Meditation at the Dinner Table
Mindful eating is a great way to bring meditation and mindfulness into one of the most fundamental activities of our existence. It’s rich in many positives, but it’s also a very hard practice to do because we live in a society that promotes unhealthy choices of food and unhealthy eating habits.
Two common unhealthy habits I see are eating unhealthy food to feed discomfort and eating mindlessly. You often see people eat to drown their discomfort and pain, usually making unhealthy food choices in the process. You also see people eating mindlessly and quickly to get it done with so they can get back to what they were doing.
Eating is a fundamental activity for existence, and it should be done in a way that nourishes your body and mind. That means learning to appreciate and improve your relationship with the food on the table and your health. This can only be done when you bring your awareness and attention to the table.
The Practice: Tips for Mindful Eating
Appreciate the food. Start your meal with gratitude and express your appreciation, not just for the food but also for everyone and everything that has helped to bring this food to your table—the farmers who grew your food, the people who transported your food to make it accessible for you, the people who prepared your food, and even the people who are keeping you company during your meal.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a great practice called “The Five Contemplations” that you can use to read out before your meals. Check it out here.
Savor the food. Engage in all your senses and bring your attention to the food. Pay attention to how it tastes and smells. Pay attention to how you feel eating the food. Practice letting go of grasping and aversion where needed.
Take small bites and chew thoroughly. We have a nasty habit of inhaling our food and eating really quickly to get back to work. Take your time to enjoy the food. Taking small bites and chewing your food properly has been shown to improve digestion and prevent indigestion, since the process of breaking down the food begins with the enzymes in your mouth.
Eat slowly to avoid overeating. It takes the body up to 20 minutes to trigger the brain and let it know that your body has had enough. If you’re eating too fast, you may end up overeating before you get triggered that you’re full. That’s the reason why we often get a food coma and end up eating more than we need to. Eating slowly can promote healthier eating habits and better weight management.
Turn off the TV and put away your phone. Another bad habit we have is to watch TV or to be on our phone while eating. Mindful eating means giving all our attention to enjoying our meal and the people we’re sharing our meal with.
Bring mindful eating to the dinner table with your family. There’s no better way to remind yourself to eat mindfully than to make it a collective meditation practice for the family. Start the family meal with gratitude for the meal. You can assign one person to read The Five Contemplations, or you can create your own gratitude practice. Then get the family to eat in silence and mindfulness for 15 minutes—enjoying the food and each other’s presence. You can break the silence after the 15 minutes, and you’ll notice that the conversations following will be much more mindful this way.
Practice mindful eating. If you’re on your lunch break, take the time to enjoy your lunch instead of rushing to get back to work. If you’re eating at home, put away your phone and turn off your TV. Create a mindful practice at dinner with your family. Even try it when you’re out for dinner together at a restaurant.
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