What in the world does “mindful eating” mean? Mindfulness is about meditation, right? What does it have to do with food and eating? Mindfulness is a popular catch-phrase these days but what does it mean?
Mindfulness is about attentiveness and awareness. It is about holding that awareness without judgment. This usually is the tricky part. Follow your mind and experience for a few moments right now.
You quickly realize that practically everything is met with a judgment of good or bad, too much or too little, should or shouldn’t be happening, want/don’t want. The first thought hooks you and takes you on a fantasy ride to the past or future.
Your mind wants to be anywhere but here. When we really notice, everything we experience is merely the specific facts of our experience. They are neutral experiences. It is what it is with no good or bad.
We become free when we really experience this. It is an aspiration. Something we get moments of and keep practicing over a lifetime to build the muscle.
I think the word mindfulness should be changed because awareness is not limited to mind. I like the term Presence rather than mindful because the mind helps us be aware which then leads to awareness of our consciousness, our Presence, which is much more expansive than the mind.
Our minds also can be one of our most tenacious limitations especially because its thinking is so in cahoots with our egos. We experience freedom when we rest in Presence or Consciousness. It is then that we see the activities of the mind, ego, personality, body, emotions, and world as just experiences – they are not personal.
It doesn’t stop all the human stuff from happening but it changes our relationship to it all, sometimes. This is how we develop love and acceptance for ourselves when we realize that we are not all those experiences that are happening. We are the Presence observing them.
It is not a destination vacation. It is a lifetime practice of Presence and acceptance.
What about the eating part? Eating is something we must all do and rarely are we fully aware when we do it because we are hurried, planning, talking, texting, reading, surfing the Internet, driving, watching TV or a myriad of other activities. We typically eat mindlessly while we fantasize our lives away.
I share this, not because I’ve figured it out and become expert but because I am developing the skills, too. I was working on this a while ago as I waited for laundry to get done. I just now sat down to work on this further.
I also just sat down at a Mexican restaurant. I was thinking about all that I was experiencing – the impatience to taste, muscles reaching, the many flavors and nuances in the salsa, the heat & sensations in my mouth.
Just as the irony hit me that I was also thinking about describing it to you and that I was in fact not fully present to my experience, I dribbled salsa down my chin and on my shirt! Ha! Ha! So, for the rest of the meal my intention is to only eat when I’m eating and only write when I’m writing. It’s hard!
Here is how it works, try it.
This is easiest to do alone so you aren’t tempted to talk about it. Focus on the movements of your body – the movement of your arms, hands & fingers, face, jaw, mouth, tongue etc.
Pay attention to your senses – look at the food, smell it, taste it, feel it, hear the sounds of eating and in the environment, feel it enter your body, even feel your digestion if you can.
Notice what your mind does during it all.
Notice when you are thinking about it, describing it, or slipping into planning or rehashing.
You will discover an endless array of sensations and experiences in something as simple as raising a fork to your mouth and chewing a bite of food. Maybe take a moment to contemplate how many beings were involved in you having this food in front of you right now. Read “The Universe in a Veggie Omelet”
You don’t need any training or meditation experience with this, just curiosity about what is really happening. You will discover amazing new experiences with food when you are aware of eating it. This awareness will then help you be more in tune with your body, your life, and the beings in your life.
You’ll suddenly become aware of how much you are NOT present for your life.
You will discover what it means to live if you make it a way of being. Try it for one meal or even just a few bites. The interesting thing is that you discover a million details about foods, flavors, eating, moving your body and your mind.
You discover that the real pleasures in life are in the exquisite details. This is true for your full life!