The Pause Diet is elegantly simple. Not only is it highly relevant to mindful eating, but its use can easily be extended to bring checks and balances into other areas of our life.
In our hectic, distracted routine, food is often given extreme treatment. That is, we either over-indulge or pay scant attention to what is going into our system. Mindful Eating is a practise with many obvious and subtle benefits. Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung have written a whole book – Savor on this subject. If you would like to try their Apple Meditation, read this article.
The Pause Diet suggests that we give our self the time to notice and register what we are eating and if we really need to have any more. It takes almost twenty minutes from the time you begin to eat, for the brain to send out signals that you are full. How many of us give that much time and attention to a meal these days? In the bargain, we often end up eating more than we need, of food that is not so good for us. So a simple way to be more mindful is to:
1. Pause before you eat: Make it a habit to stop a brief moment, before you buy or order food, or before you take a serving.
2. Pause before your next bite or spoonful: Place the fork or spoon down between mouthfuls. You will begin to truly appreciate the meal.
3. Pause halfway through what you are eating: Give yourself a moment to relish the taste, feel grateful for the nourishment and to sense when you are actually full.
These steps seem rather obvious in hindsight, isn’t it? But actually practising them takes a great deal of awareness. Once we get started in this manner, wouldn’t it be helpful to apply this to our thoughts, emotions and actions as well? Consciously choosing which of these we energize and cultivate – and which of these are best phased out or avoided altogether – will enable us to experience greater joy and peace in our lives. So here’s how we can extend the use of the Pause Diet to enhance our overall wellbeing:
1. Pause the thought and ask yourself the classic Byron Katie question: ‘Is this true?’ This may end the stream of thought right in its tracks, before it creates any further worry or strife.
2. Pause the thought stream as it rises, and step out into observer mode. Notice how the thoughts rise and fall away. Not resisting them or energizing them, the simple act of ‘moving out of the story’ for a fraction of time can ease them away.
3. Pause as the cascading thoughts gather momentum and gently remind yourself of the observer mode. This forms the basis of many meditation and chanting practises. It is like you are cruising down the highway and you start falling asleep at the wheel – veering off left or right. You shake yourself awake, notice this divergent activity and steer yourself back to the middle road.
1. Pause to remind your self – ‘I am experiencing this emotion’. For example, instead of thinking ‘I am angry’, remind yourself that ‘I am experiencing anger.’ This helps to acknowledge the emotion while not identifying your self with it. It is a reminder that the emotion is transient and will pass.
2. Pause to question the cause of this emotion – Very often, the true cause of the emotion is far different from the apparent reason on hand. Understanding what is really bothering will help you to resolve the emotion as also notice any underlying behaviour patterns.
3. Pause to breathe – Acknowledgement, acceptance and peace come more easily when you simply return your attention to your breath. In heightened emotional states, we are setting off a cascade of physiological changes. These can be moderated by conscious breathing, especially into your heart area.
1. Pause before making any commitments or taking any action – Check to see if the action is in keeping with your values and priorities. Check to see if it makes you feel more like who you really are. It is better to be honest at the outset than to regret spent time and resources.
2. Pause as you begin the task – Focus your attention to the here and now, so that you can do full justice to whatever it is that you are doing.
3. Pause during the task to re-evaluate – Once you have begun a task or project, new information will begin to flow. You may need to make changes that incorporate this experience and knowledge.
These steps are intended to help us become conscious creators of our experience, instead of victims of habit. As you begin practising awareness in even one of the above areas, the results may encourage you to extend mindfulness to the other areas as well.
If you feel inspired to try these versions of the Pause Diet, do share your experience.
Wishing you a lighter and brighter life!