Then, of course, I was withdrawing from Paxil (it took 7 or 8 months!), struggling with the withdrawal side effects, and struggling with all of my other usual anxieties.
So, when I saw a flyer for an on-campus stress management course, I signed right up.
We met weekly and did tons of little activities with the university’s Counseling Services staff. We examined our cognitive distortions. We laid on the floor and practiced progressive muscle relaxation to soft music. We had roundtable discussions about what causes most of our stress.
And we ate raisins.
Well, let me take that back: we ate one raisin.
It was near the end of the course, and the day’s meeting topic was mindfulness. I knew that mindfulness had something to do with paying attention to the present — but I’d always struggled with that. Usually, mindfulness meditations ask you to focus on your breathing or on your heartbeat — two sensations that really creeped me the hell out and could potentially trigger panic.
But this was different. Instead of paying attention to my breath or my heart, we paid attention to a raisin.
Our instructor passed around a tiny box of raisins and told us all to take one. One of the other girls in the room immediately popped the raisin into her mouth, mindlessly, and swallowed it before she’d even realized what she’d done.
It perfectly illustrated how many of us approach food: see it and eat it. Then, later: realize what we’ve eaten.
Mildly embarrassed and laughing, she took another raisin and held it in her hand like the rest of us.
THE SLOWEST RAISIN YOU’LL EVER EAT
Our instructor slowly took us through steps that closely resembled the following:
1. Look at the raisin. Notice its curves and its wrinkles. Pay attention to its color. See any differences in texture? Are there any bits of sugar tucked into the folds?
2. Feel the raisin. Is it soft? Smooth? How does it feel between your fingers? Is it warm? Cool?
3. Smell the raisin. What does it remind you of? How would you describe its scent? If you can’t smell it, puncture it a little bit with your fingernail and see if that brings out the scent. Notice the scent.
4. Put the raisin in your mouth (but don’t chew yet!). Feel it with your tongue. Feel the texture of the raisin. Can you taste anything yet? Let it sit in your mouth for a few more moments. Does it feel soft? Does it taste sweet?
5. Now, finally, chew the raisin — but slowly. Be present for the entire process. Feel the flavor unfold with each bite. Don’t swallow right away — let the taste linger in your mouth. Notice how the texture of the raisin changes as you chew.
Then, finally, we swallowed.
It had never taken me that long to finish eating a single raisin (and unless I repeat this activity, I doubt it ever will). But it still taught me a good lesson: food is an experience. It’s a process. Sure, the goal is to fill my belly and give me energy to get through the day. But it’s not just fuel. There’s more to food than that. It’s part of a ritual that I could (and should) take notice of on a daily basis.
The ritual of eating can bring us out of our worries about the past and the future — and into the present moment.
So, go grab a raisin. Try this activity as part of PsychCentral’s Slow Eating Challenge, and let me know what you think!
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Meditation Practices for Mindful Eating (May 5, 2012)
Last reviewed: 4 May 2012