How often do we treat meals as if they are just the transition from one activity to another?
Eating on the go, in the car, while standing in the kitchen… Better yet, how often to we allow time to identify REAL hunger, to FEEL grateful for our food and to RELAX into the present moment as we eat? Although these steps are incredibly important, they are so often over-looked and under-valued.
Support your body and mind by remembering to eat with awareness.
PAUSE & LISTEN
This may sound simple, but only eat when you are hungry;
consider reserving 1/3 of the stomach for food, 1/3 for liquid and leaving 1/3 of the space for digestion. Try to allow at least 2 hours in between meals & snacks. This gives the body more time to fully digest the previous food, before asking it to absorb & assimilate something else.
Check in with your hunger -- your honest cravings -- before feeding your body out of habit or impulse. Listen to your body. It will tell you exactly what it needs, which sometimes means a smaller portion, a little more spice, an addition of more bitter or fermented foods. Listening is an excellent reminder of what it means to connect to the body, but sometimes, we don’t remember to listen until we first allow ourselves to pause. THIS in itself is a meditation.
Eating is far more than the chewing & swallowing of our food – it goes well beyond the immediate craving and satisfaction. Naturally grown sustenance is nature’s gift to our own human survival. Somehow, after we've enjoyed the taste of food in our mouths, food nutrients go from being OUTSIDE of us, to INSIDE of us – literally uniting with our own existing physiology to become a part of us. These nutrients are both the essence of life and the essence of us.
We call this rasa.
How do we honor the divine gifts that sprout from the earth? How do we honor the hands that grew & harvested this lifeforce? How do we honor our own essence?
The answer is gratitude. Eating our food with awareness of its essence and divinity is the key to bringing a more mindful experience to the table. The more we love our food, the more it shows love to our bodies -- this can even manifest in our physical ability to metabolize selected foods. An attitude of appreciation literally sets us up for more ideal assimilation and absorption. We must shift our perspective to think of food itself as consciousness.
Whatever you eat, love it.
As we eat, not only are we consuming food nutrients, but we are also further consuming the emotions that arise. Try not to eat when you’re feeling upset or angry.
The Chandogya Upanishad, a philosophical component of the ancient Vedic texts, was honoring the importance of food more than 2,000 years ago:
“Food is greater than strength. So if one does not eat for ten nights, even if one lives one cannot see, cannot hear, cannot think, cannot be aware, cannot do, cannot understand. But with the coming of food one can see, can hear, can think, can be aware, can do, can understand. Worship food.”
Notice your authentic cravings; feel into the spaces of your body. Eat as if it were a meditation or an offering to the Divine – because it is. Put away your phone, turn off the TV, sit down and be exactly where you are.
Let yourself simply eat.
So often we find ourselves rushing through the meal, feeling unsatisfied. We eat while working on the computer, talking on the phone, cleaning up the kitchen... It is a pretty intensive process to breakdown food. Digestion takes a lot of energy and a lot of care on the part of our beautiful bodies. Let’s reflect on the idea of “multitasking while eating”: this is about asking your body to digest an entire meal AND put full brainpower toward computer work. Neither task is achieved to it’s full potential, leading to an ultimately LESS efficient choice.
As you breathe deeply, allow yourself enough time to eat in a relaxed & thoughtful manner.
The breath is the breeze that fans the flames of digestive fire.
It is also the unifying subtleness that weaves together all the components eat with greater awareness. The breath is what reminds us to listen, to be grateful and to slow down. As we flow through our meals -- our days -- our lives -- breath is the constant. It is always with us, easing us into and out of each experience. Let the breath serve as a guide, subtly reminding us where we’re going, while emphasizing exactly where we are. Attention to the breath keeps us present.
As we slow down & breath, we might even allow ourselves to reflect on where our food is coming from. Did it travel far to get here, is it covered in plastic packaging? Food consumption is so far beyond chewing; it is literally an opportunity to exercise both love of the self and love of the planet. We may never be quite perfect, but we can certainly bring awareness to our eating as ethical consumers and Divine beings.
The Upanishads (pg. 186)
translated by Valerie J. Roebuck