We all live hectic lives. The pace of modern life, with all of its technical distractions, can sometimes take away from the joy of eating. We gulp down our food while watching TV, texting, or tweeting, and don’t really take the time to eat our meals with mindfulness and savor our food. Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Vietnamese Buddhist, teaches there is nothing more precious than the present moment, so even eating becomes an activity worthy of our undivided attention. Eating with mindfulness will allow us to avoid ingesting all the stress of a distracted mind. The calmness and presence gained from eating mindfully will bring each of us greater health and happiness and allow us to enjoy life more fully.
Below is an excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life
Take an apple out of your refrigerator. Any apple will do. Wash it. Dry it. Before taking a bite, pause for a moment. Look at the apple in your palm and ask yourself: When I eat an apple, am I really enjoying eating it? Or, am I so pre-occupied with other thoughts that I miss the delights that the apple offers me?
If you are like most of us, you answer “yes” to the second question much more often than the first. For most of our lives, we have eaten apple after apple without giving it a second thought. Yet in this mindless way of eating, we have denied ourselves the many delights present in the simple act of eating an apple. Why do that, especially when it is so easy to truly enjoy the apple?
The first thing is to give your undivided attention to eating the apple. When you eat the apple, just concentrate on eating the apple. Don’t think of anything else. And most important, be still. Don’t eat the apple while you are driving. Don’t eat it while you are walking. Don’t eat it while you are reading. Just be still. Being focused and slowing down will allow you to truly savor all the qualities the apple offers: its sweetness, aroma, freshness, juiciness, and crispness.
Next, pick up the apple from the palm of your hand and take a moment to look at it again. Breathe in awareness a few times to help you focus and become more in touch with how you feel about the apple. Most of the time, we barely look at the apple we are eating. We grab it, take a bite, chew it quickly and then swallow. This time, take note: What kind of apple is it? What color is it? How does it feel in your hand? What does it smell like? Going through these thoughts, you will begin to realize the apple is not simply a quick snack to quiet a grumbling stomach. It is something more complex, something part of a greater whole.
Then, give the apple a smile and slowly,mindfully take a bite, and chew it. Be aware of your in-breath and out-breath a few times to help you concentrate solely on eating the apple: what it feels like in your mouth, what it tastes like, what it’s like to chew and swallow it. There is nothing else filling your mind as you chew – no projects, no deadlines, no worries, no “to do” list, no fears, no sorrow, no anger, no past, and no future. There is just the apple.
When you chew, know what you are chewing. Chew slowly and completely. Chew consciously, savoring the taste of the apple and its nourishment, immersing yourself in the process one hundred percent. This way, you really appreciate the apple as it is. Ans as you become fully aware of eating the apple, you also become fully aware of the present moment. You become fully engaged in the here and now. Living in the moment, you can really experience what the apple offers you, and you become more alive.
The physicians at Granite Peaks Gastroenterology are dedicated to helping you achieve your best health possible. Each of us would welcome the opportunity to sit down with you to discuss mindful eating and other ways to support your optimal well-being.