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Savoring Moments Through Mindful Eating

We all eat. But how mindful are we of every bite we take?

Your mother always told you to slow down and taste your food. That's great advice, especially when we find ourselves grabbing a quick snack on the run or eating a meal while driving. How we eat says as much about us as what we choose to eat.

We can learn a great deal by paying attention to our eating habits. Our appetites change depending on our moods. If we're depressed, we may eat more than usual or we may lose our appetite completely. When we are consumed by an emotion such as anger or sadness, we may not be aware of our eating habits at all.

Paying attention to the way you eat is a great way to develop a more mindful approach to life in general. Since eating is something we do several times a day, it's a perfect activity to pair with mindfulness. If you can choose to eat a meal alone-at work or at home-you have a perfect opportunity to create greater awareness at the same time.

Ready to give it a try?

Sit in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for several minutes. Taking the time to present your food in an appealing way may be helpful for this exercise. At the very least, unwrap your food and discard any packaging.

If possible, take a look at the food before you put it on a plate. Spend a moment focusing on the food itself-the colors, textures, and aromas. Consider the nutrients in the food, and focus on what it will do for your body.

Now, shift your attention to your empty plate. This is the vessel that will hold the food you choose to put into your body. Notice the shape, the size and the color of the plate. Take a moment to consider the space that the food will fill on this plate.

Next, spend a moment concentrating on your body. Look at your belly. Feel your hunger. Pay attention to your craving, your anticipation of the flavors, and the way they will taste on your tongue.

As you serve the food and place it on your plate, be mindful of the fact that this will be nourishing your body. Whatever you choose to place on your plate will ultimately serve as fuel for your activities and contribute to your energy and wellness.

Now, take a bite of the food you have served yourself. Chew slowly, and pay attention to the flavor and texture of this bite. Feel the food sliding down your throat, and consider how it will be digested by your system to create energy for your body. With each bite, notice the sensation of chewing and swallowing. Savor the taste. Swallow completely before taking another bite. As you take the last bite, pay attention to the fullness in your belly, and note the satisfaction of completing a mindful meal.

Try eating mindfully during one meal a day for a week. For your regular, faster meals, notice when you find yourself eating without paying attention. Intentionally slow down so that you can enjoy that one bite before speeding up again. Doing this regularly will give you a much better understanding of what you are feeding your body-and how.

By becoming more mindful of our eating, we learn to pay attention to what feeds us, both literally and figuratively. Our food choices affect our wellness, and our approach to eating spills over into the way we handle our work, our relationships, and our lives in general. We must learn to recognize patterns in our behavior in order to create more awareness and harmony.

Mindlessly chewing whatever we fork into our mouths is akin to ignoring our actions in general. With a few moments of daily mindful eating, you will develop a much greater awareness of your choices and their power over all aspects of your life.

About The Author

Deva Ratnakara has been teaching mindfulness and yoga for more than twenty years. He lives in Sri Lanka where he is the head of a 500-member meditation group. To learn about his retreat in February 2005, please visit http://truemindfulness.org.

welcome@truemindfulness.org

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