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Friday, November 12, 2010

Mindful Eating

We are all so busy in the world today.  It makes the practice of mindfulness very difficult, this is especially true in my life right now, in fact I decided to post this while I ate my dinner (peanut butter sandwich) last night from a napkin, as I stood over the sink in the kitchen.  I was the only one home and it seemed silly to mess up a dish, or even sit down and enjoy my food, I simply inhaled it and went back to the paper I was working on.  This attitude has contributed to the rampant obesity we have come to accept in this country.  Like in meditation, we must sit and develop awareness regarding our bodies and it's basic need for nourishment in our daily lives.  Here is a wonderful description by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is very pleasant. We sit beautifully. We are aware of the people that are sitting around us. We are aware of the food on our plates. This is a deep practice. Each morsel of food is an ambassador from the cosmos. When we pick up a piece of a vegetable, we look at it for half a second. We look mindfully to really recognize the piece of food, the piece of carrot or string bean. We should know that this is a piece of carrot or a string bean. We identify it with our mindfulness: "I know this is a piece of carrot. This is a piece of string bean." It only takes a fraction of a second.
When we are mindful, we recognize what we are picking up. When we put it into our mouth, we know what we are putting into our mouth. When we chew it, we know what we are chewing. It's very simple.
Some of us, while looking at a piece of carrot, can see the whole cosmos in it, can see the sunshine in it, can see the earth in it. It has come from the whole cosmos for our nourishment.
You may like to smile to it before you put it in your mouth. When you chew it, you are aware that you are chewing a piece of carrot. Don't put anything else into your mouth, like your projects, your worries, your fear, just put the carrot in.
And when you chew, chew only the carrot, not your projects or your ideas. You are capable of living in the present moment, in the here and the now. It is simple, but you need some training to just enjoy the piece of carrot. This is a miracle.
I often teach "orange meditation" to my students. We spend time sitting together, each enjoying an orange. Placing the orange on the palm of our hand, we look at it while breathing in and out, so that the orange becomes a reality. If we are not here, totally present, the orange isn't here either.
There are some people who eat an orange but don't really eat it. They eat their sorrow, fear, anger, past, and future. They are not really present, with body and mind united.
When you practice mindful breathing, you become truly present. If you are here, life is also here. The orange is the ambassador of life. When you look at the orange, you discover that it is nothing less than fruit growing, turning yellow, becoming orange, the acid becoming sugar. The orange tree took time to create this masterpiece.
When you are truly here, contemplating the orange, breathing and smiling, the orange becomes a miracle. It is enough to bring you a lot of happiness. You peel the orange, smell it, take a section, and put it in your mouth mindfully, fully aware of the juice on your tongue. This is eating an orange in mindfulness. It makes the miracle of life possible. It makes joy possible.

from the website:

Thich Nhat Hanh was born Nguyễn Xuân Bảo in Thừa Thiên (Central Vietnam) in 1926. At the age of 16 he entered the monastery at Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế, Vietnam, where his primary teacher was Dhyana (meditation Zen) Master Thanh Quý Chân Thật .A graduate of Bao Quoc Buddhist Academy in Central Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh received training in Zen and the Mahayana school of Buddhism and was ordained as a monk in 1949.

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