Eating Mindfully

An exercise in mindfulness training, a Buddhist meditation practice, is to put a raisin in your mouth and see how long you can keep it there while paying attention to its taste and texture. Mindfulness is the technique of bringing all of our awareness to the here and now, to the sensations in our bodies and our breathing, for example, rather than letting much of it slip away in contemplation of the past and future or of other subjects that are not real. The assumption is that when we act with full awareness, our actions are more likely to achieve what we intend, and that when we feel with full awareness, we are more likely to feel fulfilled.

Many people perform the act of eating semiconsciously, swallowing food without really tasting it or focusing their attention on the next bite before they have enjoyed the present one. Others talk, read, or watch television while eating, directing their attention incompletely to their food. One consequence of unmindful eating is overeating. Who has not mindlessly shoveled in quantities of popcorn or chips while watching a movie or staring at a television screen? Another consequence of unmindful eating is failure to get full sensory pleasure from food.

I notice that if food is really good, conversation at the table is reduced to a minimum, and people concentrate on the enjoyment of the moment. Then they are likely to eat less and enjoy it more.

We eat automatically out of habit. To break the habit requires motivation and practice. Try the raisin exercise to see how long you can go without chewing it up or swallowing it. When food is served to you, take a moment to fully appreciate its appearance and aroma before starting to eat. When you first taste it, try to give it your full attention. l think you will find, as I have, that eating mindfully heightens the pleasure of the experience.

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