As a practice, mindful eating can bring us awareness of our own actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations, and insight into the roots of health and contentment. The Center for Mindful Eating TCME is a forum for professionals across all disciplines interested in developing, deepening and understanding the value and importance of mindful eating. The Center for Mindful Eating has created principles intended to guide people who are interested in mindful eating. These principles were revised at our Annual Meeting, August Mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments. Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in the present moment.
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How ironic that in America, land of plenty, so many people struggle with food, suffering tremendous emotional distress, guilt, shame, and even premature death. Does Buddhism have anything to offer to relieve this kind of suffering? The facts are startling. Doctors predict that children born in have a 30 to 40 percent risk of Type 2 diabetes and may live shorter lives than their parents as a result.
According to the U. Department of Health, nearly two out of three American adults are overweight or obese. One of the primary causes of this imbalance is a lack of an essential human nutrient: mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of paying full, nonjudgmental attention to our moment-to-moment experience. We can use mindfulness to free ourselves from unhealthy eating habits and improve our overall quality of life.
Mindful eating is a practice that engages all parts of us—our body, our heart, and our mind—in choosing, preparing, and eating food. It immerses us in the colors, textures, scents, tastes, and even sounds of drinking and eating. It allows us to be curious and even playful as we investigate our responses to food and our inner cues to hunger and satisfaction. Mindful eating is not based on anxiety about the future but directed by the actual choices that are in front of you and by your direct experiences of health while eating and drinking.
Mindful eating replaces self-criticism with self-nurturing. It replaces shame with respect for your own inner wisdom. On the way home from work Sally thinks with dread about the talk she needs to work on for a big conference. She has to get it done in the next few days to meet the deadline. Before starting to work on the speech, however, she decides to relax and watch a few minutes of TV when she gets home. She sits down with a bag of chips beside her chair. At first she eats only a few, but as the show gets more dramatic, she eats faster and faster.
She scolds herself for wasting time and for eating junk food. No dinner for you! She ate unconsciously. She ate to go unconscious. She goes to bed unnourished in body or heart and with her mind still anxious about the talk. The next time this happens, she decides to eat chips but to try eating them mindfully. First she checks in with her mind. She finds that her mind is worried about an article she promised to write. Her mind says that she needs to get started on it tonight.
She checks in with her heart and finds that she is feeling a little lonely because her husband is out of town. She checks in with her stomach and body and discovers that she is both hungry and tired.
She needs some nurturing. The only one at home to do it is herself. She decides to treat herself to a small chip party. Remember, mindful eating gives us permission to play with our food. She takes twenty chips out of the bag and arranges them on a plate. She looks at their color and shape. She eats one chip, savoring its flavor. She pauses, then eats another. There is no judgment, no right or wrong.
She is simply seeing the shades of tan and brown on each curved surface, tasting the tang of salt, hearing the crunch of each bite, feeling the crisp texture melt into softness. She ponders how these chips arrived on her plate, aware of the sun, the soil, the rain, the potato farmer, the workers at the chip factory, the delivery truck driver, the grocer who stocked the shelves and sold them to her.
With little pauses between each chip, it takes ten minutes for the chip party. When she finishes the chips, she checks in with her body to find out if any part of it is still hungry. She finds that her mouth and cells are thirsty, so she gets a drink of orange juice. Her body is also saying it needs some protein and something green, so she makes a cheese omelet and a spinach salad. After eating she checks in again with her mind, body, and heart.
The heart and body feel nourished, but the mind is still tired. She decides to go to bed and work on the talk first thing in the morning, when the mind and body will be rested. She is still feeling lonely, although less so within the awareness of all the beings whose life energy brought her the chips, eggs, cheese, and greens.
She decides to call her husband to say good night. She goes to bed with body, mind, and heart at ease and sleeps soundly. The Zen teachings talk about the exquisite taste of plain water. Have you ever been very, very thirsty? Maybe you were on a long hike, or sick, or working without a break in the summer heat.
When you were finally able to drink, even plain water, you remember how wonderful it was. Actually, each sip of liquid and each bite of food can be that fresh and delicious, once we learn again just to be present.
Mindful eating is a way to rediscover one of the most pleasurable things we do as human beings. It also is a path to uncovering many wonderful activities that are going on right under our noses and within our own bodies.
Here are five principles we can use to help us to cultivate mindfulness as we eat: 1. Foreigners visiting early American taverns recorded their astonishment at how quickly food was eaten. Everyone stuffed himself at uncanny speeds. Research shows that North Americans spend only eleven minutes eating lunch at a fastfood restaurant and thirteen minutes at a cafeteria in their workplace. There are many ways to slow down our eating and drinking. You might experiment by trying each of the following techniques for one week: Make a point of pausing.
Here are some methods for helping yourself to slow down your eating by creating pauses: 1. Pause before beginning the meal. Look at each item of food, taking it in with the eyes. Notice colors, textures, shapes, arrangement on the plate or bowl. Take a moment to say grace. Thank the animals, plants, and people who brought this food to you.
Be aware of their gifts as you eat. Begin the meal by pausing to inhale the fragrance of the food. Imagine that you are being nourished by just the smell. Eat food like a wine connoisseur tastes wine.
First sniff the food, enjoying the bouquet. Then take a small taste. Roll it around in the mouth, savoring it. What ingredients can you detect? Chew slowly and swallow. Take a sip of water to cleanse the palate. When the mouth is empty of food and flavor, repeat the process.
If you notice that you are eating without tasting, stop and pause to look at the food again. Drink slowly. As a result we drink more, trying to get more taste sensations. We can slow down our drinking in two ways. Swirl it around a bit and enjoy the taste before swallowing. Pretend you are in a TV ad, showing the audience how much you enjoy this drink. The second method is to put the cup or glass down while tasting and swallowing.
Only when the mouth is empty and the taste is fading do we pick it up and take another drink. Put down the fork or spoon. This is one of the most reliable and simple ways to slow down your eating. Each time you put a bite of food into your mouth, put down the fork or spoon, onto the plate or into the bowl.
For real appreciation of the bite that is in your mouth, you can close your eyes as you chew and swallow. When that one bite has been thoroughly tasted and is gone, then pick up the utensil, take another bite, and put the utensil down again.
Watch the interesting impulses that arise in the mind with this practice. Right Amount The next guideline for mindful eating has to do with how much we eat. I first heard of right amount from my Zen teacher Maezumi Roshi. He said that when we considered what was ethical to do in any situation, we had to consider several factors: right time, right place, right people, and right amount.
Jan Chozen Bays
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