Day 12 Meditation
How many times a day do we perform an action without really being there? When we’re simultaneously reading the newspaper, checking our e-mail, having a conversation, listening to music, and eating a meal, where is the taste of the food? For today’s practice, we bring mindfulness into another daily activity: eating. In this exercise we try to step out of automatic pilot, be more present, feel more connected to our experience, and perhaps even enjoy our food more!
We can take the lessons we learn from observing one single activity and apply them to the rest of our life.
A few times a day, stop whatever you’re doing and become aware of your body. See which sensations predominate. Try to have a direct physical and tactile experience as you’re performing everyday activities – feel a water glass against your hand as a cool hardness; when you sweep the floor, sense the exertion in your arms, the tug on the muscles of your back and neck.
Question & Answer
Q: I have such a hard time maintaining a daily meditation routine. I have so much going on in my life, and know I would really benefit from daily practice, but always seem to run out of time to sit. Any recommendations?
A: One of the benefits of mindfulness as a technique is that we can practice it in the midst of everyday activities. This can been really great during the times when it isn’t possible to carve out time for a formal sitting. I would encourage you to experiment with using part of your everyday routine as a meditation – a time of coming into the moment. By paying full attention to your actual experience, it can be a moment to reconnect, learn about yourself and deepen your enjoyment of a simple pleasure.
Another way to bring practice into your daily routine is by adding a mindful moment to certain tasks that you do every day. One famous example from Thich Nhat Hanh is to take a few breaths before you pick up the phone when it rings. I have made the resolution to practice lovingkindness practice (which we’ll do in week four) whenever I am waiting somewhere. A student of mine made the resolution to practice mindfulness whenever she passed over a threshold walking from one room to another. So you can play with different ways to bring the practice into your life that doesn’t require a lot of extra time on top of your existing commitments.
Welcome back. Eating is a wonderful opportunity for mindfulness. So often we snatch a meal hurriedly, perhaps while also watching TV or texting, or having a conversation. Perhaps all of the above at the same time. Practicing a few minutes of mindful eating, as in this exercise, allows us to bring the skill of mindfulness to some part of our meals, if we wish to. This helps us to step out of automatic pilot. To be more present, feel more connected to our experience and, perhaps, enjoy food more. As we are eating, we can practice exploring the experience of our different senses. Ideally, you can try this at a time you’re not feeling rushed and are either alone or are in a situation where you won’t feel self conscious.
First, look at the food. Notice the color, the shape, the folds. Then pick up the food. Feel the texture of the food or perhaps the utensil in your hand. Smell the food, notice any aromas. Bring the food to your mouth. Begin slowly chewing and notice the burst of flavor. Even if you are tempted to reach for more while you’re still chewing, notice that. Chew this bite fully and swallow before reaching for more. Don’t think of this as depriving yourself in some way, but as an opportunity to step out of automatic habits. Here’s something you might do mechanically, not really being present for, and not feeling fulfilled by, because we’re not really there for it. We’re turning that tendency around by training ourselves to be present, coming into the moment, paying attention to actual experience. Fully experiencing the simple things in life. Then the next bite. You can open again and again to seeing the food, feeling the texture, smelling the food and then the taste.
You can bring this meditation to a close. You can reflect. What were some things you particularly noticed about your experience? Eating meditation is a very powerful meditation, because here’s something we might do mechanically, not really being present for, and not feeling fulfilled by, because we’re not really there for it. We’re turning that tendency around by training ourselves to be present, coming into the moment, paying attention to actual experience, fully experiencing the simple things in life.