A Practice for Mindful Eating
Although we eat several times a day, most of us rarely concentrate on the tastes, smells, and sensations of eating. We focus instead on television or chatter with friends; we let our minds wander to work or family matters, or we simply hurry to finish our food. This leads to an imbalance in the energy of the manipura chakra (at the solar plexus).
As well as being the center of your body’s transformational energy, the manipura chakra is the seat of your body’s digestive fire. Its job is to “digest” and assimilate whatever comes in, whether that be food or ideas. Without this conversion, your body, mind, and emotions are unable to absorb essential nourishment.
The Eating Meditation puts you in touch with this energy and also connects you in a very physical way to the ingredients of life. Try not to think of it as meditating while eating. Rather, feel that the act of eating itself becomes a form of meditation that links you with an ancient spiritual practice: Eating as a meditation is ritualized in many religions, from the taking of the Eucharist in Christianity to prasad in Hinduism (which is said to transform food into divine essence). It is best to practice this form of meditation in the morning when your taste buds are still fresh.
The Taste of Satisfaction
- Prepare a plate containing three pieces of fruit with different textures, for example a slice of pineapple or citrus fruit, some ripe banana, and sweet grapes or crisp apple. Don’t just choose fruits you enjoy—it is interesting to include some that you find less tasty. Switch off distractions, such as the television or background music.
- Center yourself by breathing deeply into your abdomen. Use your breath to connect you to the source of your hunger in the pit of your stomach—the manipura chakra.
- Look at the first piece of fruit, observing its color, shape, and texture. Then pick it up, enjoying its tactile qualities.
- Close your eyes and take the fruit to your lips. Notice how the smell of the fruit and the action of touching it to your lips begins to stimulate energy at your solar plexus.
- Bite into the fruit; notice whether it is crunchy or soft. If the taste is pleasant, follow the enjoyable sensations throughout your body. If it is a taste you like less, observe any waves of tension.
- Now chew slowly, resisting the urge to swallow. Notice an immediate change in the intensity of the flavor. Observe the effect that chewing has on your solar plexus. Chew each bite 20 to 30 times, pausing occasionally to take a few deep breaths. As you swallow, feel the food moving down your esophagus into your stomach.
- Finally, visualize the fruit being digested and assimilated. Mentally see the energy of the solar plexus chakra distributing nutrients to various parts of the body. Repeat steps 3 to 7 with the remaining fruit.
- Try to repeat this meditation every day for 40 days. Vary the foods you use: as well as fresh fruit, try dry or savory snacks, such as olives, raisins, and even potato chips from time to time.
Reprinted with permission of Duncan Baird Publishers, from Chakra Meditation: Discover Energy, Creativity, Focus, Love, Communication, Wisdom, and Spirit by Swami Saradananda. ©2008 Swami Saradananda.
A senior-most student of Swami Vishnu-devananda, Swami Saradananda worked with the Sivananda Yoga Centres for almost thirty years. She served as director and main teacher of their facilities in New York, London (Putney) and Delhi. After returning from an extended period of personal practice in the Himalayas, she was the “author in residence” at the Peacemaker Community in Western Massachusetts and then served as “spiritual director” to Haus Yoga Vidya in Germany.