Eating Mindfully: The Cookie Meditation

Eating mindfully is a most important practice of meditation. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Today, I thought it would be nice to write a post about mindful eating. Those of us who are familiar with mindful eating have heard about the cookie meditation. However, most people are unfamiliar with the origins of this mediation. It was first discussed by Zen monk, Thich Nhat Hanh in 1975. His story below entitled, “Eating My Cookie,” provides a lovely example of mindful eating.

Mindful eating is an ancient Zen technique designed to calm the mind and body. Monks chew each bite of food 30 times before swallowing. They also chew each bite with their full attention while letting go of distractions and sitting in silence. 

Mindful eating serves as a form of meditation and helps to regulate the mind and body. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, many of my clients have described mindless eating. They eat while bored, stressed, and overwhelmed. Cooking becomes a way to pass the the time and soothe the mind. Over the past 8 weeks, clients have reported gaining weight. Although this is understandable, it is something we must manage. Just because the world is out of control, does not mean we need to be out of control.   

As I write this post, we are threatened by a food shortage, specifically meat. However, the shortage of food items like pasta and flour have been on-going for the past 8 weeks. Humans are animals by nature and the thought that food is in short supply or hard to obtain triggers a primal instinct. As a result, we automatically eat more. On the other hand, there are places in the world like Belgium where people have been encouraged to eat more. For example, Belgium’s potato industry has urged people to eat french fries twice per week to help reduce the surplus of potatoes. The uncertainty surrounding food can wreck havoc on our mind and lead to mindless eating and weight gain.

Practicing mindful eating during this time can be an important way to re-establish a healthy relationship with food. Below you will find Hanh’s story of mindful eating. After reading his story, go and get yourself a snack and see if you can be like Hanh and eat slowly and mindfully.  Don’t worry about chewing 30 times before swallowing. I’ve tried this and it is very difficult but see if you can chew longer than usual, eat more slowly, and pause between each bite while sitting alone in silence.

Eating My Cookie by Thich Nhat Hanh

When I was four years old my mother used to bring me a cookie every time she returned from the market. I would go to the front yard and take my time eating it, sometimes taking half an hour or forty five minutes to eat one cookie. I would take a small bike and look up at the sky. Then I would touch the dog with my feet and take another small bite. I just enjoyed being there with the sky, the earth, the bamboo thickets, the cat, the dog, and the flowers. I was able to spend so much time eating my cookie because I did not have much to worry about. I was not thinking about the future, I was not regretting the past, I was dwelling entirely in the present moment, with my cookie, the dog, the bamboo thickets, the cat, and everything.

It is possible to eat our meals as slowly and joyfully as I ate the cookie of my childhood. Maybe you have the impression that you have lost the cookie of your childhood, but I am sure it is still there somewhere in your heart. Everything is still there, and you really can find it. Eating mindfully is a most important practice of meditation. We can eat in a way that we can bring back to life the cookie of our childhood. The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.

Contact me: If you would like coaching on mindful eating, please contact me through my website to schedule an appointment.

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