We so take the act of eating for granted. Think about the perfect gross motor function of arm and hand bringing the food to the mouth, an act that at eight months old left food all over our faces and surroundings.
Which brings to mind my sweet grandson’s experience with eating a cupcake on his first birthday. I got such a kick watching all his senses engaged in encountering this curious object that everyone seemed to be making a fuss about.
First his eyes zoomed in to the cupcake, then his fingers touched the frosting while he observed its soft squishiness. Next he instinctively brought his icing-covered fingers to his mouth. His brain registered sweet yumminess. Endorphins kicked in to give the feeling of pleasure. He went for more while his hands engaged in mashing and squeezing the sticky, crumbling texture of the rest of the cupcake. Since then, my boy was hooked! Six years later he is a committed Candy Man.
Sadly, as we grow up, most of us lose that sensory engagement when we eat – the act of eating becoming quite a mindless activity. The definition of Mindfulness according to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, is “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
So the purpose of Mindful eating is not to achieve a particular goal, but to simply engage moment by moment with each bite of food. In the practice of Mindful Eating, I followed Jon Kabat-Zinn’s audio-guided Eating Meditation of a raisin. This is my experience:
Perched on a high stool at my kitchen island, I place the raisin in front of me. Bringing myself to stillness and focusing on my breathing, I wait for the soft chime of Jon’s bell, and tune into his guidance.
Holding the raisin between my thumb and index finger, I bring it up toward my face for closer inspection, drinking in its shape through my eyes as if I had never seen such a thing before. I blot from my mind that its name is raisin.
I take in its surface features – its sun-drenched, brown hue; its wrinkly; transparent skin still holding some plumpness; its tiny, dry stalk reminiscent of a belly button, shriveled up, evident of having been connected to a larger whole.
Closing my eyes, I engage my sense of touch fingering the object to register the ridges of its texture and squeezing it gently to feel the give of its plumpness.
Rubbing it gently, I lift it to my nose and smell its musky sweetness. I linger in the sense of smell emanating from the raisin, moment to moment, paying attention to whatever is here to be smelled in each intake of breath.
Opening my eyes and holding the dehydrated fruity morsel, I continue to gaze attentively at the hues and shadows of this familiar object. Now I bring it up to my ear to listen. Some foods do make sounds – fizz, crackle, snap, or pop. Hmm…I don’t hear “I heard it through the grapevine!” My raisin is conspicuously quiet.
I lower it back to center. Then gradually bring it up to my lips. Before it touches my lips I notice something happening in my mouth. It’s the strong secreting of saliva as mind and body synthesize the release of enzymes in readiness for eating.
My lips welcome this pleasant object to my mouth. My saliva-coated tongue rolls out its moist, carpet receiving the raisin as a special guest – its taste buds jumping for joy at its sweetness. Without engaging the teeth yet, my mind listens to the narrative of intelligent interaction between tongue, teeth and touch.
I slowly engage the teeth, clamping down, feeling the squish of the molars beginning to grind the raisin. Then I take a total of five deliberate chews. I can hear my teeth enamel click together, feel the engagement of facial muscles opening and closing my jaws. I feel the masticated raisin now a mass of wet, sweet pulp swishing around toward the back of my tongue as I continue chewing and tasting, deliberately, moment by moment.
I am aware of my keen intention to swallow and how the wet pulp gets positioned for the act of swallowing and feeling the pulpy fruit being ushered through the esophagus to the stomach.
With my eyes closed, I contemplate the aftermath of the raisin eating experience. In my mind’s eye I visualize the rest of its journey into the stomach where it will come to rest, ready for its nutrients and minerals to be processed and distributed to the rest of the body.
The practice of mindful eating is simply to be in the present time as it’s unfolding moment by moment.
I come to rest in my awareness of this eating meditation and its aftermath till I hear the sound of the bell.
BELOW IS A YOU TUBE VIDEO OF A GUIDED RAISIN EATING MEDITATION