Here is a mindfulness practice from the simpler and perhaps more pleasurable end of the range of practices. In other words, have a go – this will be fun and good for you!
The next time you have a few moments to yourself when you feel that now is a good moment to indulge yourself (just a bit), take some time to make yourself a really nice cup of coffee and cut yourself a slice of cake of the type and size of your choosing.
Then find a place to sit and simply drink and eat with as much awareness of your own experience moment by moment as is possible. Start by allowing the warmth of the coffee mug to come through to your hands; then allow yourself to become aware of the rich aroma of the coffee itself for a few moments before taking your first very small sip; allow the full flavour of the coffee to flood around your mouth noting both the bitterness and the aroma; when you have swallowed this first sip take a moment to savour the after taste before your next sip.
Now this whole practice may have totally absorbed you or you may find that your mind has already got bored and is wandering off to all sorts of much more interesting things, way away from this simple experience. You may even find yourself (if you are a coffee connoisseur) starting to critique the methods of whoever made it. In either case, as soon as you notice that the mind has wandered, simply come back to experiencing the coffee.
Then, do the same with the cake. But this time start by simply gazing at the colours, patterns and shapes of the cake you have chosen. What do you notice about it? Or what do you notice in yourself as you begin to anticipate eating: mouth beginning to water? Worried that you made the wrong choice? Thoughts about the cake making process? Whatever – this is all part of the experience of cake eating. When you take a bite, make it a small one and allow yourself as long as you choose, to experience the various flavours and textures as you chew and move the cake around you mouth. At a moment of your choice, swallow but then, again, take time after the swallowing to savour the after affects and the after tastes before facing the momentous decision of whether to go for another sip of coffee or another bite of cake.
Carry on this way as long as you choose or until you have finished, noticing also all the thoughts, emotions, memories and associations which come up for you along the way. Finally simply sit quietly for as long as you feel able.
You notice that I suggested carrying on for as long as you choose or until you finish. So, you don’t have to finish. One of the interesting things I noticed when I first ate cake in this way was that, about half way through the slice of cake I had cut for myself I felt I had had enough. Usually when I eat cake I have eaten the whole thing before I realise I have taken too much and that I now feel a bit sick. So – here could be a wonderful way of halving your cake input as well as transforming your whole experience of cake eating!
But more than that, this is also an illustration of how our experience of every moment of life could be transformed by paying this kind of attention to it – from the mundane tasks to the stressful experiences. We add so many of our own layers of stress to each experience as the mind worries about this or anticipates that. Here is a way of simply coming back to the experience itself and just to this experience. ‘Tomorrow has enough worries of its own’. Let them not take me away from truly savouring the here and the now.
Tim Stead, mindfulness teacher