While the adage “you are what you eat” rings true in the West, ancient healing modalities have a drastically different approach. Aside from what we eat, how we eat is of equal importance and is encouraged in practices such as Ayurveda, India’s 5000-year-old system of medicine. At the core of Ayurveda is prana, which translates to vital life-force energy. Practitioners believe that prana flows through all living things and their goal is to balance the energy of mind, body and soul. In fact, optimal health is believed to be a by-product of this harmony.
In her book East by West, author, cook and Ayurvedic expert Jasmine Hemsley writes, “Ayurvedic cooking is in itself part of the medicine of wellbeing. The principles of Ayurveda can therefore find a home in everyday food practices, and manifest themselves in meals through ingredients, preparation and the process of eating.”
As part of this modality, practitioners encourage us to bless our food, give thanks to those who prepared it and take time to connect to it. Before we’ve even started chewing, taking a moment to observe the texture, temperature and appearance serves as a preamble, stimulating the gastric juices and preparing the body for digestion. And while we’re eating, she encourages us to take a moment to inhale, exhale, check in with the body and settle into our environment.
These practices not only enhance the flavour of our food, but also strengthen our sense of connection with nourishment. As Jasmine gently reminds us, there’s an emotional, spiritual and energetic component, which helps us live within the natural rhythms of nature. Indeed, taking that moment to connect and feel present is the tonic for optimal nourishment. These thousand-year-old practices help us to foster our own innate sense of wisdom, which is the ultimate source of guidance along the path of life.
Mindful cooking in the kitchen
The vibration that we bring when cooking and consuming our food is a wonderful way to enhance a more mindful connection with our meals. Below, we outline various practices to help the energy flow.
Clear the energy
Every few weeks, take some time to organise your pantry and fridge, clearing away any older, stagnant foods and refreshing your space. Maintaining a clean, tidy environment allows the energy of your kitchen to flow freely.
Take inspiration from the slow-food movement and buy local, fresh and organic produce where possible. When shopping for your produce, take time to observe the colour, texture and scent of the ingredients, which enhances our connection to our produce.
When you’re cooking, remember to be present and take some time to slow down and enjoy the process. Take in the fresh scents of the food, their colours, texture and flavours. This way, the conscious act of cooking can become a cherished part of a mindfulness practice.
Remember to chew well, eat slowly and take conscious breaths, with incorporated space between bites. Mindful eating not only enhances our digestive fire (called agni in Ayurveda), but also helps to connect us with the very energy of our food.
A vital part of the ritual of eating is taking time to bond and connect with loved ones. Cultivating a shared experience through mealtimes is a wonderful practice to enhance mindfulness and presence in our daily lives.
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