According to Ayurveda, the ancient science of health and healing from India, food impacts our body with reverence when it is consumed with reverence.
In Ayurveda, meals are equated with sacred rituals. The food being eaten, the fire (heat source) on which it was cooked, the fire inside our belly that will digest it further, and the soul that experiences the joy of partaking the delicious food, are all considered divine.
Because I was born into a renowned spiritual family in India who has been imparting this wisdom over several generations, I, too, embraced a reverential attitude toward my meals and consider eating high-quality meals an act of self-reverence.
I taught the same self-caring attitudes to my son when he was growing up. Now that he lives on his own, it gives me immense satisfaction to watch him spend money on his food, take the time it takes to cook for himself, and enjoy every bite, unapologetically!
My Ayurveda students have also responded beautifully to this invitation to revere their own self with every bite they consume. While many have recovered from lifelong diseases or finally reached their optimal weight, some students who suffered from eating disorders benefited when they truly understood the power of self-reverence through food.
This mindful sentiment of mealtime self-reverence can prevent:
>> mindless consumption of food
>> starving and excessive dieting
>> eating on the run or in front of the television
>> food waste
>> indecision when deciding what to make
Seated meals, eaten slowly and with a calm mind are an important aspect of Ayurveda-inspired lifestyle. Regardless of your religious beliefs, you can make your mealtimes sacred by the mindfulness, gratitude, and respect you bring to your food.
Five ways to make every mealtime sacred:
1. Plan your meals in advance.
Many of us have a habit of zipping, zapping, whisking, hurrying, and dashing through our food shopping and preparation. If you choose to plan your meals in advance, your daily calendar will begin manifesting large empty slots reserved for self-care and self-love.
You will begin viewing food and its cooking as an act of reverence. Meal planning will save you time and brainpower, lessen stress, and lower your grocery bill over time.
2. Invest in real foods.
Become mindful about where you obtain your produce. Search online for nearby natural food stores, farmer’s markets, and CSA farms where you can fill your own box with organically-grown, local produce.
When you procure food from a natural food store or local organic farm, you can be sure that your apples are not dusted with something your cells will, years later, go into shock from. Sure, the natural food store may be out of your way, and while buying foods there may not save you all that much money compared to buying them at the supermarket, consider this: you are worth it.
Treating yourself well is an act of reverence. You are worth the extra money and time you spend sourcing high-quality food for yourself and your family.
3. Choose living foods over lifeless foods.
Evaluate your recent food choices. Were the majority fresh, organic, complex, freshly cooked, and inspired? Or, were the majority simple, canned, boxed, packaged, frozen, and leftovers?
Foods that are fresh are alive foods. They are bursting with nutrition and vitality—called prana, or life force, in Ayurveda. Although a box of cereal, can of tuna, or protein bar may boast of nutritive value, the very fact that it has been sitting on a shelf inside a box or wrapper for months, in terms of prana, makes these dead foods.
The overly refined, processed, and shelf-stable properties of these foods will make you dull, sleepy, and even sick. We feel alive, more connected, and prana-blessed when we eat freshly caught tuna, for example, versus opening a can of tuna.
4. Choose calming foods over dulling or irritating foods.
There are three classifications of foods in Ayurveda. You want to avoid what are called tamasic foods. These are heavy foods that make you feel sleepy or dull after eating, stale foods, half-cooked foods, and leftovers. This list also includes intoxicants and narcotics.
Also, be careful with rajasic foods. These are stimulants like coffee or tea, alcohol, burning hot and spicy food, or foods that cause a burning sensation during digestion.
Try to eat more sattvic foods. These foods increase strength, life span, health and immunity, and are pleasing to the senses. Foods that come in this category are organic cow and goat milk, butter and ghee, unprocessed, uncooked, aged honey, fresh seasonal fruits, green or yellow mung lentils, wheat, rice, and barley. Sattvic foods are light and easy to digest.
Our relationship with food is layered, yet the Ayurvedic way of practicing self-reverence by eating sattvic meals isn’t at all complicated. You can instantly know what food is dulling you (fast foods or reheated frozen meals) or making you irritated and restless (hot Cheetos and endless cups of coffee), and what is calming you (a cup of milk or sweet peach cobbler).
Start focusing on eating high-quality, real, sattvic foods. This includes organic fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans, unprocessed grains, pasture-raised meats and eggs, wild-caught fish, and purified water!
5. Say a self-reverence mantra.
Finally, say this to yourself many times a day:
May everything I put into my mouth be an act of self-reference.
May everything I put in my mouth be in service of my health and healing.
May everything I put in my mouth be an act of self-love and self-care.
With Love and Light.