We’re going on a journey together. And it begins with the practice of becoming mindful. On a daily basis most of us eat without mindfulness. We chow down while watching TV, driving, or returning e-mails, and in the process, we don’t pay much attention to how much we’re consuming or what different foods really taste like. Sound familiar?
The practice of mindfulness teaches us that there is nothing more important than being in the present moment. Without question, eating should be with the intention to fuel our bodies with energy and nutrients, along with the attention necessary for noticing and enjoying the food we are consuming.
Mindful eating is much more than just eating slowly without any distractions. Although this is important, the practice of mindful eating in the broadest sense allows us to fully embrace the entire process of eating.
When you eat with mindfulness, you engage all of your senses – sight, touch, smell, taste, and even hearing to fully experience the food. Mindful eating becomes a powerful tool for developing a healthier relationship with food. You will find that meals become more enjoyable and satisfying. Physical and emotional links to eating and food come to the surface. The skill of becoming connected to the present moment can translate to other areas of your life as well.
Now you’re probably wondering – what does this have to do with raisins? Let me explain. There is a classic science-based mindfulness eating exercise that was developed using a raisin! Promise – I’m not making this up! All that’s required is 10 minutes of quiet and raisins. So grab a box of raisins and find a peaceful place to sit and relax. You’re about to learn how to become mindful when eating!
Are you ready? Take a few deep breaths. The key here is to stay focused on the present moment. This takes practice but you can do it! When you find your mind wandering from the task at hand (which it will!), consciously return your attention back to the raisin and what you are being asked to concentrate on.
Ok, let’s begin. Take a single raisin out of the box and place it in the palm of your hand. Feel the weight of it. Now really look at the raisin with a sense of curiosity as if this were the first time you’ve ever examined a raisin. (In fact, it probably IS the first time you’ve really looked closely at a raisin.) Notice the shape, texture and color of the raisin. What do you see? Explore the creases and folds of the skin and how it catches the light.
Now pick up the raisin with your thumb and index finger and roll it between them. What does the raisin feel like? Is it squishy, sticky, or hard?
To engage your sense of hearing, hold the raisin up to your ear. As you squeeze it, does it make any sound? Listen carefully. Do you hear a soft crackling sound or no noise at all?
Now close your eyes. Hold the raisin to your nose. Take a deep breath and inhale the aroma. As you breathe, notice if the raisin has a scent, and the quality of it. Is the fragrance sweet? Fruity? Earthy? Does your mouth or stomach react? Some people will begin to salivate or feel their stomach rumble…
Next, place the raisin on your tongue for a few moments. Don’t chew it. Just leave it on your tongue and notice how the raisin feels.
Then, bite the raisin very slowly, extending the time it takes to bite through it. What does the raisin feel like between your teeth? What sensations, textures, tastes, and smells do you notice?
Continue to focus on the sensation of taste – the juice of the raisin and its texture in your mouth. How do these change over time? Slowly chew the raisin for a few seconds before swallowing it.
Sit quietly and focus. How would you summarize your experience?
The mindfulness guru, Jon Kabat Zinn describes it this way: “The raisin exercise dispels all previous concepts we may be harboring about meditation. It immediately places it in the realm of the ordinary, the everyday, the world you already know but are now going to know differently. Eating one raisin very, very slowly allows you to drop right into the knowing in ways that are effortless, totally natural, and entirely beyond words and thinking. Such an exercise delivers wakefulness immediately. There is in this moment only tasting.”
It’s important to recognize that there’s no right or wrong way to experience this eating exercise. Different people have different feelings and sensations. Whatever you experienced is supposed to be unique to you – so it’s correct and valid! The point is that by using your senses, you successfully moved from automatic pilot to mindful eating. Instead of munching on a raisin while doing something else – and not noticing much about it – you purposely connected to the whole process of eating. This is the power of mindfulness – it reveals new things that facilitate a deeper experience. And if a little raisin can have such an impact – just think what using the skill of mindfulness can have on the rest of your eating practices! So get ready – we are going on a journey to unlock the power of food!
SOURCE: Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn (2007). The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. New York: Guilford Press.