Ever since the mindful explosion via the work of Jon Kabat-Zin (wherever you go there you are) or as I have been saying ”you take yourself with you” mindful everything has taken shape. One of the key exercises he claims is the mindfulness eating of a raisin. Exploring something with texture as well as taste in your mouth in a slow fashion can help us come into the present. While this is not a new idea (slowing down the chewing process-counting your chews) the concept is. The purpose – to bring us into the present moment.
I had the opportunity to attend Sharon Salzburg’s workshop recently, hosted by UMindfulness at the University of Miami’s Jlab, where they do research on mindfulness. One day was on meditation and one day on loving kindness. Both are about being in the present. During lunch we were to eat mindfully. As I ate my cheese on cracker sandwiches as I did a walking meditation (I suppose that’s a mindful multitasking exercise) I felt myself more present but mostly I felt myself slow down the eating process.
Mindful eating is part of the slowing down process. Research I did years ago on the effect of parent involvement in weight loss in children showed that people consumed less calories when the process was slowed and focused; they counted their chews. People became aware.
Mindful eating is about intention and attention. It reminds me of Marci Shimoff’s (The Secret) phrase, “intention, attention, no tension”.
Why is it so important to slow down and become aware? For one, slowing down gives our brains the time to process what we have eaten and as such provide satiety before more calories are consumed. Awareness helps us not reach spontaneously or erratically unnecessary or unhealthy items that we might otherwise consume. Awareness puts a halt of our movements that might otherwise lead to being out of control such as in bingeing. Being present might help us stop and think about what we want to eat and not just what is put in front of us. Mostly, mindfulness helps us pause and when we pause we have a space to feel and to purposively move.
A most powerful quote comes from Viktor Frankl from Man’s Search for Meaning . . . “beyond stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. ”
A most interesting finding from my own mindful eating experience comes from the annals of classical conditioning: when I eat the same cheese and crackers months later I am more likely to eat them mindfully. I suppose I found that space. Now it’s time to try it with the brownies.