You are how you eat

I wake up in the morning and affirm, “Today, I practice Ahimsa.” That’s a great start, but it loses its power if I don’t continue to affirm my commitment in every moment of the day (ie, be committed!). One of my most consistent detours from Ahimsa is poor eating habits. I wake, I vow to practice non-violence and allow myself to grow to my fullest potential… and then I head for the nearest drive-thru. Detour!

Thankfully, being aware of this is the first step in changing it. Every time I eat, I receive a gift of nourishment that the earth has offered. I have the opportunity to accept it and treat myself well. Wow! That is no small thing, yet I sometimes eat an entire meal plus seconds without realizing what I am doing.

Many factors contribute to the quality of nourishment I receive- not just whether or not it came from a drive-thru. Were the ingredients responsibly obtained? Was my food prepared with love? What is my state of being as I eat it? From an Ayurvedic point of view, how we eat is just as important as what we eat. Stress, sadness, distractedness, gratitude, joy- these emotions all produce changes in our bodies that impact their ability to assimilate food.

I mentioned the other day that I had a wonderful lesson in mindfulness when I was unable to use my dominant right hand. Generally, I can shovel an entire meal into my mouth while watching a movie, checking my Blackberry, and having a conversation… and I miss the whole experience of eating. When I had to use my left hand, each bite became a blessing when it made it to my mouth.

This new experience of mindful eating sent ripples into every aspect of sitting down to a meal. I only chose foods that were worth the effort it would take to eat them. I prepared them with love and attention. I sat down to a table that honored the experience (no TV, no BB). I blessed the food and everyone who had had a hand it getting it to my table. And then I ate… very, very slowly.

As I’m bringing my full attention to what I take in again, I aim to create that same sacred space around mealtimes. When the meal becomes a ceremony, it is difficult to “eat anything that you can’t bless” (as one of my teachers puts it). Try it out for a day and see how different it can feel to do something as basic as eating. If you want a real eye-opener, try doing it with the other hand. 😉

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