Mindful Eating2 is another name for aesthetic eating. It encourages focused attention on eating for the purposes of enhancing the enjoyment of food, recognizing its subtleties, and understanding the principles behind good food. It is not unlike the kind of focused attention required for the genuine appreciation of art and music. Happily you don’t have to go to a museum or concert to practice it—it is available many times per day in the comfort of your home. Traditional mindful eating is often focused on the health benefits of eating mindfully. Although I think there are health benefits to eating slowly and with focused attention, these are not the main focus of Mindful Eating2. Pleasure and the contemplation of beauty are the goals. As an additional benefit related to pleasure, you will become a better cook by learning to eat mindfully. The best tool of a good cook is a discerning palate.
Although Mindful Eating2 includes the discipline of focusing on subjective awareness and the present moment, it does not ignore the past or the larger context in which food is consumed. Mindful Eating2 requires an awareness of where food comes from, the historical context in which we consume it, and attention to how we can use this awareness to enhance future experience.
Many people might think this is over-thinking our food. But it is strange to argue we should not think about food. I would argue that thinking enhances pleasure and provides a dimension to food unavailable if we eat without focused, thoughtful attention. When we pay close attention to the moment-to-moment changes going on around us, we notice more about the world we live in. And when we strive to use that awareness to make new distinctions rather than rely on habitual categories and conventions we increase our chances of enhancing our experience. What more can we want out of life than to enhance experience?
Thus, in short, Mindful Eating2 is the practice of discovering what is unique and special about our everyday experience of food.
How Does Mindful Eating2 differ from ordinary Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is an aspect of meditation that has origins in Hinduism and Buddhism. It recently has received much attention in psychology as a way of reducing stress, anxiety, and depression and can be practiced independently of any particular religion. Mindfulness involves consciously directing your awareness toward what is going on subjectively in the present moment. It requires being purposely aware of each passing experience as it enters consciousness and thus entails deflecting distracting thoughts about the future or past. Mindfulness can be cultivated whenever you’re engaged in an activity such as walking, eating, exercising, etc. which do not require your attention be directed elsewhere.
Mindful eating is mindfulness applied to the activity of eating. The Vietnamese Buddhist author and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh among others has been instrumental in introducing the idea to Western audiences. Although Hanh often emphasizes the pleasures of mindful eating, most practitioners see it as a way of improving health by eating more slowly and with more focused attention hence avoiding the tendency to shovel food while distracted which leads to overeating. It also involves gaining more awareness of the physical and emotional triggers that lead to overeating.
Mindful Eating2 uses the practice of mindfulness as a means to the end of aesthetic enjoyment. While practitioners of traditional mindful eating often disparage intellectual activity because it can distract from awareness of the here and now, Mindful Eating2 encourages intellectual understanding as a central part of the pleasures of the table as long as the focus