For human beings, eating was never a simple matter. For animals in nature, food is fuel. In our new consciousness, we understand that food is energy and information. To a human, the ritual of eating is one of the most primal of shared activities. We eat together when we celebrate, and we eat together when we grieve; we eat together to send someone on their way and we eat together when a loved one returns. Sometimes we solve our family problems, or conduct business and even entertain. Human nature has had plenty of time to develop patterns and rituals around the sacred act of eating.
In her book, “The Healing Secrets of Food”, Deborah Kesten explores deeper, “what does it mean to unite with others through food”? Simply put, it means putting interaction with others back into your dining experience. In this regard, the healing secret of socializing begins with being aware that our current food perspectives are imbalanced and incomplete. The sole function of food is not just to provide fuel for the body to work, and eating isn’t another mindless, functional chore to follow mealtimes. Eating is a health enhancing, empowering, unifying creative adventure when you share food and camaraderie as you dine”.
A little story: Once upon a time, my son and I went to the local theatre to watch “Where the Wild Things are”. About halfway into the movie, I sensed myself getting uncomfortable. Why? I got it: This boy hasn’t eaten in at least two days! Even the very large wild things had not had a bite. We realize that the main tenet of this film is a world through the mind of a child. Children live in the present moment and are far too busy playing to be bothered by the trivialities of eating! They eat when they finally remember they are hungry, or when they are reminded, at which point eating becomes (hopefully) a social event and they sit down at the table with the family. For Max in the book and movie, reality begins again when “after a brief boat trip he runs back home, and his mother greets him with open arms, and feeds him”
The new year is here. What does that mean for most of us? For some of us it means “Dash Board Dining”, another phrase coined in Ms. Kersten’s book. As we rush to prepare for the awesome moment when we get to share, feast and give love, we forget to be present in the moment. We forget to be present in the journey getting there. The Buddha says; “when you walk, just walk. When you breathe, just breathe. When you eat, just eat”. Forgive me for adding some of my own wisdom to that. In the Ayurvedic tradition we understand that “yoga” means “union”. Most of the Yogis I know love to eat really good food made with attention and intention. There are only a few things I can think of that are more bliss-filled than taking some time to cook and eat with each other. After all, it says somewhere in the Vedanta, “never pass up a moment to experience bliss”. An American Indian tradition says “always accept a glass of water offered”. Here are a few tips to assist you in staying present on your healthy journey:
Take time to breathe. Practice my favorite technique to stay present, Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing):
- In a sitting position, use your right hand to control the flow of breath through your nostrils.
- Position your thumb over the right nostril, while your third and fourth fingers are over the left.
- Inhale deeply, and then close off the right nostril with your thumb, exhaling through the left.
- Staying in position, slowly inhale through the left nostril and at the peak of your inhale, close off your
- left nostril with the third and fourth fingers, exhaling through the right nostril.
- After full exhalation, inhale again through the right nostril, closing it off with your thumb.
- Follow this pattern; inhaling through the left nostril, exhaling through the right, inhaling through the
- right nostril and then exhaling through the left.
As a beginner, try a round of five with the pattern beginning on the right and then repeat the round on the left.
Pranayama exercises reduce mental turbulence and are significantly helpful to prepare for meditation or even a family dinner!
Meditate. Meditation allows us to access our true potential and become aware of our silent witness.
Cook healthy food. Cooking good healthy food takes time, planning and preparation. In my practice, teaching Food as Medicine, I often hear how difficult that is to do with a busy schedule. My best advice is to commit to some healthy planning. Eating well is not rocket science, and it exceeds the expectations of modern day medical science. Start by taking the time to love yourself through the good food, the complete energy and information, that you give it and your loved ones. As we find ourselves in a changing season, and we begin to experience the qualities of Vata and Kapha in our bodies, minds and the nature around us, start planning and cooking a Kapha-balancing balancing menu.
Share your fabulous creation with someone you love and experience bliss. During this new season, let’s all practice the gift of union, actually experiencing the journey in getting there (where ever that may be) and be present in the moment.
Blessings on your journey, Namaste.