I remember the first time I ever ate an intentional silent meal. In 1987, I visited a famous yoga center in Massachussetts. Entering the dining hall, all was quiet, hushed, except for the almost imperceptible tinkling of the silverware. In the low light from the fixtures overhead, a great focus was unfolding on the beautiful food on the buffet line. I helped myself, sat down and joined the silent crowd, each person intently focused on their plates and slowly savoring each bite. The most delicious tastes and flavors ensued upon my mouth. Food had never tasted so good. I was aware of every nuance, every flavor and texture in each bite and felt completely satisfied by it. Fast forward to my first vipassana meditation retreat later that year. With quiet mindful awareness, holding a warm cup of tea in my hands in the simple still hour at breakfast never felt so nurturing. Each silent eating period was a restful meditation in itself and the food simple but delicious.
Little did I imagine that I would become an expert in the emerging field of mindful eating. Like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), where Jon Kabat-Zinn took the art of cultivating mindful awareness and mindfulness practice into the mainstream, mindful eating’s day has come as well. Back in 1993, I took Jon Kabat-Zinn’s first 9 day health professional training. In my job as a Health Educator at a large HMO, I helped usher in the MBSR program which is now widely adopted throughout their centers in Northern California and beyond.
So many of us have lingered over those wonderful meals at meditation retreats, inspired by the simple instructions of our meditation teachers and buoyed by the quiet still awareness we have been cultivating hour after hour, day after day. And just like the proverbial question at the end of the retreat “how can we keep this mindful awareness going?” when we make commitments to lengthen, increase the frequency and deepen our meditation practice—we also may wonder how we might eat more mindfully in a sustained way back at home in our busy lives. Now there are programs and approaches developed that can bring us deeper into the practice of mindful eating and living; approaches with mindful awareness at its core, that are designed to address the challenges of our contemporary pace and issues of our times.
Many people have told me that they try to eat mindfully, read books, listen to informational sessions but haven’t really found a way to sustain the practice in a meaningful way. Mindful eating has been well studied by pioneers such as researcher and professor, Jean Kristeller PhD, who developed Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) over many years, inspired by elements of MBSR and her own experience and work with disordered eating clients. I had the honor of studying intensively with her some years ago. The marriage of my background as a registered dietitian nutritionist with my dedicated mindfulness meditation practice and MBSR teaching practice since 1993, provided the perfect foundation from which to learn this mindful eating approach. MB-EAT proves to be a great venue to help ease the suffering and judgment around eating and in fact help facilitate more ease, joy and pleasure. My passion for mindful eating was born!
Here was a way to help everyone learn mindful eating regardless of whether they sat long meditation retreats. Jean Kristeller invited me to train health professionals with her which we do around the country and I have never looked back. When one is doing what they truly love, opportunities seem to arise out of nowhere. I now offer mindful eating trainings and mindful eating meditation retreats in a variety of venues both for health professionals and the general public, including individual mentoring and training programs. I am honored to bring our third annual daylong on mindful eating to Spirit Rock Center, and am grateful for the initial invitation by a Spirit Rock Meditation Teacher.
Who is mindful eating for? Everyone! Mindful Eating, Mindful Body: The Practice and Science of Mindful Eating is a rich carefully crafted day of practice and learning.We have a team of experts who will share their wisdom. Venerable Jampa shares her mindfulness meditation teachings from her tradition with humor and depth. She will also share how mindful eating has transformed her relationship to eating. Elissa Epel, PhD, a health psychology researcher and professor at UCSF, will share new research on stress, eating, food addiction and the practice of mindfulness. I will share mindful meditation practices and mindful eating awareness skills that are fundamental building blocks to help support mindful eating. All of this wrapped in the warm embrace of a day of mindfulness practice. We will practice meditation, gentle mindful movement, walking meditation and most importantly cultivate a kind and loving nonjudgmental awareness towards ourselves, our bodies and our eating.