Currently, I am sharing my Top Ten Tips for embracing and integrating meditation and mindfulness into daily life.

There are countless ways to bring a deeper sense of awareness and sacredness to daily life and I wrote about some of my favourites in an earlier post My Day of Meditation .. but I wanted to expand and dive a little deeper into my Top Ten.

#Mindfully Eating Lunch: Oh Yes!

Once we have triggered the stress response, which we often do before we even land at work, by the time we eat .. again, more stress as we consume quickly at the desk or while racing between meetings .. our gut simply cannot digest effectively .. hence the proliferation of tummy aches and lack of concentration (afternoon slump).

Mindful Eating is a beautiful and healthy way to refuel mind and body. My Chocolate Meditation is always popular (an extra special and inspirational treat)  .. but any food is more delicious and engaging if you are actually present to the act of eating!

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindfulness: cultivating a clear, stable and on-judgmental attention to the present moment, with kindness.

Mindful Eating: deliberately paying attention and being fully aware of eating, the colors, smells, flavors, temperatures, textures and even the sounds of our food, along with our state of mind and mood. What does hunger feel like? how does the body feel when faced with this food? what does the body want to do? And while eating, also being aware of the mind: are you truly present to the eating? is there any habitual story or reaction arising? any subtle or unconscious impulses that you might reflect on? are you on auto-pilot? what about distractions?

A 2014 review conducted by American researchers found that mindful eating was effective in reducing binge-eating disorders (commonly involving emotional eating) along with overeating and could improve our enjoyment of food and awareness of our body’s internal hunger and satiety signals.

Mindful eating can help us:

*recognize the difference between hungry and non-hungry eating, and hunger vs. thirst: the same part of your brain is responsible for interpreting hunger and thirst signals which can result in mixed signals. True hunger comes on gradually and can be signaled by tiredness, irritability or a grumbling tummy. Just Notice.

*listen to what your body signals are telling you: digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system, and it would appear that it takes at least 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety (fullness).

*slow down and savor: in our constantly busy lives, we have forgotten what it means to truly savor a meal and enjoy every bite. By slowing down, you are more likely to notice when you are full and this can prevent overeating.

*reduce emotional eating and eating for boredom or tiredness: did you know that we don’t always eat just to satisfy hunger, in fact, many of us also turn to food to relieve stress or cope with unpleasant emotions such as sadness, loneliness, or boredom. But food often does not satisfy these cravings. By practicing mindfulness and learning to listen to our thoughts and feelings around food, we become more aware of our true motivation for eating.

*the art of savoring prolongs an enjoyable experience, so we might extract the maximum pleasure and enjoyment from our eating.

Some mindful eating suggestions

(1) Savor: I love my coffee! I want to relish and savor every moment, so my practice starts with walking to the cafe, ordering then closing my eyes to connect with the aroma and to notice how my body (and mind) feel waiting for my order .. and the journey continues through the entire experience of consuming and enjoying my coffee, as well as noticing how I feel when it has gone! I want to extract the maximum sensory experience from my one (and only) daily coffee! For you, it might be tea, smoothie or soup. Explore your experience.
(2) Just Eat: Try to engage with eating only. Put down your phone, book or distraction for at least some portion of your experience. Start with just a few bites, putting down the reading so that you don’t miss the creamy bite of feta cheese, the burst of sunshine in a grape, or crunch of lightly steamed greens, then read another page before returning to your food again.
(3) Family time: Share the joy of truly eating with the family at shared meals, by turning off the tv and suggesting a five-minute silent eating practice .. while giving thanks to those who prepared and served your food. Thanks, mum!
(4) Alone in Silence: Try eating at least one meal a week mindfully, both alone and in silence. If you regularly eat at your desk, step outside into the sunshine for one lunch per week and relish the world around you, or take your meal to a special spot (by the beach or in a park).
(5) Timing: Set a kitchen/phone timer to 20 minutes and expand your experience. My grandmother would encourage us to chew our food 50-times before swallowing.
(6) Mix it up: Try eating with your non-dominant hand or using chopsticks, or putting down your implements between mouthfuls, each of these practices will excite your curiosity and anchor your attention.
(7) Check-in: Are you really hungry, or is there another feeling or habitual reaction occurring?

A Mindful Eating (chocolate or something special) Practice

We are surrounded by flavors, textures, aromas and appealing food colors but we very rarely take the time to notice. In the Chocolate Meditation, we have an opportunity to experience mindfulness of eating in a most delicious and engaging way.

In this sense, chocolate could be seen as a metaphor for the awareness that life is richer, more complex and sweeter when we experience it fully in the present moment.

Firstly you will need to select your ONE PIECE of your favorite chocolate. This is a special adventure in itself, finding the best ever piece of chocolate from a specialty supplier or chocolate shop. Just ONE.

* Start by taking your seat and placing your chocolate in front of you, in full view. Set an intention to be as fully conscious to the full activity of eating.

Spend at least a minute (or two) observing each stage of this practice.

* Really look at the chocolate: what does it look like? imagine you have never seen chocolate before, what do you notice visually; the color, texture, and shape

* Pick up the chocolate and smell it. Close your eyes and smell deeply. What flavors do you notice? What does it feel like to hold without eating? Is it more enticing as you move it closer to your nose and mouth?

* Put the chocolate back down and check in with your desire right now .. what do you want to do? Are you hungry, bored, thankful? Can you sense impatience or excitement?

* Reflect on the many gifts of Mother Nature, the sun, rain, and wind, plus the hard work of possibly thousands of people, in bringing this chocolate from the earth to your table. Give thanks.

* Close your eyes as you now run the chocolate over your lips .. what can you taste? perhaps it is cocoa or milk or essential oils? how does your body react? is your mouth watering or tummy grumbling?

* Place the chocolate now inside your mouth but don’t chew instead roll the chocolate around your mouth .. how does it feel? what do you notice about the size, weight, taste? Do you experience the chocolate differently in different parts of the mouth?

* When you decide to bite the chocolate .. listen for the crunch. What is your desire right now, can you patiently allow the flavor to unfold gradually or do you want to chew? Just notice, but try to savor what is present right now

* Notice when your natural desire to swallow arrives, and see if you can make you’re swallowing a very slow and conscious activity

* Savour as long as possible. Extend your engagement with Mindful Eating, noticing when the chocolate is finished, when you no longer taste or smell the chocolate.

* When you can no longer taste the chocolate .. observe how your body and mind now feel after the chocolate is finished. Before moving on with your day.

People are often amazed by the intensity of chocolate (in fact any food) when eaten with mindfulness.

A single piece of good chocolate eaten with awareness and sincere appreciation can often be more enjoyable and satisfying than a whole block swallowed unconsciously.

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Instructions, guided audio meditations, tips and tricks to start a personal meditation practice – all from the comfort of your home, your office or your beach shack.