The Well

Tag: Mindfulness

A Taste of Now

by Andrew Shaw on Nov.08, 2009, under Archives

Last week, I introduced you to the concept of mindfulness- awareness of the present moment.  To give you a better taste of this, we can do a very simple informal mindfulness activity, mindful eating.  If you have raisins, grab a couple now and try this exercise. 

We’ll start by just taking a few breaths in and out.  Just focus your attention on your breathing.  Notice how you’re breathing.  Notice where in your body you feel your breathing (belly, chest, nose).  And just take a few more breaths in and out, to center yourself in the present, in this moment. 

And then we’ll bring our attention to the raisin sitting here in our hand.  As we look at the raisin, maybe we can think about the life of this raisin, where it came from, how it got here.  We can think about how this raisin once was on a vine, how it was touched and nurtured by the sun and the rain.  We can think about all the care and energy that brought the raisin here to us.  If you feel like it, you may wish to express some gratitude, some appreciation for that whole process.  

And then holding the raisin in the palm of our hand, we’ll begin to really notice the raisin using all of our senses.  What does the raisin feel like in the palm of your hand, notice it lightness.  What does the raisin look like, notice its shape, size, color, textures.  Then taking the raisin between your fingers, what does it feel like, sticky, wrinkly.  See if you can pay close attention to the subtle aspects of this little raisin.  Bringing the raisin to your nose, what do you smell?  You may even be able to hear the raisin, bringing it close to your ear, rolling it between your fingers, you may be able to hear a faint crackling sound. 

Then when you’re ready, bring the raisin gently to your lips, noticing the touch of the raisin to your lips.  Then we’ll place the raisin in our mouth, on our tongue, and without taking a bite yet, we’ll just move the raisin around in our mouth.  Again, just noticing how the raisin feels in our mouth, on our tongue, the shape, the textures.  And then, when you’re ready, go ahead and take a slow bite and as you begin to chew, notice the flavor of the raisin, notice too the sensations of your mouth, your jaw moving as it chews.  Notice the changing taste, size, texture and consistency of the raisin as you chew.  And after you’ve taken your time and carefully chewed, swallow the raisin, again noticing the sensations in your mouth and your throat as you do this.  Afterwards, you may now notice the absence of the raisin in your mouth.  You may notice a subtle aftertaste.  

And before moving on to take your next bite, we’ll just bring our attention back to our breathing for a moment, taking a breath in and out, once again expressing thankfulness for this raisin, for this little piece of nourishment, for this very moment, and for being here, alive, to take it all in.

Mindful eating is a very simple yet powerful demonstration of how you can practice mindfulness in the midst of everyday life.   By slowing down and really paying close attention to things, you can have a very different experience, hopefully one that is more satisfying, relaxing, interesting, and enjoyable.  Please share your thoughts about doing this exercise.  Did it feel different than how you normally eat?  What was your experience?  I’ll be writing more on mindfulness, providing meditations and exercises for being more present, throughout the year.

 Be Well

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by Andrew Shaw on Oct.30, 2009, under Archives

Mindfulness is sort of a buzz word right now in the mental health field, although it has been around and has been a topic of research in western psychology for over twenty years.  And, its origins are actually much older, almost 3000 years.  Mindfulness is a concept that comes from Buddhism and Buddhist practice.   

Essentially, Mindfulness is being fully present.  It means bringing full attention and awareness to whatever is happening in the present moment.  Much of the time, we are lost in thought, worrying over the future, upset about something in the past, or we’re just running on auto-pilot not really paying attention to what’s actually happening here and now.  Mindfulness is a skill, that can be learned, practiced, and strengthened, that will help us to be more present and focus our attention and awareness.  It also allows us to be more accepting and open to what is happening in our lives.

So how do we develop this skill?  Mindfulness can be practiced formally, such as through various meditations, such as traditional sitting meditation where you focus your attention on  your breathing or on a mantra.  This allows you to concentrate and quiet the mind.  Other formal meditations include walking meditation, body awareness, yoga, tai chi, and metta (loving-kindness meditation).  Mindfulness can also be practiced informally, in our day-to-day lives, by bringing full attention and awareness to any regular daily activity or a particular experience.  So anything we already do during our day can be done with mindfulness.  You may garden mindfully, wash the dishes mindfully, drive to work mindfully, wait in line at the store mindfully.  The point is not to complete the task so much as it is to simply be in the moment, fully aware and focused on what you are doing.  So if you’re driving, you’re just driving.  Washing the dishes, just washing the dishes.  You pay careful and close attention to the simple action itself.  Notice the sound of the running water, the feel of the warm water on your hands, the smell of the dish soap, the colors and shapes of the dishes.  When the mind starts to wander, you simply bring your attention back to just washing the dishes and to noticing the subtle aspects of this activity.

In addition to using your senses to be more present, try focusing fully on your breathing and your body.  Notice how it feels in your body to breath in and out.  It may be helpful to place your hand on your belly and say the word “rising” as you inhale and your belly rises, and the word “falling” as you exhale and your belly falls.  You can center and ground yourself in the moment by paying close attention to sensations in the body.  What physical sensations do you feel in your body as you move, walk or stretch? See if you can be aware of the sensations in your feet and legs as you take a gentle step.  Notice the contact of your feet with the ground and the shift of your weight as you walk slowly.  Try stretching mindfully, paying close attention to how it feels in a particular part of your body as you extend and then release.

Your homework for next week is to buy a box of raisins… I’ll explain more in the next post, when we’ll do a guided mindful eating exercise, so you can really experience mindfulness.  

Be Well

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