Mindful Eating ~ How often do we take time to eat a proper meal these days? Often, we are stuffing food in our mouths while we are working, driving, on the phone, or watching TV. Many times we don't even care what we are eating as long as it fills us up and the feeling of hunger goes away. We feel like there's no time to sit and eat, and we feel it's just taking away from things we have to do.
Then when we do have the time, we really indulge, and we feel we earned it after all the craziness of the week. Yes, we definitely earned the down time! Think about how this effects the digestive system.
So where does this become a mindful exercise?
The pleasure of eating lies in slowing down and fully experiencing all of the elements of food and how it relates to your body. When we eat too fast and too much we lose the experience of actually eating. We eat to fulfill a goal, and completely skip over the entire process of the experience. Eating is one of the joys of life, but without the proper relationship with the experience, it's hard to understand the joy in it. How often do we allow ourselves to have a meal with no distractions? Ayurveda teaches us that when we are eating, all of our attention should go to the experience so that we ensure proper digestion and assimilation of food. Remember, we literally become what we eat.
So, let's set aside some time to try this mindful eating exercise. Do each step one at a time and make note of your experience. Do this with a curiosity and an open mind.
SIGHT ~ Look at the food on your plate as if you have never seen food before. Look at it carefully without naming it. Pretend you are from outer space and an earthling just served you this plate with things on it. Can you see the water, the rain, and the sunlight within the food? Can you see how the different colors all create an energy on the plate?
SMELL ~ Bring the plate up to your nose. Experience smelling the food, without naming the smell. Then describe the experience of your smell.
TOUCH ~ Allow yourself to have the experience of touching your food. How does it feel? Describe the sensation without giving it a name. Imagine what this will feel like inside of your body.
PHYSIOLOGICAL REACTION ~ Now bring awareness to what's happening in your mouth. Is saliva being produced in preparation for food? Notice how the senses respond to the anticipation of food coming? Experience the mind/body awareness and how it just knows exactly what to do.
MOVEMENT ~ Stop and think about how your body knows exactly how to bring food up to your mouth. Observe how you automatically open your mouth in preparation to receive food. You can even place the food on the lips to feel it before it enters the mouth. Nothing goes into the mouth without it being received. Think about who/what is doing the receiving. The tongue is definitely a receiver of food. Observe what the tongue does with the food. Observe how the tongue moves food all around the mouth. It's really amazing to think that the tongue knows exactly what to do with food every single time.
TASTE ~ After becoming aware of the food in your mouth, start biting it very slowly. Then begin to chew, having an awareness of your teeth and how it interacts with the tongue and the food and the saliva. Notice how the tongue decides which side of the mouth it's going to chew on. Be with the experience of chewing your food. Take just a few bites, then stop and notice what's happening. Are you experiencing an explosion of taste in your mouth? Describe this experience. Be really refined with it. It is sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent or bitter? Is it juicy or dry? Hot or cold? There's endless words to describe the taste experience. As you continue to chew notice how the taste changes.
TEXTURE ~ Experience how the texture of the food changed from when it first entered your mouth, and then after chewing. Notice that as you continue to chew the texture and consistency keeps changing. At a certain point, you will become aware of the texture of the food again, because the taste mostly passed. If the texture becomes uncomfortable, you may have the urge to swallow, but try to keep it in your mouth a bit longer. The body has a natural signal for when it's time to swallow. Try to be aware of that and pacify that urge if you can.
SWALLOW ~ Don't swallow yet. Stay with your impatience. Don't swallow until you feel that subtle impulse inside of you that tells you that chewing is complete, and it's time to swallow. Before you swallow, observe the readiness to do so, then observe what is involved in getting the food over to the exact place where it's ready to be swallowed. Then feel the impulse to swallow and allow it to happen, and follow your food down the esophagus into the stomach. Feel how your body receives the food. Observe your body's reaction to the food.
BREATH ~ Now pause for a moment, and see if you can taste your breath in a similar way. Bring the same awareness that you did to seeing the food, smelling the food, and tasting the food to the breath. Feel your breath. Connect with your breath. Listen to the sound of your breath. Inhale and exhale through the nose.
LISTEN ~ Observe all the subtle sounds in this process. The sound your nose makes when you smell the food, the sound of saliva moving in your mouth, the sound of food entering in your mouth, the sound of chewing, the sound of swallowing, the sound of the breath, and the sounds of the stomach.
SILENCE ~ Lastly, be silent for a bit. Be with this experience. Breathe with this experience. Observe your experience.
The most important thing is that you take this as a fun opportunity to learn something about yourself. Do it mindfully, but playfully too. Doing an exercise like this takes us out of our heads and can help shift our perspective. It's a playful reminder to slow down. Your digestive system will thank you.