Today many people are turning to yoga, zen, meditation or various other relaxation techniques in the hope of regaining their balance and finding some inner peace.
These are all great things to do BUT a far simpler and more effective exercise is to learn to eat correctly.
Eating is a little thought of form of yoga; for you to eat correctly requires attention, concentration and control.
Everyday, two to three times a day we all have the opportunity to practice relaxation and concentration to harmonize our cells through the process of food consumption. But because most people do not yet know the spiritual importance of the act of eating, a person often eats and absorbs their food mechanically, and unconsciously.
It goes something like this… You get home from work and heat up a quick meal in the microwave, whilst on the phone to a work colleague talking about the stressful day you had.
Within a few minutes you are eating in front of the TV and swallowing everything with only a couple of chews per mouthful. Your head and heart is seething with chaotic ideas and emotions, and you may even start arguing amongst yourself while eating. This will mean all your functions are upset; Digestion, excretions and elimination of toxic wastes will not work, as it should.
Many people are making themselves ill in this way, without knowing that changing the way they eat could have a dramatic effect on their health. And it is not just you internal functions that could suffer from eating like this.
In their book, 'Savor,' Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung explains that, "mindless eating and mindless living" are all too common.
We are propelled by the fast pace of high tech living, to the point that the pace of our lives is utterly harried and spinning out of control. We constantly have to respond to external stimuli and demands…and our lives suffer because of it.”
So rather than practicing the typical hasty and unconscious practice of the modern fast food culture, it’s time to practice and reap the rewards of a more conscious way of eating.
At first, practicing conscious eating may seem a bit alien and awkward but after a bit of practice you will love the experience and many of these benefits that come with regular practice:
Here are some step-by- step conscious eating guidelines. , These are just guidelines, as you practice you will likely develop your own style.
Select a place to eat that is clean, quiet and free from distractions such as T.V's, smartphones, internet and radio. Try to have a designated place to eat in your home.
Conscious eating cannot be done sitting in front of the TV or computer. If you are outside find a calm, quiet place to sit and eat, it’s definitely not good to stand or walk when you eat, in fact according to the Ayurvedic System, eating while standing is an invitation to poor health.
Do not eat whilst doing anything else, like talking on your cellphone, writing an email or reading a newspaper. Give your undivided attention to your food whilst eating it, do not think of anything else and be still.
"Make eating an exclusive exercise like you would with any meditation. Be focused." - Paul Rodney Turner
For a moment take your attention onto your breath, breathing in and out through your nose with a gentle inhale and exhale.
Feel your body and mind relax as you prepare for your meal; you want a relaxed and steady breathing pattern, which is conducive to creating mental stability and good digestion.
As your breathing becomes steady and relaxed, make a conscious effort to relax your stomach by visualising it as soft and jelly like. With every incoming breath, visualize the air entering your lungs and then moving down to expand your stomach, and with every outgoing breath, feel your stomach pull in and let all your anxiety and tension drain out of your body.
The object of this exercise is to unite your body and mind as one because the disconnect between mind and body is the source of many weight and digestive problems.
Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the food in front of you, its color, texture, shapes and patterns.
Then contemplate where the food you’re about to eat has come from; maybe a supermarket, a farm, your local shop?
You can then trace it back even further to the country of origin, and perhaps imagine it growing in the earth or grazing in a field if it is an animal, also think about the transport that has been used at different stages in the food’s journey.
When you do this it will create a natural appreciation for the amount of people and effort that has been put into bringing the food onto your plate. Before you begin to eat smile and thank god, the chef, the universe or the man who picked the bananas you’re about to eat, what ever fits best with your beliefs.
Develop your own pre-meal thank you ritual, it is a very powerful part of conscious eating.
Before you take your first bite, first appreciate the smell of the food. Inhale deeply and let the aroma of the food inspire your appetite to the point of salivating.
Take extra special attention to your first bite, it might help to close your eyes, carefully note its feel, texture and taste.
Then as you begin to chew move the food around in your mouth, continuing to taste the changing flavors and textures as the food breaks down and mixes with the digestive juices inside your mouth.
Make sure to chew your food well, this will thoroughly break down your food thus aiding digestion and maximising the nutritional benefits of the food.
The more attention you give to the rest of your eating experience, the greater chance your digestion will be strong and efficient plus you will enjoy your meal a whole lot more and enjoy the many other benefits of conscious eating! Remember conscious eating is not a strict practice, it is to be enjoyed and at times you will obviously have lively social meals where you can’t practice all the guidelines above, so during those situations just do what you can.