Mindful Eating

The Breath. The most important metronome in my life. The breath doesn’t know that my mind is stressed out. The breath is always there for me, an innocent bystander even when my thoughts are jumping all over the place, thoughts going off like popcorn kernels in hot oil.

I have been feeling pulled in so many directions lately. My current direction is toward food and nutrition. I cook organic, paleo meals for delivery to busy Bostonians who want to eat well, or who are following a certain diet to heal digestive problems. I am studying anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and psychology, and applying to Simmons for a nutrition program that will prepare me to become a registered dietician (RD). I attend a meditation group, where I sit silently with other people, and read about elements of the Buddhist practice from books by the author and monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I regularly get acupuncture treatments, which I started to help me with sleep. My life is rich with friendships and family.


Learning chemistry and anatomy and physiology is like learning a new language. Orbitals, and bonding, and molecular geometry. Neurons, ganglia, eyeball dissection. It is a world of breaking things down, literally or intellectually, and understanding the myriad constituent parts. It is stimulating and rewarding to learn so many new things. It is fun!


But for me, sitting silently in a room with other people who are practicing quieting the mind is also very fun! It is the kind of fun where my parasympathetic nervous system is calming me down. Where I feel peaceful, where I feel ease, where I feel in my happy place. School is the exhilarating kind of fun, where my heart races, like the masochistic pleasure of going on a roller coaster. Well maybe not just like that.


Why am I going to school? Why am I learning the myriad and microscopic parts of the body and the universe?


What and who do I want to be in the world? Well, one thing is, I want to bring calm, and presence, to this busy, crazy, chaotic world. I want to be a “model” of agency. I want to show that I can set the pace to my own life, even with all the pressures that life puts on. Because I want to show other people that they can do that, too. That they don’t have to be “run” by the world. Am I wrong to imagine that lots of people feel that they are “run” by the world, rather than living in it as they want to, with agency?


So, I guess I want to be like a little Buddha. This is hard, and it takes ongoing practice. But I do believe that this is my most important purpose in life. Being how I want to be in this world. And this is irrespective of my career. And yes, I would like to spread this notion, and help others be who and what and how they want to be.



Tonight I came home from acupuncture eager to get to the computer and to begin writing, immediately. I was hungry, and wanted to eat (aka stuff my face) while typing away. I was impatient while sautéing kale and heating up some sweet potato and carrot hash. Then it hit me. Being and how I am being is most important to me, and I am eager to write about it, and so in my eagerness I will sacrifice a calm, mindful meal? I will sacrifice my body, which digests better when I eat mindfully? I will sacrifice my mind, which is more still and calm when I feed myself appropriately? Just because of my excitement and eagerness to do this quickly right now right away because I want it now!!?


This time, I caught myself. I slowed down. I ate slowly. I breathed. I called a friend to keep me company while I eat. It was not easy to breath and eat slowly, being hungry and excited as I was.


Sure, I think that what we eat is important. But I think that how we eat is probably equally important. Because when we eat calmly, with pleasure, sitting at a table, with loved ones or friends, or alone in mindfulness, we eat the right amount. And our body digests better.


I remember a friend came over to my house once when I used to live with my boyfriend. I had cooked a chicken soup, and mashed potatoes, all from the farm where my boyfriend worked. My friend said she felt so relaxed and slept so well, and she attributed it to the meal. She said she usual eats really bland food, and alone. And the hot, tasty meal with friends allowed relaxation.


We need more relaxation. I bet we all do.


Eat Slowly.

Breathe while you eat.

Sit down.

Take some breaths before eating. Maybe even close your eyes.

Letting eating be a time of mindfulness, with others or alone.

If eating alone, maybe call a close friend with whom you can have a calm conversation.

Eat like you love yourself, and like you want to take care of your body. Don’t worry too much about what you are eating. Focus more on the how. And Enjoy, knowing you are loving yourself in the act. J


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