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I often field questions about “finding the time” to do things.

Meditation, exercise and cooking healthy food are top of mind for many of us. We live in an extremely goal-oriented world, where we feel like we’re failing if we’re not completing all the items on our to-do lists. The issue is that, while certain elements of life may be measured by landmark goals, most of our experience exists in pursuit of our goals rather than in the beginnings, endings, successes and failures.

I have made it my job to help people find deeper meaning in the ongoing activity of the pursuit. If happiness is contentment in the present moment, then most of our moments are found in between our goals. And what is more “in between” than the mundane lunch break? Lunch breaks are the ultimate mindfulness opportunity for many of us because we’re often being paid, but actually don’t even need the full break to achieve results. Just fifteen minutes makes a difference. 

"Find deeper meaning in the ongoing activity of the pursuit."

Here are my go-to tips for mindful mealtimes. You get extra points for using Splendid Spoon’s hearty plant-based meals to create your ritual, but, of course, I’m biased. 

  1. Sit down—ideally near a window, but you can do this anywhere.
  2. Acknowledge how grateful you are for this moment. Need help? You have a satisfying meal in front of you. Your “goal” in this very moment is simply to take care of your need to nourish your body and mind.
  3. Take a deep breath in and exhale.
  4. Pick a number as your focal point. The idea is that you will chew this many times when you pick up a spoon or forkful. My number is twelve. Zen Buddhists aim for 30. The point is more that the number can help refocus your attention on eating. Chewing completely also improves digestion and helps you absorb more nutrients. Most of us rush through chewing, but it’s actually the first phase of digestion.
  5. Any time your mind wanders, acknowledge it and then come back to your number or your breathing.
  6. Keep this up for fifteen minutes, in quiet.

A few additional tips: 

  • If you’re self-conscious about officemates judging your monastic lunch, throw some headphones on and let them think you’re catching up on podcasts.
  • Walking for a few minutes before your lunch will help get your physical body to a more prepared state for a mindful lunch, just like yoga is actually a preparation for meditation. Have a walk around the block before your sit down nourishment.
  • You might feel really awkward and uncomfortable doing this at first. In a way, this is the point. There are never any static moments in our life; even this lunch break is full of emotional dynamism. If you can focus on what is going on in this very moment, you will strengthen your body and mind’s ability to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the emotional flux we experience every day. Some days may be more peaceful than others, and, in a short time, it will become a relaxing ritual you will actually crave.
  • When you’re done, it can be helpful to write down any other things that came to mind: ideas, conversations to have, what you noticed in your food. The point is not to “do” anything here, but to acknowledge the thoughts that may have bubbled up.

See how you feel after doing this every day for a week, two weeks or more. I wonder how many of your goals will start falling into place as a result. 

Nicole Centeno is a French Culinary Institute–trained chef and the founder and CEO of Splendid Spoon, an e-commerce business that provides all the tools and meals you need to create a peaceful relationship with food and your body. Nicole is also the author of Soup Cleanse Cookbook.

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