Mindfulness, Week 5
Exercise: When Eating Just Eat
“This week, when you’re eating or drinking, don’t do anything else. Sit down and take the time to enjoy what you are taking in. Open all the senses as you eat or drink. Look at the colors, shapes, surface textures. Attend to the smells and flavors in your mouth. Listen to the sounds of eating and drinking.”
“This is not an easy task for most people. If you’re on the go, walking from one place to another and about to take a sip of tea or coffee, you’re going to need to stop, find a place to sit down, and savor it. If you’re working on the computer, you’re going to have to take both hands off the keyboard and turn your eyes away from the screen in order to savor a sip of coffee.
“Eating has become part of our modern habit of perpetually multitasking. When we do this exercise, we discover anew how many other things we do while eating. We eat while walking, driving, watching TV or movies, reading, working on the computer, playing video games, and listening to music.
“Once we eliminate those obvious activities, we come to a more subtle aspect of inattention—talking while eating. Our parents may have scolded us for talking with our mouths full, but we still find ourselves eating and talking simultaneously. While doing this task we learn to alternate eating and talking. In other words, if you want to talk, stop eating. Don’t do them at the same time.
“It is so common to socialize while eating that you may discover that you feel awkward eating alone in a restaurant without reading or otherwise distracting yourself. You might imagine that people are thinking, “Poor thing, no friends.” You pick up a book or open your computer to show you are being productive and wouldn’t “waste time” by “just eating.” One problem with eating and doing other things is that it becomes “waist time,” that is, time for extra food to go down unnoticed, and end up on your waist!
“In Japan and parts of Europe it is very rude to walk and eat or drink at the same time. The only food you can eat in Japan while standing up or walking is an ice-cream cone, because it might melt. People will stare at the boorish foreigner who busy fast food and walks down the street munching. Even fast food is taken home, arranged attractively, and served at a table. Meals are times to slow down and truly enjoy the food, drink, and company.”
How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventure in Mindfulness, Jan Chozen Bays, Shambhala, Boston, 2011, pp. 33-35.