In this installment of the meditation guide I’d like to discuss eating, specifically mindful eating.
If you step back for a moment and consider how much of our time is spent eating, thinking about eating, or searching for food, it’s a pretty big chunk of time. When you step back even further, you can think about how blessed we are that we don’t spend even more time. Frequently our food is grown for us, prepped for us and presented to us. Whether you’re talking about highly processed food like a granola bar, or very basic food like a head of lettuce, a lot of work has gone into getting the food to you.
Let’s quickly follow a head of lettuce from start to finish. At some point seeds need to be gathered. These seeds then need to be planted, watered, nurtured for months. The plants need to be protected from bugs, especially lettuce which looks particularly tasty to a passing snail. Then when the lettuce head is ready it is cut from the garden. If you’re lucky enough to grow it yourself, it’s almost on your plate. Otherwise it is carefully boxed, stacked, and carried from the field. Delivered to the market as delicately as possible. Then someone has to put it out for display so you can find it. You procure the lettuce from the market, bring it home and wash it up for a nice salad.
Processed food like a granola bar goes through even more steps which I won’t go into here. But think about all the different ingredients that go into it. All the different steps, cooks, processes, quality controls (hopefully), and all the other steps involved in readying the food for your consumption.
Which now brings us to you.
Did you know that chewing is a vital activity for the health of your digestive tract? It’s true, good nutrition getting into your body actually starts with you being aware and taking the time to chew your food. It’s the first step in a chain of processes that involves breaking food down into it’s individual nutrients so your body can use and benefit from those nutrients.
So in this hurried world of too much to do and too little time. It’s critically important to stop, reflect, and be mindful, while you’re eating.
There are several activities that can help you mindfully engage in eating. The most basic is simply to be aware as you’re eating. Focus your attention on the action of chewing and be aware of the food in your mouth. If you need to, put your fork down between mouthfuls and focus on chewing what you have in your mouth. You will notice that simply being aware of what is in your mouth and focusing on chewing it well before swallowing helps prevent you from rushing through your meal and swallowing whole chunks of food.
Another very important approach to mindfulness eating is gratitude. If you think back to the above illustration of the food being grown. There are so many hands involved in bringing food to your plate. Sometimes these hands are from people around you that you know. And sometimes these hands are with people that you will never even meet. But sending out gratitude and appreciation while you consume your food benefits the universe at large and can help you as well. Take time to appreciate everything that went into bringing the food to you. For some this can take the form of thinking through the steps involved in the foods growth and the people involved. For others it can be a simple as glowing with gratitude over the abundance of eating a meal. How blessed are we simply to have food? It is truly amazing when you stop and think about it.
A third approach that can be helpful when eating is visualization. You can step through the digestion process in your mind and visualize the steps as your body breaks down the food into the nutrients that are needed to keep you alive. In this process you can express gratitude, or even wonder (whatever moves you), regarding that bodies ability to process the food and utilize that food for energy and vital processes. If you are interested in learning more about the processes involved in eating and a healthy body, I recommend this book that I am currently reading Accidentally Overweight By Dr Libby Weaver. There is an excellent introduction on the digestion process and it addresses an individuals health and weight in a very approachable and educated way.
Making each meal a moment of reflection and appreciation can do wonders for your stress levels and increase your appreciation of the world around you. I encourage you to try these mindfulness techniques. I would love to hear back from you on your experiences and insights gained from this process.