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How to Savor Life

‘Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.’ ~Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s still dark out and the world remains asleep as I write these words, and I’ve just finished my morning meditation.

I sip my coffee, and savor the stillness, the quietude, the space of being able to think without distractions of the Internet or others.

This savoring … it’s a magical act.

Savoring is usually applied to eating good food: take a single square of dark chocolate and put it in your mouth, but don’t chew and swallow it. Let it sit there, as you savor it, noticing its earthy notes, hints of citrus, the richness of its texture as it melts in your mouth. You swallow it almost regretfully after letting it linger, fully appreciating the delicousness of it, giving pause to think about the people who grew the beans, who roasted and grinded them and hand-crafted them into this square of joy.

But savoring food is just the start: you can savor anything, and you should. It’s wonderful. And it changes everything.

Savoring can teach you to be mindful, to stop procrastinating, to finally exercise, to eat less and more healthfully, to live life in the present, and much more.

Let’s look at how. And, as you read this, I urge you to slow down from your usual busy practice of reading quickly, and savor the reading of this article.

The Practice

The savoring of a square of dark chocolate is a great practice you can do once a day. I like to use tea, taught to me by my friend Jesse of Samovar Tea Lounge, because it is so light (compared to sweet coffee drinks) that you have to really pay attention to get the most out of it.

When you savor tea, or chocolate, or a handful of berries … you slow down. You pay close attention — the closer the attention, the more you’ll get out of the savoring. You don’t rush to the next thing, but stop and give some space to the activity. You aren’t worried about what you have to do later, you are fully enjoying the present.

This is savoring, and it takes practice. You can do it right now, wherever you are: pause and look around you and savor this very moment. Even if it doesn’t seem to be special, because let’s face it you’ve done what you’re doing a thousand times, savor it. Fully appreciate the gift you’ve been given.

This is a practice you can do several times a day — find a few rituals for savoring, like enjoying your morning tea or coffee (without sugar), or taking a bath, or reading to your child, or having a tea ritual in the mid-afternoon, or snuggling with a loved one. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Procrastination

We procrastinate because we are uncomfortable doing something and want to do more comfortable (easier or more familiar) things instead. We don’t want to write that report/article/chapter, because it’s difficult, and it’s easier to check emails and take care of a bunch of little tasks. It’s easier to put off those dreaded tasks.

But savoring can help. Let’s take writing as an example (the process is the same for anything, from cleaning your bathroom to doing taxes) … you have something to write and you know it’s important. The usual way is to say, “OK, I should write this, but first maybe I’ll check to see if anything important came into my email … and maybe my Twitter and Facebook too … oh, what’s this interesting article I found?”

When we savor, we take this task of writing, and we slow down. We give the task some space — no switching quickly to the next thing. We pay attention to it and find the enjoyable aspects of it. And actually, there are enjoyable aspects to any activity, if we slow down and pay attention. When we savor, we notice these things, and fully enjoy them. We bask in the moment of doing, and let ourselves soak in its pleasure.

So instead of switching to something else, we sit there with the writing. We notice our urge to switch and let it go — after all, we’re savoring this, so we can’t just switch! We think of other things we need to do, and let them go too. We’re savoring here.

And we just do the writing, and notice how our fingers feel as they move over the keys, and enjoy the pouring of our thoughts onto the screen, and notice our breathing, our shoulders, our jaw, our legs, our feet, as we sit and write. We know that many people are not lucky enough to be able to do something so luxurious as writing, and so we are grateful for this moment, however fleeting.

Doing the Perfect Thing Right Now

A constant source of anxiety for most people, in this day when we can do almost anything at any moment, is: “Am I doing the right thing, right now?” Should I be exercising instead? Should I be checking what else is going on, in my social networks? Are other people doing something better? Is there a better way to do this, a better tool, a smarter method, a faster way?

When you savor, this anxiety can melt away. You are savoring this activity, so you let the thoughts of everything else go away, and immerse yourself. You give it space and just do this, and fully appreciate it. And so you know that you’re doing the perfect thing, right now, whatever it is, because nothing can be a delicious as savoring this moment.

Eating Mindfully

One of the problems that causes many people to be overweight is that they eat too much (you might say it’s the main problem). A big reason people eat too much is that they eat large amounts of food, quickly. It’s tasty, so eat it fast! And get some more! I know, because I did this for years. Still do sometimes.

But I’ve also learned, much of the time, to savor my food. And when you do this, you don’t just cram it down your throat, but you pause for each bite (don’t reach for the next bite as soon as you put the last bite into your mouth), and you give it space, and you savor it.

This means that you really notice every taste of that bite, the texture of it, and give thought to where it came from, who made it, what went into it (not chemicals, we hope!), and what it will do for our body.

It’s hard to overeat when you savor each bite, and take your time. In this way, you can also learn to enjoy healthier foods, like dark leafy greens or raw almonds and walnuts or tempeh or tofu. You can also eat healthfully most of the time, and then enjoy a bit of birthday cake without overdoing it, because you just need a little bit in order to savor it.

Exercise

I love to exercise, which is a statement most people probably wouldn’t make. I love the exertion of a good hard workout, the good feeling of lifting something heavy, the feel of the ground moving under my feet as I go for a quiet run.

Most people dread exercise, and so put it off. But you can savor a workout. You can savor a good walk or a run or ride. Give the workout some space, and fully be in the moment as you do it, fully notice your body as it moves and works, fully notice your breathing and feet as they touch the ground, fully notice the air and smells and sights around you.

Savoring exercise makes it more enjoyable, makes you more likely to do it, and makes the time you spend doing it perfect.

Living in the Present

Savor everything you do, every experience. There is no moment that cannot be savored — even those routine moments, even those times when you’re having a conflict with someone else, even those times when you’re alone with nothing to do.

Savoring is about learning to live presently, to fully enjoy the gift of each moment, to give that moment the space and attention it deserves. It takes practice, but it’s a delicious practice.

‘As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.’ ~Buddha

Zen Habits

Leo Babuata
Chapters
Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment
How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
The 30-Day Learning Challenge
The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
Practicing Non-Judgment
Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
Are You a Lift or Drag Force?
When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
Seized by the Thunderhold of Fear
What to Eat for Fat Loss
The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
How to Breathe
7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
Inhabit the Moment
How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
Creating a Lovely Morning
A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
Turn Inspiration Into Action
Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
How to Make a Marriage Work
Love Notes
Flavorless: My Month of Food Boringness
The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
How I Tackle a Big Writing Project
The Habit Action List
The Reality of This Moment
Confidence in Your Business
10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do
On Making It Through Tough Journeys
The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
What to Think About During Exercise
You’ll Be OK
The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life
A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless
The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome
You’re Not Worse Than Other People
Being Mindful of Your Stress
What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself?
The Universe of a Single Task
Simplifying Is Painful
Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant
How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life
The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress
My Month Without a Smartphone
What I’ve Learned as a Writer
What the Exercise Habit Did For Me
Fear is the Root of Your Problems
This Moment
36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits
The 3 Do-What-You-Love Conundrums
How I Conduct My Business
Constant Task Switching
The Habits of Five Amazing Founders
The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation
What Really Motivates Us to Stick to a Project?
I Tried to Quit & It’s Too Hard!
Unwired: A Month With Limited Internet, & Now No Cell Phone
Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem
Letting Go of Judging People
Don’t Scratch the Itch
Become Happy in the Face of Physical Misery
How Repetition Can Kickstart a Habit
Zen Productivity
When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation
The Child That Holds Us Back
Stateless Mindset
My Month of (Almost) No Internet
12 Changes for 2014
Essential Zen Habits of 2013
The Fear of Being Alone
The Calm Approach
Things Every Man Should Own
Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground
Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled
A Method to Find Balance
16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon
The Simple Fitness Habit Holiday Challenge
Struggles with My Morning Internet Fast
Surrender, Mindfulness & Entrepreneurship
How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, & Love Letting Go
Finding Focus
When You Run Out of Ideas
The Necessary Art of Subtraction
Jealousy & Suffering
How Creativity Works, & How to Do It
Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences
Make It Your Job
Developing Selfless Compassion
Lyrical Learning, & Why We Learn Habits Wrong
A Month Without Sugar
Why I Read (+ a Dozen Book Recommendations)
12 Indispensable Mindful Living Tools
Burn Down the Farm
My Most Minimal Travel Setup Yet
The Exquisite Habits of the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee
3 Little Tricks to Deal With People Who Offend You
My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet
Startup Founder Megan Casey’s Habits of Priorities
My Pursuit of the Art of Living
A Month Without TV or Video
The Way of No Debt
Letting Go: How to Live With the Loss of a Loved One
The Way to Be
Ramit Sethi’s Entrepreneurial Habits
The Time to Shut Down
The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes
8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator
Zen Mountain: Leave It All Behind
Overcoming the Social Costs of Being Different
Finding Quiet and Mindfulness Through Food
My Failed Month of ‘No Sitting’
The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life
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Unschoolery: My New Blog on Unschooling
My Advice for Starting a Business
Creating Your Habit Environment
Travel Lessons with My Family
Easier Decision-Making: Conduct Experiments
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The Fear of Being Found a Fraud
The Flexible Mind
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A Month Without Coffee
The Healthful Vegan Diet
Living the Quiet Life
The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life
The Habits of Happiness
How to Keep Habits Going During Travel
A Year of Living Without
The Key Habits of Organization
I Failed
Vegan Guide to San Francisco
The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Secret to Dad Greatness
Habits: A Simple Change in Mindset Changes Everything
The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now
6 Steps To Being More Creative
How I Finally Faced My Weight & Debt Problems
Working with the Obstacles in Your Path
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The Little Book of Contentment
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5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger
Smile in Each Moment
A Guide to Practical Compassion
6 Steps To Healing Yourself
The 7-Day Vegan Challenge
Why You Should Write Daily
Achieving Without Goals
Flowing with the Stresses of Kids (or anyone else)
Habit Mastery: Creating the New Normal
Defeat Distraction: Refocusing with Purpose
Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger
A Guide to Practical Contentment
The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously
How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen
Quitting Your Habits
The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
How To Make It Impossible To Fail
The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur
How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide
Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes
How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart
Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress
Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart
Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit
Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For
Tremors of Psychitude: One Little Trick to Find Purpose and Motivation
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Walled-in: Life Without Facebook
The 7 Habits of Calmness
The Four Habits that Form Habits
Advice to My Kids
My 10 Essential Email Habits
The Daily Checklist
Sticking to a Habit: The Definitive Guide
The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring
The Power of Habit Investments
Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe
The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early
Do Less: A Short Guide
How to Savor Life
What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World
Simplify the Internet
12 Rules to Live By
The New Rules of Fitness for 2013
52 Changes for 2013
The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program
Essential Zen Habits of 2012
The Other Person is Never the Problem
The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do
28 Brilliant Tips for Living Life
The Clutter-free Holiday Guide
The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better
Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta Showdown: On Whether Goals Suck
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The Buy-Nothing Holiday Survival Guide
Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013
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Shaken By Life’s Beauty, Shaken
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15 Great Excuses Not to Form the Fitness Habit
How to Make Health Insurance a Bad Bet
Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan
The Willingness to Think Differently
Create a Superhealth Community
A Vegan Tour of NYC