Who does your food connect you to?
This is one of the questions we consider when engaging in the Raisin Meditation, a classic practice in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) tradition. Consider the beginning of a raisin – a small seed planted in the ground that grows into a vine, a tiny grape, a big grape. It’s removed from the vine and dried (often in the sun on the ground) until it shrivels up, then it’s packaged, transported, shelved, and sold. By the time that raisin is in your hand, it has seen rain, sunshine, and multiple moves. It has been brought to you by more people than can be counted – farmers, processors, drivers, grocery store workers, etc. It is a gift provided to you by nature and by a whole host of people, including the ancient people of the Middle East and Mediterranean regions who first discovered the raisin as early as 2000 B.C.
And then when you experience that raisin in your hand, there is equal complexity. Visual stimuli of light and dark, ridges and hollows, asymmetries, variations in color. Tactile stimuli that shift continuously in response to the warmth of your hand that holds the raisin. Auditory stimuli when you hold it by your ear and roll it between your thumb and forefinger (did you know raisins can make a sound?). Smell that stimulates a reaction in your mouth, taste that changes moment to moment (sometimes exploding with surprises) once you place it on your tongue and take that first mindful bite. And your whole body knows how to process that raisin, how to get it into your mouth, move it around with your tongue, mash it with your teeth, move it down your throat into your stomach.
Once you’ve eaten the raisin, it becomes a part of you. With careful attention to the process, you’ve no doubt observed a plethora of thoughts and feelings along the way of eating that one raisin, perhaps even some strong reactions. You may have had urges to swallow, memories of past raisins you’ve eaten, plans for what to do with other raisins in the future. Maybe you’ve experienced delight or craving or disgust. But whether your thoughts and feelings in reaction to the raisin have been pleasant or unpleasant, it has added nourishment and health to your body. The iron, potassium, fiber, and other good stuff God put in there has benefited you. You have been changed by your experience of the raisin.
We can’t possibly pay this much attention to every bite – it would take too long and get too overwhelming! (AJ Jacobs, for example, speaks about the discovery that hundreds of people are involved in bringing him his morning cup of coffee each day.) But pausing to notice our food in this counter-cultural way can be transformational, waking us up to depths of goodness in this gift from God that is food.
God made food for our benefit. It nourishes our bodies, keeps us alive, and brings us joy. It is a gift, connecting us to this big beautiful planet and to one another in ways we can’t even keep track of. Food is not just for breaking down into calories or controlling or judging. It is a good thing, and it is part of the good life. We benefit from paying mindful attention to the food we eat.
If you’re interested in trying out a 10-minute Raisin Meditation from a Christian perspective, you can find a guide on my YouTube channel, The Mindful Christian. Bon appetit!
I am Irene Kraegel. I am licensed as a clinical psychologist and teach mindfulness on a faith-based university campus. I practice mindfulness because it opens me up to God (a.k.a. brings joy). I am writing here in hopes of sharing some of my experiences and thoughts related to the practice of mindfulness in the life of a Christian. Thanks for reading!
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