Eating-mindfulness; informal mindfulness practice

Empty snail shell, symbolising eating-mindfulnessIn mindfulness meditation you practise bringing your awareness back to, and remaining in contact with your actual, lived experience. Formal mindfulness meditation can also be complemented with informal mindfulness practices, where you, even momentarily, disengage from the thinking activity, by drawing your awareness to your actual experience of the present moment – perhaps just noticing the patterns formed by the gaps between the leaves when looking at a tree, or listening to one particular instrument in (the background of) a piece of music, or paying specific attention to the feeling of your feet touching the ground as you walk. Or by becoming acutely aware of all the sensations involved in eating something, as in eating-mindfulness.

Eating-mindfulness

Eating-mindfulness is an interesting example of informal mindfulness practice which may increase your appreciation of the flavours of your food immensely. Eating-mindfulness is a useful tool to help with weight control, and in the treatment of eating disorders, such as binge eating, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia. The example below is formulated around eating a grape, but can be modified and used for anything that you eat.

  1. Hold a grape between your fingers, and notice how it feels to touch. Look carefully at its skin, and notice the patterns of veins under the skin. Also notice the point where the flower once was attached, and on the opposite end where the grape was once attached to the vine.
  2. Lift the grape to your nose, and find out if you can detect its fragrance, and whether the fragrance is different at one end compared to the other.
  3. Touch the grape to your lips and tongue, and notice how it feels and tastes, without biting into it.
  4. Listen to the sound, as you bite off a chunk of the grape. Notice the intensity of the flavour of the juice that is released into the front of your mouth. Also, look at the flesh of the piece of grape still in your hand. Notice its inner structure, including perhaps the seeds at the centre.
  5. Slowly move the piece of grape around in your mouth, and notice how different flavours appear on different parts of your tongue.
  6. As you begin to slowly chew, listen to the sound the chewing makes. Notice the flow of juices, and the intensity of the flavours on different parts of your tongue. Also, notice how your tongue automatically manoeuvres the pieces around your mouth, positioning them for chewing.
  7. Notice the urge to swallow, when the piece of grape has been chewed sufficiently, and when the swallowing happens, follow the movement all the way down toward your stomach, until it disappears out of awareness.
  8. Notice how your tongue continues to chase up any little pieces around your mouth and in between your teeth, and as all the pieces have been swallowed, remain aware of the lingering flavours.
  9. If you wish, you can extend this exercise to a full meditation, by continuing to be aware of any lingering flavours in your mouth, for as long as any remain. Anytime you discover that you have become engaged in thinking, disengage and again return to awareness of flavours.

To learn more about mindfulness and meditation, you may want to consider doing the Integrating Awareness Meditation course…