Many of us have lost such a pleasurable relationship with food. In fact, it seems a rare person who eats with full enjoyment and presence, including listening to the body’s internal cues regarding food selection, hunger, and sufficiency. Luckily, we have opportunities galore to reorient ourselves to a wholesome relationship with food.
When we think of meditation, certain stereotypes often come to mind~~for example, people sitting in the lotus position on the floor, backs straight, eyes closed. But actually, we meditate in any activity to which we bring our full, undivided awareness. This can include eating.
Jan Chozen Bays, physician and author of Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, describes eating meditation as “an experience that engages all parts of us…in choosing, preparing, and eating food. It allows us to be curious and even playful as we investigate our responses to food and inner cues of hunger and satisfaction.”
With this in mind, I arrange mixed greens on a plate. I add slices of red pepper, mushroom and tomato, a few baby carrots cut lengthwise, top it off with grated cheese. I allow myself a few moments to appreciate the vivid colors~~red, orange, cream, earthy brown, and varying shades of green~~beautiful against the black plate.
This dazzling array tells of the beneficence of sunshine and rainfall. It brings to mind the cows whose milk became the cheese and bees who pollinated the fields. The varied efforts of numerous individuals~~farm worker, trucker, grocer, and others~~are here, too, responsible for bringing these gifts to my table. I whisper a heart~felt thank you.
I dress my salad lightly. As afternoon sunlight flows through the kitchen window, I begin to eat.
From the first mouthful, I awaken to a variety of textures~~the hard crunch of carrot, tender spinach leaves, the soft burst of tomato. Sounds of chewing, seldom noticed, fill my head. Distinct flavors mingle, joined by olive oil and vinegar. Yes, this is good.
For dessert, I unwrap a bar of Lindt dark chocolate, a friend’s gift from her daughter in Germany. I break off one small piece~~oh, that smell!~~and note its deep brown color against the beige of my palm. I place the chocolate on my tongue, press it gently to the roof of my mouth, move it around a bit. I open to the rich subtleties of taste and texture. The chocolate softens as it melts. Long after the morsel is gone, flavors remain.
The second piece is similar, though my experience of it is somehow less satisfying. When that piece is no more, I realize I’ve had enough. I am finished.
As Bays explains, “Mindful eating is not directed by charts, tables, pyramids, or scales. It is directed by your own inner experiences, moment by moment.” Eating in this way, in contrast to consuming quickly and with minimal attention, can, “help us tap into our body’s natural wisdom and our heart’s natural capacity for openness and gratitude.”
Each meal offers an opportunity to cultivate presence and appreciation. May we all 'show up at the plate' more often in the coming weeks. What an appropriate attitude to foster as we receive the bounty offered us!