This photo is of my kids, on the day my son had his very first ice cream cone. Talk about total focus on the act of eating!
I’m passionate about helping the busy people who use AcaciaTV realize that they can transform things they do every day into an opportunity to slow down, calm down and re-connect with themselves. Washing the dishes, watering the garden, brushing your teeth—or the kids’ teeth—they can all be elevated to a mind-body practice if you simply choose to pay attention to what you’re doing.
So guess what else you do every day that can be a powerful practice?
Say it with me: Eating.
I mean, you do have to do it three times a day, maybe more. There’s no escaping the need to consume food, which makes eating an excellent mind-body opportunity. If you forget or truly you don’t have the extra two minutes it takes to chew each bite thoroughly at breakfast, well, there’s always lunch and dinner.
Read More: 4 Ways to Let Annoyance Go
It’s such a simple idea—to use eating as a chance to practice mindfulness. But it’s not necessarily easy.
I know how tempting it can be to gobble your food down in a rush, or toss nourishment down your throat in between everything else. Fueling your belly can seem like an irresistible chance to multitask.
Even more challenging, there is so much emotion tied up in food—love, worth, shame, guilt. (If you’ve never read Geneen Roth’s classic, Women, Food and God—it’s time!) You may discover you have quite a lot of resistance to actually paying attention to how it feels to eat. If this is true for you, know this: That’s totally normal. Plus, the surest, most painless way to dispel some of those unpleasant emotions is to allow yourself to feel them. Because once a feeling has been acknowledged it will begin to transform all on its own.
When you allow yourself to do nothing but eat or think about nothing but the process of eating while you eat, three things happen:
1. You slow down—your breath, your thoughts, your rate of chewing—and your stress levels subside
2. Because you’re reducing your stress and chewing more, you enhance the digestion process so your body is able to derive more sustenance from the food
3. When your mind is quiet, you can hear the wisdom that resides just beneath the surface of your typical, everyday, chit-chatty thoughts more clearly.
So, how do you do it?
- The first and most crucial step is to decide that you are going to focus on eating before you start eating. Ideally, you’d start resting your attention on your next meal as soon as you start thinking about what you’ll eat, and keep it there as your either prepare it or order it. But without the decision, you’re just eating.
- Use your senses to help you pay attention—smell the aromas of your food, notice the colors, listen to the crunch of each bite or the sound of your knife moving across the plate.
- Any time you notice your mind wandering, bring it back to focus on how the food tastes, or sounds, or looks.
- Notice how this paying attention changes your eating—are you chewing each bite more? Are you eating as much as you usually do? Do you really like this meal that you eat regularly?
- Stop eating when you’re full; before you jump up and dash on to the next thing, take a couple breaths to check in with your body and take note of how it feels now that it has been fed
That’s it! To an outside observer, you eating mindfully will look an awful lot like regular ole eating. Which means you can do it anywhere. And I hope you will!
Have you had an interesting experience with eating mindfully? Any questions about how to do it? Want to publicly commit to giving it a try? Leave a comment or start a conversation with me on Twitter!