You Should Not Be Eating While You Read This
I recently had the opportunity to spend a long weekend with a dear friend who has two children two years and under. As I sat with her through the frequent breastfeeding of her five-month-old, I was drawn into the picture of how this little person was so attentive to the process of eating. It made me wonder when the last time I gave anything that much attention.
My friend also noticed that as her daughter’s self-awareness increased, she began to request more attention from her during these nourishing moments. Interesting, it’s as if by simply grasping her mother’s thumb she is saying, “What could possibly be more important right now than feeding me?”
Babies come into this world with some intuitive knowledge regarding the importance of eating while eating, in other words, having the mind where the mouth is. Fast forward to adulthood and we often find ourselves eating while enjoying conversation, perhaps reading something or even watching something.
No matter how mindful the conversation, book or other entertainment is, it still draws energy away from the process of eating.
When was the last time you had a meal where you were fully present for the whole process, from preparation to consumption?
It’s not just how we eat either. Often our modern way of life neglects the process of feeding our physical body, annamaya kosha (food body), in other ways as well. It’s clear that we need to put thought behind what kinds of food we consume, but what about how we prepare that food, how we feel while eating and where we eat? What about what you do immediately following a meal? All of these factor into the process of feeding the food body. There is more to eating for your well-being than buying organic, local and non-genetically modified produce, but please keep doing that! I would just like to encourage people to not leave the mindfulness at the local farmer’s market.
Health depends greatly on the body’s ability to assimilate food. If the agni (digestive fire) is weak, assimilation of energy will be weak. If the body is lacking digestive enzymes, assimilation of energy will be lacking. Lastly, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, if the spleen and stomach Qi are deficient, assimilation of energy will be deficient. We can examine the process of digestion from many different angles, but in the end the concept is the same: if digestion is not functioning optimally, neither are we.
There are so many simple things you can do to improve digestion and come back to nature in the sense of respecting our innate connection with food. Mostly, it’s about bringing a sense of awareness to eating while you are eating. In other words, when you’re eating, let your attention be on that action. Often when we engage in some intellectually stimulating conversation while eating, which I would argue is common in Western culture, energy and blood travel up to the brain instead of down to the stomach.
That doesn’t mean that we need to eat every meal in some semi-meditative silent state, but maybe eating once a day or even once a week in silence can positively influence your digestion and perhaps give you a new perspective on eating.
Another common Western practice, is drinking something cold with meals, which can slow digestion, or weaken agni if you’re more down with Ayurvedic terms. Regardless, having a small amount of room temperature water with a meal should suffice.
Trying to avoid eating while feeling particularly emotional is also helpful, and that’s not just in regards to overeating but also a reference to how our emotional state can affect the body’s ability to digest. Also, sitting for a few minutes after eating and before jumping to the next task is ideal.
We don’t all need to go gaze at a breastfeeding baby to get back to basics when it comes to mindful eating. Just being honest with yourself is a good place to start. Truthfully, when was the last time that you gave food and the process of eating the attention that it deserves? Really, what could be more important than getting your food body the energy that it needs? Just some food for thought…
More tips to come!
Kristin Driskell is a passionate yoga student and teacher who loves to learn, mostly through the experience of traveling near and far. She currently lives in Southern California where she is pursuing her Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and dreaming up the next adventure. Follow her @keepomyoga on twitter or read more of her “Finding Life in Every Word” at kristinfromks.blogspot.com.
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Editor: Seychelles Pitton
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