Update: NY Times—How Mindfulness Can Jump-Start Our Exercise Routines
Several years ago, I started down a path of mindful living in an effort to improve my own quality of life.
Having struggled with weight, depression, lack of energy and apathy, I knew I needed to make some changes and find appropriate tools that work for me.
I have developed a repertoire of knowledge and strategies for practicing good self-care: how much to exercise, what foods to eat, when to meditate, practice yoga, etc.
The deeper I delve into mindful awareness, the more I come to understand how my individual choices impact everything around me. For me, being mindful isn’t only about being more present to physical reality in each moment, improving enjoyment and quality of life; it is about making choices and taking action in a way that promotes the quality of life for every organism on the planet.
Mindfulness has made me infinitely more aware of the connectedness of everything alive—we are all made of the same components (you know, stardust, DNA, carbon, atoms, etc), and we all rely on one another for life.
A major tool for understanding my role on the planet has been interacting with food mindfully. For every meal I have sat down to and considered mindfully, I have more fully understood the connection between my actions and the environment around me. Beyond awareness of sensation (guide to mindful eating), my mindful eating practice includes a consideration and honoring of the steps it has taken for my food to arrive to the plate in front of me.
I sit down to a meal, typically one I have prepared myself, and without any distractions, I take it all in. The colors, the aromas, the temperature. Before I take my first bites, I stop and consider every element of what has gone into this meal. Where did the produce come from? Did the harvesters get paid enough for their labor? How many hands did the spices pass through to wind up here on my plate? How many miles did the meat travel and how were the animals treated?
It seems the less sustainable the sources of my food, the more time I have to spend on this step, the more I have to think about the terrible conditions of factory farmed animal products or the myriad evils of big agriculture, the less appetizing they seem. The more miles my ingredients have traveled, the more oil spills I have to picture destroying lives and the environment.
Conversely, when I sit down to a meal that I have grown the components of in my own garden, or that I have bought from local farmers that I know and respect, the more nourishing and delicious my meal seems (and is!). I know I can feel good about produce and meat that were treated with reverence for the planet and people involved in their production. Eating with this awareness enhances my feelings of connectedness in so many ways, and makes me all the more able to make responsible and practical decisions in doing my part to influence the modern food system in positive ways.
Some basic guidelines I use to make decisions about food are buying local, organic, seasonal produce; buying local, sustainably and humanely raised meat. I shop at the local farmer’s market and farm store, and I grow and preserve my own foods. Adopting these basic principles can have a huge impact on greenhouse gas emissions, local economy, and the sustainability of agriculture in general. Beyond that, making food choices that decrease the use of pesticides and promote fair and just treatment of workers improves health and well-being for the people and environment involved in food production.
So, here’s a challenge: the next meal you prepare, sit and deeply consider how it came to be in front of you. How many lives were affected in the production of your meal? Consider every facet you can think of, and pay attention to how this awareness influences your enjoyment of the meal. From there, eat a locally, organically, seasonally sourced meal and see if this feels different. Every meal has an impact on our system, how can you make mindful decisions to impact it in healthy, positive ways?
Author: Leah Van Winkle
Editor: Travis May