Counting Experiential Calories

02/27/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Put aside this annoying business of counting nutritional calories for a moment and ask yourself: what else am I getting out of this eating moment? How is my Mind being enriched?

A Nutritional Calorie is a unit of energy. The job of a Nutritional Calorie is to fuel your Body. An Experiential Calorie -- to coin a term -- is a unit of awareness, a unit of conscious presence, a unit of meaning. The job of an Experiential Calorie is to enrich your Mind. Take a moment to count the latter...

Ask yourself:

What are the Meditational Calories of this moment? Indeed, as you eat, pause to consider the interdependence of people, places and events that converged into one seamless process in time to finally reach your lips. Of course, the Sun didn't shine for you and the grapes didn't grow for you and the farmer didn't collect the grapes for you and the canner didn't can the grape jelly for you in particular... And yet, somehow, as you are spreading grape jelly on your toast, you are now the beneficiary of this endless process of transmutation. Or, as you focus on the automaticity of your hand-to-mouth motions, on this smooth machinery of your habits, perhaps, you will awaken the eating zombie for just a moment, to both marvel and fear this ease of mindlessness with which our lives run. Or, perhaps, as you watch this food and this moment come and go, you will consider the impermanence and transience of things, and of yourself.

Ask yourself:

What are the Spiritual and Ethical Calories of this moment? How am I expressing my life values in this moment? Are my eating choices an accurate reflection of what I stand for -- ethically and spiritually? Is my eating kind? Is my eating graceful? Is my eating meaningful? Is my eating grateful?

Ask yourself:

What are the Aesthetic and Hedonic Calories of this moment? Am I enjoying this eating moment, this moment of living? Am I allowing myself to notice the humble, unpretentious beauty of what I am about to eat? Am I sensing, tasting, savoring or just shoveling that which a moment ago I so carefully and meticulously selected off the lunch menu? Am I noticing the dynamic art of food, the poly-sensory drama of the flavor as the taste and the aroma and the texture come into one experiential focus?

Ask yourself:

What are the Existential Calories of this moment? Am I... here? Am I... present? Am I... consciously present to feel that I am alive? What is this "I" that is eating? What is this "I" that is pondering its existence? Will I remember myself having this moment or will it go unnoticed?

Ask yourself:

What are the Social Calories of this moment? Who am I with and why? Am I eating because they are hungry? Are they eating because I am hungry? Are we eating because we are hungry for food or because we are hungry for connection? Or are we just -- randomly -- in this moment with the food in front of us -- perhaps -- being the only common social denominator?

Just ask yourself.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is the author of Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Moment at a Time (New Harbinger, 2008). (Copyright, 2009).