Practicing mindfulness in your everyday life makes it possible to practice mindfulness at mealtimes. You can’t separate mindful eating from mindful living. For many people who have a difficult relationship with food, it might feel more manageable to first begin a simple mindfulness practice outside of mealtimes by choosing an everyday routine activity—such as brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or walking from the car in the parking lot to your office—to practice being present, aware, non-judging and truly alive.
In honor of his visit to Vancouver, B.C. last weekend, here are a few ideas from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk whom Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, to help you get started:
- Oftentimes, simple is best. As you breathe in, think, “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.” As you breathe out, think, “Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” Eventually, you may simply think, “In…. out…” with each breath. Thich Nhat Hanh says even the most experienced Buddhist monks return to this simple practice. Consciously breathing naturally slows down your thoughts and helps you attain “oneness of body and mind.” Try this one anywhere, anytime.
- While you are walking, breathe in at a comfortable pace for you and think to yourself, “I have arrived”. Breathing out think, “I am home.” Continue being conscious of your breath, while thinking and feeling the words, “I have arrived. I am home”. This is my favorite walking meditation and a great reminder that there’s no need to rush to be anywhere else. You have already arrived and at home in the present moment, the only moment there is to be truly alive.
- When you are driving and come to a red light, instead of seeing the red light as a barrier to going where you want to be, practice seeing the red light as a “bell of mindfulness”, a reminder to stop, smile, breathe, and return to the present moment.
Choose one of these tips or create your own and really try to commit to it for at least a week. Don’t worry if you forget the practice; simply notice, breathe, and try again. This moment is a new moment. Then, when you’re ready to start working on being present, aware, non-judging and truly alive at mealtimes, you’ll already have some practice under your belt.