Episode #3 of the course 10 easy meditations to bring calm to your everyday life by John Robin
Welcome to Day 3 of the course!
Yesterday, we explored open awareness meditation. I hope you found plenty of opportunities to practice it, especially during those moments we know too well: idle phone-checking.
Today, we’re going to add to our collection of meditations, as we learn about another kind: eating meditation.
Connect to the Brain in Your Gut
Eating is one of those things we usually take for granted. We often do it mindlessly. We’re hungry, so we grab some food. We’re bored, so we get something to eat. For the most part, it’s instinctive.
But eating can be an opportunity to meditate if you learn to look at it in the new way I’m going to show you today.
The brain-gut connection has been well studied. You can read more about it from the Harvard Health article linked at the end of this lesson . Many times, we feel emotions in our gut, especially anxiety. Reactions in our gut, in turn, can influence our thoughts. Think about all the times you’ve had a gut feeling. This isn’t in your brain. It’s literally in your gut and your brain is thinking through it.
Eating is an opportunity to focus on the “brain” in your gut. In fact, there is a special nervous system deeply interrelated with your gut, activated when you eat mindfully: the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system of nerves involved in relaxation, and guess what? Part of relaxation includes stimulating digestion! When you activate this system, it tells your body, “Sabertooth tigers are gone now. Time to relax, digest, and get some rest.”
Eating meditation is a specific kind of meditation you can practice when you eat. Done well, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system more fully. This is beneficial to your health because it causes more blood to flow to your intestines, which enhances the absorption of nutrients.
It is easy to do: The next time you eat a meal, meditate on the action of eating. Think of eating as your object of direct awareness. This is a special kind of directed awareness meditation.
You can do this even with a small snack. The action of eating acts as a natural timer, so you don’t have to think about how long you should be doing it.
I want you to try it right now:
1. Get a small snack. Make it something simple and easy to eat, such as an apple, a cookie, or a cracker.
2. Focus as deeply as you can on the experience of eating this snack.
3. Keep your attention on every aspect of eating.
4. If your attention wanders, notice that and return your focus to the act of eating.
Do it now.
What did you notice? Did you eat much slower? Taste more? Enjoy the act of eating more than usual?
Think of how much potential there is with every meal you eat!
Try to avoid using your phone while you eat as well. Mindlessly scrolling through texts or tapping apps while you eat takes your attention away. Your mind is caught up in heightened stimulation, which triggers stress. Blood flows away from your gut to your limbs instead. This works in opposition to your relaxation-inducing parasympathetic nervous system.
All this can be corrected the more you learn to treat eating as an opportunity to meditate. Silently sink into the experience of eating. Notice especially:
• awareness of your mouth movements
• awareness of the complex actions of chewing
• composition of food
• the experience of taste and how it evolves
• thoughts about what the food is and what’s in it
• thoughts about where the food came from
• gratitude for the food you’re eating
Remember, there is no such thing as “perfect.” There is only the intention to be more mindful and what you notice as you direct your attention inward during this most fundamental activity that we all do at least three times a day.
We learned about eating meditation, a specific type of directed awareness meditation that helps stimulate our relaxation-based parasympathetic nervous system, enhancing digestion and reducing overall stress.
Your homework is to try and practice this in the meals you’ll eat today. Keep practicing open awareness when you find idle moments, and latch onto objects for directed awareness as well. Imagine these three meditations are like three balls I’ve given you to juggle. Keep them in motion!
Tomorrow, we’ll move onto another kind of meditation that will deepen your self-compassion and ultimately, your self-control. Stay tuned for metta meditation!
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