November 11, 2012

ZEN+NOW: The Way We Eat


"If you touch one thing with deep awareness, 
you touch everything." 
- Thich Nhat Hanh 

The other day, I prepared a lunchtime favourite - the classic BLT. As I was waiting for the bread to toast and the bacon to sizzle, I anticipated the salty crunch of the strips, the juiciness of the tomato, the crispy lettuce topping... all combining with mayonnaise, butter and salt in my mouth to create many joyful bites. 

I plopped the warm sandwich on a plate, refilled my coffee mug, and took the feast back to my office. As usual, I ate while perusing Google's news page. Half an hour later, emerging from my computer reverie, I noticed the empty plate, pushed away to the edge of  my desk, waiting to be taken back to the kitchen. I realized that I had eaten the entire sandwich without even tasting it.

What a waste! I was so busy consuming information that I had mindlessly consumed my food. I had lost that opportunity to savour, to relish, to enjoy my own culinary creation. I was reminded of how Buddhist philosophy teaches us to stay in the moment, and how easy it is to get swept away by our busy brains, our crowded lives, our insane desire to accomplish as much as possible in as little time as necessary.

Eating mindlessly is also a missed opportunity to thank a world of contributors. Someone, for example, lovingly made the big wheel of cheddar from whence my slices came. A cow gave its milk. A farmer sowed the seeds and cared for the green leafy lettuce. A baker pummeled the bread dough after letting it rise. A baby pig was born, pink and soft, before having its life taken for our nourishment. Even if the food was prepared commercially, some individual, some real person, took pains to provide it, may have taken great pride in his or her role in getting this food to my table. I thought of the manager of the grocery store. The gal at the cash. The boy who bagged my purchases. And the many people preparing food for others at this very moment, from mothers to kitchen chefs, all labouring with love over their offerings. There are many moments within each moment.

What are you missing right now, as you rush through the day? What have you brushed aside on your way? Do you notice the beautiful sunset as you sit in traffic? When you take the dog for a quick walk do you enjoy how he bounds happily around your feet? When you wake up your children for a school day, do you observe their sleeping beauty first? Ahhhhhh.  Deep breath. Relax. Make every bite count.

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