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The Practice of Mindful Eating

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

This past year reminded all of us how powerful, and challenging, it is to slow down. Ancient teachings tell us that moving slowly and deliberately through life is one of the best ways to conserve our energy, cultivate presence, and live a long, healthy life. So why is it so hard for us to do? In our modern world, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama of day-to-day tasks, news reports, and the constant stream of information flowing to us through our phones, computers, televisions—even on the mini TV’s at gas stations, or on billboards as we drive about.

Although it’s challenging to slow down, quiet our minds, and take deliberate action in our oversaturated, over-stimulated world, it’s essential to our wellbeing. Carving out time each day to be still, or silent, or practicing mindfulness does wonders for our capacity to cope with stress, manage our emotions, process the experiences we’ve had throughout the day, clear our heads, and show up more fully for the moment. Meditation is a great place to start (you can read our previous article (“How to Meditate” – link below – for an introduction to meditation); and so is Mindful Eating:

What is Mindful Eating? How do we eat mindfully, and why is it important?

Well, Ayurveda tells us that we aren’t just what we eat; we are what we digest. When we’re stressed out, rushing around, and not aware of our actions, our surroundings, or ourselves, we tend not to digest properly—this includes food, beverages, experiences, thoughts, conversations, etc. It all becomes “too much” in a way, and we feel it show up as tension in our bodies (tight shoulders, tight jaw, tight hips, frantic energy or low energy); what we do in a day doesn’t flow through us properly, and creates some residual pent up energy emotionally and mentally, and—physically, in the case of food, toxic buildup. Some of our emotions don’t get fully felt because we don’t slow down enough to feel them; some of our thoughts don’t get fully formed and keep recirculating as we try to focus on 10 things at once; our food doesn’t digest completely, leaving us feeling bloated, tired, still hungry, anxious, gassy, and/or constipated.

According to Ayurveda, Ojas is the energy that creates vitality, clarity, and immunity in the body. On the contrary, when our food is digested properly, our Ojas is supported, and our bodies are nourished. When our food doesn’t get digested properly, we accumulate Ama, or toxic buildup, in the body. To support our body’s ability to digest and absorb what we take in, it’s important that we carve out time to slow down, take a break, and focus completely on what’s nourishing us. That can look like cooking mindfully, without watching TV or listening to the radio or trying to work at the same time—just chopping, smelling, tasting, boiling, baking…being in the process of cooking your food. If you’re not cooking, it can look like sitting down and taking a moment to give thanks to the food in front of you before eating it. Honoring where it came from, how many hands and hearts it took to grow, harvest, transport, and prepare that meal. To smell the aromas or acknowledge what you see and feel as you observe your food before you eat it. It’s also helpful to eat slowly, to chew thoroughly, and to pause every so often just to take a breath and give thanks for the food, and notice how your body feels as you’re eating. Maybe relax your shoulders, or unclench your jaw, bring your awareness back to the taste of the food instead of your to-do list.

It’s helpful to place both feet on the ground and really pay attention to the grounding action of sitting in this way. Feeling your feet planted firmly into the earth, your spine elongated, and your shoulders softened, you can set yourself up to feel ready and at ease before, during, and after you eat.

Reminding ourselves that eating isn’t just for fun or something to be measured and controlled; it’s something that nourishes us, and coming into relationship with that nourishment—how we can be nourished, how it feels to be nourished, what resistances we have to being nourished—is essential to our overall wellbeing.

“It is the Ojas that keeps all living beings refreshed. There can be no life without Ojas. It marks the beginning of the form of the embryo. It is the nourishing fluid of the embryo and it enters the heart right at the beginning of its initial formation. Loss of Ojas amounts to the loss of life itself. It sustains life and is located in the heart. It constitutes the essence of all the Dhatu’s (tissue elements). The life force Prana owes its existence to it.”

Charak Samhita

Refer to our “How to Meditate” Article with this link:

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