Posts Tagged ‘awareness’

“Wherever You Are…”

Dr. Richard Alpert, otherwise known as Ram Dass, offers a positive reminder to be mindful of current surroundings and situations.

Excited to be home with the family for Thanksgiving? Can’t wait for Friday to roll around again? Wish it was summer on the beach once again? None of that matters right now. There is no need to live in anticipation for the future, yearn for an experience built upon imaginary expectations, or long for the past.

All that is important is being mindfully immersed in the great things the present moment has to offer. Be aware of and appreciate all things that contribute to make up the here and now.


Holiday Meditation: Mindful Eating

The hangover from binge eating Halloween candy may still be lingering. The blessed holiday that is Thanksgiving is already a mere two and a half weeks away. After that, the holiday eats don’t usually cease until the New Year resolutions are enacted.

The holiday season has the potential to manipulate your diet with opportunities to overeat. Increased food intake that is not necessarily healthy (cc: apple pie, Christmas cookies, festive M&M candy bowls, champagne…) can take a toll on the gut, the rest of the body, and the mind. To avoid such uncomfortable consequences, one may consider adopting a habit of mindful eating.

Mindful eating is taking the time to focus on the meal or snack in front of you, using all senses to pay close attention to each bite, and noting how the process of eating makes you feel. It also extends to noticing how you feel before and after a meal.

According to Jennifer Wolkin, Ph. D., ‘the brain and gut are intimately connected.’ The gut can affect emotional function just as emotions can affect gut function. Poor gut health has shown to lead to depressive symptoms. In some cases, eating large amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates are linked to a lower quality of metal health. Medical studies have also proved that mindful meditation has the ability to reduce symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Additionally, weight loss has shown to be a beneficial effect of mindful eating.

The core of establishing a mindful, healthy eating habit is eating slowly. Psychotherapist Char Wilkins suggests breathing in and out once before taking a new bite of food. Making time between bites creates the chance to observe and appreciate the food being consumed. Then, engage your senses by asking questions like the following: What are the colors of the food on my plate? What are the scents the food gives off, and do they evoke any memories? What sensations do I feel while focusing on the consistency of the food in my mouth? Am I starting to feel full as I concentrate on feeling the food travel from my mouth to my stomach? Being aware of the characteristics of food and steps taken to consume food create a mindful connection to the nourishment and satisfaction received from eating.

Clinical psychologists Elisha and Stefanie Goldstein challenge the mindful eater to take extra steps in becoming aware of food and eating. While biting into a forkful of stuffing or a taking a bite of turkey this Thanksgiving, think about each ingredient that was used to make the finished product. Where did such ingredients come from on the earth? Then, think of the effort the chef put into making the meal or dessert. Appreciate the time and caring that was put into making a dish for you and anyone else present at the meal. If you were the chef, remember your thoughtful preparation of the meal, and the positive intentions you had while creating the dish for a group of loved ones (including yourself).

“both physical and mental health go hand-in-hand.” — Dr. Jennifer Wolkin

Eating slow and savoring food through awareness is the simple part of mindful eating. But what do you do when you feel satisfied after a meal, and there are still so many goodies to be sampled at dessert? The Goldsteins’ answer is to surf the urge. When the craving for something sweet hits after finish a meal, wait about 20 minutes. During that time, notice how your mind and body feel. There is no need to judge the feeling, just recognize whatever it may be. Then, after the time has passed, make a mindful decision on what you would like to do next. There are no right or wrong answers when you make that plan to approach the homemade pumpkin pie.

Eating mindfully is a habit to ease into. There is still some time before holiday get-togethers, so consider practicing mindful eating during you next meal. Allot enough time so the meal is just you and your food, no distractions that will drag you attention away from the food you kindly prepared. Use all of your senses, be aware of the meal’s characteristics, and how you feel before you begin eating, while you’re eating, and after you eat. Continue to build this habit in the days leading up to the holiday season.

Happy mindful meditating!

Using Mindfulness to Make Memories

If you’ve been meditating with your eyes closed this whole weekend, the Pope spent this past Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia.

I was in the area as His Holiness Pope Francis made his final drive down the normally busy City Avenue. I pulled out my iPhone in preparation to document my last look at the Pope. To my dismay, the battery had died, and I was without a camera to capture the nearing moment. A pang of disappointment rang through my chest; I had grabbed an ideal spot close to the street, and now I would never be able to share this moment in the future with friends and family who were not present.

I had no other option than to slip the glass and plastic object into my back pocket and direct my focus on what was unfolding in front of me. I readied my awareness for the black SUVs decorated with flags on their mirrors and the Pope’s Fiat wedged in the middle of the Secret Service fleet. To have this sight vividly embedded in my brain forever, I directed all of my senses toward becoming fully conscious of the sounds of engines running and people cheering excitedly, seeing black vehicles drive by at about twenty miles per hour, feeling the cool autumn breeze poke through my flannel, and feeling the anticipation of witnessing a historic event race through my bloodstream.

As voices to my left grew louder, I knew the Pope was about to pass. I spotted his right arm, covered by the sleeve of his white robe, waving out of the passenger-side window. I impulsively raised my arm, unattached to a smart phone, to return his greeting. Then, almost as quickly as he came, he was gone again, on his way to lead mass in Center City.

After seeing Pope Francis in the flesh, I was astounded. Having the opportunity to experience one of the world’s most powerful people is a memory capable of withstanding not just a technological lifetime, but a human lifetime. Becoming fully aware of the event was far from difficult, and I fell easily into a state of mindfulness. I am endlessly grateful for the chance I had to see Pope Francis — I will never forget the memory, and I am completely confident that I can use my mind just as well as any picture or video to describe my perspective of the incredible event.