Intention and Attention
Lesson 7 Chapter 4
Welcome to Class 3 of Mindful Eating: Intention and Attention.
In this section, we'll tune in to the idea that what you practice gets stronger. The truth is many of us feel like we don't have time for one more practice and if we're adding mindful eating to the mix of things, we may begin to feel the edge of perfectionism or hear ourselves thinking or saying things like, "I'm not enough. I'm not doing it right." Or worse, turning to self-loathing or self-judgment.
We'll use our practice to fine tune our vision, our intention, to understand that mindful eating is not just one more thing to do, but mindful eating and mindfulness has a tremendous value that this practice is actually essential to our self-care. And by taking care of our self this way, we are then able to do the work we're called to do. We're able to be more present and mindful in our jobs, families, and lives.
Before we begin, allow yourself some time to get properly settled, comfortable, and to remove any distractions. Treat this class as a gift to yourself this time as an investment in your self-care and well-being. It may be helpful for you to have a journal and a writing instrument nearby.
Let's settle in with some breath work first. Now you've been tasked to practice tuning into your breath and your body sensations especially when you're feeling the edge of frustration or annoyance, using that as a cue to pause and to tune into your breath. You've also been tasked with doing mindful breathing.
Take a moment and reflect. How have those practices been going for you? Do they feel like one more thing to do or that you should be doing? Do you push it off because you find like you don't have time or that it doesn't really make a difference? Well, what if you explored your attitudinal quality towards these practices? What if they became precious gifts, jewels, or treasures that could power you and fuel you through the rest of your day? Let's take five minutes together and practice some mindful breathing.
All right let's do this. Five minutes of breath awareness. Not because we have to but because we get to. Feel your feet on the floor. Your hips and legs supported by your seat. And sit tall with dignity and respect. And turn your awareness now to the sensations of each inhale and exhale. It's totally normal to feel a little hesitation or to even question if you're doing these kinds of practices correctly.
And every time you find your attention drifting or you hear that internal questioning voice, just kindly, gently, respectfully bring your attention back again to your inhales and your exhales. Finding again this natural rhythm of receiving in breath, energy, and life. And of exhaling giving and outpouring, a releasing, a letting go.
Lifting your chest ever so slightly to make a little bit more space for each inhale, allow your head to tip forward slightly, chin drawing in gently towards your throat. And follow the path from the moment of intake of your next inhale. Noticing where your breath travels. The sustenance of the breath, the quality of your breath, your response to the breath.
And do the same for your exhale. Watching with your mind's eye your exhale exit your body, notice the path it travels, the length, the energy behind your exhale. And if it works for you, feeling the gentle spaces, the little pockets of rest between each breath is sweet, quiet spaces, nectars of nourishment.
And so connected to your breath. Connect also to the sentiment of your attitude. Without any negativity or self-loathing or questioning, just notice the quality of your attitude. And see if you can pull back the curtains to reveal a more softer sense of appreciation or the simplicity of just being present with your mind and your body.
Giving full attention to your attitude of what you're practicing. Practicing making space. Practicing healing. Practicing self-care so these attributes can grow stronger and more vibrant. And now just take a deep breath in and as you exhale, slowly begin to move your body. Again, gently reawakening, coming back into your surroundings, back into this present moment.
And reflect as you transition now into taking on more content and discussions. Reflect how, perhaps this time, your practice shifted, taking note of your attitudinal awareness and consider your intention. Why is it that you are so passionate now about mindful eating? What value does it serve? Certainly it will help you be healthier and perhaps freer from the yoyo or negative effects of dieting. Perhaps it will help you be freed from the chaos of emotional or environmental triggers and cravings. But there's another layer of value for when you free yourself. You're also freeing those around; people you love, the people you are with.
Practicing mindfulness as an ongoing practice. And more than just bringing kindness or sweetness to your mindful eating, you're also bringing intentionality. Let's take a look at the things you wrote in your journal. The reasons why you were eating, when you ate, what you ate, how much you ate, and where you used your energy.
Consider how much attention you gave these questions to your mindful eating practice and what was your overall attitude about these types of questions and experiences? How many times or how likely are you now to practice being mindful throughout your day? Do you notice when you have a first edge of irritation or some kind of emotional discomfort or craving that you are pausing and taking a few conscious breaths and identifying what it is your body and mind actually need? And, how is it going with giving your hunger a number on the hunger scale?
Are you practicing being aware of how full you are when you're eating? Things like using the numbers scale, stopping when you feel satisfied or fall as opposed to stopping when you feel stuffed or bloated. And eating at the first signs of hunger instead of waiting until your ravenous or starving.
If you wonder if you're doing these things right or if you have time to do them. Remember, those are also part of the human condition. Set the intention that the value of these practices is that not only are you serving yourself, but you'll be better able to serve those you love. Mindful eating could be used as a double-edged sword. You could use this as a way to inject even more self-judgement or self-loathing or self-doubt. When in reality we want this to be a practice of loving kindness, a practice that is filled with almost like playfulness and curiosity.
So, as we move forward, keep in mind your attitudinal quality towards the practices we're doing. I'd like to think of having an attitude of gratitude. And remembering that these practices are essential to our self-care and how we can do the work we're meant to do in our lives. We're all feeling like we should be more or do more, but at the end of the day what we practice becomes stronger. So, if when you're practicing your conscious breath awareness, if you're practicing feeling irritated or self-doubt then that's what's going to grow stronger.
Take a moment now and write down or contemplate what your vision is around your mindful eating practice. Let's take another look at a practice we can use to help us clarify questions around hunger and food.
Asking ourselves these three questions:
Question 1: What do I want?
Question 2: What do I need?
And Question 3: What do I have?
This is a great foundational place to start when considering how, when, what, and where to eat.
Let's look at the first one. What do I want? This is very much housed up in our mind. We have to decide on a specific taste and texture even temperature. Do we want heavy food or light food or is there a specific nutrient I've been craving? Pause for a moment and reflect upon times when you've worked with your mind deciding on specific tastes, textures, temperatures, specific nutrients that you were craving.
Question 2: What do I need? What do you need to know to help decide what you need to eat? This is about creating balance and moderation about meeting your personal health needs and knowing your nutritional information. Think about it. Do you have any dietary restrictions that you're aware of or any specific needs nutritionally speaking that you're trying to attain? Or, what about balance and moderation? Which way do you tend to go when you're filling your plate?
Question 3: What do I have? Now, this is very much a practice of gratitude as well as surveying your options. Part A: Planning and preparation will really help here. Things like keeping healthy and convenient and appealing foods on hand, bringing foods with you to work or trips and keeping basic cooking ingredients on hand. This is also about surveying the choices available. For example, when you go to a restaurant or a gathering and making your best choice out of your options available. This is also about listening to your hunger and fullness cues. Remember, all of your favorite foods will always be available again.
When faced with these questions, can you see how your attitude would play a pivotal point in the relationship to being a more mindful eater? If you're concerned about your favorite food is scarce and you'll never be able to have it again, how that would influence your choices and attitude about fueling and feeding your body and about listening and responding in a compassionate way to your hunger and fullness signals versus if your attitude about your favorite foods, for example, is that they're always...they are plentiful, they'll always be available, you can always resource them, may make it a lot more easier to listen to your hunger and fullness signals and also to respond to the messages your body is giving you in a more mindful and healthy way.
Or, let's look at another example. Think about a time when you've been at a restaurant or a gathering. Is your mind set to default into, "This is a treat. It doesn't matter what I eat. I can eat anything, this doesn't count. There's no point in trying to stay on track because you're at this restaurant or you're at this family gathering" for example. What if instead your attitude was, "I have the ability and time and awareness to survey my options and to make selections that will fuel my body in a way that will give me the energy I need to do the things I want to do and things that will help the people I love as well"?
And one last example with planning and preparation. Does this feel like a chore or something that you feel like you just never have enough time to do properly? How could you shift your attitude to be able to practice giving yourself the time and space to make this food preparation happen, to make having healthy and convenient food choices available, fresh food that's appealing and being prepared to have that food ready to go with you to work, for example, or on a trip? And even just having the essential cooking ingredients always on hand. Do you see how that could be a pivotal shift in giving you the tools to make this not something you should be doing or that you'll never be able to do well enough but empowering you to realize that what you do practice is what you do become.
Let's take ourselves on a little journey on an imagined food adventure. Let's pretend that we're at a dinner together. We're sitting around the table and we've all brought something to share. There's enough food for all of us. I want you first to begin to notice your body right now right her. Feel your breath and allow yourself to arrive at our imagined shared meal. Practice checking in now, right now, with your hunger and fullness number and make a quiet mental note of it. And now, check in with yourself and identify what are you hungry for? And, what do you need? Asking yourself, "What do I want. And, what do I need?".
The question of, "What do I have in front of us?" is important when we're faced with multiple food choices, real or imagined. When we see what do we have in front of us imagine, visualize this full meal in front of you right now. when you take a moment and identify, "What do I have?" this question will help us sift through the multiple food choices. It allows us to pause and it allows us to intentionally choose what we will enjoy now and what we will enjoy how we feel having eaten it when we're finished eating.
"Now, what do I have?" This question is important when you are faced with multiple food choices. In this case imagined or the next time you're sharing a meal. By asking, "What do I have?" it will allow you to pause and then intentionally choose what you will enjoy in the moment and also enjoy how you feel after you've finished eating.
It's important to be aware of distractions. As humans going about our days, we have this shared responsibility to be in charge of our inner experiences, to practice using our breath, to practice pausing and practice coming into the moment, and most importantly, inviting a sense of ease. The next time you are enjoying a meal, allow yourself to take time. Let go of the habit or need, the inner experience to rush your experience of eating.
Practice gratitude for all of the elements that were involved with bringing food to your table. If we're imagining sharing a meal together right now, we give thanks to the farmers, to the grocers, to the food preparers, the cooks. We give thanks to the earth for where the food came from and give thanks to each other for having this time to connect. We give thanks to the food for being a source of nourishment for our bodies.
Now imagine or visualize yourself creating a speed bump on your plate. What I mean by this is like maybe just a portion of your food on the plate or a piece of food that you identify as your speed bump. And this piece or place on your plate serves as a reminder to slow down and check in with your fullness before you continue to move past that point. Remember, it takes our body at least 20 minutes to identify fullness signals. So, we need to slow down our chewing. We need to slow down the active eating to give ourselves and our body that time to deliver those messages and sensations.
Let me ask you this. If we're pretending that we're sharing a meal together and we decide to read the newspaper or to look at social media on our phones, do you think it's possible to eat mindfully? If we are shifting attention away from the food into something more external? No, of course it's not. Pay attention to your habits. In our imagined situation we can pretend that we're enjoying good conversation, that we're taking time, that we are allowing ourselves to digest and that we are connecting on a human and emotional level.
The next time you are going to share a meal either with yourself or with others be very aware of where your attention is. Are you practicing giving thanks to the food? Are you practicing paying attention to what you have in front of you? And are you identifying what you need to eat to nourish your body? And are you closely attuned to how you will feel when you finished eating? Are you staying present throughout the process, the whole experience of your meal?
Let's take a moment and watch Shauna Shapiro in her video where she explains what she sees as the three core components to mindfulness.
These are: intention, attention, and attitude.
In her video Shauna Shapiro explained to us the three core components to mindfulness: intention, attention, and attitude.
Take a few moments now and contemplate your intention, attention, and attitude towards your mindful eating practice. For if what we practice gets stronger it's important to have clarity around your intention. What value? What is the reason for you to eat mindfully? Is it your health? Your well-being? Is it so that you can be more connected and present and available, stronger for those that you love? And what about attention?
How do you practice your attention around mindful eating? Is it something that you just casually do when you feel like it or when it makes sense? Is it something that ebbs and flows or are you consistently aware of your choices and your response to your choices? Are you consistently aware of your body's hunger and fullness signals? And are you practicing responding to your body's needs, whether they be physical emotional or social, in a loving and compassionate way?
And what about your attitude? What attributes about your attitude are you bringing to your mindful eating practice? Take some time, write down in your journal or think about your attitude your attention, and your intention. Before we meet again, I want you to practice asking these questions before you eat. "Am I physically hungry? How hungry am I?" Go ahead and practice giving your hunger a number and practice giving your fullness a number as well. Before you eat, practice asking, "What do I need? What do I want? And what do I have?"
The second invitation I have for you is to eat with intention and attention. I want you to practice gratitude for everything that went into bringing the food to your table. I want you to ask, "How full do I want to be when I'm done?" Practice using the speed bump technique and check in with your level of fullness midway through your meal.
To eat with intention and attention. Practice being aware of any distractions while you eat. Allow yourself to shift between socializing and eating. The invitation again is to practice five minutes or even more of intentional breathing. And yes, you have time. And yes, you're doing it right.
Please practice and identify, explore different ways to fill your true needs. Sometimes we just need a hug or some time off or time alone instead of needing to reach for food. So, please explore different ways to fill your true needs. And last but not least, please take some time to consider what can support your daily practice of mindfulness.