Mindful Eating
Jan Chozen Bays

Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself—in your body, heart and mind—and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without judgment or criticism. p. 2

Using mindfulness we will find that anything, anything, we bring our full attention to will begin to open up and reveal worlds we never suspected existed. p. 2

The first bite is delicious. Creamy, sweet-sour, melting. When I take the second bite, I begin about what to write next. The flavor in my mouth decreases. I take another bite and get up to sharpen a pencil. As I walk, I notice that I am chewing, but there is almost no lemon flavor in the third bite. I sit down, get to work, and wait a few minutes.

Then I take a fourth bite, fully focused on the smells, tastes and touch sensations in my mouth. Delicious, again! I discover, all over again (I’m a slow learner) that the only way to keep that “first bite” experience, to honor the gift my friend gave me, is to eat slowly, with long pauses between bites. If I do anything else while I’m eating, if I talk, walk, write, or even think, the flavor diminishes or disappears.. The life is drained from my beautiful tart. I could be eating the cardboard box. p. 7

[Eating mindfully] depends upon what our mind is doing as we eat. Are we just eating or are we thinking and eating? Is our mind in our mouth, or somewhere else? This is the crucial difference. p. 8

To be mindful means to have the mind full, completely full, of what is happening now. When you’re chopping vegetables with a large sharp knife, the faster you slice, the more attentive you have to be, if you want to keep your fingers. p. 8

Here are some elements of a healthy relationship with food.

1. You feel happy and fully engaged in life when you are not eating. (Food is not your only reliable source of pleasure and satisfaction.) [Yes]

2. If you are not feeling hungry, you don’t eat. [No]

3. You stop eating when you feel full and are able to leave food on the plate. [No]

4. You have intervals of at least several hours when you are not hungry or thinking about food, punctuated by (meal) times when you do feel hungry and take enjoyment in eating. [No]

5. You enjoy eating many different kinds of foods. [Yes]

6. You maintain a healthy weight that is steady and fluctuates within a range of five to seven pounds. You don’t need to weigh yourself more than once every few months or years. [No]

7. You don’t obsess about food or count calories in order to decide if you can “afford” to eat something or not. p. 9

Food begins to serve many purposes. It is used to soothe, to distract, to procrastinate, to numb, to entertain, to seduce, to reward and even to punish. The once straightforward relationship between hunger, eating and satisfaction of our childhood becomes tangled up in all sorts of thoughts and emotions. p. 16

We can get off to a good start by lowering our standards and initiating our mindful eating by having one conscious sip of tea in the morning. Take a moment to become aware of the color of the tea, its fragrance. Feel the liquid in your mouth and throat. Open your awareness to the presence of warm sunlight, cool rain and dark earth in this one sip of tea. Everything will unfold from this simple act. Just begin aware for a few moments seems like a small event. Don’t underestimate the power of mindfulness. It is through these small moments of mindfulness that we reverse old habits and initiate an inner movement toward health. p. 18

[Air conditioning is part of the challenge because] typically we become hungrier in the winter and put on a few pounds of insulating fat. In hot weather we lose our appetites, eat lightly and keep cooler by shedding a few pounds. p. 19

We need to insert a tiny moment of reflection before we bite into a hot slice of pizza or the gooey chocolate brownie. This sounds easy, but it can be an interesting challenge. p. 19

The suffering that the Buddha talked about [in the First Noble Truth: to live as a human being is to experience suffering], however, is an experience that is often much more subtle than outright pain. it is a feeling of dissatisfaction, a persistent feeling that things are not as they should be. It is an unpleasant or irritating feeling, one that impels us to move, to do something, to distract ourselves, to eat something, to drink something, to binge, to vomit, to make the feeling of dis-ease go away.

Moving away and creating distractions are not long-term solutions to this feeling that something is not right. It is a feeling based in truth. It must be attended to. Eating, drinking, using drugs or alcohol, courting danger, courting a new lover—these are all over-the-counter remedies for temporary relief of this fundamental dis-ease, the intuition that things are not as they could or even should be. The true source of this dissatisfaction is spiritual, and thus the only true cure for it is also spiritual.

Now you need to look at the question, Am I willing to be empty? from the spiritual point of view. First of all, you are empty, whether you like it or not, Every atom in your body is composed of emptiness (more than 99 percent) inhabited by tiny bits of whizzing energy (less than 1 percent). In addition to your very real physical emptiness, you are empty in another way. You are empty of independent existence. You could not exist without all other beings also existing. Sometimes we become overwhelmed by the multitudes of others and might wish that everything else in the world would disappear, but if that happened, we too would disappear. Fundamentally we are made up of our interactions with all other beings. We are each like a soap bubble in the middle of a huge mass of soap bubbles. We are made up of nothing but emptiness and our intersections and interactions with all other beings. And so are they.

To be willing to be empty is to align with a fundamental truth of our being. pp. 146-7

4 Responses to “MINDFUL EATING…”

  1. […] late I have been re-reading and finding deeper understanding in another Zen book: Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays. I’ve only recently come to a realization, or in the Zen parlance, […]

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  3. […] morning I passed through such a gate while reading near the end of Jan Chozen Bay’s Mindful Eating. I’ve read several books on the subject in recent years including Susan Albers’s Eating […]

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