In my last few blog posts, I’ve shared some favorite healthy recipes, which leads me to the focus of this one: relating to our food with conscious presence. Western culture has made it increasingly difficult to follow the practice of slowing down when eating, but it is nonetheless vital for our well being.
Since attending the Ayurvedic Institute in 2013, I’ve felt profoundly grateful to implement Ayurvedic wisdom in my life. I know it’s hard to imagine, but I was not always food or health conscious. I grew up in a farmhouse in rural Maine where my parents dedicated their summers to growing a plentiful array of delicious organic veggies on a beautiful little piece of land. However, we also indulged in occasional General Store pizzas, KFC family meals, and Wendy’s fries. I remember scraping out the insides of Oreos, microwaving the ‘cream’, spooning it into my mouth, and throwing away the cookie parts. I made ‘popcorn balls’ by using butter to squish together leftover microwave popcorn…
But, when my mom, and later I, experienced some major health issues, our family realized that eating whole healthy foods year round was essential to the path back to well-being. Over the years, this daily practice of paying attention and listening to my body’s need for healing nourishment, has been an important piece in growing my intuitive healing abilities for myself and others. Reading the ingredients of the food I buy and knowing where it comes from, supporting local farmers, growing my own food as much as possible, and feeling the expansive connection to our deeply nurturative Earth has become essential. I have come to love cooking with whole unprocessed ingredients and knowing that my body, my Soul home in this lifetime who does SO much for me, will receive the best support I can give.
The follow-through of this practice is equally essential. If there is no presence while eating, does it matter if you have the best ingredients? If we make a habit of eating while on the run, watching TV, or in emotional upheaval, it will be inevitably difficult for our bodies to digest the rich nourishment we are attempting to provide. Ayurveda recommends chewing our food 32 times before swallowing. While I don’t do this, it does remind me to slow down, chew more thoroughly, and breathe, instead of gobbling down bite after bite.
Some of my other favorite practices around presence with food include prayer and offerings. While cooking or harvesting, I like to chant or hum, as these blessings infuse both Earth and food, and as Thich Nhat Hanh said: "When you prepare a meal with artful awareness, it’s delicious and healthy. You have put your mindfulness, love, and care into the meal, then people will be eating your love" Before eating, I still often sing this beautiful Sanskrit chant I learned while at The Ayurvedic Institute:
Anam Brahma/ Raso Vishnu/ Pakto Devo Maheshvaraha/ Evam Jnatva Tu-yo-bhunkte/ Anadosho Na Lipyate
This translates as: The food is consciousness, The plasma in the body is the Protector, The fire which digests the food is the destroyer of the impurities in this food, if you know this, the food becomes pure consciousness. Or an even simpler translation: the food is consciousness, and as we eat it, we are too.
At meal time, I offer a small bowl of food for my ancestors at my table or ancestor altar. This reminds me of the incredible journey of my ancestors, that I’m in communion with their wisdom, and that I’m giving healing nourishment to them as well as myself.
So, the next time you eat, come into presence and remember to thank the plants and animals that gave up their consciousness so that you can continue to be. Offer prayers to the dear Earth for supporting this process. Thank our ancestors who came before us, taught us how to be in profound Earth connection, and make delicious foods.