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Make Every Mealtime a Self-loving Ritual


man sitting and eating a meal mindfully

Hurry, Curry, Worry” these three terms seemingly go very well together! When we eat our food (curry) in a hurry, the quality of our mind becomes full of worry – disturbed. The opposite is also true. When we eat our foods slowly and deliberately, our mind and body are impacted beneficially.


Typically, before eating we should try to enter a brief meditation (even if for a minute) so that the mind is not agitated by a current emotion.  If you are open, then you can connect with the divine reality, the supreme consciousness that is also present in the food, as its source vibration. As an Indian, who grew up in a traditional family of healers and mystic teachers, I chanted food mantras from the Vedic tradition, that I grew up with and now teach to my students. You can also chant the prayers from your own tradition or culture, as they all invariably do the same beautiful job by connecting our mind with a larger cosmic mind, through the medium of life-imparting food.


Sure, go ahead and break the rule of silence with gentle conversation, if it is required or expected, such as at business luncheons or social gatherings.  However, this is what I hope: Perhaps a part of you will choose to continue to practice silence, pulling you back to the inner sanctum of your true being, even while a part of you will converse in pleasant, non-argumentative, positive, uplifting, personable and noble conversation?


It has become clear to me that fine dining is not simply a choice for aesthetics. Our mind is highly influenced, not only by what we eat but how we eat and in whose company. Hence, thousands of years ago, Ayurveda’s lifestyle wisdom recommended eating all our meals, sitting down, in a congenial setting, that is set up with all the necessary and desired articles that make our mealtimes a satisfying and soul-nurturing experience. 


On the other hand, an uncongenial place - eating while lying down (or slumping or crouching), or standing, or while driving, etc; and when distracted or in an unpleasant atmosphere will impact the mind in subtle ways. Would you agree?


No matter how tasty the food is, or how healthy, it will increase Tamas (heavy vibrations in the mind) or Rajas (agitating quality in the mind) As per Ayurveda. These are technical terms, but I think you get the idea. I am sure we have all experienced agitation or dullness post an eating experience that was not adequately mindful. Such unpleasant engagement with our meal can sometimes evoke disturbing memories or emotions like anger, anxiety, fear, and even grief. This is why, atmosphere and aesthetics are important in Ayurveda.


Personal cleanliness (washing hands, face, mouth, and feet in preparation for eating is recommended) and cleanliness of kitchen and dining area have been emphasized in Ayurveda. Ambiance, attire, and attitude should be beautiful, comfortable, and appreciative, in that order. Ayurvedic tradition talks repeatedly about these factors that make a dining experience pleasant or unpleasant, and thereby wholesome or unwholesome upon our mind, digestion, and bio-energies (doshas).


When meal times are made into an eating ritual, the mind is slowly conditioned to give mindful attention to food and the act of eating. Our attention will make all the difference. If you eat food distractedly, grabbing whatever you can, your mouth has eaten, but your mind and soul will remain chronically undernourished. 


This is why Ayurvedic texts underline a still mind and pleasant company for food. When family dinners become torture times and food is eaten in rage or storm of self-pity; it is natural to take out our anger or grief on food, and we end up either developing an aversion to or fear of food; or we swing to the opposite end of the spectrum and eat for comfort and view food as replacement of what (we think) we are missing in life.


The Ayurvedic sages display their remarkable understanding of the interconnected mind and body when they warn that the mind should not be under the siege of any strong emotion when meals are being consumed. All focus has to be on the food.


In fact, Ayurvedic sages speak eloquently of indigestion caused due to excessive emotions. If you are feeling anything but normal (and we all have our own definition of normal but it is generally an “okay” feeling) then my advice is that you walk away from the food (for now) and return later.

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