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“Are you really appreciating the apple?”

An apple meditation adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh and Lillian Cheung’s Savor.

Last week, I co-taught a Mindful Eating Workshop with Boston-based yoga teacher Leah Carnow. Mindful eating is a topic close to heart because it promotes holistic knowledge of food from seed to sale, connecting the many scattered dots of the food system. Mindful eating is a small and salient slice of mindful living, which in principle includes:

  • Living in the present moment, anchoring yourself into the here and now through meditation on breath, a gaze point, or an item on your plate.

  • Being fully aware of the sensations that are uniquely experienced through your own body – the feels, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes.

  • Living thoughtfully; Questioning the factors that enable your apple to arrive to your plate or your body to your yoga mat. What are the social, environmental, and individual consequences of your actions?

  • Finding perhaps just a grain of gratitude in living these human experiences of physical awareness and mental challenge.

When we carry our practice of mindfulness off our plates or our yoga mats, and into the real world, we begin to notice the impacts of our collective actions. For example, we may start to take note of the ants on the sidewalk instead of mindlessly trampling them when speed-walking through the city streets. More broadly, when we develop awareness of the consequences of political legislation and business action on the lives of immigrant labor, we may consequently initiate collaborative solutions to ameliorate the lives of our neighbors and friends. In essence, when we live mindfully, we collectively cultivate a more compassionate planet.

Below is Savor’s meditation on an apple that was featured at my Mindful Eating Workshop. Serve yourself a fresh apple and read on to bite into mindfulness.

“Let’s have a taste of mindfulness. Take your apple, and before taking a bite, pause for a moment. Look at the apple in your palm, and ask yourself: When I eat an apple, am I really enjoying it? Or am I so preoccupied with other thoughts that I miss the delights that the apple offers me?

If you are like most of us, you answer yes to the second question much more often than the first. For most of your lives, we have eaten apple after apple without giving it a second thought. Yet in this mindless way of eating, we have denied ourselves the many delights present in the simple act of eating an apple. Why do that, especially when it is so easy to truly enjoy the apple?

The first thing is to give your undivided attention to eating the apple. When you eat the apple, just concentrate on eating the apple. Don’t think of anything else. Most importantly, be still. Just be still. Being focused and slowing down will allow you to truly savor all the qualities the apple offers: its sweetness, aroma, freshness, juiciness, and crispness.

Next, pick up the apple from the palm of your hand and take a moment to look at it again. Breathe in, and breathe out. Become in touch with how you feel about the apple. Most of the time, we barely look at the apple we are eating. We grab it, take a bite, chew it quickly, and then swallow. This time, take note: what kind of apple is it? What color is it? How does it feel in your hand? What does it smell like? Going through these thoughts, you will begin to realize that the apple is not simply a quick snack to quiet a grumbling stomach. It is something more complex, something part of a greater whole.

Then give the apple a smile and slowly take a bite. Chew it. Be aware of your in-breath and your out-breath. Concentrate solely on the apple: what it feels like in your mouth; what it tastes like; what it’s like to chew and swallow it. There is nothing else filling your mind as you chew – no projects, no deadlines, no worries, no 'to do' list, no fears, no sorrow, no anger, no past, and no future. There is just the apple.

When you chew, know what you are chewing. Chew slowly and completely. Chew consciously, savoring the taste of the apple and its nourishment, immersing yourself in the experience. This way, you really appreciate the apple as it is. And as you become fully aware of eating the apple, you also become fully aware of this present moment. You become fully engaged in the here and the now. Living in the moment, you can truly receive what the apple offers you, and become more alive.”

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