WARNING: Grilled Cheese May Contain Entire Universe

Mindful Eating: An Experiment in Joy

“Using mindfulness we will find that anything we bring our full attention to will begin to open up and reveal worlds we never suspected existed.” Jan Chozen Bays

I don’t know what I have survived on all summer, but the muffin tins have somehow ended up in my toddlers toy chest and the crock pot is dusty. However, all it took was a couple of cool autumn evenings for me to start fantasizing about cornbread and chili and eagerly preparing a feast of filling foods.

That familiar urge to eat rich, hot, homemade food as the fall chill sets in is what Jan Chozen Bays, Zen monk and author, would categorize as cellular hunger. While our lives and minds may feel as busy as ever, our bodies are connected to the seasons and our cells urge us to slow down, stay home and eat well to prepare for the winter. Cellular hunger is just one of seven (yes, 7!) types of hunger that the author describes in delicious detail in her book Mindful Eating.

As Chozen Bays emphasizes, mindful eating is not a diet plan or a quick fix. She writes, “Will you lose or gain weight if you bring mindfulness into cooking and eating? I don’t know. What you could lose is the weight of the mind’s unhappiness with eating and dissatisfaction with food. What you could gain are a simple joy with food and an easy pleasure in eating that are you birthrights as a human being.”

I have spent the past few months paying close attention to my hunger, trying to determine, as Chozen Bays suggests, what part of me is truly hungry at each meal. Is it my belly or is it something more? If I sit just a little bit longer with my hunger, I may notice that my belly is fine but my mouth is bored, craving texture and taste for entertainment. In truth though, what I find more often than not, is that it is my heart that’s hungry. Grilled cheese and a pickle on a stressful day are an enormous comfort that remind me of when I would stay home sick from school with mom.

By paying close attention to the type of hunger we are experiencing in a moment, we create an opportunity to respond thoughtfully to the complex demands of the body, mind and heart. I still eat that grilled cheese on a tough day, but I do so as a conscious act of self-compassion. I keep in mind how the sun, rain, insects, farmers, shop owners and especially my mom have all donated their energy to feed me and I feel nourished. I think about the very building blocks of my food; the carbon, hydrogen and iron and where they originated. Before each meal, Tich Naht Hanh states, “In this food I clearly see the presence of the entire universe supporting me.” It is this feeling of being embedded in a web of interconnection that gives me a lasting sense of being full. In those slow moments, I finally have enough.

If you’d like to learn more about Mindful Eating, you can join me this Sun., Sept. 24th from 4-5:30pm for the Mindful Eating Workshop in Roncesvalles. Email info@greenthoughts.ca to register!

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