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Guided Meditation: Eating
Eating is a common daily activity that provides a very good opportunity for us to practice bare attention, free from the many concepts that may arise around it. Typically, the mind is quite heavily conditioned in various ways around food. Our conditioning may include desire, greed, fear, or anxiety -- perhaps even revulsion. So it’s very helpful to learn how to be with this essential aspect of our lives simply and directly, free of the conditioning or habituated concepts that may cause us suffering.
Try this with a friend. Each one of you takes turn reading the instructions while the other one eats some small food items like raisins or nuts. You could also record the guided meditation and practice it with the recording.
Take the food you’ve brought into your meditation space and put it on some surface in front of you. Sit comfortably. Now simply look at the food. Look at it, see it ï¿½ so it becomes a meditation of seeing. Notice the color of the food. Notice the form. Now, very slowly, begin reaching for the food. Be aware of the sensation of movement of the hand, of the arm. Do it very slowly, with care. See the food, aware of seeing. Reach for the food, aware of reaching. With the same kind of care, touch a piece of food. Bring your awareness to the touch sensations. Feel the texture: is it rough? Is it smooth? Is it warm? Is it cool? Is it hard? Is it soft? Very slowly begin to lift the food to your mouth. Feel the sensation of the movement. See if you can be aware of the very subtle sensation as you lift your arm. Lift very slowly; then be aware of opening the mouth. Feeling the sensations of the opening. Still moving very slowly, place the food on the tongue. Notice the placing movement and then the feeling of the food as it rests on the tongue. Notice the closing of the mouth and the lowering of the arm to a resting position. Very slowly, begin chewing. Notice the movement of the jays, the tongue, the teeth, the food interacting with the teeth. Be aware, if you can, of the very first sensation of taste that may arise. Notice the taste, the sweetness or the saltiness, whatever it may be. There’s chewing, and at a certain point, there’s a little explosion of taste in the mouth. Notice that, and notice how the taste fades away while the chewing may still be continuing. When you’re ready to swallow, be aware of the swallowing. Feel the sensations at the back of the tongue, in the throat. Sometimes people can feel the food as it goes down into the stomach. Then sit for a moment, maybe being with the breath or the feeling of the whole of the body sitting. You can repeat this several times.
Notice that when you see the food, there might be an immediate tendency to name the kind of food it is. “Seeing raisins, seeing peanuts.” But these are concepts -- the eyes doesn’t see “raisin” -- the eye sees color and form. And then the mind will think “raisin, peanut,” whatever it might be. So right in this meditation on eating, we begin to see the difference between our concepts of things and the direct experience of them.
When we’re on retreat, this meditation on eating can be done for the entire meal. In the busyness of our daily lives, we might not have sufficient time to do that, but we can still reconnect with the depth of this practice even if we take only a few minutes of every meal. You could perhaps either have a single piece of fruit mindfully, or one part of the meal mindfully. Or you might take the first few minutes of each meal to eat in this way.
The more we practice careful attention, the more it becomes our habit of mind, and we find that then the awareness comes into our activities at whatever speed we’re doing them. The slowing down is simply a training that helps us get into the habit of mindful attention. So please continue this mindfulness meditation on eating with the food that you have brought out for this exercise, doing it carefully, attentive to each part of the process. When you’re finished, sit for a few minutes, feeling the body sitting, being with the breath. Then slowly getting up, taking your mindfulness with you in whatever your next activity may be.
Adapted from Insight Meditation: A Step-by-Step Course on How to Meditate with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, an interactive learning program from Sounds True.