Sarah Silverton’s The Mindfulness Breakthrough shows us ways to practice mindfulness in order to overcome negative thoughts and feelings. The following simple exercise teaches us how eating fruit can help us to be more mindful and invites us to bring mindful awareness to activities we may already do in everyday life…
Take your time doing this mindfulness practice, noticing whatever you notice and experiencing whatever you experience. Don’t worry, it’s impossible to get this wrong!
We talk about practising mindfulness because our ability to be mindful is always developing. It is really important to remember that when we shine the torch of our awareness, we are not trying to change the detail of what the light picks up; just the direction of the beam and how broadly the torch beam spreads. We are choosing the focus of our attention and the detail of our experience that we are opening our awareness to.
The 9 Steps to Eating Mindfully
As with all the mindfulness practices we explore in The Mindfulness Breakthrough, it is really important that you make a choice as to whether to follow the invitations given in the guidance, or not. For this exercise you can choose any fruit that you have at home – it can be fresh or dried.
1. Imagine that you are seeing this thing for the very first time. You could pretend you are from another world, or maybe that you are a small child. Is it actually possible to imagine that you have never seen this object before and don’t know what it is?
2. Begin to explore it with your eyes. Spend a few minutes really investigating it. What colours do you see? What is its shape? What is its texture? Do you see patterns? What size is it? If you turn it around in your fingers, does it look the same from different angles? Does the light reflect off the surface? Does it look different held up to a lift? Are there details that you can notice and explore? Look again and see if there is anything that has escaped your gaze so far. Has your mind become involved in this process, naming the fruit (despite your best intentions to pretend it’s an entirely new thing in your life), maybe remembering, making associations, or noticing that it looks like something else? Has your mind decided, perhaps, that it likes or dislikes this object?
3. Now explore what it feels like to touch. Is it light or heavy? Is it soft or hard? Are there parts that feel different to other parts? Is it smooth or rough, sticky or wet? What are the sensations as you hold this object in your fingers? Which fingers are touching it? Can they hold it easily without dropping it or squashing it? Do you have to decide to do this or do the body and brain manage this on their own?
4. When you are ready (and if you choose to), bring this object toward your face. Perhaps you notice the sensations of your hand and arm moving? If you wish, perhaps see whether it has a smell. As you breathe in its fragrance, do you notice anything happening in your body?
5. Maybe you could now touch the object with your lips to see how it feels. Is the sensation in your top and bottom lip the same?
6. Again, if you choose to and it feels right, place the object (or a bite-sized piece) in your mouth. If you like, hold it on your tongue for a few moments, feeling its weight, texture and taste.How does it feel if you turn it over with your tongue and move it around your mouth?
7. When you choose to, very slowly take one bite and then pause to contemplate the experience… is there any taste, texture or moisture? Do these change moment by moment? Choose to take further bites as it feels right to do so until you are ready to start to swallow. Perhaps you will notice how many swallows are needed and the sensations as the object moves down your throat.
8. And what do you feel now? Is there still a taste or tastes in your mouth? Any moisture? Are there bits that have got stuck in your teeth?
9. Pause to reflect on what you noticed. For example:
- What were the messages that your body/mind received about the fruit? What was most vivid: its taste, its appearance, how it felt, or its smell?
- Was there anything about the fruit that you had never noticed before?
- How busy was your mind as you explored this fruit? How easy was it to pretend that you didn’t know this object? Was it surprising to notice how involved the mind can get?
- Did the intensity of your senses differ from when you usually eat this fruit? Was there anything surprising about the taste or smell?
- How different was the way you ate compared to usual? In what ways?
When you are absorbed in what the body is doing, even in the most simple of tasks, you’ll realize that you mind becomes far less busy.
This is mindfulness in practice: choosing to notice some aspect of our experience, and bringing a friendly interest to whatever we notice as we place our focus of attention here. Slowing things down can help us to have time to process all the information that is available, though it isn’t essential to do things slowly. We can pay attention to our experience as we run for a bus or train in just the same way.
For ‘a book full of practical wisdom and clarifying detail’ (Mark Williams, co-author of The Mindful Way Through Depression), take a look at The Mindfulness Breakthrough and its practical easy-to-use guide to mindfulness which can help you deal with stress, anxiety and depression.