There’s a funny cartoon out there of some cows in a pasture eating grass. One cow’s head is lifted up with a sense of horror on his face and the caption reads “Hey wait a minute! This is grass! We’ve been eating grass!” If I asked you, have you ever been sitting at a meal with someone or even by yourself and been halfway through the meal without having tasted the food? In my experience, the odds are likely that you’ll be nodding your head up and down. Our heads are often simply somewhere else, worrying about where we need to be, watching television, or engrossed in conversation.
This unawareness is the seed for making poor food choices, not to mention missing out on enjoying the food. This unawareness can also drive people to overeat as a way to cope with unacknowledged feelings and emotions. You may be in search of a “quick fix” that consists of caffeinated beverages and highly refined foods that burn very quickly and spike up the metabolism. Many people have learned to comfort and sedate themselves with food. Sadly our “super-size” culture not only supports these tactics but also capitalizes on it.
Since preparing and eating food is such an essential component of our lives, why not bring mindful awareness to this?
I had a client who suffered from stomach pains, always complaining of a sensitive stomach. I told him that Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, has a system where he suggests chewing the food 30 times before swallowing (you don’t to count after you practice a few times). When he tried this he began noticing that his stomach didn’t hurt quite as much anymore because his food was broken down so much prior to hitting his stomach.
I had another client that suffered from a food addiction and would often be found going to the bakery daily, buying a cake, and eating it that night. We practiced mindful eating with a raisin in session to experience the concept of slightly slowing down with the eating and beginning to bring all the senses to the food. She took time seeing it, touching it, smelling it, hearing it, and tasting it.
She considered all the hard work it took by many people (including her own for having the resources to pay for a session to do this) to get this simple raisin in front of her today. In time, along with other work we did, she was able to slow down her eating and begin to eat in smaller portions with a greater sense of appreciation for her food. Another client I did this practice with said, “I’ve been downing raisins my whole life in handfuls, one after the other. And it wasn’t until now that I realized, I don’t even like raisins.” We both had a good laugh.
Go ahead and try this out for yourself. Whether you’re eating a snack or a meal, try to slightly slow down your eating, bring your senses to the food as if you were noticing this food for the very first time. Consider all the work that it took by so many to get it there today (including you). Whatever you do, don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself!
Soon you’re brain will start catching on, interrupting the auto-pilot of eating and naturally bringing you into a state of clarity, where there’s the possibility and freedom to choose to engage with greater mindfulness. This moment of clarity is what I call The Now Effect. The beautiful thing is that it’s a skill that can be trained to become a part of your everyday life.
And please share your comments and questions below, your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.