This week we will be focusing on eating.
As with the previous two exercises, try to eat all your meals in a state of mindfulness. What does this mean? Being totally present in the experience – not lost in thought, or guzzling down the food as quickly as possible so that you can get on with something else. It really helps with this one if you can eat as many of your meals as possible in silence. Make sure that you are not involved in other activities while you eat – not working, or watching TV, or on the phone.
Most religions have a tradition of prayer before meals. I think this is a wonderful way to begin a meal – in a state of gratitude. I don’t mean for you to blurt out a quick “thanks for the grub”, but take a moment before you begin to consider where this food came from, how much energy it took to bring it to you, how wonderful it is that you have something to eat at every meal, and particularly how wonderful it is to eat delicious food!
And then show your appreciation for your food by actually paying attention to it while you eat...
Although food may seem to be mostly a taste experience, try to make use of your all your senses:
– smells: you’ll be surprised how much smell affects your ability to taste your food. Take a moment to bring the food up to your nose and breathe in the different aromas.
- sounds: the sound of your cutlery on the plate, the sizzling of the hot food, the sounds of your chewing.
- textures: different foods have vastly different textures – is your food smooth or slimy or chewy or rough? How does it feel to simply hold it in your mouth and run your tongue over it?
- tastes: see if you can taste the subtle differences between mouthfuls, the underlying herbs and spices that have been used, the combinations of salty, bitter, sweet, sour and pungent foods.
- sights: the colours and textures and vast variations on these in one meal, the uniqueness of each vegetable or fruit, the shapes and contours.
Although you may have preferences for different tastes, smells, or textures, attempt to suspend your judgement this week. Try to eat something that you particularly dislike, but eat it slowly and in a state of total mindfulness and non-judgement and see what happens.
Set aside a little more time for your meals this week and slow them down considerably. There is a Chinese Saying: “drink your food and eat your drink”. Don’t forget that digestion starts in the mouth, not in the stomach. Most of us are eating much too fast and are then confused by the resulting indigestion. Take a moment, too, to appreciate your own body and how amazing and intelligent it is to take whatever nonsense you give it and send it to the correct place, break it down into what you need, distribute these nutrients to different areas of the body and then use them to fight disease or build muscles or numerous other tasks without you paying any attention to it whatsoever.
If you want to take this exercise one step further, work on preparing all your meals in a state of mindfulness too – with total presence, attention and acceptance for the moment exactly as it presents itself.
Remember in all these exercises to be patient with yourself. If you find yourself consuming an entire meal in unconsciousness or judging your experience in any way, to simply notice it, and celebrate the fact that you have noticed it and that you now have a chance to choose differently in the future.
BTW Don’t forget to continue brushing your teeth and doing your dishes with awareness. The point of this series of exercises is to bring awareness into as many areas of your day as possible, but focusing on one at a time to make it more accessible.