Eating is another routine activity that can be used to develop mindfulness. In many instances we spend a lot of time to choose particular type of food, scanning the menu at a restaurant and spending even more time shopping for our food items. But in reality do we really notice the taste of food, not in a gross sense but in the subtle fine form of taste? Do we remember what we had for dinner last night or lunch? Because it is a routine activity we engage in many other activities such as talking and reading while eating. The habit ensures that we continue to eat though there is parallel activity. Once we start to observe eating with mindfulness we will be able to appreciate how thoughts come one after the other.
To use eating as an Practice in mindfulness, start from the point of serving food to your plate. As you serve different types of food items observe the thoughts that come when you see them. Some you will like and some you will not like. Some you will want to try, some you will not want to try. Seeing some food items will evoke emotions, bring back even memories – just notice them.
Let me share an experience I had once in connection with eating.
“ Once I got a Japanese set meal in a box while onboard a plane. In a corner there was an item which looked like custard pudding – one of my favorite desserts. I thought I would eat it last. However there was an item which was sweet though. I eventually reached for my custard pudding. As I brought the spoon closer to my mouth with the first scoop I was hopeful of experiencing the taste of custard puddings I was used to. To my utter surprise it turned out to be a soya preparation with no sweet taste at all. Then I asked myself how much “old food” do we eat? In the sense how much we are preoccupied with the past tastes rather than experiencing the taste of what we eat right now!
If you eat using your fingers then you can focus on the touch sensation, if not focus on the process of mixing, cutting and bringing food to your mouth. Observe what happens to your mouth and like in the tea Practice observe the smell and the taste, watch the sound of munching and the feelings associated with swallowing.
This way we can come to the present moment.
Try listening to the body while eating. As food goes in be sensitive to the reduction of hunger that was there when you begin eating. Actually it makes a lot of sense to stop just before we feel really full.