Eating lunch with Caleb Gattegno: a lesson in eating with quiet and focus

Erin, by Kyra, 6 years, Dublin Montessori Academy student, about 2005.

One's present self is really the hero in learning. -Caleb Gattegno

We all have them. Moments of startling awareness. 

Such a moment happened when I was eating lunch with Caleb Gattegno (about 1986). 

Dr. Gattegno and I sat across from each other in a small room away from the classrooms. I eagerly placed my sandwich and drink on a place mat. He had a simple bowl of vegetables. He sat quietly. I took a bite of my sandwich, chewed a couple times, and then asked a question to engage in conversation. I can't remember what I asked, and it doesn't matter.

Gattegno listened to my question, paused, and then kindly and gently said, "Susan, I'm going to chew my food and focus on digesting it." Then he did as he said. 

We sat together quietly for about a half hour, chewing, looking at each other, and smiling every once in a while. I began to practice for the first time being present in the activity of eating.

I am learning how to stay still, to observe, to be with what it is I am doing for the good of my life, and especially for the good of the children and the learning experiences I share with them.

While studying to become a Montessori teacher, we were invited to train in settling our minds, listening, and observing whoever was in front of us and whatever was happening. 

Gattegno's life work is based on his view of "the world as a laboratory"). His visits to our school and sessions with us, and this lunch especially, deepened my desire to develop the same skills.

I believe that the greatest gift I can give myself and others is to be present.