So often we eat mindlessly. We stuff food in while working on our computer, watching TV, or on the run. The pleasure of eating lies in slowing down and fully experiencing all elements of food. Take some time to explore each of the following during your next meal:
Sight: In many cultures, the aesthetics is just as important as the taste of the meal. Take a moment to recognize the art in food.
Smell: Bring the food up to your nose. Without naming the scent, experience smelling the food, then describe what you smell.
Physiological reaction: Now focus on what is going on in your mouth. Begin to notice that saliva happens, even though you haven’t put the food in your mouth. You’re noticing a mind/body phenomenon: the senses responding to the anticipation that something’s going to be eaten.
Touch: Now explore how the food feels. Without naming the feeling, just experience touching your food.
Motion and movement: How is it that your hand actually knows how to get the food to the lips, without going past the face altogether? As you bring the food up to your lips, notice what happens next. The mouth receives the food. Nothing goes into the mouth without it being received. And who or what is doing the receiving? The tongue. Now watch what the tongue does with it. How does it get the food between the teeth? It’s amazing that the tongue is so skilled, such a remarkable muscle that it can actually receive food and then keep it between the teeth.
Taste: After becoming aware of the food in your mouth, start biting into it, very slowly. Then begin to chew. Notice that the tongue decides which side of the mouth it’s going to chew on. Give all your attention to your mouth and take a few bites. Then stop to experience what’s happening. And what’s happening is invariably an explosion of hundreds of words that describe the experience called tasting.
Texture: As you continue to chew, the taste changes. And so does the consistency. At a certain point you will become aware of the texture of the food because the taste has mostly passed. The texture becomes a bit aversive and you may want to swallow it.
Swallowing: Don’t swallow it yet. Stay with the aversion, as well as the impatience and the inborn impulse to swallow. Do not swallow until you detect the impulse to do so. And then observe what is involved in actually getting the food over to the place where it’s going to be swallowed. When you detect the impulse to swallow, follow it down into the stomach, feel your whole body and acknowledge that your body is now exactly one bite heavier.
Breath: Next, after a pause for a moment or two, see if you can taste your breath in a similar way. Bring the same quality of attention that you gave to seeing the food, feeling the food, smelling the food, tasting the food to the breath.
Silence: Then, drop into silence. By this point, you understand something of what meditation is. It’s doing what we do all the time, except we’re doing it with attention: directed, moment-to-moment, non-judgmental attention.
The main thing is to have fun, learn something and understand yourself better. Here is a checklist that will help get you going: