What do raisins have to do with mindfulness? Well, a popular mindfulness exercise centres around the experience of eating a raisin.
This short mindfulness exercise helps to nurture the present-moment awareness that is mindfulness. This exercise is also commonly used to introduce mindful awareness as an alternative to the habitual 'autopilot' way of eating.
In order to do this exercise you need a raisin and you will need to eat it. If you don't like raisins that's ok it can be something else! Any small piece of food will do.
The exercise takes the simple act of eating a raisin and breaks down this act into it's minutiae. You pay complete attention to the touch, sight, smell, taste, feel throughout the whole action of eating the raisin. The instructions below should explain in how much detail one can go into.
How to do the raisin exercise:
First, take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb.
Take time to really focus on it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention—imagine that you’ve just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this before in your life. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any asymmetries or unique features.
Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture. Maybe do this with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch.
Hold the raisin beneath your nose. With each inhalation, take in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise. As you do this, notice anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.
Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Gently place the raisin in your mouth; without chewing, noticing how it gets into your mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments focusing on the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.
When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture in your mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment. Also pay attention to any changes in the object itself.
When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.
Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how your body as a whole is feeling after you have completed this exercise.