Saturday, February 25, 2006

mindful eating

one of my spiritual practices is that of mindfulness in relationship with food, mindfulness in my personal relationship with food as well as observation of our cultural habits. this has become a deep study for me, an important work in my life.

what i put into my mouth becomes part of me, and in truth becomes me, and calls for my most loving attention not only in what i choose to eat but in how i receive it. many in our american culture, if not most, are nearly completely disconnected from the food we eat. most of us do not plant or tend or harvest our food, do not carefully preserve it or store it. some of us do not prepare our food, do not feel it in our hands in cleaning and chopping and cooking it, do not lovingly serve it. much of our food bears little resemblance to its whole nature. an even more surprising tragedy, many of us are not present with our food when we eat it. we give about as little care in how we put food into our mouths as we do in feeding paper to our printers. our tendency to overeat, our constant craving, are in large part due to our inability to be present with our food. we are not in relationship with our food and do not deeply receive it, thereby always needing more.

that which becomes my own body calls for my greatest attention, begs my deepest love.

my relationship with my food begins with mindfulness and gratitude as i touch it and prepare it, continues as i put it into my mouth and participate in every texture and taste of it. even before i swallow, i have already begun to merge with what will become part of my body. i am, quite directly so, loving my own self when i treat my food with my deepest love. only in my appreciation and my mindfulness in eating is my food fully prepared to be taken into my body.

one aspect of my mindful eating practice is to eat without distraction, eating with only me and my food present. when i began my practice, at first the idea of eating without any other activity was daunting. how could i eat without reading the newspaper or a book, without watching television or opening my mail or sitting at the computer or perhaps indulging in a conversation? i struggled at first so instead of every meal of eating without distraction, i committed to one meal a day, something that appeared to be more manageable. what i discovered was far more than i ever could have imagined. mindful eating became a wonder of experience, deeply spiritual and deeply sensual, and with significant health benefits.

i am now in the middle of a study/writing/practice experiment for one full month of every meal being mindfully consumed, without any other presence or distraction during eating. the writing of this experience is too large for posting (it is part of a book manuscript) but because the practice is such an important part of my life, i want to introduce it here.

if we want our bodies to serve us well, we must serve our bodies well. we must be one with our bodies, and to be one with our bodies, we must also be one with our food.

touch it, taste it, take it in, but do so with the care, the presence, the attention we give to a lover. and we will discover our fulfillment returned unto us...


photography by permission graham jeffrey

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