Monday, May 14, 2012
Meditation on eating
The practice of mindfulness should not just be for special postures but should generalize throughout our days. One of the examples that is often given is meditation on eating. This is a great example, but usually the emphasis is on the sensual treat of really paying attention to what you are eating. The standard exercise is eating a single raisin and doing so very slowly, noticing all its sensual qualities, its texture and taste, and noticing each stage from chewing to digestion. When this exercise is done in a workshop, for instance, those new to the exercise marvel at how much they enjoyed it and what a treat it is to pay attention to that single raison rather than to gobble it down with a whole bunch of other raisins.
Although it is great that we see the difference that attention can make to an experience, the true value of mindfully eating is deeper. When we eat, all the sense bases are involved–seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and knowing. We see the food, we smell it, we touch it, we hear it, we taste it, and we are conscious of these activities. Throughout the process, intentions arise as preludes to our overt actions. We have pleasant and unpleasant feelings, and, if we are not mindful as we eat, from our liking and disliking. attachment and aversion arise as well. To be mindful while eating, we should be aware of all phases of the eating process, from the sensations of hunger that motivate us to eat, to seeing the food, to bringing the food to the mouth, to chewing, to swallowing, to the awareness that our desire for food has been satisfied. Throughout we note what is happening at each moment.