Our Relationship with Food
In our society it is very easy to feel disconnected from our food. Many of us rely on restaurants and prepackaged convenience foods which require little involvement on our part. The number of small farms in our country dwindles yearly meaning fewer and fewer of us are directly producing the food we consume. An integral part of eating mindfully is being aware of all the non-food aspects of our food- the rich soil which nourishes the plants, the sunshine and rain which provide energy and moisture, the farmer who sows the seeds and harvests the crops, the market which sells the goods, the people who transport them, the chef who prepares the food- all of these things are a part of your meal. If any of those elements were missing, you would not have this food in front of you. When we eat mindfully, we are aware that our meal contains the cosmos.
Often we are distracted or hurried when we eat our meals. We are so focused on what we need to do next or on our troubles that we are not present as we eat and, thus, miss out on our food. Or we use food to distract us from our problems and worries which can result in us over-eating or consuming unhealthy foods. When we eat in this way, we cannot truly enjoy our food.
You have to bring yourself back to your body, back to the present moment. We can accomplish this through our breathing and awareness. It can be difficult at first to still the mind, however, as you focus on the nourishing food and the people sitting at the table with you, you will begin to feel relaxed and refreshed and the practice will naturally become easier.
My Mindful Breakfast
I decided I wanted pancakes, so as I always do before I cook or bake, I began to get out all the ingredients and set them on the counter. As I set out my bag of organic, unbleached flour, I felt immensely grateful for having access to that quality of flour. When I looked at my assembled ingredients, I again was overwhelmed with gratitude for the food I have and the home, complete with running water and electricity, to cook that food in. How lovely to have these things at my fingertips! I didn’t have to walk to a stream or draw from a well for my cooking and washing. I didn’t have to gather kindling and wood to start a fire for cooking.
I took my time mixing my ingredients and then cooking each pancake. I used a ¼ cup to measure out my batter so that I wouldn’t accidentally put too much batter in the pan and make it difficult for me to handle and flip the pancake. I enjoyed the aroma as the batter sizzled in the pan and delighted in the patterns made on the pancake from the coconut oil (the crunchy edges were always my favorite as a child). In this way, I made all of the pancakes. I set my mixing bowl in the sink to be washed after I had eaten so that I would not feel rushed as I washed it.
I placed two pancakes on my plate and smiled at them, knowing that I would enjoy the results of my effort. Before sitting, I made sure that my iPad and phone were well away from me so that I would not be tempted by habitual energy to use them. I sat at my table with pancakes and coffee and before eating, I took three deep breaths, all while focusing on the food before me and smiling. When I picked up my coffee, I breathed in the enchanting coffee scent before taking a sip. If my mind began to wander as I ate, I would simply take another mindful breath and refocus on my delicious breakfast. When I finished eating, I took a moment to feel satisfied and happy with the feeling of fullness and the nourishment that my breakfast provided me before getting up from the table.
Afterwards, I placed the extra pancakes in a glass storage container and put them in the fridge (how nice to have a place to store food which deters spoilage!). Then I washed my dishes, unhurriedly. As I washed, I focused on each dish and the task at hand, doing my best to remain in the present moment and not let my mind fly away to other concerns. Once this was finished, I moved on to my next project.
Wisdoms on Eating from Thich Nhat Hanh
In general, I try to eat mindfully and feel grateful for my food. For instance, if my partner has cooked the meal, I always say to him “thank you for making dinner/lunch/breakfast” before we eat. This lets him know that I appreciate his efforts in supplying us with a healthy, nourishing meal and also allows us both a moment to focus on our food before we begin eating. I recently reread Thich Nhat Hanh’s book How To Eat which is what inspired me to have a super mindful breakfast. I would like to end this with a couple of excerpts from that work which I hope that you will find as inspiring as I do.
“Our food comes from this beautiful planet. The Earth is inside of us, in each morsel of food, in the air we breathe, in the water that we drink and that flows through us. Enjoy being a part of the Earth and eat in such a way that allows you to be aware that each bite is deepening your connection to the planet.”
“This food is a gift of the Earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.”
“May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.”