Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mindful Eating

This summer I spent a week at Kripalu yoga center in Lennox, MA. I loved the place, the people, the food, but one of the things I loved best surprised me a lot. They have silent breakfast every morning, and the program I was involved with actually took it a step further, and we were silent from wake time, through our initial practice, until after breakfast. That sounded really scary to me. I spend a lot of time in my head, so I envisioned worrying and thinking, or reading a magazine or book so I wouldn't have to be alone with myself. However, it turned out to be my favorite part of the day.
When I first sat down for silent breakfast, I was amazed. The room was filled with people, and almost no one was doing anything other than eating. People would acknowledge one another with a nod or smile, and choose their breakfast. I spent more time considering what I might like to eat, and I didn't rush my meals. I actually tasted my food, and savored the experience. I've read about mindful eating before, but had never attempted it prior to this trip. I really felt calmer, the food tasted better, and I never had the urge to over eat. I recognized my body cues because I was present in my body.

Reflecting on the experience, I realized that I almost never just sit and eat. I am usually reading, or surfing the internet, or playing Scrabble on my phone. I have even contemplated trying to dictate patient notes between bites, but I haven't sunk that low yet. I know food at times has become mere fuel, almost an inconvenient part of the day that I must attend to, but really don't enjoy, I just get through it as quickly as I can. I believe this attitude has contributed to a rushed feeling during my lunch break. I have also ended up with stomach upset that could be due to eating too fast, or eating things that weren't right for my body just because they were convenient. There are days I can't even remember what I ate.
Society today prides itself on moving quickly, multi-tasking and accomplishing more and more. I am starting to recognize that this comes at a cost. I remember the delicious Masala Chai tea they had at Kripalu one morning, and how I sat and sipped that cup thinking I'd never experienced a sweeter moment. How wonderful to accomplish presence and joy rather than reading one more article on the internet! I can't say I've been as good about keeping up with the mindful eating as I'd like. I can't convince my kids (ages 6 and 8) to participate in silent breakfast. But I can be mindful of how and what I'm eating, and take time to savor the food and the moment.

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