From Indulgence to Zen: How to transform your holiday decadence into a stress-relieving pleasure meditation
I am so excited to introduce you to today’s guest author, Debra Joy. I’ve known Deb for years in many different capacities – as a dear friend, mentor, business strategist, life coach, and spiritual advisor, just to name a few. She has guided me through some of life’s most challenging transitions, always lovingly demanding that I be nothing but true to my most authentic self. (Easy to say, hard to do.) Her teachings have powerfully changed my outlook and behaviors, and made my life much, much happier and more fulfilled. Today I get to share a wee glimpse of Deb’s magic with you, in a practice that may just transform how you eat your holiday treats. Enjoy!
It’s that time of year!
We are in full-on holiday mode now, and you know what that means… parties, travel, late nights, increased eating, increased spending, and extended time with your family. This can all be a source of great fun. It can also be a time of great stress.
There’s a simple way to decrease your stress and increase your enjoyment of the holidays: Meditation
Knowing that meditation…
- Improves your self-esteem, so you’ll enjoy parties with more confidence.
- Boosts your immune system, giving you extra protection for those late nights and crowded planes.
- Increases emotional regulation, meaning less emotional eating and outbursts when your family questions your life choices, again.
- Reduces stress and anxiety, for more fun and less weight gain.
…doesn’t help you find the time to do it.
What if I offered you a way to meditate several times a day, without finding extra time to do it?
What if this meditation also gave you a deep sense of pleasure in your body, no matter how busy you are?
Meditation usually conjures up an image of sitting still, with a straight spine and closed eyes, for a set amount of time as you focus on your breathing, an image, or a mantra. It works: I’ve been doing that for over 17 years and the benefits have been subtle but profound.
But meditation doesn’t have to look like that to be effective.
I’m going to teach you a simple practice that will infuse the rest of your day with the pleasure of presence, without dedicating time to the meditation cushion. It’s miraculous: I’ve been doing this for less than 10 years and the benefits are sumptuous and life changing.
Meditation is simply the practice of giving your mind an anchor to focus on.
By focusing your mind you clear the incessant chatter that is the cause of most of your stress. Your mind is constantly reliving the past or imagining the future. Both of these pull you out of the present, where true peace resides.
Your body is never in the future or the past. It is always fully alive in the present moment. Your heart is beating, your lungs are expanding and contracting, cells are growing as others are dying. All of this is happening without you noticing. If you simply bring your attention fully to your body you’ll become present, and that is meditation.
Focusing on your body is easier said than done at times. It’s a big area. Where do you begin? What do you focus on? And how do you keep your attention there?
In this meditation you will focus on pleasure.
Sensations of the body are fantastic portals to the present moment. There are many pleasurable experiences you can use for meditation; walking, dancing, even making love. But since you can’t be sure you’ll be doing those every day, (though I hope you are) let’s pick something you know you’ll be doing – eating.
In meditation, the smaller the area of focus, the greater your focus will be. So rather than focus on every aspect of eating, let’s narrow the focus right down to your mouth. It’s a dark, moist cave of pleasure potential just waiting for your attention.
Food can either be a guilt-ridden, confusing source of stress or a pleasurable, nourishing form of meditation.
Food becomes stressful when you use it to deprive yourself, worry about fat content and pesticides, judge yourself, or eat unconsciously as a way to stuff down feelings you don’t want to feel.
Food becomes a nourishing meditation and a source of great joy when you focus on the sensations happening in your mouth.
You are hard wired for pleasure.
The pleasure we get from food and sex plays a key role in our species’ survival. You eat not only because your cells need nourishment, but because it feels so good. Unfortunately your mind is often thinking about other things while you’re eating, so you miss the sensuous satisfaction of every bite. And that leaves you longing for more.
This meditation is simple. For the first bite of everything you eat, (whether you are sitting down to a three course meal, or just grabbing a cracker), do this:
1. Inhale the aroma. Most of the flavor of food comes through smell.
2. As you smell notice your mouth. It will be filling with juices.
3. Take a small bite and hold it in your mouth. Don’t chew yet.
4. Keep inhaling through your nose.
5. Feel the texture, temperature and taste on your tongue and against your palate.
6. Savor the flavor as you keep breathing.
7. Chew slowly and notice the changes in texture and taste with every bite.
8. Crush the food with your strong teeth until there is nothing left to chew.
9. Feel the sensation of swallowing. Your food will be mostly liquid.
10. Then just breathe and notice how your body feels.
If you want to amplify your pleasure and become more present, do this with your eyes closed. After your first bite, do it for as many bites as you’d like. If you can only focus for the first bite, that is absolutely enough.
You can download more free eating practices and a guided meditation here.
This simple practice will give you a deeper connection to the food you’re eating and more importantly to yourself.
When you pay close attention to eating in this way your body relaxes and awakens. Your mind drops the chatter for as long as you are focused on your mouth. If you do this consistently you’ll be meditating several times throughout the day without trying to find time to do it.
You may be worried that eating this way will take too long. That’s why I ask you to start with just one bite. One slow, luxurious bite won’t slow you down, but it will fill you up. Let the melting chocolate linger on your tongue, feel the sweet juices of a red pepper exploding from its flesh, taste the crisp nutty flavor of an arugula leaf.
By doing this practice you may notice that you’ve been eating some foods that you don’t actually enjoy. As you pay attention, your body will start to guide you to what it wants and needs. This will lead to even more pleasure, as you begin trusting your body more.
When you let yourself be filled up with the tastes, textures and smells of food you enjoy, the desire for more subsides.
As you use this meditation for more bites of your food, you’ll find yourself eating less and enjoying it more. Fully indulging in your food can help you feel better in your body and more satisfied in your life.
If you already have a meditation practice you can recreate that present state throughout your day by adding this to every meal. If you don’t meditate yet, this is a delicious way to get started. Over time the presence you experience while eating will spill into other areas of your life quite naturally.
One thing that can get in the way of fully experiencing pleasure is addiction. I address the difference between pleasure and addiction in the free download you can access on my site.
Debra Joy helps women realize their authentic self and achieve success in all areas of their life, by embodying pleasure, presence and true power. She holds a Masters in Leadership and Training, is a certified yoga instructor, and has had an award-winning career in socially responsible business, investment management and venture capital. She brings her eclectic and effective blend of business brains and body wisdom to her work. You can find her at www.debrajoy.me.
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