Before I describe the specifics of Meditative Eating, here are a few thoughts on meditation.
Firstly, meditation is not just an esoteric practice confined to the Buddhist monasteries. Focusing on the present moment or a specific object fully qualifies as meditation. For this occasion, the present moment is eating and the object is food.
Secondly, assuming an awkward cross-legged position on a mat is uncalled-for. Following rituals is important but not a deal breaker. Just sitting comfortably on a chair will suffice.
Here’s how you can kill the proverbial two birds, Dyspepsia and Stress, with one stone, Meditative Eating.
Step 1 - One
Block every possible distraction to the best of your ability. Turn off every electronic device that can sidetrack you.
If you are at the top of the food chain, close the door in your office. Otherwise, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your cubicle.
Put on a pair of headphones with relaxing music to drown out the ambient noises and to prevent the potential calls of duty from entering your ears.
Use any other trick to keep your privacy, I bet you have one or two up your sleeve.
And remember, you are not playing truant, you are protecting your right to have an undisturbed meal.
Step 2 - Two
Focus on the food you eat. Show some unabashed curiosity: eyeball, touch, squeeze, palpate, sniff, and lick the food item. Do whatever you need to know the food better. That includes reading the label to learn and understand the nutritional value of food.
The more you know your chow, the more satiating this chow becomes.
Step 3 - Three
Estimate how many small, cherry-size bites are in your food item. Challenging, isn’t it? It is especially difficult for those who are used to taking big bites.
Have you noticed that this little charade has already made you forget about the looming deadlines at work and the leaky dishwasher... or whatever problem you have at home?
Step 4 - Four
It is very simple to take small bites when you eat with a knife and fork. Just cut them small, the size of a medium cherry.
It is way more tricky to take a small bite from a big food item like a burger or an apple because taking a small bite is a skill.
Here’s how you develop this skill: restrain from opening your mouth wide. The opening should only allow a medium size cherry to pass between your teeth.
Remember, homo sapiens has evolved from being your average predator a long time ago. We don’t need the sharp canine teeth to bite into the prey’s jugular. We use other means to get food rendering our canines obsolete.
Bite only with your front teeth, the incisors. This tactic will ensure that you take small easily chewable bites.
Step 5 - Five
Start chewing thoroughly. Chew... Chew... Chew... Chew... Chew... Chew... Chew...
Uh-uh, don’t swallow it yet! I said, ‘Chew thoroughly’. You need to form a nice bolus (a wet lump of food) the consistency of apple pure.
This process is extremely important for proper digestion not just in the mouth but in the stomach and intestines as well.
Step 6 - Six
Pause for a while before taking the next bite.
That’s when your mind can wander into the realm of gustatory nirvana through recalling your experience, analyzing it, and enjoying it again on a cerebral level.
Are you done with gustatory nirvana? Good job!
Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6. And never forget to enjoy the taste, flavor, and texture throughout your meal.
Always remember that you eat not just for yourself, you also eat for the trillions of bacteria in your gut, the microbiome. These bacteria work with you and for you. The macrobiome keeps pathogenic bacteria in check, synthesizes essential nutrients and vitamins, and digests food.
The gut microbiota will appreciate if you do your part and properly digest food in the mouth. It will increase the bioavailability of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals not just for the host organism, you, but for the trillions of symbiotic bacteria as well.
There are very strong indications that the microbiome’s wellbeing has a profound impact on the host organism’s mood and cognitive function. Yes, healthy satisfied microbiome can make you smarter!
To sum up, if you’re good to microbiome, microbiome’s good to you.