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 meal. Supper. On this Thursday of Lent, Jesus had a last one with his disciples. He knew it was the last, they did not. He approached that meal thoughtfully. As He broke bread, he said remember me when you do this, when you eat, be intentional.
Think of me. Slow down, know that my spirit will be with you, in you; it will feed you. Enjoy.
From that 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 all have to do, he was reminding us of our need for nourishment, 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; uber eats, travel sports and everyone in the corners on their device is not helping.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book called Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. In an interview about it he says,
“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 the focus is on nourishing our bodies, and keeping balance. Words like rejuvenation and nourishment replace the idea of cleansing and depriving. Eating is for joy, nutrition, nourishment of our cells and our souls, which is achieved by being mindful about it. Even the act of preparing it can be approached as a focal meditation.
I have a few friends that 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 there is discussion about the energy of food. The manner in which the animals was raised or the plants were grown, the manner in which the food was prepared, and of course the way we in which we eat, are all considered.
There are a whole variety of reasons people have blessed their food for centuries; one of which is that doing so brings some good energy to the consumption and digestive process. If you wanna see some cool woo woo food energetics, check out here Dr. Emoto’s rice experiment. I am 2/2 with the positive results. https://yayyayskitchen.com/2017/02/02/30-days-of-love-hate-and-indifference-rice-and-water-experiment-1/
Another mindfully fed friend really enjoys her food, so much so she has coined the term ‘the perfect bite.’ In college we teased her for making love to her food. She gives each bite of a sweet her complete and hyper focus. She’s a professional in assessing the proportion of frosting to cake, and how much ice cream is on the 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!
She is also a baker and, having done 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 task and make it up, they go on feel and taste, and 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 you are doing. Mise en place (everything has its place is the first thing you 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 you are not 100% there, you get burned. It is a mindful practice.
A third friend has influenced me tremendously and led me on many a nourishing cleanse, as well as written two inspiring books on nourishment and mindfulness. (In fact, her business is called Mindfully Fed. Check her out here. https://mindfullyfed.com) She is amazing.
So on this day, Maundy Thursday, keep food as your focus. Try approaching it with intention, love, 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. Excerpt on food & the Eucharist here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/176rotDxMxP0MCRFvAC_ilFIzDhq4YuX3zoH_Frp1Sbk/edit
- 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