To eat mindfully is to live in the present. It calls for paying attention to every act, every sensation and perception, for its own sake, in the moment. From the start to the finish of your meal, your intention is to link the moments together into a continuous stream of sensory awareness. Some suggestions:
Be mindful. To become focused, become silent and breathe in a relaxed manner. Choose a time when you’re not hurried or distracted by other things.
Visualize the meal. Become focused in your mind’s eye on what you’re going to prepare, its appearance, aroma, ingredients, etc.
Plan the meal. Mentally focus on all the steps involved in preparing the meal. Will you prepare it? For whom will you prepare it? What will you make?
Prepare the meal. Be mindful of the action of washing the food, such as vegetables you may be preparing for a fresh salad. Notice yourself reaching for the refrigerator door, and other preparation activities.
Set the table. The table on which you eat can be as sacred as the rest of the meal. Create a table that is inviting, for both you and the food.
Serve the meal. Be mindful of each action associated with serving the meal: selecting dishes and utensils, setting the table, bringing food to the table, etc.
Eat the meal. As with the Zen monastic meal, be mindful of each aspect of the food you’re eating. To begin consider saying words of thanks or appreciation for the food. Savor the aroma of the food by inhaling deeply.
Clean up. Regard this as a sacred process, too. It is just as important a part of the meal as the other phases.
Digest the food. After you’ve eaten, be aware of how the food feels in your stomach, how you’re feeling. Are you aware that you overate? Under-ate? Are you still hungry, or ate just the right amount?
From start to finish and throughout the dining process, continue to witness the effects of having prepared, eaten, and digested the meal. For in the witnessing lies the essence of life itself.
Adapted from Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul by Deborah Kesten.
Deborah Kesten, MPH, an international lifestyle and health researcher and Certified Health and Wellness Coach, was the nutritionist on Dean Ornish, MD’s first clinical trial for reversing heart disease through lifestyle changes without drugs or surgery, and Director of Nutrition on similar research in Europe. She also is the award-winning author of The Enlightened Diet, Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul, and The Healing Secrets of Food. Visit her at www.Enlightened-Diet.com.
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