“Breakfast should not be rushed or eaten on the way out of the door with car keys in hand. This causes the nervous system to become agitated and disrupts digestion” Kester Marshall.
I’m currently seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner Kester Marshall who I am loving and introducing many of the ancient Ayurvedic principles into my life. Nothing too complicated just one little step at a time. I’ve learnt so much about the consequences of thoughtless, rushed eating, in an overstimulated world.
In case you don’t know, Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga, and is said to be the oldest and most comprehensive medical system in the world.
A Gentle And Thoughtful Approach To Your Eating:
Ayurvedic medicine goes way beyond the food on your plate. I find it very thoughtful, practical and deeply nurturing. It believes that disease begins in the digestive tract, due to lack of digestive fire. Poorly, undigested food remains in your body, becomes toxic and tires and weakens your body and mind.
Anything perceived by your senses can also weaken your digestive fire. Your environment can either nourish or weaken your digestive fire when you eat. Your thoughts (whilst eating) can either nourish or weaken your digestive fire. Your activities can either nourish or weaken your digestive fire, and of course your food can most definitely nourish or weaken your digestive fire.
As a result I’ve made a few simple changes to my eating habits. In particular, I now pay great attention to the environment in which I eat, my thoughts at the time and how I actually eat. My body and digestion has responded exceptionally well.
8 Mindful Ways To Eat:
1: Sit down when you eat: The purpose of eating is to eat. Don’t redirect your energies into other physical activities such as walking around or gobbling your food down on the run. By sitting down you are asking your mind and body to stop. Give your body the time and attention it needs, to fully digest and extract the necessary nutrients from the meal in front of it.
2: Arrive at your meal. Get present: The wonderful Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh suggests a little breathing ritual so you can feel settled and more present within yourself before you eat your meal. Repeat three times “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile”.
3: Cultivate mindful eating – do not multi task: Yoga is all about bringing your total awareness back into your breathe, your body and into the present moment. Mindful eating is exactly the same. Avoid any form of multi tasking when you eat and certainly don’t sit in front of your computer, TV, a pile of paper work or chat on your mobile. Smell and taste your food. Pay attention to the appearance, flavours, texture and lingering tastes.
Unconscious eating is the opposite, you barely chew your food, gulp it down and have no memory whatsoever of what your meal actually tasted like. You are unaware if you have overeaten, enjoyed it or even felt nourished by it. Your mind was somewhere else whilst your body was unconsciously going through the motions of eating.
4: Eat in a calm space that nourishes your soul: A busy, crowded, noisy or overstimulated environment can agitate your nervous system and disrupt your digestive fire. Turn off or remove as much excess stimulation as you can, and calm your space down. Alternately remove yourself from a hectic environment and find a quiet space that soothes yours senses and supports you enjoying your meal.
5: Chew your food and eat slowly: A rushed, scattered mind usually eats quickly. I must say I’m the slowest eater in the world and have always been amazed at how quickly other people can eat their meals. I’m sure they have just swallowed their food without chewing or tasting it at all. When you practice mindful eating you will notice that you automatically spend more time chewing and eating your food at a more relaxed and gentler pace.
6: Experience a silent meal: You could liken this to the yoga pose savasana. My favourite yoga pose of all time. Why? Because you don’t have to do anything accept let go and observe. You are aware but not engaged.
I’ve experienced silent meals before when I’ve been away on retreats. For me its all about, getting up front and personal, with myself, my thoughts and the way I eat. No judgment, simple observation.
The first thing you’ll notice is how busy your mind is. It will do its best to boss you around, ask you to hurry up and give you all the excuses in the world why you haven’t got time to be doing this.
Secondly begin to focus on your breathing, as suggested by Thich Nhat Hanh above in point two. Feel settled, then enjoy your silent meal.
Notice how you pick up your fork, how slowly or quickly your hand moves, whether you close or open your eyes as you are about to take a mouthful of food. You then might move your awareness to your stomach. Is it relaxed and ready to welcome food or is it tight and tense?
You’ll soon realize your whole body is involved in the eating process.
7: Eat real foods, avoid processed foods: Fresh, seasonal and locally grown foods are the best. Once you begin your journey of mindful eating and really start tasting your food you will soon notice the difference between processed lifeless food and wholesome cooked meals. Your eating habits will evolve naturally when you practice mindful eating.
8: Small breakfast, big lunch, small dinner. Lunchtime is when your digestive fire is the strongest. Lucky for me, I work from home, so eating my main meal in the middle of the day has been an easy transition for me. Yes, I still have to cook meals for my boys at night but its worth it as I notice my body has responded well to this change.
9: Do not rush away from the table: This has been a bad habit for our family and one which will take a little while to change. As soon as your last mouthful is swallowed spend a few moments being still and complete your mindful eating experience.