This is another truly delightful mindfulness practice. In the Zen Buddhist tradition, meals are ritualized and taken in silence. Chants that invite mindfulness and gratitude are recited, and no one begins eating until everyone is served. Only as much as can be eaten is taken. No one goes hungry. No one overeats. During the meal, everyone pays attention to just eating. At the conclusion of the meal, there is more chanting as everyone is reminded of his or her purpose for the day and in life.
This beautiful practice can be easily adapted to our hectic Western lives. Here’s how:
- Plan your meals.
You know the needs of your body better than anyone does. Whether you need frequent, small meals throughout the day or do best with the usual three, it is important to schedule them.
- Confine your eating to mealtimes.
If your body needs nourishment in the afternoon between formal meals, plan that into your meal schedule; even if it’s not a full meal, consider it as important as the others.
- Do not eat on the run.
It is dangerous both nutritionally and otherwise to eat while driving or walking or doing anything else. But be flexible. There are times when we need to break the rules.
- Make a ritual of it.
Set the table, light a candle, say a prayer. Do whatever fits your personality. Create your own meaningful eating practice. Include your family and friends.
- Turn off all electronic devices and just eat.
It’s okay to have a conversation while eating; in fact, it’s a great time for families to come together and share their plans or their experiences of the day. But let there be no other distractions. Be together (or alone) and just eat. Serve yourself only what you’re sure you’ll eat. Be mindful not to waste food. Bring a sense of gratitude to the simple fact that you have enough (probably more than enough) to eat.
If you are the one who cooks, take this same mindful approach to the preparation of the food. When chopping, just chop; when stirring, just stir. The meal will then be infused with your mindful energy, which will then be transmitted to those who eat what you have lovingly prepared.
So, when eating, just eat. And in so doing, be like Buddha.