Fear, anxiety, worry, and dread are all shiny objects to a frenetic mind. And sometimes the mind latches on to an anxiety and won’t let go, leaving us with repetitive thoughts and outsized worries about things far outside of our control.
One of the best ways to break a cycle of anxious thinking is to give the mind something to focus on instead. We can then step back and interrogate our thoughts, recognizing that the threat we perceive is not so near or dire. This kind of focus can be achieved by bringing our whole body into the task through the use of all of our senses. We can do this with a very simple mindfulness practice called the raisin meditation.
What Is the Raisin Meditation?
More specifically you may be asking, “Why a raisin?” You could really use any small treat, but there’s something poetic about using this small, common piece of dried fruit to completely transform one’s state of mind.
The goal is to redirect the spotlight of your attention onto something mundane and present. Take your mind out of the anxiety-filled future and into this moment by bringing to bear all of your senses. You can’t smell or hear the future; your senses are always in the moment. And that’s the beauty and simplicity of the raisin meditation.
How to Practice the Raisin Meditation
- First, get a raisin and find a quiet place to do your meditation.
- Sit in a relaxed position that you know you can hold for several minutes without readjusting, on a cushion on the floor or in a chair. If in a chair, try to sit upright with shoulders over your hips so you can get a deep breath. Keep feet flat on the floor so you can feel the earth beneath you. You can close your eyes or pick a spot in front of you to gently fix your gaze upon.
- Take a few deep breaths and try to bring your attention to this moment. Hold the raisin in an open palm in front of you. Lay your gaze on the raisin, looking at it with curiosity. Inspect each wrinkle slowly, tracing its outline with your eyes. Notice its rich color—the longer you look at it the more shades of purple you might discover. Enjoy the shape of it—does it remind you of anything? Take a couple minutes to completely take it in.
- Then, notice how the raisin feels in your hand. What is the relationship between its size and its weight? Can you feel its weight? Roll it around in your palm, feeling it tumble. Place it between two fingers and feel its ridges, some places smooth, others rough or sticky. Squeeze the raisin gently—is it squishier or firmer than you thought?
- Although it is tiny and dehydrated, your raisin may still have a scent to it. Bring it to your face and breathe deeply. Smell its sweetness. Notice how faint or how strong it is. Locate the tingle in your nose. Summon the memory of the smell of the whole box or bag of raisins, perhaps a familiar scent going back to your childhood. Be with this scent in the moment.
- Your mind may still wander. Anxious thoughts or sensations may intrude, and that’s ok. As it happens, just bring your attention back to the raisin and your senses.
- Once you’ve spent some time seeing, feeling, and smelling the raisin, now is the time to taste it. Place it in your mouth but don’t chew it yet. Just feel it on your tongue, combining taste with touch. Push it around your mouth, feel it behind your lips and on the roof of your mouth. Focus on its unique taste. Eventually, bring it between your teeth and clamp down slowly. Hold it there.
- Bring your ears into the mix, listen to the sound of your teeth and jaw at work as you begin to chew. In this moment, we combine touch, taste, smell, and hearing to captivate our attention. The mind may still try to take you to an anxious place, but now you’ve got all your senses working together to offer something else to focus on.
- Swallow the raisin and feel it travel to your stomach. Consider all the places this raisin has been: the hands that tended to the grape; the sun that nurtured its growth, caused the water to evaporate; and caramelized its sugars; the dust that settled on it; and vehicles and people who transported the raisin to your local store—all for it to be used as a tool for relaxation and focus in this moment.
The Gift of the Raisin Meditation
The raisin meditation is a great reminder that we are more than our thoughts. By activating all our bodily senses we gently coerce our mind to stay in the present, allowing our body to calm and our mind to slow. For at least a few moments we’ve slowed the cycle of anxious thoughts and reminded ourselves of the gift of this moment.
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