Meditation + Jelly Beans

So my girlfriend bought me a bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans, which are basically my favorite thing. I can decimate a big bag in like 15 minutes. But I’ve been trying to get in shape, so I made the hard decision to turn down my beautiful fruit-flavored babies. Then I had an idea:

I would eat exactly one jelly bean a day, mindfully.

Normally, I stuff them into my face like a starving person, often while reading a comic book or something. Now, instead, I take a few minutes to savor a single bean, giving it my full attention. I get more enjoyment from that one bean than I used to from the whole bag.

The Practice, Step by Step:

Every day after breakfast, I pull a jelly bean randomly from the bag and see what today’s flavor is going to be. Then I take my time and experience the bean through all of my senses:

  • I look it over and take in all the minute visual details. There’s actually a ton to see. The bean isn’t perfectly rounded — it’s got planes and irregularities. The surface usually has small dings from being knocked around a bag with other jelly beans. Without too much inner monologue, I note the color of the bean and any visual pattern. If there are speckles, are they small and neat, or splotchy? Are they evenly spread out, or clumped into patches? Is the bean opaque, or jewel-like and translucent? I hold it up to the sunlight for a second — what does that look like? It’s actually pretty enthralling when you start looking this closely, seeing all the details you’d never even thought to look for before.
  • I feel the bean between my fingers. Is it cool? Is it hard or a little yielding? Is it leaving a residue on my fingers?
  • I smell the bean. What’s that like? Does it just smell sweet, or can I actually smell the specific flavor?
  • Eventually, I pop the bean into my mouth, but I don’t bite down right away. First, I take a few seconds to feel what the bean is like on my tongue. I knock it around my mouth and hear it clack against my teeth. I notice the surface of the bean getting rough and sandpapery as my saliva dissolves the candy coating. Then I bite down and pay attention to the gush of flavor that washes over my tongue. (That part is awesome.) As I chew, I feel my jaw working, hear the chewing sounds, and also watch the flavor sort of evolve and intensify, hit a peak, then start fading into aftertaste. It’s a surprisingly epic ride.

And that’s my Jelly Belly meditation. It’s fun, easy, and maybe less daunting than sitting meditation, but it definitely is a meditative practice. For me, it’s a nice supplement to sitting and a sorta lighthearted way to bring more mindfulness into my daily routine.

(Jon Kabat-Zinn teaches a similar exercise with a raisin. I find it more fun with jelly beans, plus you get some variety in.)