Eating as a Sacred Practice

So much time is spent discussing what we should or should not eat. Rarely do we talk about how we should eat and yet the manner in which we consume our food has a large affect on our health and well being. What if we are turning our organic salad toxic because we ate it in anger or frustration? What if we are eating the words we were reading along with our sandwich as we woof down lunch?

The ancient yogis considered eating to be a sacred act, the time at which one living part of nature absorbs and integrates another. They also felt that we should only eat meals prepared in a loving and attentive manner. In this age of fast food and frantic lifestyles it seems that food and coffee and other stimulants are simply vehicles to keep us moving forward, consumed on the run as quickly as possible so we can continue on with the more important task of getting things done. How many families still sit down to have dinner together? Between running the kids around to soccer games and dance classes, where is the time? And so the sacred communion that is created when we sit down to eat a meal together as a family, or as friends, is being lost.

Each meal could be used as an opportunity to nourish ourselves on every level, each bite of food can be an opportunity to practice being present, fully experienced and enjoyed. Mindful eating requires time and attention and yet it is a spiritual practice that we can easily incorporate into our daily lives because we eat at least 3 times a day.

Our list of "shoulds" grows longer with each new self help article. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. And yet eating is a part of our daily life and the attention we give it is what will ultimately feed us. Here are some suggestions:

– Eat in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere, somewhere you feel comfortable and happy. Eat when you are feeling calm, not when you are stressed, angry or in a hurry, this will negatively affect digestion.

– Share meals with friends and family, take the time to sit down and eat together. Make it an event. Light some candles and turn off the television.

– Aways begin with a moment of quiet, even just for a few seconds and give an offer of thanks.

– Try for at least one meal a day to simply eat. Don’t eat and read or eat and watch television, just eat.

– When you eat, sit down and take your time. Give all your attention to the food before you. Even the occasional greasy cheeseburger can be nourishing if it is eaten with attention.

– Slow down and take the time to chew and actually taste the food in your mouth. Only by fully experiencing each bite of food does our body really know what it is eating.

– Eat meals made by someone you love.

– Make a meal for someone with patience and attention.

Most importantly, never let mindful eating become a chore. The food we choose to eat doesn’t need to become another dogma to follow that separates us from others. Eating is a pleasure and an opportunity to reconnect to our bodies and to each other.

To find out more, read "The Yoga of Eating – Transcending diets and dogma to nourish the natural self" by Charles Eisenstein.

Anna Louise Dodds has been studying alternative medicine and organic gardening for the last 7 years. She recently opened a nutritional consulting practice in Nanaimo.

She can be reached via email: