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Who Ate My Sandwich?: A Conversation with Dan Goleman

Who Ate My Sandwich?: A StreetSmart conversation with Dan Goleman

My name is Steve Stein and among other things, I am interested in the intersection of mindfulness and the real world. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to attend the incredibly relevant Mindfulness In America Summit. Hearing the name of the ‘Summit’ now, it sounds pretentious, A Summit For Mindfulness? – My inner BS detector is silently going into the red zone –  “what the bleep does this have to do with, me, my family, the common Joe on the street, yada yada?”

Turns out, the surprising answer is – a lot. Somehow I found myself at the summit, spending time with some of the presenters. So there I was on the streets of NYC walking back from lunch to the summit with Dan Goleman and Rich Fernandez, from Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (Google’s mindfulness initiative for business). As we navigated the busy streets and traffic of midtown Manhattan,  I remembered a story that has stayed with me over the decades.

I knew Dan Goleman from a previous chapter in my publishing career. For years he was the science writer for The NY Times. I looked forward to Dan’s column every Tuesday. Every once in a while we would talk on the phone, discuss recent recordings we had made together and his most recent NY Times column. I had the good fortune to work with Dan on numerous occasions at The NY Open Center and also The Omega Institute. We recorded various lectures with Dan, a great weekend with his lovely wife Tara and Dr. Mark Epstein. We also recorded a phenomenal panel called Truth and Transformation, featuring a lively and evocative discussion with Dan, Ram Dass, and Huston Smith. I hope to release this gem sometime soon.

So there we were walking-

“Dan I want to thank you.”

“For what,” he replied.

“I’ve been telling and re-telling a story I heard you tell years ago. I’ve told my kids, friends, and family this story many times over the years”

Rich and Dan said in unison, “Let’s hear it.”

I went on, paraphrasing the parable. I warned Dan and apologized in advance for misremembering and mis-spelling of my remembrance. I went on…

“So the other day I sat down for lunch. I had a sandwich, a bowl of soup, some coffee and a newspaper. I took a bite of the sandwich, washed it down with some coffee, read the paper, had some soup. Then a few minutes later I looked down and my sandwich was gone. I was still a bit hungry, but what happened to my sandwich?”

I asked Dan, “Did I get the story right, was I even close to getting the essence?”  He said I did a good job telling the story (I was relieved) . Then Dan said

“Who Ate My Sandwich? – that is the big question, who ate the sandwich.”

As we kept walking the conversation reminded me of the quote

“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”

Living life on autopilot absolutely hearkens to the idea in the John Lennon lyric. It is indeed quite easy to miss your sandwich, miss your ride to work, miss the day, miss the year, and I fear, quite plausible to miss one’s life.

Dan went on “Steve I am impressed you remembered this story all these years. You were way ahead of your time. That idea would be worth  gold these days.”  I replied, “Fortunately, I have staying power, and the story has legs.”

Here I am re-telling this story of being in the moment, being present, being mindful of your day, your meals, your relationships, your sandwich.

I am asking myself, ‘did I miss writing this little article?’

The next time you have a sandwich, have a mindful bite, so when you finish the sandwich, be there for the finish, tasting the bite, each swallow.

So Who Ate Your Sandwich? who lived your life today, yesterday, now?

Who Ate Your Sandwich? is a rhetorical question. A question that brings to mind another famous rhetorical question. Who Moved My Cheese?

When did Dan ask me Who Ate My Sandwich? It indeed was to make a point.

“A rhetorical question is a question that you ask without expecting an answer. The question might be one that does not have an answer. It might also be one that has an obvious answer but you have asked the question to make a point.”

So the question of Who Ate My Sandwich? And Who Moved My Cheese? do relate to each other. The first has to do with mindfulness, being in the moment for the sandwich, tasting each bite. The second is about mindset and resilience.

One takeaway from Who Moved My Cheese? is

Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

One takeaway from Who Ate My Sandwich? is

Be there for your sandwich, be here now, and now and now…….

We kept walking and ‘before we knew it,’ we were at the Summit for the first session of the afternoon with Tony Fadell and Anderson Cooper. (It was amazing, more on that session in a future post)

Finally, we cross the biggest intersection in the world, Times Square, and arrive at the crossroads of here & now!

Check out Daniel Goleman’s newest book Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body.

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