October 12, 2014

Meditations on Chocolate and the Art of Zen Eating.

chocolate-dipped cookies

I’m sitting on the floor in meditation.

My legs are folded underneath me; my back is straight, eyes are closed.

The sound of water and birds and the dog snoring are all perfect backdrops to this “oh so calm” picture, and as my breath rises and falls, my mind focuses on the great question: whether or not I should go and get chocolate.

I don’t imagine this would be such a big deal if it weren’t for the self-imposed chocolate fast I’d decided to do for the next four weeks. After months of persistent effort establishing a practice of daily chocolate consumption, I’d decided I was at saturation point.

So now, in the wake of this decision, I was being reminded of how the mind rebels when we impose such rules upon ourselves. This was something I had experienced many times before, having done numerous different cleanses, detoxes and other types of diets, from juice cleanses to brown rice diets and everything in between. Some had been more enjoyable than others, but they all had some lessons to be learned amongst the green juices and sprouts.

Being someone who has a teeny issue with control at times, these restrictive diets have a certain appeal, along with the promise of glowing health and unabated happiness. And yet, over time, I’ve noticed a gnawing feeling of something missing. I realised I’d become lost in all the rules and restrictions and being a bit serious about life. The idea is that the tougher, stronger, fitter and more able to resist temptation we are, the better.

But I found I was lacking inspiration. The softer, more intuitive side of life had been pushed into the background by the mighty force of diet dogma.

In this frame of mind, it is all to easy to forget to appreciate the details of life. The bodies of alfalfa sprouts huddling together in their container in the fridge. The brilliant purple of fermenting beetroot sitting in a jar on the bench. The first ray of sunlight breaking through the window and distracting us as we sit at our desks, brows furrowed, worrying about what we’ll have for lunch.

There is this idea in Tibetan Buddhism of the “hungry ghost.” A being that is never satisfied, always hungry for more. Appreciating the simple details of each moment is an antidote to this. What better place to start than at the table.

I’ve heard it described as the ‘”Zen of Eating.” It is a way of eating—and being—that is relaxed, gentle and kind. It’s not hurrying to the next thing before the current one is finished. You can’t force this way of being—that’s not its style, but it is open to each of us in every moment. When we are quiet, and we breathe, we can feel its peaceful presence, waiting to be embraced.

And so I sit with my eyes closed.

It doesn’t answer the question of whether to get the chocolate or not to get the chocolate, but maybe I’m not asking the right question.


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Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Mike Gifford / Flickr

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