Savouring: An Awesome (and Under Appreciated) Way to Practice Mindfulness
Something that really grinds my gears is the way people so consistently conflate mindfulness with meditation. Sure, meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness. I think it’s great and I do it all the time! But I’m also a realist and I know that different people need different paths to the same place. Since I blather on about mindfulness to my Life Coaching clients and students I know that the number one obstacle people face when considering a meditation practice is a made up thing that isn’t real at all: “But I can’t clear my mind!” Excellent news: No one can! Congrats, you’re normal! Minds are not for being empty. That would be a waste of space, especially considering that brains strive for maximum efficiency. But I get that meditation can seem daunting: it takes time, effort, energy, possibly acquiring a special pillow and/or many scarves, and all kinds of extra doodads you could acquire to make it all ‘perfect.’
Great news, again: there are lots of other ways to practice mindfulness! One of my favourite ways (which I think is really underappreciated) is savouring. Savouring is great because it’s easy and accessible and that’s what people need when it comes to beginning to cultivate a more mindful life.
What exactly is savouring, and how can you get some? I’m glad (I pretended that) you asked! Savouring is consciously, deeply, and presently enjoying an experience. Savouring usually occurs with a positive experience and sometimes it happens naturally. If you’re about to go on vacation, you would happily anticipate it, feel excited and imagine how great it will be. Then, once at your destination, you might find yourself appreciating the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of your enjoyable vacation. And you’ll savour those happy memories for years to come!
However, in most cases, we need to make a conscious choice to savour. Rumination and worry can creep into any experience, messing about the opportunity to savour it. Before you go on that vacation you might be working hard to make deadlines, worrying about what you might forget to pack, or thinking about that last time you went on vacation when your flight was delayed 6 hours (that really sucked…). While you are there you could spend your time documenting all your fun instead of immersing yourself in the experience or wishing it was a little better. When you are home you could think about all the things you didn’t get to do or already be thinking about the next trip away. Our brains are pros at finding the negative; savouring helps us find and experience the positive elements of our lives.
Savouring is like practicing gratitude in real time, instead of as a reflective exercise. Savouring can help create the illusion of time slowing down, as you consciously ‘drop into’ the experience you’re having. Even when it’s not a positive experience that lends itself to savouring, this can be a lovely way to enhance an experience. I recently had to say goodbye to my cat, Boomer. He was such a character, so loving and cuddly. When it was time for him to go, I spent those last moments looking into his eyes, appreciating his beautiful stripes, holding his big, stabby paws and feeling his soft fur. It was sad, of course, but I knew I wanted to look back on the experience with a joyful heart, focusing on how much I loved him instead of how sad I was to let him go. Savouring helped me do that. It felt like those few minutes felt longer than they actually were and my memory of that experience has more love and peace than fear and sadness, and I am happy for that. I will also savour the memories of all our good times and the many photos and videos I have of him being super cute and/or getting into some kind of trouble I thought was important to document. While it can be hard to remember someone you miss, I’m again choosing to savour those photos so I can soak in the gratitude I have for him instead of the fact that he’s no longer in my life.
When you first foray into savouring, choose easy moments that feature something to enjoy: a nice meal, the first sip of coffee in the morning, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a hug with someone you love (yourself or someone else!). Savouring during difficult times is important, but something to be built up to. The more you savour, the easier it will be to do during all kinds of different experiences.
In order to not end on too sad of a note, please enjoy these pics of my cat Arjun savouring the experiences of eating butter and salmon. (He was really stunned by eating salmon for the first time!)