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Mindful Spiral Approach to My Birthday Meal

Last week, I attended a virtual “trailhead” with a local organization called Renewal in the Wilderness. These trailheads are designed to “make space for us to connect as a community and to share a weekly intention meant to deepen our day-to-day encounters with the elements.”

For the one I attended last Tuesday, the intent was around focusing on the edges and boundaries in our lives, and the leader shared an interesting mindfulness approach to doing this. I want to use it while out in the wilderness, but I also decided it would be fun to apply to mindful eating.

And I had the perfect occasion to try it – my birthday meal.

Mindful Spiral

The way this approach works is by getting a small piece of paper, preferably a square or close to it, then draw a spiral, starting in the center and moving outward. Once you have the spiral, draw an X or a T across the paper to divide it into four sections. Finally, label each quadrant:

  • Smell

  • See

  • Feel

  • Taste (or if you’re doing this with something other than eating, use “Hear”)

Then really focus on the moment you want to be mindful of and pay attention to each of those senses. What can you smell, see, feel, and taste? Fill in what you notice in the different spiral sections of the paper.

Birthday Meal

To give you an example, this is how I used the spiral on my birthday.

For lunch, the main part of my meal was a sandwich I’d gotten from a local deli. It was a spinach wrap with chicken, cucumber, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, hummus, and spinach.

For dessert, I had some spice cake I made for myself.

Before eating, I paused to notice what I could see and smell. For see, I came up with:

  • Crisscross grill patterns on the wrap

  • Medley of colors: red pepper and tomato, green spinach, white chicken

  • Warm brown cake (“warm” in terms of color, not temperature)

For smell, I noticed:

  • Slight tang from the red peppers

  • “Green” smell of spinach

  • Cinnamon and cloves from the cake

I wrote these down in my spiral before actually eating. As I took bites, I paused to try to identify what I could feel and taste – and sometimes those two combined. For feel, I found:

  • Grill indents on the wrap

  • Crunchiness of the cucumber

  • Soft, crumbly cake

And for taste, I got:

  • Creaminess of hummus

  • Sweetness of peppers

  • Moist, slightly nutty cake

  • Faint bitterness of spinach

In the end, this is what my spiral looked like:

Meal Experience

Writing about this might make it seem clinical, but it’s not. I found that doing this gave me a specific focus to help me be mindful when eating. Instead of just thinking that I should pay attention to those different areas, I had a framework to use.

With the paper next to me, I had a reminder of what I wanted to focus on, and this also kept me from trying to multi-task. Since I already had the “task” of writing down what I noticed, I didn’t feel so much of an urge to do other things.

Because of all that, the food was more satisfying.

And as always, when I notice food in this way, I appreciate it on so many more levels than just as a way of satisfying hunger.

Mindfulness Tools Help

Simply saying you want to eat mindfully is a good start, but it’s something you eventually need to put into practice. When you do it long enough, it often becomes a habit, but when you’re getting started – or when you need a refresher – having a tool can help.

Even though this spiral wasn’t presented as something to use for mindful eating, I did find it helpful, and if you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes!

Either way, I hope you’re staying well and finding some ways to remain mindful even in these difficult times.

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