Monday, November 16, 2009

Eating Meditation

“We never eat on the run,” my friend explained. Annie~~pronounced with the accent on the last syllable in that lovely French way~~was speaking of her native culture’s approach to food. “In France,” she continued in charmingly accented English, “we set the table beautifully, sit down together, and we take our time. We enjoy the flavor, discuss our food, say “ooh!” and “ah!” We enjoy it more~~a lot more.”

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!

Loanne Marie


Carol said...

So vivid and beautiful. I enjoyed this meal as much as if I had eaten it. Thanks for your
"tasteful" words!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your column. How refreshing to read how you enjoy and appreciate the food you eat. I've wondered if there were people out in our world who really took the time to admire what they are eating.

I've been a Vegetarian for over 25 years and I still find food to be a blessing. I've had people ask " don't you get tired of salad?" I say that there is such a variety of things to eat that I don't have enough time in this life to try them all.

One of my fondest food memories is brother and I shucking fresh peas from the field and eating them . We were children but I can still remember the pure joy of that moment.

Thanks for the lovely article. Hopefully people will see their food in a new light after reading it.

Loanne Marie said...

Thanks to both of you for writing. I have certainly found that my food tastes a whole lot better when I'm actually present in the eating of it. Such a simple thing, and yet I am so often off thinking of other things. Ahhhh, that's right. I have the rest of my life to practice this. Yum!

Claire said...

Ah. A perfect Thanksgiving prelude - Mindful Eating! I love it! Thank you so much for this!

Loanne Marie said...

Oh, I hadn't even thought of the Thanksgiving angle.Yes, mindful and appreciative eating~~a good tribute to the plentitude many of us are blessed with.

Linda Lea said...

Well written - thanks. I've also noticed that when I slow down and eat this way I don't spill as much as I used to!

Loanne Marie said...

Ain't it the truth! Thanks for writing!

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