I did a mindfulness training programme recently and we started the course with what is known as the raisin meditation. We were requested to acutely focus all our senses on the act of eating the raisin. You hold the raisin between your fingers and gently feel the dry fruit as if it was something precious and you had to savour each of its crumpled curves. Become aware of the sensation of its texture. Let it linger till you are able to recognise it.
Next, let the raisin touch your lips as if you are eating a raisin for the first time. You hold on to the texture and sensation, and gently let your tongue feel the taste of the raisin. Feel it as if you have nothing else to do. You are completely alive only doing a single task at hand and there is nothing else in the world you have to think about. You let the raisin play in your mouth for some time, totally drawing into the awareness of the moment, letting it linger as long as you can. Once the familiarity sets it, move to the next step where you gently hold it between your teeth and munch through the surface. Experience the sweet juices flowing into your palate, and enjoy the sweetness and the delicacy of the fruit for the first time. Hold that taste and savour the sweetness of the moment and what it means to eat a raisin.
There is a kind of awareness has a beauty that you will never be able to experience if your sensory processes and cognitive experiences are not aligned.
Savouring is a technique in positive psychology. Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff describe it as a conscious attempt at noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life.
In Goa we are blessed with so many beautiful landscapes to savour. Amongst my favourites are watching the colours of love explode through a sunset, the drama of the birds’ cacophony as they welcome the first sun rays and running in the rain on the Varca-Benaulim-Colva beach stretch. There is a mesmerising beauty which the beach has during the rains.
I ventured out in the rain with a full stormy weather raging. The winds slicing and the rain piercing, I fell into a rhapsody of laughter and shouts, screamed to myself, “Oh my God I am running into a storm!” I felt so alive and throughout the day when the scene came to mind, it made me laugh.
When you savour something, you are present and fully alive. It is the positive feeling of pleasure that you choose to associate rather than the negative. And in that moment you click a snapshot in your mental imagery.
The potency of savouring is that you can recall the moment later as a vivid image. It’s like you have clicked a photograph and stored it in your brain for later access. You do this purposively. You give yourself permission to allow your senses that is your eyes, ears, nose, skin or your taste buds to see, hear, smell and taste, deeply engaging your senses with the environment. The pleasure you receive with this experience also gets stored and that is good for your well-being.
Neuroscience research is verifying that every time we savour, we activate the area of the brain (the ventral striatum) responsible for higher levels of well-being.
So when you savour you are honing a skill where you can collect positive experiences for later use in times of distress as a coping mechanism. There are various strategies that help you savour
Learn to be mindful about beauty and things that you enjoy doing.
Give yourself permission to let go and enjoy the moment. You are special and this is your moment. Love it.
Shout out when it happens and do not hesitate to proclaim to the world you are excited or happy, like you have just won the gold medal or the Oscars.
Capture the moment as a snapshot, basking in the wonder of the moment.
Be grateful. Express gratitude for the ability to experience the moment with a thank you.
Share your experience with others, because when you share you once again trigger parts of your brain cell that are good for you.
Collect your album of beautiful, pleasurable photographs so that when you are feeling down and need to perk up, all you need is a cosy corner to access each of those beautiful memories and rebuild your resilience to enjoy a great life.
(Writer is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and the HOD of psychology at Carmel College for Women)