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It took raspberries in winter to remind me about being mindful.

Kenna photo

Something about the luxury of velvet on the tongue, of their deep red color, made me pause today, and eat them individually, rather than as a mass.

Something about the luxury of fresh fruit in winter — organic, from neighboring California — made me appreciate not only their health benefits (why we bought them), but their gift of color and texture and sweet taste in this season.

Mindfulness doesn’t come easily in our frantic culture, and for many — including me — it requires some training.

I was introduced formally to this practice in my counseling studies, when a professor brought raisins to class.

Each student got one shriveled raisin.

Look at it closely; study it, our professor urged.  Feel it from every angle; roll it around in your palm; consider its texture.

Imagine you have never seen a raisin before, he continued.

What does it smell like? (Uh, dusty fields?) Close your eyes; put it in your mouth, and think about the sensation on your tongue. (Wait … where has this thing been?)

Taste it before biting; bite and chew (OK, I feel like a pup in obedience class); what are the sensations? flavors?

What other thoughts are prompted by this exercise?

I was thinking of farmers, of grapes grown for raisins and those for wine …

Daughter of farmers, I try to shop mindfully, being careful about the origins and health benefits of everything I eat.

Yet it sometimes takes the scent of a lemon in winter or the velvety softness of a single raspberry to remember to be mindful about eating slowly, to appreciate every bite, and be grateful for all those involved in its growing, and field-to-table journey.

A mindful moment with food helps me to be more mindful throughout the day.  Mindful about my relation to others, especially.  Being more mindful helps me to be more aware.

So when I thank the bus driver, the stranger who held open a door, the worker who sliced and wrapped Oregon salmon for us at the neighborhood market, I am being mindful.  I am grateful for all these neighbors, who help me live safely, and in good health.

And, in writing this, I am mindful about being more mindful.  It’s a good way to still the mind, and bring my world into finer focus.

Thanks to mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed the raisin exercise for stress reduction and meditation students. (He’s teaching everyone from Olympic athletes to American physicians, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.)