I have begun a new project. Everyday, I will practice eating one meal in mindfulness. This means doing nothing else while I eat, and trying to focus my mind on my eating. Trying, I say, because inevitably it wanders. but my commitment is to bring it back to what I am doing over and over again. “What are you doing right now?” Is the question Thich Nhat Hanh asks his student monks, to help remind them to reconnect their mind to the actions of their body, to the place and time they are currently in. I ask myself this question too.
I start my mindful eating by reciting to myself the five contemplations–although I admit I’ve only been paraphrasing four of them because I had forgotten the fifth. Here they are:
1. This food is a gift from the earth, the sky, the universe, numerous living beings and much hard work.
2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive it.
3. May we transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of all beings, preserve our planet and reverse the process of global warming.
5. We accept this food so we can nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, strengthen our community, and nourish our ideal of serving all beings.
For a while, when I first learned them, they seemed holy. They seemed like a standard to live up to. They felt impersonal, like a prayer in synagogue sometimes feels. They felt lofty, and also beautiful and noble.
Now, they are starting to feel personal and transforming. I out my own words to the. I feel my body sink into them as I say them to myself. Sitting in front of a plate of food, hungry, salivating, and saying to myself “May I transform my unwholesome mental formations and learn to eat in moderation,” is transformative. Because there I am, ready to dive into my food, gobble it up as my mind drifts who knows where and my stomach and is slowly (or quickly) satiated. Reminded myself to eat with moderation at that moment is like training a dog to have table manners and eat slowly and wipe its chin with a napkin. But it feels so good to say those words. It reminds me that I am OK, I will be OK, I have enough food. It is a practice in satisfaction.
When it comes to food, I am easily not satisfied. I want more food before I have finished what is on my plate. I want to get up and add seasoning to this, or heat up that, or get more to drink. It is tiring. I never realized satisfaction can be a practice and a state of mind to cultivate. I had thought satisfaction could be there only if and when all conditions for happiness were met. Now I realize I can practice being satisfied, and then actually become more satisfied.
Bon Appetit. May we eat with mindfulness, breathe with mindfulness, live with mindfulness, and realize how blessed we are. Happy mother’s day.