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The Food Meditation

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Every time I write on article on food, I receive a lot of interest, a lot of questions and a lot of comments. In the March issue, I wrote an article about Food Rules. In that article, I mentioned the "Food Meditation". I got so many inquiries about the food meditation that I am following up with a full article on the subject.



General Thoughts on Food and Diet

I really do believe that we are what we eat.  Like many of you, I have read numerous books and articles on the subject trying to figure out what the "right diet" is and how to permanently get myself on the "correct" eating path that will allow me to feel good and fit into my jeans the way I want to. In that process, I have arrived at several conclusions:

  • The right diet is different for everyone.
  • The right diet varies with the seasons of the year.
  • The right diet varies with stages of life.
  • We are going to ebb and flow and take turns that take us other than where we want to be.

Like so many things in life, the right diet is not a destination that you will one day arrive at and remain. It is simply a part of the journey. What we are eating requires attention, awareness, flexibility and the willingness to continually re-evaluate and re-adjust.

Learn to listen to your body. That is what the food meditation is all about.

A couple years ago, I went vegan. I liked being vegan. At first, I felt fabulous. Unfortunately, I became anemic as I moved into a life stage in which my body needed more iron. I had to re-adjust and that has been challenging process in many ways.

There are many experts on the topic of food and nutrition. The viewpoints and information offered is important. Ultimately, however, you are the expert on your own body and you are responsible. When I was meeting recently with my physician, we were discussing food and diet. Because I was frustrated with being out of balance after my concerted efforts in the realm of "right diet", I was asking question after question. Finally, she looked at me and said, "You know Mary, at this point, you know more about food and how your body responds to it than I do. We had a few hours on the topic in medical school. I am not an expert on nutrition."

As I walked out of my physician's office, it occurred to me just how important it is that we each educate ourselves and really take responsibility for our own health. Read, listen and learn as much as you can at every opportunity but ALWAYS remember that the most important information comes from your body and its response to what you put in it. You are the expert on how your body is responding to any food or to anything else in life. Learn to listen to your body. That is what the food meditation is all about.

The Food Meditation

The general concept of a food meditation is to take the time out to eat and experience the body's response to food in a way that you really hear and feel the body's response to food. If you are driving through a fast food restaurant and trying to eat while juggling a cell phone with three others in the car, you are unlikely to have any clear idea as to your body's response to the food you eat at the red light. You may not even remember what or whether you ate. Later, when you feel exhausted, you are unlikely to make the connection between what you ate and how you are feeling. 

Find some time where you can eat slowly

The first time I did a food meditation was when I was on a sabbatical for several weeks and by myself a good portion of the time. That was a fabulous way to experience food and if you have the opportunity to do something like that, consider it. Since then, my food meditations have required that I carve out space here and there in my full but rewarding schedule. What you need is at least a couple hours during which you can focus on eating and your body's response. Because the food meditation involves eating one food at a time, it may work well to find a couple opportunities each week to begin your exploration.

Pick one Food

The food meditation involves experiencing one food at a time. When we eat three or four different things at one time, it is difficult to know what set off the heartburn. One of the interesting things for me when I limited my intake to one food at a time was to discover that there are "healthy" foods that my body is not interested in.

Whatever food you choose for your meditation, develop the mindset that this is the first time you have ever eaten the food. Explore the food as though it is a new discovery.

Surround yourself with support.

Eat slowly and observe

If possible, conduct your food meditation on your own (or with others who are doing the same thing). Turn on some meditational music for background. Turn off the television and set reading materials to the side. Totally focus on the body's experience of the food you are eating.

Begin to eat your chosen food. Chew slowly and thoroughly. Try the macrobiotic approach of chewing 100 times before swallo­­wing. Notice the response in the mouth as you begin the process of eating. Once you swallow, close the eyes and continue to notice the effect of the food as the food works it way through the digestive process. Do you have a burning sensation in the esophagus? Or, is there a reaction of being soothed? ­­

Continue to observe the food on its digestive journey. Does any part of the journey result in a positive or negative reaction? Notice how you feel. Notice your energy level. Notice your mood. If possible, don't eat anything else for a few hours. Just use the time to continue to notice. 

Use a Food Journal   

Journal about your food meditation. I set up a spreadsheet. If I don't have a lot of time, I write down what I ate and any noticeable reactions of the mind or body. If I have a little more time, I add details such as time of day and what else is going on. My journal is very important in terms of helping me identify the best foods for me. Once I am confident that a food is a good one for my body, I transfer the food to a separate list of foods that I title "Foods My Body Loves." I keep that list in my kitchen near my recipe books and my grocery list.

Validate your reactions

The food meditation process will teach you what foods your body wants to eat (as distinguished from what the mind might crave).   When I find a food that my body really likes, I repeat the food meditation with that food. I then start to combine that food with other foods to learn about food combinations. That is, I repeat the food meditation process with more than one food but only after I have tried each on its own.

Learn more about the foods your body loves

While I have come to implicitly trust my body, it is also important to me to know more details about the foods I eat. As much as my body loves lentils, I know it takes more than lentils to sustain me. In general, I spend a lot of time trying to be clear about my body's general needs form the perspective of nutritional science. I do tend however to be multidisciplinary in approach. What has worked for me is to combine elements of ayurveda, macrobiotics and various other approaches. 

Healing Friends

As you explore food and your body's reaction to it, develop a circle of friends who are supportive of your efforts to eat in differently.  Many of my friends eat burgers and fries but those same friends are amazingly supportive of penchant for wheatgrass juice and liquid life.  Surround yourself with support. 

More Information and Follow-Up at SpiritOfOmaha.com

The topic of food generates a lot of interest. I write from my personal experience and exploration. I am multidisciplinary in approach. I have spent time learning and exploring many disciplines and approaches. To better serve the readers of this column, the magazine is going to dedicate a part of its website to responding to follow up questions of general interest.  Because my knowledge is limited to my experience and exploration, to respond to those questions, we are going to build a "panel of experts" to help respond from a variety of disciplines.  If you have a question or comment related to something covered in one of my articles, email me at mary@spiritofomaha.com.

-end- metroMAGAZINE



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