with disabilities have the courage to stare into the waves, know the limitations of some senses and rely on the others. Organizations can be courageous too. Understand the reasonable accommodations individuals with disabilities need to succeed in the jobs for which they qualify!

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