Mindful Eating: Connecting to Self and Community
By: Autumn Gallegos, PhD
"If you eat an orange in forgetfulness, caught in your anxiety and sorrow, the orange is not really there. But if you bring your mind and body together to produce true presence, you can see that the orange is a miracle. Peel the orange. Smell the fruit. See the orange blossoms in the orange, and the rain and the sun that have gone through the orange blossoms. The orange tree that has taken several months to bring this wonder to you. Put a section in your mouth, close your mouth mindfully, and with mindfulness feel the juice coming out of the orange. Taste the sweetness. Do you have the time to do so? If you think you don’t have time to eat an orange like this, what are you using that time for? Are you using your time to worry or using your time to live?"
-Thich Nhat Hanh. "The Moment is Perfect." Shambhala Sun, May 2008.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present and engaged with whatever we’re experiencing in the moment – letting go of evaluation and judgment, and becoming aware of thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. Mindful eating is no different. The invitation to eat mindfully is to be fully present with an essential source of living. So often, we simply get through our day – caught up in thought, emotion, and distraction – and miss the power of, say, an orange and everything that it went through to now be resting in your hand. It is special to eat, to breathe, to be reminded of and connected to our aliveness.
As the holidays approach, consider bringing mindful attention to the experience of eating. The holiday season is emotionally and socially complex, with joy, stress, and sorrow often interwoven. During a pandemic, this season of gathering and sharing meals is made particularly difficult, and loss may be more present. In mindfulness practice, we bring awareness to these complexities, and, if possible, allow our experience to be just what it is. As one of my students once said, "I hate the phrase, ‘it is what it is,’ but it is, isn’t it?" May this time of social distancing not mean disconnection. Through mindful eating, may you feel connected to yourself and your community by bringing your awareness the source of the food, your experience of eating, and to the cultural practices and traditions in recipes and ritual. Through this practice, may you feel nurtured and nourished.
Here are a few suggestions for mindful eating:
- Before you begin eating, take a moment to check in with yourself. Notice yourself breathing.
- Set aside distraction. Put your phone away, turn off the television.
- Notice the narratives and evaluations that may arise during the experience of eating, without getting caught up in them.
- Use your senses to connect to the experience of food, from preparation to eating. Observe the color, shape, and texture of the food. Listen to the sounds as you cook or take a bite. Notice the smell and taste.
- Consider the process by which your food came to be on your plate.
- Notice what your body feels like when it is hungry and when it is full.
- Be kind to yourself. This takes practice!
Explore Mindful Eating Further
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Keith Stein |