What’s in a Raisin?

“Sometimes the world slows and you notice every small thing, as if you stood between two beats of eternity’s heart.”Mark Lawrence

Following on from the activities at work where we ran an event focusing on Mindfulness that supported World Mental Health day; a number of people have been talking to me about how you practice it and its effects. A few people have even bought the book that I mentioned at the event, keen to learn more and start practicing themselves.

However, it was the strange conversation by the coffee point that really made me smile. One of my colleagues came up and asked if I had watched a recent episode of Cold Feet?.

For those of you who don’t, know, Cold Feet is a drama series in the UK, that focuses on the lives of three couples experiencing the ups-and-downs of romance. Cold Feet’s cast and crew are frequently praised for their depiction of real-life social issues on the series. When Cold Feet began, Christine Langan (Cold Feet’s producer) stated, “The real challenge was to overcome the traditional view that many of the issues we cover—jealousy, guilt, money, sexual problems, parental death—are ordinary issues, hardy perennials and, as such, not interesting enough for drama.”  The episode that had aired on TV on the previous Monday, featured one of the characters, Jenny. She was being concerned about Pete’s mental well-being, Jenny persuades him to attend a mindfulness class. So very typical

The comment from my colleague was about one part in the program where Pete tries to show Jeny and another character, David, a simple example of mindfulness. The exercise involves using a raisin.

Yes, a simple raisin.

My colleague was laughing his head off and thought that the episode was really funny.  I had not seen the program, so decided to watch it on catch up. If you would like to see, it, check out the episode in question at: http://www.itv.com/hub/cold-feet/1a2292a0040

I watched the program and the part of the program that concerned the raisin was really funny. Pete is trying to follow the raisin exercise and Jenny, just picks up a raisin and eats it straight away, rather than following the exercise. Again and again, she just picks up a raisin and eats it, missing the point completely.

Why practice it?

I have done the raisin exercise a number of times and each time, I have found it fascinating and thought provoking. The practice for me focuses my attention on the moment. On the object right in front of me. I have always done it as a group exercise, with a small follow up conversation, afterwards. The level of intensity you get theough the exercise is wonderful.

Anyway, back to the conversation with my colleague. I did point out that the raisin exercise is one of the first things you do when you start to learn about mindfulness. The great thing was, I suggested I bring in some raisins and we could do it as a group exercise in the office. Suffice to say, I have bought the raisins and am planning to do the exercise soon. I’ll let you know how it went.

So, what is the Raisin exercise?

If you would like to take the exercise, please read on:

  1. Holding: First, take a raisin and hold it between your finger and thumb.
  1. Seeing: Take time to really focus on it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention—imagine that you’ve just dropped in from another planet 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.
  1. Touching: Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture. Maybe do this with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch. For me they often feel rough to the touch.
  1. Hearing: Bring the raisin up to your ear and as you hold it against your ear, really listen. If you are in a quiet place, you may hear a gentle crunch as you roll the raisin about in your thumb and finger. These are the sugar crystals inside the raisin. I have to hold it to my left ear as I am slightly deaf in my right. It was though doing this exercise a couple of years ago that I noticed the difference in hearing between my ears.
  1. Smelling: 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. For me, i often get the smell of toffee and it makes my mouth water.
  1. Placing: 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. Spend a few moments focusing on the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.
  1. Tasting: 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 in to it and notice what happens, 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. The smell of toffee intensifies for me and I get the gritty texture of the sugar crystals.
  1. Swallowing: 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.
  1. Following: Finally, what are the sensations left afterward. Sense how your body as a whole is feeling after you have completed this exercise.

I leave you with the following quote:

“The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.” ― Jennifer Niven, All the Bright Places

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