I have a strange, complex relationship with food. I’ve gone through many ups and downs – loving to eat, hating to eat, overeating, under eating.
It has taken me many, many years to work towards building a healthier relationship with food. I still have a ways to go. The biggest and most significant change has been that I am not afraid to acknowledge when I am struggling nor am I afraid to give myself credit and praise for when I am succeeding. Mind you, the image of struggle and success looks different on each day. I guess I’m happy that I am also aware of that fluctuation.
I am continuing to learn and educate myself. While there are many books you can read about nutrition, gut health, and food lifestyles in general, what has resonate with me the most has been the concept of mindful eating.
Although I had heard the phrase before, it really started to resonate powerfully with me when I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s book How to Eat. It’s a simply written book that focuses on not just the food we eat but also how we approach the act of eating itself.
The book taught me how to slow down (even more, as I’m already a slow eater), and pay attention to what I’m eating, why I’m eating, and how this will have an impact on me (mind, body), as well as the environment around me. It also reminded me of how fortunate I am to have not just food, but also the ability to choose what kind of food I eat. Eating with gratitude and mindfulness has been very fulfilling.
Here are a few passages that really resonated with me:
Nothing Comes from Nothing
With just a little bit of mindfulness, you can truly see where your bread comes from. It has not come from nothing. Bread comes from the wheat fields, from hard work, and from the baker, the supplier, and the seller. But the bread is more than that. The wheat filed needs clouds and sunshine. So in this slice of bread there is sunshine, there is could, there is the labor of the farmer, the joy of having flour, and the skill of the baker and then – miraculously! – there is the bread. The whole cosmos has come together so that this piece of bread can be in your hand. You don’t need to do a lot of hard work to get this insight. You only need to stop letting your mind carry you away with worrying, thinking, and planning. (p. 117)
While cooking, allow enough time so you don’t feel rushed. If we are aware that our bodies and those of our loved ones depend on the food we’re preparing, this awareness will guide us to cook healthy food infused with our love and mindful attention. (p. 185)
Cooking with Joy
Cooking can bring us a lot of joy. When I put the water into the basin for washing the vegetables, I look deeply at the water to see its wonderful nature. I see that the water comes from high in the mountains or from deep within the Earth right into our kitchen. I know that there are places where people have to walk several miles just to carry back a pail of water on their shoulders. Here, water is available whenever I turn on the tap. Aware of the preciousness of clean water, I value the water that is available to me. I also value the electricity that I use to turn on a light or to boil water. I only need to be aware that there is water and electricity easily accessible to me, and I can be happy straightaway. When I am peeling vegetables or cooking them, I can do it in mindfulness and with love. I see cooking as a way to offer nourishment and care to my family and friends. I will easily find joy and peace in the work. Looking deeply at a tomato, a bunch of grapes, or a piece of tofu, I can see the wonderful nature of these things, how they were nurtured by the soil, the sun, the rain, and the seed. Try to organize your life so that you have enough time and energy to cook in a leisurely and peaceful way. The energy of love and harmony in the kitchen will penetrate into the food that you’re cooking to offer your loved ones and yourself. (p. 197)
A Full Life
If we feel empty, we don’t need to go to the refrigerator to take things out to eat. When you eat like that it’s because there is a feeling of emptiness, loneliness, or depression inside. The moments of our daily lives can be filled with joy and meaningful activities. Our community includes our family and friends and our connection to other living beings. They are there to help us get out of these feelings. We are not alone. Sharing a meal together is not just to sustain our bodies and celebrate life’s wonders, but also to experience freedom, joy, and the happiness of being in a harmonious community during the whole time of eating. (p. 408)