If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh
In the last few months I have made a conscious decision that changed my life: I’ve turned vegetarian.
As with many important things in life, this decision was one of those things that lied on the back of my mind for quite a long time. I was too shy to commit to it until I’ve reach a moment where I couldn’t delay anymore. I simply had to change.
Soon after taking this decision, a good friend of mine, another veggie, told me: “This will influence every other aspect of your life. You’ll see”. At first I didn’t catch the extent of what he was saying. Now, some months afterwards, I finally got what he meant.
Being a vegetarian is not easy. Now in big cities you tend to have many dietary options. What is more difficult, though, is to defend your choice in the eyes of others.
Coming from a traditional family from back in Venice I can testify that one true thing about Italian families is that they take food quite seriously, almost like a religion. For this reason it hasn’t been the easiest thing ever then to stand in front of my family and friends to state “I am a vegetarian”, right when we were celebrating a birthday in a traditional restaurant which has been cooking fish for the last 200 year!
It had been terrifying and indeed a bit comic (admittedly my mom went a bit dramatical there!).
Despite the initial struggles of being accepted I have to say that doing something you feel to be true has an immense liberating power. I now feel lighter, stronger on my decisions and much more aligned with my beliefs. More than else turning vegetarian allowed my to bring a lot of attention to the eating process. I came to realise the following:
What we eat determines who we are. The same is true for how we eat.
Eating is such a fundamental area in our life. It keeps us alive, it is an enjoyable activity we have to repeat every day and it is also a fundamental element of the way we interact with others. It would be such a waste not to be conscious while eating. We need to bring attention to essential areas of our life if we want to live a meaningful life. This is regardless of whether one has a vegetarian diet or not.
For this reason I have recently made a vow to myself to be conscious while eating. I would recommend you to do the same, or at least to give it a go.
If we pay attention while eating we can really savour the food which is in front of us and we can realise that everything we eat tells a story. The grain that makes our pasta has been grown by somebody somewhere else in the world. It is there because clouds were gentle enough to give it the water it needed and the Sun was kind enough to provide it the energy required for its growth. Food is also a story of people. Pasta is there because somebody, somewhere, invented it. It might also remind of those that, unlike us, cannot afford that food.
To be conscious of our food means to be conscious of the world around us.
The zen master Tich Nhat Hanh told a very beautiful story of of the Buddha teaching a mindfulness lesson to some kids soon after his enlightenment. This story was about the Buddha explaining those kids how to savour a tangerine, In short this story was all about the person eating the tangerine not being real if he/she was not there with full presence while eating that fruit. This story is such a powerful one in that it reminds us that if we do not decide to be present to the moment, than nothing can really have value.
How to start eating with mindfulness then? Well I am not an expert, I can only tell the results of the experiment I did by myself. If you know any better way, please let me know!
What I do, before eating is to stop for a moment. Look at the food in front of me. Say a small thanks inside for what if offered to me in that moment. While eating I try to be conscious of the flavour of the food, its smell and the sensations it gives me while I eat it. This is my way of saying thanks for that offer. If I have more time I will give a thought to where that food is coming from. Only after this will I pass to the next thing.
If you are already eating mindfully please let me know your tricks! If don’t, but you are willing to give it a go, then good luck and well done, and let me know how it goes!
To eat is such a great privilege in this world. We simply can’t relegate it to the side of our consciousness.