While contemplating on the issue of our complex relationships with food such as likes and dislikes, actual restrictions and imposed, allergies and preferences, I could see the foundation of strong relatonships with food lies in the Buddhist practice of Eight Fold Path, a practice of meditation, contemplation and application of realised wisdom.
In Buddhism Eight Fold path refers to the practice of eight virtues with the objective of “cessation of sufferings”. This does not mean that sufferings do not come, it means the perspective and ability to deal with suffering has changed positively.
Similarly, the Eight Fold Path outlined below deepens our connection and understanding of ourselves, and defines our relationship with food in a meaningful way which is balanced, nutritious, stress free and nourishing.
1) Develop friendship with nature’s offering- Visit farmer’s market to deepen the appreciation for seasonal and organic produce. Plant some seeds in your courtyard, balcony or roof and care for the seeds. Develop the habit of knowing your neighborhood village, or at least know the source of your food. Try out new ingredients and learn their nutritional and therapeutic properties. Life is too short to limit ourselves to conventional palette or known ingredients. Serendipity often fosters new relationships and brings greater joy.
2) Learn cooking
It’s meditative, and certainly shows the way to cultivate the practice of patience, mindfulness and empathy. Touching the food with hand is revered in Ayurveda, extending our connection with the bio energy of food which becomes the part of our body. The sight, touch, smell and taste of the food all contributes to the act of cooking to a creative act of a higher order. This elevates the quality of our daily life, and we act not merely a servant to our desires but to raise the overall consciousness to a new level hitherto unknown to us.
The ingredients tell a story, learn to enjoy weaving them together. The exploration helps develop a totally new relationship of food with physical, mental and spiritual realms.
3) Write Food diary or journals. This practice can help to develop the inner connect with yourself better. We not only understand the food that we like, but also able to know the ingredient which resulted in poor digestion, or flatulence and made us sluggish. Journaling helps us develop our own food plan and understanding of ingredients better.
Keep track of your nourishment, energy level, responses to enable yourself to exercise discretion with conviction and approach. In this way you are able to develop a menu of your own based on seasonal, local and wholesome approach to you food.
4) Respect your digestive fire
The concept of pachan (digestion) and jatharagni (digestive fire) is well defined in Ayurveda at physiological and pathological level. The fire is regarded as being pivotal to optimal health, not only for creating the gut environment for digestion and absorption but also for destruction of pathogens. The prime location of Jatharagni is stomach and duodenam.
Many a times we eat like a clockwork. Digestive fire is not the consideration. The meal time is more dictated by the mere convention of our place, be at home or at work. The low intensity of agni becomes the cause of physical discomfort and diseases such as flatulence, poor digestion, heaviness, weight gain.
The awareness of digestive fire help align or food habits and consumption to foster good pachan (digestion), ayush (good life span) and bala (strength and immunity).
You can catch up on the first blog of the series here.
The third and the concluding blog on the way
"Namaste" and happy reading