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If you’re having trouble meditating, or just being mindful during the day, use your eating times to anchor yourself to the present.
- Mindful Eating (0:00)
- Two Exercises (6:20)
I can’t meditate! It’s too hard to sit still! My mind races like a pack of wild animals.
Have you tried to meditate daily and failed?
Welcome to the club.
Especially with social media that keeps us reaching for our devices.
How can you bring your attention back to the present?
I want to share something that has helped me. It’s a gateway to more mindfulness and meditation. I call it: mindful meals.
I first heard about mindful eating from monk Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book, Peace is Every Step. We can meditate while eating by “tasting the sunshine, water and earth in every bite.”
How beautiful is that? When you eat, don’t do anything else. Just eat.
Here is my typical routine:
The food arrives.
I put my phone aside, out of sight.
I take a deep breath and pause. I thank God, the Universe, Luck for this meal. It could be my last one.
I engage my five senses while eating. How is the food presented? What do I smell? What’s the texture? How would I describe the taste? What elements combined explode in flavor? What does the food sound like? What bodily sensation does the food and drink give me? How do my surroundings affect my eating experience?
Then, I imagine the lifecycle of my food. Where did each piece of food come from? What did they look like before they were picked, cut and cooked? How long did they take to grow? How much sun, soil and water – and loving care – did they need to grow? Where will the food go after I eat it?
Next, I imagine the journey of my food. How did this food arrive on my plate? I imagine all the hands that touched my food: the farmer’s, the processor’s, the packager’s, the driver’s, the buyer’s, the food washer’s, the cook’s, the waiter’s. This long chain of hands, all laboring for me. Food crossing oceans and flying halfway around the world for me – what a miracle.
I try to imagine the history of my food. Who created this dish and how long ago? How many tries did it take? Whose culinary art and culture benefits me? Who has dedicated their life energy to making this for me?
I count my blessings. How many people are hungry, or 10km from the nearest source of clean water, or forced to skip lunch? How does it feel to be blessed with the time, money, and space to enjoy each bite and sip?
As one of the lucky ones, how can I be useful? All the sunshine, soil and water – all the right conditions for a productive season and harvest – all the invisible labor – those well-worn hands! – what will I do with this blessing of food and nutrition?
How many of us scroll through our meals – and not even taste what we eat? Or deny the magic and good fortune of a meal by texting and worrying about this, that and the other?
We need to stop time traveling! And enjoy our meal. For just a small part of the day, we can be still, grateful, and present. We are very fortunate.
If you’re having trouble meditating, or just being mindful during the day, use your eating times to anchor yourself to the present. Bring your attention back to your food.
Even if you eat fast, that’s 30-60 minutes of intense presence a day! And 30-60 minutes of establishing a daily practice which will leave you more mindful, grateful, and connected to the larger world – and your purpose.
Want to start with an easy exercise?
Exercise 1: Put your phone away before eating. Count how many times you reach for it during the course of your meal.
Exercise 2: Spend one meal being present with your food’s taste, color and origins. It’s okay if your mind wanders to work, relationships, or to do’s. Just bring your attention back to your five senses while eating. How does your perspective change after one mindful meal?
“This food is the gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sun, the sky, the stars and the hard and loving work of numerous beings. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to enjoy every bite.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
- Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh & Dr. Lilian Cheung
- Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh