By eating the apple this way, truly savoring it, you have a taste of mindfulness, the state of awareness that comes from being fully immersed in the present moment. Letting go for those few short minutes and living in the here and now, you can begin to sense the pleasure and freedom from anxiety that a life lived in mindfulness can offer.

In today's world, mindless eating and mindless living are all too common. We are propelled by the fast pace of hi-tech living—high speed Internet, emails, instant messages and cell phones—and the expectation that we are always on call, always ready to respond instantly to any message we get. Thirty years ago, hardly anyone would have expected to receive a reply to a phone call or letter within the same day. Yet today, the pace of our lives is utterly harried and spinning out of control. We constantly have to respond to external stimuli and demands. We have less and less time to stop, stay focused and reflect on whatever is in front of us. We have much less time to be in touch with our inner selves—our thoughts, feelings, consciousness and how and why we have become the way we are, for better or worse. And our lives suffer because of it.

According to a 2006 article by Jon Mooallem in the New York Times Magazine, America's busy eaters find it is too inconvenient and difficult to eat a whole apple. So major food outlets now sell "value-added" apples—pre-sliced apples, packed in bags and coated with an all-natural flavorless sealant so that they won't turn brown or lose their crispness for up to three weeks. These apples epitomize the new food marketing concept of "snackability:" There are no crumbs and no fuss, nothing to interrupt the repetitive movement of hand to bag and food to mouth. Aside from the inherent lack of freshness in these "snackable" precut apples, they also promote mindless eating—in the car, in front of the TV, at the computer, whenever and wherever. And while there are certainly much less healthy snack foods than precut apple slices, the pattern of mindless eating is one we all experience and that food marketers promote with a vengeance.

Most of the time, we are eating on auto-pilot, eating on the run, eating our worries or anxieties from the day's demands, anticipations, irritations, and to-do lists. If we are not conscious of the food we eat, if we are not actively thinking about that apple, how can we taste it and get the pleasure of eating it?

Eating an apple mindfully is not only a pleasant experience, but it is good for our health as well. The adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" is actually backed by solid science. Research shows that eating apples can help prevent heart disease because the fiber and antioxidants they contain can prevent cholesterol build up in the blood vessels of the heart. The fiber in apples can also help move waste through the intestines, which can help lower the risk of problems such as irritable bowel syndrome. Eating the apple with the skin—especially when it is organic—is better than eating it without the skin, as half of the vitamin C is under the apple's skin; the skin itself is rich in phytochemicals, special plant compounds that may fight chronic disease. Apples are also packed with potassium, which can help keep blood pressure under control.
Reprinted with permission from SAVOR: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life (c) 2010 byThich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung, published by HarperOne.


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