Thich Nhat Hanh taught:
Chew your food, not your worries
Sometimes we eat, but we aren’t thinking of our food. We’re thinking of the past or the future or mulling over some worry or anxiety again and again. So stop thinking about your business, about the office, or about anything that isn’t happening right now. Don’t chew your worries, your fear, or your anger. If you chew your planning and your anxiety, it’s difficult to feel grateful for each piece of food. Just chew your food.Thich Nhat Hanh, How To Eat
I’ll admit, this last year (even pre-pandemic), I got into a habit of working through lunch and eating at my desk. I would have a sandwich or a cookie there with me, and then I go to take a bite and realize I didn’t notice I had already finished it. Oops! Perhaps you have experienced that too.
The invitation today is to bring an intention of eating part of a meal with full attention to the physical sensations.
If you live in a busy household, or if you have a habit of scrolling through news while you eat, the prospect of eating a whole meal mindfully might be a bit ambitious, so see if you can take even three bites in one meal.
We can pay attention to:
- the smell, sight, and even the sound of food
- how your body responds in anticipation of eating (stomach or mouth)
- the feel of the cutlery in your hand
- the movement of placing food on the fork or spoon and lifting the food towards the mouth
- the feel of the food as you place it in your mouth and chew
- the sensations of swallowing
- the urge to prepare the next mouthful before you are even finished what you are currently eating
- the sensations in the whole body
- noticing when we get lost in thought, and gently inviting the attention back to the sensations of eating
A few years ago, I attended a retreat with Michael Ciborski, which was organized by the Saskatoon Community of Mindful Living. I remember his instructions for lunch: to take a pause before putting the food into the mouth, and notice the urge to eat it right away – allow that urge to pass. And then we can eat as a free person.
There are many other reflections we can bring to eating. I’m sure you have some too. Feel free to share your practices, or what you have discovered, on the blog or by email.
May you feel nourished by this practice,