In today’s epicurean existence the idea of food can be summed up in two words: food porn.
An obsession with sensuality, gratification, and overstimulation has pierced the essence of experiencing food. In this haze of distraction, food has begun to lose its purpose of connecting one to the universe. Through the practice of intentionality, we can reclaim the importance of food and benefit from its gifts.
Intentionality and food have been synonymous throughout existence. In Vedic tradition, food is honored as the ultimate Self, seen as a channel to reaching greater levels of understanding. In Buddhist and Zen traditions, food is used to balance the body, mind, and soul. In Christianity, food is the mode of communion with Christ. In Islam, the mystic seeks the Beloved through many paths including a diet of fasting and restriction.
It seems that for the entire history of man, the intentions behind eating have been to achieve a greater spiritual existence. So what happened to food today? Plagued with GMO’s, food miles, widespread obesity, food scarcity during times of overproduction, contaminated crops, nutritional deficiencies, CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), food has seen better days. We have forgotten the true nature of food and it has taken its toll on our society.
How can we reclaim the meaning of food? The answer is simple: through intention. The problem with food today is that its intended use is based in monetary value. Food is a commodity, a thing to be shipped, sold and traded. Changing the way we perceive food will change the way we interact with it.
A great way to enhance the spiritual intention of eating is by saying grace. Grace has commonly been tied to religion, mainly Catholicism, yet in reality saying ‘thank you’ is a timeless, religion-less tradition. In saying thanks, we acknowledge the universal truth within our food. Every time I sit down to eat, whether it is an extravagant meal or a slice of vegan pizza, I give thanks to the food that I am eating.
Another simple task is to give your meal an intention. In addition to adopting an attitude of gratitude, instill positive intentions into your food. If you need to study for a test, insert the intention that this meal will aid you in your studies. A fail safe I use is that I infuse the idea that the food I eat will support my happiness.
Another way to honor your food can be observed at the grocery store. When choosing your food, make sure that you actually choose it. Don’t just grab the first avocado on stack. Find the one you want the most. Cherish the food you buy.
If you want to take this a step further, grow your own food. This summer, I grew some of the best tomatoes I have ever had. When I planted them, I said my own personal blessings and set my intentions. Each day I watered my plants, I set the intentions of the water so that it would give them an abundant life. Even now, in the frigid mornings of the early winter, my tomato plants are still producing ripe fruit.
If all this talk about setting intentions is too much for your left-brain to handle, there are numerous scientific studies on the power of intentionality. A classic study by Dr. Masaru Emoto observed how thoughts altered the molecular structure of water, demonstrating the harmonious effect of positive intention and the chaotic effect of negative. In a study of chocolate exposed to good intentions through meditation and chanting, it was found that the moods of those who consumed the blessed chocolate had increased significantly.
(Editor’s Note: Dr. Emoto is not a scientist and his work has been widely criticized by the scientific community)
Intentionality has even reached the world of academia. From 1979 to 2007, Princeton University conducted research on the interaction of the human consciousness with physical devices at its PEAR (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) laboratory. Machines randomly generating data were studied to see if human intention could influence their output. The results were phenomenal as tens of millions of trials demonstrated that human thoughts slightly influenced the results of random-event machines. (Read study here.)
All of these ideas about food and intentionality seem so foreign to everyday life. Yet are they really? Isn’t it a well-known idea that food cooked with love tastes better? Don’t people often say that a home-cooked meal can cure the blues? What about the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Does chicken noodle soup actually have medicinal properties, or is its intention just synonymous with healing? Did you know that the act of toasting drinks was originally intended to infuse the beverage with whatever was being toasted to in order to pass it on to its drinkers? It looks like intentionality and food really aren’t that far from home.
The next time you sit down to eat or go to the grocery store to buy dinner ask yourself this simple question: Why are you eating? Answer it truthfully and act accordingly. You never know, the next sandwich you eat may bring you eternal happiness.