We are very privileged to be part of the first edition of a wonderful new magazine, The Foodie Bugle. Editor Silvana de Soissons came to be interview Sophie where we talked about mindful eating, surviving in our modern food environment and the importance of being satisfied with imperfection.
The Foodie Bugle has been up and running as an online magazine for some time, winning The Guild of Food Writers New Media Award and this is the first print edition. Printed on heavyweight matt paper and quietly advert-free, the magazine is a joy to read and really does offer the ‘calm, curated, thoughtful space’ that it promises. At 124 pages with custom ink illustrations throughout, it is almost more of a book.
The scope of the articles is food in its most broad and generous running from Sasha Dorey who sources black truffles with the aid of her dog and Google Earth, through to Georgie Newbery's home grown British cut flowers business.
Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.
Thich Nhat Hanh
One of the surprises to my new clients is that I'll ask them to start their own meditation practice. Not much, probably just 10 minutes a day to start with anyway, but nevertheless proper sitting, watching your breath meditation. You can learn something from mindful eating without learning to meditate, but unless you're a naturally mindful and attentive person around food (and most of us aren't) it's likely that you'd be missing a trick. Meditation is the source from which all those other good things flow ...
The kind of meditation I teach is mindfulness meditation. There's nothing patchouli-scented or cross-legged about it. In case you were wondering ...
- most people meditate sat on a chair, though really anything that's comfortable goes
- there's nothing religious involved at all
- no buddha statues, bells or chanting required. All you need is your breath (oh, and that chair I mentioned earlier)
If you're still wondering if this all sounds a bit hippyish, don't just take my word for it. We're privileged to be living in a time and a world where mindfulness is properly mainstream. To give you just a few examples:
There's a sitting group that I go to a few miles away from where I live. It's not in a buddhist centre as you might think, but at the University of Oxford in their Oxford Mindfulness Centre. As well as being a world-class research centre, more recently they've been teaching their students mindfulness too.
World leading technology company Google have their very own in-house mindfulness programme for employees, Search Inside Yourself (SIY) and a regular silent, mindful lunch.
The UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommend mindfulness as a a key treatment for depression.
The senior sport psychologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee taught mindfulness to the U.S. Olympic team to prepare them for the unique pressures of the 2012 games.
This year's World Economic Forum meeting at Davos hosted a packed out Mindful Leadership Experience workshop.
Almost as widespread as breathing.
There's an interesting Scientific American article highlighting new research into how we pay attention. For a long time we've thought that our brain just has one way of paying attention, but now it turns out there are two completely different types of attention, each using different areas of our brain. Knowing how these two ways of paying attention differ sheds more light on why mindfulness and specifically mindfulness meditation is so useful in helping us to change our eating with self-compassion and in a way that allows us to enjoy our food.
Here's a heads up on those two kinds of attention:
Exteroceptive (externally focused) attention
Most of our attention is the exteroceptive kind. It's based in our pre-frontal cortex and we know and love it for that very useful skill, thinking. It's constantly working out how to do things, predicting what will happen next, deciding what's good and what's bad for us. There's a flaw to this though, our externally focused attention has a hard time dealing with attempts to avoid or not do something. As the article explains, "what we resist persists". So before you know it you can't stop thinking about that ice-cream is in the freezer drawer, why you "really shouldn't have any" and how nice it would taste if you did have some.
Interoceptive (internally focused) attention
Interoceptive attention sits in our limbic system, a very ancient part of our brain and encompasses our internal landscape of feelings and sensations. It tells us if are sad, tired, exhilarated, over-full or thirsty. As the article says, we're massively out of touch with this inner landscape - "Because we don’t pay as much attention to our internal world, it often takes us by surprise. We often only tune into our body when it rings an alarm bell –– that we’re extremely thirsty, hungry, exhausted or in pain."
Why is our interoceptive attention so useful?
Our inner attention tells us just what's going on for us now, in the current moment. It tell us if we've had just enough to eat, whether we're actually thirsty and not hungry at all, or whether we're feeling a frazzled after an argument with a colleague or family member. By cultivating our ability to connect with our interoceptive attention we can start to get in touch with these sensations and emotions, without the unhelpful voiceover of our problem solving, analytical exteroceptive attention. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the clarity to decide if and how much to eat without that other voice droning on. The one that says stuff like this; 'you really shouldn't be hungry, you only had your lunch three hours ago', 'why didn't you tell them they should write the report this time', 'how on earth are you going to find a way to resist that ice-cream'
How do we access this internal attention?
Yoga, breathing and meditation all increase our interoceptive awareness. Learning to do this through breathing and mindfulness meditation using the breath means that we have an ever-present, portable means of entry into our internal attention.
You can read the full article at Decoding the Body Watcher, Emma Seppala Scientific American April 2012
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