The past weeks we have learned a lot about mindfulness, what it is, and what it is not. We have heard about reasons to live mindfully, how to breathe, walk and eat mindfully. And about halfway through this series on mindfulness I feel that it is time to take a break and spoil ourselves with a little bit of fun. The goal of this exercise is to practice eating tasty food in a mindful way. And in this case the healthy food is CHOCOLATE.
Chocolate mindfulness…well there are two of my favourite words in one sentence! You may have already heard about the Raisin exercise. It is a simple exercise in mindful eating which is great for novices, but let’s face it… wouldn’t it be more fun to try this exercise with some dark chocolate from a selection box, a chocolate coin or, even better, chocolate from Zenzile Life? What if – instead of removing it from the wrapping and then just scarfing it down in seconds – we stop and use the opportunity to practice mindfulness whilst enjoying a little piece of chocolate? I think sometimes mindfulness is looked upon by some as a sober self-discipline, but it is essential to remember that central to mindfulness is compassion towards ourselves and others and while chocolate mindfulness may sound a little light-hearted and silly; it does have a deeper value. It helps us to be on the same wavelength with our senses, something which we usually forget about in our busy lives.
Therefore, chocolate mindfulness sounds a much better idea than raisin mindfulness, right? Ok…I know a raisin sounds much healthier, but…it is a piece of dark chocolate after all… And dark chocolate is packed with nutrients that can positively affect your health. Produced from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on earth. There is extensive scientific proof that cocoa offer effective health benefits, including protection against Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. This means that chocolate is one of the few foods that taste awesome while offering significant health benefits.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should go all out and eat lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat. For that reason it is best to choose quality dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content.
So…back to chocolate mindfulness.
Get a small piece of dark chocolate. That's right; for the chocolate meditation, you must, of course, have a piece of chocolate.
I want you to sit as comfortable as possible allow our body to relax and feel supported. Notice the sounds around you – both in the room and beyond – and then gradually bring your attention to your breath. I know…you want to get on and eat that chocolate! Well this is all about practising chocolate mindfulness, so patience please…it won’t be long now…
Concentrate on your breathing – Take a few moments just breathing and being aware of how it feels to be here, now. Now…take your chocolate in your hand. Now, bring your attention to the chocolate in your hand and imagine that you are seeing it for the first time. Look at it closely. Observe with curiosity as you pay attention and notice the shape and size. Is there anything else that you notice, sense or feel? Notice the wrapper. The way is shines with dark shadows in the crevices. Feel how the wrapper feels. Does it feel shiny as it looks? Take the ends of the wrapper and pull it open. Feel the stretch between your shoulders and notice how you feel. What do you hear?
Remove your chocolate from its wrapper. Hold the chocolate in our hand and notice the weight and texture of it. Is it warm or cool, soft or hard? Notice the desire to munch it, but then gently bring our attention back to the feel of the chocolate in our hand. Turn the chocolate over between your fingers, exploring its texture. Maybe do this with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch. Now, if our eyes are closed, open them, and look at the piece of chocolate, noticing its shape and colour and any responses you have. Imagine what it took for this item to get to your hands: sunshine, water, time and processing. You may choose to be aware of gratitude for everyone involved in the cultivation and preparation of this piece of chocolate.
Next, bring the chocolate up to your nose, and deeply inhale the aroma. Notice what thoughts come in your mind when you first smell the chocolaty scent. The smell of chocolate can bring up some powerful feelings and memories. Sit for a moment appreciating the aroma and with each inhalation, take in any smell or fragrance that may arise. It might be mixing with other smells we haven’t noticed before and it may have a stronger scent than we expect. As you do this, notice anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach. Yes…I know…the urge to gobble it up is getting stronger…but just notice this and enjoy the feeling of sitting comfortably whilst taking in the smell of the chocolate. Do you have any critical thoughts like, "I shouldn't eat this"? If so, let the thoughts fill an imaginary balloon and let it go lightly.
The best bit of chocolate mindfulness is now…when we can finally eat it! Let your attention soften, so that you still have an awareness of the feel and smell of the chocolate. You can now bring the chocolate to your mouth and take a small nibble. What does it first taste of? How does it feel on our tongue? Take note of any flavours and sensations, whether anticipated or unexpected.
Now, put the rest of the chocolate piece in your mouth and become aware of the textures and flavours on your tongue. Bring to mind words that describe the chocolate: Smooth, rich, sensual. See if you can hold the chocolate on your tongue as long as possible, letting it melt and without swallowing yet, notice the basic sensations of taste and texture in your mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment. Notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that come from it as you continue chewing. Chocolate has over 300 different flavours – see how many you can sense. Be aware of any feelings, sensations, or memories that arise. Label any feelings as they occur. If negative thoughts, emotions, or sensations arise, let them be.
Follow the sensations as the chocolate slips down your throat into your stomach… Become aware that the chocolate is now becoming part of your body.
So…the chocolate has gone – you must wait until tomorrow for the next piece! The chocolate may be gone, but you should still bring our attention to your senses. Notice whether there is still a residual taste in your mouth and whether the smells you notice have changed.
Bring attention back to your breath and to your feelings.
Rest for a moment longer, just breathing and being aware of how you are feeling. How much did you enjoy eating your chocolate mindfully? Do you feel any different in any way than how you felt at the start of the exercise? Is it different than usual – did the chocolate taste better than gulping it down in your normal way? Do you feel fuller than normal, or more satisfied? Would this change your future experience of eating chocolate?
Finally, take a deep breath. Inhale for five counts and exhale for six. Bring your attention back to the rest of the room, the sounds you hear, the weight of your body on the chair (no…just one chocolate shouldn’t have made a difference!) and our feet resting on the ground. When ready, slowly open your eyes and return to your day.
As you get on with this process of noticing, connecting to your body and YOU, that healthy relationship with yourself will emerge – one bite at a time. So, celebrate your food, eat with love for yourself and all beings. We at Zenzile Life wish you to eat joyfully, gratefully, even heartily. Trust yourself. You already know how. In fact, if you truly listen to your physical and emotional needs you can unleash the best version of you!
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.