Eating mindfully: "The Six Contemplations for Young People"

A few years ago, I listened to an interview by Jon Cabot-Zinn on the topic of mindfulness. I was beginning graduate school, having a near mid-early-20s crisis of sorts, and it was exactly what I needed to hear to be more sane, and it really did change my perspective on how to live.

Since then, the concepts of "being mindful" and "being present" are ever-present...and I hope these notions of self-awareness are taken to heart (..and not just another superficial -ism). I'm fascinated by the connection, too, about what and how we eat and the impact on our immediate bodies as well as the world around us. Enter: How to Eat, a book, part of a mindfulness series, by Zen master and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. To use the favorite adjective of my friend, it's truly magical. It's enlightening, empowering, and, really, just full of common sense.

My family did not say grace before meals, but, as I got into farming and growing food, I grew to like the notion of giving gratitude to the food on the table. Even if not said aloud, it's something that all parties at the table can recognize, contemplate, and participate in: how the food got to our plates, the work involved to produce that food by both humans and nature, and embracing the individuals present and sitting around the table. I thought I'd share one of my favorite sections from the book, called "Six Food Contemplations for Young People," which makes it digestible (pun intended) for all ages:

Six Food Contemplations for Young People by Thich Nhat Hanh

1. The food is the gift of the whole universe: the Earth, the sky, the rain, and the sun.

2. We thank the people who have made this food, especially the farmers, the people at the market, and the cooks.

3. We only put on our plate as much food as we can eat.

4. We want to chew the food slowly so that we can enjoy it.

5. This food gives us energy to practice being more loving and understanding.

6. We eat this food in order to be healthy and happy, and to love each other as family.


How cool is that? By now, I assume that a fair amount of people may have given up on their resolutions - many of which are unfortunately prompted by a negative or unhealthy relationship with food or one's self-image. But, think about it: if we learn to be present during our meals, and, by extension, experiences in our lives, things begin to gain some clarity. We all could use a little more patience and understanding in our lives, and it seems that if we incorporate these thoughtful set of mantras into our daily practice, eating and living could be a bit more cheerful and magical. 


Get the book - it's definitely worth the read: How to Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh, available through Parallax Press, or check with your local bookstore (I got my copy at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT!).