Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mindful Eating

Today in our OA meeting, one person mentioned how he used to eat as if an efficiency expert were sitting on his shoulder. He also said that recently he has been practicing mindful eating and that he finds he's only eating about half of what he previously consumed at each meal, plus it slows him down and makes his meals more enjoyable.

My thought: Yup... I'm a speed eater too... and my efficiency expert has a huge whip. Crack. Stuff my mouth, prepare new bite. Crack! Not fast enough! Stuff... Not only do I speed eat, but also I gobble my food mindlessly, especially after the first bite. Plus often, I multi-task as well... eating while writing, eating while reading, eating while talking on the phone, eating while watching TV.

Years ago, I attended a Buddhist Silent Retreat at Cloud Mountain. I think it was 5 days. We practiced silence and mindfulness as we participated in various meditations. I especially enjoyed the solo walking meditations on the many trails available in the 15-acre area. Even walking very slowly and being mindful of each step, I found myself writing poems in my mind as I walked. I'll copy one of them to the end of this post.

The most amazing thing about the retreat was eating. We were instructed to eat alone, slowly, in silence, without reading and with our full attention, our full mindfulness, on every single bite we put in our mouths. Eating in that way, each meal took more than a half hour to consume. Each and every bite had taste, texture, purpose and history. The meals were simple and vegetarian. Grains and vegetables never tasted so good to me. I recall feeling completely satisfied after each meal, wanting nothing more, feeling nurtured, blessed, content.

So, of course, when my fellow OA member mentioned his practice of mindful eating, my mind raced back 14 years to the Buddhist Retreat and my own lovely experience with this practice. Is it time for change in the way I eat as well as what and how much I eat? Yes, I believe it is. So today, I make this commitment: For the next week, starting tomorrow, I will eat my lunch each day in a mindful way. I will account for myself here, a week from today. Baby steps in a new direction.

Here's one of the poems I wrote during the retreat after an hour of private, outdoor meditation:

Tree Connection

Although the fenced property line
separates us so that I may not touch you,
I stand with you for this hour in solidarity
and notice the changing forces around us...
the coming and going of hard rains,
the breeze rippling your branches
and the stillness behind the breeze,
the lighter, then darker grey
of the skies above us,
the drifting dances of wooden ducks
in the pond between us.

Although I am human and move about the earth,
today I can appreciate the way you
have stood in one place for forty years or more...
the seasons... the sun, moon, stars...
the animals, insects, birds...
and my kind... all moving around you...
some needing you, some apparently not...
some noticing you, some apparently not.
Yet I know of our connection...
yours, mine and theirs.

Although I am human
and may not cross the line between us,
we are bonded this hour by our downcast eyes.
Your eyes, turning away from
the clear-cut devastation beginning at your roots
and marching over the hills behind you,
your eyes weep
for your missing brothers and sisters.
My eyes, turning away from other human faces
as we pass each other
in this Buddhist place of retreat,
my eyes weep
for the seriousness here
and the lonely lack of human interaction.
Just as you miss the trees in your fold,
I miss the laughter in mine.
Just as you stand alone this hour,
so do I.


  1. Nice poem!

    I eat much too fast as well. "Food is not a race," my best friend's mom used to tell us. A half-hour for one meal! What a concept!

    That's a good challenge. Might try that one with you!

  2. I know I do not eat mindfully. Slowly, often yes. But that is not the same thing, I know.

  3. You are a poet. I communicate with trees mentally like that too but not with poetry.

    I 'm a multitasker-read, computer, eat, talk all at same time. But when I eat out or eat really good food I do eat it slowly and savor the flavor and texture.

  4. I am not as mindful as I should be when eating. I do not eat when watching TV or in front of the computer, but I do sometimes read. I find when I go outside and eat at the patio table that I can be much more mindful - out of my usual environment I savor my meals more.


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