Sunday, 6 January 2013

Week 2: Hey! Who ate the last piece of chocolate?

Food. I love the stuff. I often say we were made for each other.

Problem is, half the time I love it so quickly, it barely touches the sides on the way down.

Sometimes I eat too quickly because I'm hungry and my brain tells me to get in as much as I can, as quickly as I can; sometimes it's because I'm just a greedy guts; often it's because I'm eating while simultaneously juggling several balls on my nose and doing the hula (i.e. feeding the baby, talking on the phone, checking my emails, watching telly …). By the time I finish, I've barely registered that I started, and I'm off searching for something else to satisfy my 'eating urge'.

I'm sure you've all been there. You look down and wonder who ate the last piece of chocolate, then realise it was you ... You were just so distractred that you missed the moment. A whole block of chocolate disappears in the blink of an eye (or a bottle of wine, wheel of cheese, packet of biscuits).

What would happen if we actually paid attention to what we were eating? If we appreciated it with all our senses? If we turned off the telly, stopped talking for a moment, and just sat and ate?

There's an exercise I like to do in my yoga classes at Easter and Christmas (great excuses for bringing chocolate to class). After handing out individually wrapped chocolates to each student, I ask them to eat it as slowly as they can – it usually takes us at least five minutes, if not longer. The experience starts before the chocolate wrapper is removed and ends long after the last morsels have dissolved on our tongues.

It's a brilliant mindfulness practice – one that somehow makes chocolate taste even better than it already does (yes, it is possible).

Want to try it? I love using individually wrapped chocolates (yes, I am a chocoholic), but you can pick anything. Other good options are a piece of deliciously ripe fruit or a thin wedge of gooey soft cheese.

First, take a moment to appreciate the look of your chocolate (I'm going to use chocolate throughout this example, but you know you can substitute for whatever takes your fancy) – the shiny wrapper, the way it crinkles and cracks beneath your fingers, the way the foil dances in the light. Now, slowly unwrap it and take some time to look at the chocolate again, take in its shape, texture, colour.

Hold it up to your nose and deeply breathe in its scent.

Is your mouth watering yet? How does it make you feel?

Hold the chocolate to your bottom lip and let it caress your tongue. What is that first taste like?

Take a tiny bite. Let the chocolate dissolve on your tongue.

What can you taste? What can you smell? What is the texture and temperature like in your mouth?

As you continue to eat the chocolate, as slowly as you can, allow yourself to be consumed by the experience. Keep your eyes closed and even when you've swallowed the last bit, notice the residue on your tongue. Can you taste the lingering sweetness? 

What do you think? Amazing?

Now, I'm a realist. It would be impossible for me to eat every mouthful in this way. Frankly, it would be difficult to eat without distraction very regularly at all. But, I plan to make an effort. Whether it be that first bite of every meal, that one piece of chocolate, or a steaming cup of tea, I'm going to eat mindfully every day. The money and effort (from mother nature and man) involved in getting food onto my table deserves respect.

Week 2 Challenge: To eat mindfully.

* A special thankyou to my beautiful friend, Kerry, who did this exercise with me recently with an exquisite piece of cheese. After devouring a good deal of cheese, this last piece, eaten mindfully, was truly divine and utterly satisfying.

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