“We don’t pay attention to the meals in today’s busy world. Eating in a relaxed manner can give us a hint on how to enrich our daily lives” – quote from Zen Eating (https://zen-eating.com/ )
After reading this sentence, I couldn’t agree more. “We move about everyday, some at different paces, in our daily lives. Yet, in the midst of it, we must eat as well. Eating sustains us. However, do we slow down and enjoy our meals, or do we eat quickly and move onto the next thing…?”
If you can relate to the above, then stay tuned to what we shall learn today. I recently had the pleasure of joining a Zen Eating experience with the guide, Momo-san in collaboration with Kokoro Care Packages (https://kokorocares.com/) to learn more about this type of mindful eating. Firstly, I must say, Momo-san immediately made the experience welcoming due to her pleasant nature and kind voice. I absolutely loved listening to her during this experience!
Her reason for beginning this program appealed to me greatly. She realized we all come to a conclusion in deciding “what to eat” because we want to be healthier. However, she also believes that “how to eat” is just as important as “what to eat”, in that it will make you happier. Thus she started the Zen Eating program.
I have been cooking for myself for 8 years now. However, I’ve come to realize I was clueless as to the existence of the term “Zen Eating”. What exactly is it? Well, Zen Eating is basically defined as “Mindful Eating Meditation”, which was inspired by Japanese Zen Buddhism. It is further explained as “Eating carefully, one bite at a time, with a guide, calms the mind, regulates your thoughts, and gives you a relaxing and positive feeling”.
To learn more, we also have to learn from one another during the experience. Remember, “Knowledge increases by sharing and not by saving” -Lyrikal
So let’s learn more, shall we?
Where do we begin?
Before we begin, I’ve got great news for you. You do not need to prepare a fancy Japanese meal to try this, nor do you need to pull out your best cutlery. In fact, you can be sitting in your living room, ready to munch on your favourite snack. So, whatever it is you are eating, you can practice this.
So, do you have your food prepared? Great! But before eating, we have to take some deep breaths and release the tension in our bodies through stretching. Now that your body is relaxed, it helps as it prepares for food to enter.
You may frequently hear this phrase in Japanese culture, and it is always said before a meal. Did you guess it yet? Of course, it is the phrase “Itadakimasu (いただきます), which means “I humbly receive this food”. It shows appreciation as food is not easily accessible to everyone around the world.
Let us begin!
Now we are prepared. Please remember this blog will not provide you with full details of the experience since this is something you have to experience yourself. However, I can share some of the main details which stood out to me while we practiced Zen Eating.
Before taking your first bite, you use your senses to “play with your food” as indicated by Momo-san. When you notice salivation, you are ready to take your first bite. Before chewing, let the food sit on your tongue for a few moments to savour the flavour of the dish.
After, you start chewing slowly and mindfully, keeping your senses open. It allows your body to get ready as you slowly swallow your food and let it enter your system.
When your body is ready to move on to the next bite, you will feel salivation. Therefore, you will know when to take the next bite.
It is important that you make sure to breathe in between each bite, as it aids the process.
During each bite, one thing to keep in mind is to always put your cutlery back down after use. You can keep your hands in the Zen Style, touching your thigh, which keeps the body relaxed for you to meditate. This helps you to focus on the one bite you just took. Meanwhile, if you hold on to the cutlery while chewing, it will create a feeling that you need to hurry on to the next bite (which we do not want, right?).
While we followed Momo-san during the experience, she guided us with her voice to imagine many things during the quiet time. One thing that struck me the most was to think of the food, the taste, and where it came from.
I only had a chocolate muffin on hand, no fancy foods involved, sadly, but the aftertaste I experienced when swallowing was bittersweet, which amazed me. As we know, chocolate in its raw form is bittersweet, but only after this slow eating practice did I actually notice the bittersweet aftertaste.
So as we were told to think of where the food comes from, it immediately reminded me of a trip I had to the Cocoa Research Centre 2 years ago with my University. It is really mind-blowing to notice something you are eating is produced in your country.
I quite enjoyed the peacefulness of this experience and there were many things to learn from it. Joining it helped to get me out of the usual routine of the Covid-19 pandemic, and place my thoughts elsewhere for a while. You can join in on this experience if you would like to learn more about this. One thing I will remember from Momo-san during this experience that I believe is very important in our daily lives is… Remember to Smile :).
All photos courtesy Momo-san
Momoe ZenEating : https://zen-eating.com/