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Mindful Meals: Learning how to eat in Mindfulness

As part of our practice, we take part in an occassional Mindful Meal. This is also held on Sundays, at 10 am. Also at Sunland Memorial Park, unless otherwise noted on our Calendar of Events. Please bring your own plate or bowl, silverware and cup or tumbler. Tea will be provided. Please also, if you are able, bring one vegetarian dish to share with the Sangha. This is not a cooking contest. This is just another form of practice. The most simple food is welcome and appropriate. We do ask that it is something that is made or prepared by your hand, if possible.

Mindfulness is how we can live each moment of our lives, and we eat sometimes three times each day. Instructions on how we might eat in Mindfulness therefor can be very beneficial. Most of us distract ourselves while we eat, by watching TV or reading, talking on the telephone or using the computer. Some of us even use meal time as the time to reconnect with the family, and conversation is used as the centerpiece to our meals. By giving our full attention to preparing, eating and cleaning up after our meal, we honor those responsible for it's being before us. The growers, the transport professionals, the grocers and the very nutrients that made the food possible.

We eat in noble silence. This is not a somber act, but an act of celebration. A smile appears on our lips throughout the entire process as we enjoy this most beautiful of rituals. What follows are simple guidelines we practice in order to be mindful.

Preparing your food

Maximize your experience by looking at, touching, and smelling the food as you chop, cut, arrange ingredients. Choose a portion that is your best guess as to what will satisfy, and put the rest away for another meal. As you cook your meal, be aware of the changes that the food goes through. Color, temperature, texture etc.

Choose your own "vessel of appropriate measure"

Pick out a bowl or a plate that really appeals to you. A favorite color or material, like clay or wood perhaps. This should be a bowl or a plate you will really enjoy using for each of your meals. Something that does not hold too much, not too little.

Choose a place to eat

Choose a place to eat that is peaceful and without distractions. A place that pleases you. A sacred place. Perhaps overlooking a garden or flower bed. Somewhere that is comfortable. A favorite chair and table that is cleared of clutter, bills and other things that may take your attention away from your enjoying your meal.

Experience your food

Experience your food. Enjoy its details - colors, textures, layers. Notice the aromas.

Recite this Gatha

"This food is a gift from the whole Universe - The Earth, the Sky, and much hard work. May we be worthy to receive it. May we transform unskillful states of mind, especially the habit of eating without moderation. May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. We accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love."

Now slowly begin to eat

Now slowly begin to eat, taking a fork or spoon full, not overloading it, but just enough. Put the food in your mouth and pause, allowing yourself the opportunity to fully appreciate the sensation of the food before you begin to chew it. Be mindful of your breathing.

Chew your food thoroughly

Chew each bite of food 10-20 times until there is almost nothing left. Notice the texture again. Swallow.

Swallow and trace the food

Swallow and trace the food down to your stomach, using the sensations of hot, cold, acid etc,... If you donít quite feel anything, imagine the path the food is taking down into your stomach. When you have completed this process, take another fork full of food. Repeat this for several more bites, noticing after the fourth or fifth bite whether your stomach feels less empty, as if it is slowly filling up.

Drinking

The same attention should be given when we drink during our meal. When we have finished chewing, we should stop what we are doing. Place our fork or spoon down. Focus our attention on our tea or water. We pick our cup or glass up with both hands and take a sip. Just one. Be aware of the temperature, the sensation of the liquid. Swallow and return to your meal.

Be aware of your whole body

Are your muscles tense anywhere? Notice how you are sitting, and what you are thinking. Are you thinking of the sensations of the food you are eating, or have other thoughts intruded? Gently bring your attention back and take a breath.

Continue to eat slowly

Continue to eat slowly and Mindfully until you feel your stomach getting full and a sense of satisfaction is reached. If you are not sure you are satisfied, wait a moment and check in again. Perhaps one more bite will confirm the sense of satisfaction?

Before you clear away the dish

Before you clear away the dish, give yourself one more quiet moment to tune into your body. Allow yourself to fully experience the sensation of satisfaction and contrast it with the hunger before you ate.

As you clear and clean

As you clear and clean your bowl/plate and silverware, do it in awareness. As Thay says in The Miracle of Mindfulness, wash your dishes to wash your dishes.




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