Thich Nhát Hánh
“Eat in a way that is relaxing and brings you joy. It doesn’t take too much organizing and the results are profound.”
A shared table. Supper. On this Thursday of Lent, Jesus had a last meal with his disciples. He knew it was the last. They did not. He approached that meal thoughtfully. As He broke bread, He said (in so many words), “Remember me when you do this. When you eat, be intentional. Think of me. Slow down, knowing that my spirit will be with you and in you; it will feed you. Enjoy.”
From that table came the rite of the Eucharist and the idea of gathering together with food as a form of communing.
Not only did Jesus create ritual and remembrance around this daily practice we’re all called to, he reminded us of our need for nourishment. He reminded us to be intentional about how we feed ourselves and how we go about it. Being in community and breaking bread together is important. Food is sacred, as is the process of preparing and eating it. We are getting so far away from that, thanks to UberEats and travel sports and everyone on their devices. Not helping.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book called Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. In an interview about it, he said,
“When we can slow down and really enjoy our food, our life and our health, we take on a much deeper quality. I love to sit and eat quietly and enjoy each bite, aware of the presence of my community, aware of all the hard and loving work that has gone into my food. When I eat in this way, not only am I physically nourished, I am also spiritually nourished. The way I eat influences everything else that I do during the day. If I can look deeply into my food and take this time as a meditation—just as important as my sitting or walking meditation time.”
In the science of Ayurveda, we focus on nourishing our bodies and keeping balance. Words like rejuvenation and nourishment replace the idea of cleansing and depriving. Eating is for the joy, nutrition, and nourishment of our cells and our souls, which we achieve by being mindful. Even the act of preparing a meal can be approached as a focal meditation.
A few friends in my life have taught me a lot about food. The prep master is pictured above. He brings sheer joy, enthusiasm, and a complete presence to the process of preparation. There is no half-baked effort, ever. He is also a gifted chef. In mindfulness, we talk about the energy of food. The manner in which the animal was raised or the plant was grown, the manner in which the food was prepared, and the way in which we eat are all considered.
For centuries, we have blessed our food for a whole host of reasons, one being the good energy it brings to our consumption and digestive processes. For cool woo woo food energetics, check out Dr. Emoto’s rice experiment. I am 2/2 with the positive results.
Another mindfully-fed friend, who really enjoys her food, coined the term “the perfect bite.” In college, we teased her for making love to her food. She gives each bite her complete and hyper focus. She’s a professional in assessing the proportion of frosting to cake, or how much ice cream is on her spoon. Watching her eat dessert is like watching a love story in slow motion.
“Contemplating our food for a few seconds before eating, and eating in mindfulness, can bring us much happiness.” Thich Nhát Hanh says so. Sheila shows it!
Sheila is also a baker. Having enrolled in one class at cooking school, I learned very quickly that I am not. There are bakers and there are cooks. Bakers are much more zen. Cooks are creative and multi-tasking and maker-uppers. They go on feel and taste. There is room for error and recovery. My husband says I am “good with scraps.” I can make something with nothing, but I can’t bake for the life of me. It requires singularity of focus.
Baking involves being exacting and fully present in what we are doing. Mise en place (everything has its place) is the first thing we learn. I can keep an organized kitchen but I can never remember if I already put the baking soda in or not. I am always multitasking when I cook. With baking, if we are not 100% there, we get burned. It is a mindful practice.
A third friend has influenced me tremendously and led me on many a nourishing cleanse. She’s also written two inspiring books on nourishment and mindfulness. (In fact, her business is called MindfullyFed. Check her out at https://mindfullyfed.com) She is amazing.
On this day, Maundy Thursday, keep food as your focus. Try approaching it with intention, love, and even devotion. (See reflection by Thich Nhát Hánh in #1 below.) And breathe.
Here are a few interesting books I recommend:
- Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhát Hánh. Here’s an excerpt on food & the Eucharist.
- Perfect Health, the Complete Mind Body Guide by Deepak Chopra
- Savor, Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Breathe. See, Nourish. Energize. A Pathway To Healing by Frances Murchison