As farm-to-school programs, community gardens, CSAs, and farmer’s markets grow in number, more individuals are participating in and gaining an appreciation for the entire food cycle, from growing their food to procuring, preparing, cooking, and savoring it. First Lady Michelle Obama’s famous White House Garden will continue under the stewardship of new First Lady Melania Trump, who said: “Gardening teaches us the fundamentals in care and the evolution of living things, all while inspiring us to nurture our minds and to relax and strengthen our bodies.”
Here at A Mindful Meal, I’m not just a psychologist and mindful eating educator, but I’m also a cook, hobby farmer, and food justice activist. I love food from just about every angle, and part of my mission is to help reconnect you to meaningful experiences with food, too.
In the book Mindful Eating, Dr. Jan Chosen Bays, MD, a physician and well-respected Zen Buddhist leader, engages readers in an exercise she calls “Looking Deeply into Our Food,” which takes us through the origins of our food. Imagine the person who stocked a particular food item – a box of raisins, a loaf of bread, a carton of milk; the driver who delivered the food to the store; the farms that tended to the trees, plants, or livestock. Dr. Bays reminds us of something that is said before every meal at Plum Village, the Zen practice center founded by Thich Nhat Hanh: “In this food I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence.”
Water nourished your food. Sun nourished your food. Soil and many tiny organisms nourished your food. Your food has a story, and a family; it possesses deep roots that likely go back hundreds of years. The seeds of your food may have come from a landscape far, far away from your kitchen. Your food may have been grown, picked, handled, and delivered by someone who looks similar to you. Or very different.
We are united as beings in our desire to live, eat, and thrive. By fully showing up with awareness for our meals, we are honoring our bodies, the food itself, and the many individuals and complex systems that sustain us.