How to: Mindful eating
Food is a great place to begin to practise mindful awareness – mostly because it's enjoyable and there are so many elements to it - smell, taste, texture and even the sound of it as it moves around a plate. You may have heard of mindful eating. It's a wonderful practice and very simple to do, spending a meal bringing all your awareness to your food - something we very rarely do.
In a restaurant or at home, you'll probably talk and listen to music while eating, which ean move your focus away from the food. The taste of the food may meander into your awareness, but the sensation of it will be dampened by your attention being taken elsewhere. But when you eat mindfully, you will often find that the taste of the food is heightened as you bring your full awareness to it.
I lead retreats on which I will drop a group into a period of silence that extends over an early morning walk and into breakfast. At first it feels awkward as the group struggles with wanting to fill the silence with small talk, but as this subsides I always sense the point where everyone begins to relax. At breakfast. I can see them really enjoying their food, their full attention on it, interacting with it - consciously considering additions of cinnamon, syrup or fruit to their porridge. It's a joy to watch and we often have the most fascinating conversations afterwards about how tastes had exploded in their mouths, or how they had never noticed before that they like cinnamon so much. Very often they try something new. because they are curious, and discover that they love it.
Mindful eating is a wonderful way to practise mindfulness and begin to build the neural pathways that support a more focused awareness of your present experience. But there is one limitation to mindful eating. You may be aware of the food, of how it tastes, smells and feels, and perhaps of how satisfying that food is, but you are not prompted to take that present awareness within yourself to a deeper level. The real magic of mindful eating happens when you begin to place your awareness on how food makes you feel. This is called intuitive eating - learn how to do it here!
Find my Mindful Eating meditation in my book The Wellfulness Project.
Extract from The Wellfulness Project (Aster, £12.99) by Ali Roff Farrar.