How to Eat (Parallax Press, 2014), by Thich Nhat Hanh, provides an explanation of what it means to eat as a meditative practice and why eating mindfully is important. Specific instructions are followed by a collection of verses written for secular practitioners that will help set a mindful intention for each activity connected with preparing, serving, eating and cleaning up after meals. In the following excerpt from “Slowing Down” and "Preparing a Meal," Hanh explains why you should enjoy your food while eating and cooking.
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When we can slow down and really enjoy our food, our life takes on a much deeper quality. I love to sit and eat quietly and enjoy each bite, aware of the presence of my community, aware of all the hard and loving work that has gone into my food. When I eat in this way, not only am I physically nourished, I am also spiritually nourished. The way I eat influences everything else that I do during the day.
Eating is as important a time for meditation as sitting or walking meditation time. It’s a chance to receive the many gifts of the Earth that I would not otherwise benefit from if my mind were elsewhere. Here is a verse I like to recite when I eat:
In the dimension of space and time,
We chew as rhythmically as we breathe.
Maintaining the lives of all our ancestors,
Opening an upward path for descendants.
We can use the time of eating to nourish the best things our relatives have passed onto us and to transmit what is most precious to future generations.
When you prepare a meal with artful awareness, it’s delicious and healthy. You have put your mindfulness, love, and care into the meal, then people will be eating your love. People can fully enjoy the meal with body and mind, just like you enjoy a beautiful work of art. Eating is not only nourishing for the body, but also for the mind.
Excerpted from How to Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh © 2014 Parallax Press. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Available at booksellers everywhere and at Parallax.