I’ve been talking a lot about Mindful Eating lately. It’s a term that came to me out of the blue, and only weeks later did I realize that I picked up the word “mindful” in my many years of studying Buddhism and Hinduism. I studied these for so long that the vocabulary has become somewhat incorporated into my way of expressing myself and my subconscious. I am mindful; I live mindfully.
As a result, before publishing my own Mindful Eating Manifesto–a practical approach to my favorite subject of food–I only thought it fair to publish the somewhat more philosophical article by Buddhist thinker and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.
Traditional Buddhist and Hindu teachings urge us to be mindful about every act, at every moment, every day of our lives. The word “mindful” is not a trademark. It is a way of being. Mindfulness gives meaning to every action, and creates a sharper awareness and a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things.
What does mindfulness have to do with the way I eat?
This may not seem to have anything to do with how you eat, but indeed it does. It’s the current food trend in the developed world, and I feel confident that it will spread at a rapid pace. Eating is not just about filling your belly.
Mindful Eating is about love and care from A to Z in the eating process, from the ingredients you buy, and how they were grown and processed, and whether you prepare them with TLC, to filling your belly and providing your body with the nutrients they need. To eat mindfully, you have to be aware of every step in the process, which by definition connects you, either directly or indirectly, with everyone involved: the butcher, the baker, the farmer, the fertilizer manufacturer, the seed seller, the cook, the chocolate maker (I do live in Switzerland, after all), etc.
The Mindful Eating post below appears on Chet Day’s site Health and Beyond, which is full of information about healthy eating. He’s been writing about natural food and recipes since 1993, so he is not new to this real food movement that has only recently taken on momentum. He offers a long list of newsletters you can subscribe to, on subjects anywhere from vegetarian recipes to daily health tips and EarthRain meditation.
Mindful Eatingby Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindful eating is very pleasant. We sit beautifully. We are aware of the people that are sitting around us. We are aware of the food on our plates. This is a deep practice. Each morsel of food is an ambassador from the cosmos. When we pick up a piece of a vegetable, we look at it for half a second. We look mindfully to really recognize the piece of food, the piece of carrot or string bean. We should know that this is a piece of carrot or a string bean. We identify it with our mindfulness: “I know this is a piece of carrot. This is a piece of string bean.” It only takes a fraction of a second.
When we are mindful, we recognize what we are picking up. When we put it into our mouth, we know what we are putting into our mouth. When we chew it, we know what we are chewing. It’s very simple.
Some of us, while looking at a piece of carrot, can see the whole cosmos in it, can see the sunshine in it, can see the earth in it. It has come from the whole cosmos for our nourishment.
You may like to smile to it before you put it in your mouth. When you chew it, you are aware that you are chewing a piece of carrot. Don’t put anything else into your mouth, like your projects, your worries, your fear, just put the carrot in.
And when you chew, chew only the carrot, not your projects or your ideas. You are capable of living in the present moment, in the here and the now. It is simple, but you need some training to just enjoy the piece of carrot. This is a miracle.
I often teach “orange meditation” to my students. We spend time sitting together, each enjoying an orange. Placing the orange on the palm of our hand, we look at it while breathing in and out, so that the orange becomes a reality. If we are not here, totally present, the orange isn’t here either.
There are some people who eat an orange but don’t really eat it. They eat their sorrow, fear, anger, past, and future. They are not really present, with body and mind united.
When you practice mindful breathing, you become truly present. If you are here, life is also here. The orange is the ambassador of life. When you look at the orange, you discover that it is nothing less than fruit growing, turning yellow, becoming orange, the acid becoming sugar. The orange tree took time to create this masterpiece.
When you are truly here, contemplating the orange, breathing and smiling, the orange becomes a miracle. It is enough to bring you a lot of happiness. You peel the orange, smell it, take a section, and put it in your mouth mindfully, fully aware of the juice on your tongue. This is eating an orange in mindfulness. It makes the miracle of life possible. It makes joy possible.
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