We’re coming into the season of eating (!) so I thought I’d tell you of something we did recently on The Happiness Retreat. We practiced mindful eating. You probably won’t employ this kind of meditation on Christmas Day but you could have a go beforehand! Eating mindfully means eating in total silence. It’s a little strange at first and the urge to make conversation, which seems the polite and friendly thing to do, can be so overwhelming that we forget our task. However, a simple introduction to explain exactly how to set your mind makes the experience surprisingly satisfying.
Deborah Smith led us into the practice: set your intention to eat with presence; take time to appreciate where the food comes from, the time and expertise behind the recipes, the water needed, the infrastructure, the transport… Then, while eating, the tastes and textures, how the tastes combine. Maybe you can feel hunger beforehand and satiated afterwards.
While queuing at the buffet I started by thinking about the plate and how many it had fed before me. Before eating I took five long Ujjayi breaths to drop right down into my rest & digest system. I looked at the food to figure out where it had come from, I pictured the farmers, the miles, the time and the trouble it took to get it to me, the flights, trains and trucks, the water systems and plumbing. Then something I think I’ve never done before: proper slow eating, appreciating the combinations of textures and tastes, how some foods melt, some need chewing, and waiting for one mouthful to finish completely before taking another one. Deborah said that we typically notice the first mouthful and the last. (I would add to that. Imagine that you run in from work and take half an hour to whip up and eat a meal, snatch a bit of Bruce Willis in a terrorist-infested building while eating then rush out again! You’re totally in the sympathetic nervous system which is not your rest and digest system. In that mode, the body isn’t interested in absorbing the goodness and nutrition and digesting healthily.)
Anyway, at the end of the mindful meal, the greedy me popped up and wanted an unnecessary second helping. It’s hilarious, but without the cover of conversation it’s impossible to go back to the buffet and take seconds! That would be the walk of shame. I told my saliva to go back to sleep and take my taste buds too. I thought of the food working its way down into my digestive system without anything else following. I drew up the drawbridge till the next meal and finished with some gentle long breaths.
Perhaps a few goes of this in the run-up to Christmas will make your Christmas meal more enjoyable, less balooning!
I have promised various people the track list of music I have been playing in my Home Studio this week. Here it is: The Heart of Meditation by Om in the Womb; Om Meditation from the same album, Baba Hanuman by Shantala; Lalitha Ashtotram by Craig Pruess & Ananda.
Come to class to hear more! You can see what’s available on my website.
I’m really excited to be seeing my teacher David Swenson again next weekend. Come with me (Triyoga) to experience his magic! Yesterday I went to an Iyengar class with Alaric Newcombe (Triyoga Camden, Thursdays 3.30-5.30) and I came away so inspired and happy that I want to return as often as I can. I ended up in lotus headstand! We did what turned out to be a lotus workshop and I brought a couple of the drills back to torture the Home Studio yogis with.
Yoga in the news
Here’s something a bit different. You may have heard of the shootings in a yoga studio in America. The Washington Post gives us Why a far-right extremist targeted a yoga studio for violence and takes us through the logical steps from the perceived threat of yoga to Christianity, how yoga was part of a counter culture, it aided female liberation, and how yoga offends the alt-right. Such a pity.