Recently, I visited a spa that prides itself on its mindfulness programming. Activities include physical challenges (that focus on mindfulness), mindful decision-making, mindful communication, mediating, and, of course, eating.
I decided to attend a mindful eating breakfast, craving the experience both for myself and to bring back to my work. So, at 9am on a Saturday morning, I sat down with a couple of other women and began a mindful eating exercise.
We were instructed to visit the restaurant buffet, paying particular attention to all of our senses as we made our food choices. We were instructed not to focus on the "shoulds," but rather on what appealed to us.
I piled food on my plate, paying attention to vibrant color and texture. I stood over the bowl of flax seed for a moment (this is a healthy place!), thinking, "I should probably add some flax seed," but quickly caught myself and headed back to the table to begin the exercise. For the record, I chose some berries, oatmeal, and a vegetarian/cream cheese omelet.
The challenge: For 10 minutes, we were to eat mindfully--to meditate over our food, with awareness, without conversation.
That 10 minutes felt like an eternity.
Have you ever timed how long it takes you to eat breakfast, especially if you're not talking to someone else, watching tv, reading the paper, etc.? I'm guessing most us (myself included) scarf down our food in fewer than 10 minutes. . . and usually with one or more distractions.
So, here's what I learned, as I stared at my plate for 10 minutes, looking at the food, swirling it around with my fork, chewing slowly, paying attention to my appetite, to color, texture, and taste.
1) I don't even like raspberries. They're pretty bitter to me.
2) I really like strawberries. Did you ever notice how evenly dispersed the seeds are? I did!
3) Omelets are kind of plastic in a way I don't particularly enjoy.
4) The texture of oatmeal is much more appealing when I allow it to settle in my mouth, bathing my teeth and tongue in its chewy, little lumps. And, I love, love, love the squishy sound of oatmeal stirred.
5) 10 minutes at a table with several other women is a really long time to go without speaking. We stared at our plates, at our food, but it felt somehow asocial. It made me realized how conditioned we are to communicate, to focus on others (and other things) rather than what we're ingesting.
6) Without these distractions, I easily registered my satiety, putting my fork down at the first sign of fullness.
Have you ever tried an exercise like this? What are your thoughts/feelings about trying?